Platform Switching and Demographic Shifts Threaten Established Social Networks

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March 10, 2020
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March 10, 2020

Platform Switching and Demographic Shifts Threaten Established Social Networks

If platform switching is more common than previously thought, it raises the stakes for incumbents trying to defend their market position.

Key Insight

As Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram grew, it seemed inevitable that they couldn’t be replaced, so long as they had enough users and successfully worked their way into the fabric of those user’s lives. That assumption is proving false as consumer behavior evolves and Gen Z displays a willingness to jump between social networks.

Why it Matters

The most used social networks today—Facebook and YouTube—started more than a decade ago. Their relative popularity has remained consistent over the last several years, but that could drop as other platforms come into favor: Only 24% of American adults report using Snapchat, compared to 73% of 18-24 year olds, according to the Pew Research Center.

Examples

While public sharing on Facebook fell in almost every country in 2018, total engagement stayed steady. Why? Because users were creating Stories, a feature adapted from other platforms. To preserve its dominance, Facebook also formed a team in July of 2019 to develop experimental apps that could win over new audiences. The New Product Experimentation (NPE) team launched its first apps just months later—one a chat app for introducing new people, and another devoted to streaming music with friends.

What’s Next

Beyond keeping up with the changing preferences of Gen-Z, will today’s most popular platforms evolve to fit into the world they’ve shaped? The children of millenials will come of age with memories and experiences shaped by starring roles in their parents’ posts, stories, and memes. A strong user base today won’t be enough to guarantee a social platform’s future; instead, successful players will wrestle constantly with privacy, interpersonal connections and evolving consumption patterns.

The Impact

If platform switching is more common than previously thought, it raises the stakes for incumbents trying to defend their market position, and opens new opportunities for startups trying to win market share.

Watchlist

ByteDance, Facebook, Instagram, NPE team, Twitter, Snap, YouTube.