Recently, tech blogs and trendsetters alike have been talking about Ello, a new social media site designed to serve as an alternative to Facebook. In many ways, it seems preposterous that a company would try to challenge – or even potentially replace – Facebook, which is by far one of the largest technology companies in the world. What you might find fascinating, however, is that Facebook’s key target demographics tell a bit of a different story – one that leaves us pondering whether or not the site may eventually be headed in the same direction as Friendster, or a quite possibly, a “pre-Justin Timberlake” MySpace.
When I joined Facebook, which by now was approximately eight years ago, it was the quintessential online social media destination for users in their 20’s and early 30’s to communicate with one another. Rarely would you find a parent with a Facebook account of their own, and, in terms of other social networking options, there were a few, but none were so communal. Facebook served as a landing place for all my friends – including those from many different social circles – no matter how I knew them. Times have most certainly changed with emerging social media, and with the rise of Ello, who knows? We might just end up seeing an exciting new shift in the way people access this type of online networking.
Most bonafide marketers understand that today’s “young people” aren’t as present on Facebook, and given the host of other options, they’re more likely to spend a bulk of their time visiting Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat. It doesn’t take a seasoned marketing professional to know that it takes a lot of bandwidth to be everywhere at once. This is one of the key reasons why these days, my peers are generally only active on social networks in which they associate meaning to their daily lives – and, they remain active on forums where people with similar interests tend to gravitate.
Personally, I follow a lot of comedians and comedic actors and actresses on Twitter, which is the perfect venue for crafting short, funny “witticisms.” On the flip side, Facebook is relegated to keeping in contact with a wide circle of friends, while LinkedIn assists me in maintaining professional connections, and growing my network. I access Instagram and Pinterest daily, but other accounts such as YouTube, Foursquare, Google+ and Vine tend to go virtually untouched and oftentimes, unmaintained.
As a digital strategist, my Orlando advertising agency’s social media team and I truly don’t envision that Ello will succeed in becoming the new “Facebook alternative.” As recourse however, I am placing a pretty firm bet on that notion that it may eventually attract communities of its own – communities made up of Facebook users who may feel as though Facebook is not the best social media site to serve their varying needs. This might be as a result of its use of data manipulation, or perhaps, the addition of an advertising component, or simply, that users may find their personal news feeds to be disinteresting. Whatever the reasons – and there are many – we’re seeing something much larger at play here.
[quote]In creating and maintaining a social network, it’s important to know where your audience spends a majority of its time.[/quote] If you look closely enough, you will see that users practically canvas the web – they’re accessing sites of all types. There are entire social networking sites that are geared specifically to peoples’ interests and ideologies. Often times, it may simply consist of a message board of people who are interested in topics deemed otherwise obscure, such as “hula hooping culture” or “18th century songwriting.” Topics that might not resonate with most of us, but as the moniker goes, “if you build it, they will come.”
In a similar vain, crafting and maintaining these social networks has a great deal to do with formulating a community, and marketers can utilize this lesson in helping to propagate such communities around their products. Specific audiences may be on Facebook because there’s nothing better, but I’m certain that if you attempt to present them with a dedicated forum – one that speaks directly to their area of interest – I’m sure you won’t be surprised to watch as the population of that social networking community flourishes. As a result, members have the opportunity to create connections both online and off. One such example is Fitocracy, an online forum for self-proclaimed “fitness geeks.”
I’m a firm believer that Facebook is here to stay, although with many of the above concepts in mind, the site’s following may have the potential to shrink. This is particularly true as its users find more specialized social networks where they can connect with like-minded people (and not necessarily individuals that they know personally in the real “offline” world). By keeping in mind that a successful social media strategy isn’t limited to the most popular social networks, brands can essentially begin to seek audiences in these not-so-mainstream avenues – which, in turn, might allow them to develop more authentic connections to their own customers.
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