Facebook, the social media juggernaut, seems intent on swallowing up any social media network that poses a threat to its soon-to-be monopoly over the world’s mindshare.
Facebook is a precursor to The Borg: Assimilating competitive networks until all that’s left is one large, ubiquitous social network.
Facebook Acquires Instagram, Assimilates Audience Data
Facebook acquired Instagram, the mobile-focused image sharing network popular among a younger audience because its demographic (Millennials) were slowly but surely leaving Facebook, which they saw as their parent’s social media.
Adding Instagram to its roster of companies was smart as it allows Facebook to combine data analysis and sell advertising to a wider range of businesses.
Facebook Clones Google Plus’s Best Features
Not even the mighty Google could not depose Facebook of its reign. Google Plus, it’s failed attempt to compete with Facebook, had the right concept and, some will argue, a more intuitive and robust network.
The problem was, it could not create a unique differentiator that Facebook could not duplicate, and do better. Unable to buy Google, Facebook cloned the Google Plus services we loved and in a very surgically way, made Google Plus redundant.
Google Plus offered a few differentiators, including hangouts, real-time chat, and “groups.” So, Facebook introduced Messenger to provide real-time chat and video chat and expanded its Business Pages format to offer a Google Plus-comparable groups function.
Further, it updated our ability to manage our network by adding a “friends category” function so we can group and share content with sub-sets of our followers, just like Google Plus’s Groups.
Facebook-owned the market; there was no longer a need for people to waste time building out a community on another network to access those services. It rolled over Google Plus.
Facebook Assimilates Whatsapp
Whatsapp, the digital messaging platform was a real competitor for Facebook’s continuing push to become a mobile platform. Facebook had Messenger, which it could have further developed into a “Whatsapp Killer” but Whatsapp’s ability to replace text messaging was a service that Facebook’s Messenger could never provide. Instead of cloning the service, it purchased Whatsapp.
Facebook & Instagram Clones Vine and Periscope Live Video Services
Twitter took a stab at Facebook’s dominance with the introduction of the Vine and Periscope networks, which quickly grew in popularity among younger audiences seeking to become content producers, influencers, and receive more entertainment value from their social exchanges. And it worked, for a time.
Instagram’s video service crushed vine, and Periscope was taken out by Facebook’s introduction of Facebook Live, among other execution issues by Twitter. Facebook’s cloning strategy beat them at their own game.
So who’s next?
Twitter? I don’t think so. Despite the “Trump Effect,” which has driven fans to the network to hang on his every word, and detractors to gawk at the train wreck, Twitter’s been relegated to a niche play.
Twitter’s value to advertisers is diminished – and has possibly become toxic – due to the platforms “too little too late” effort to control trolling and hate speech on the network. Advertisers are running, and potential buyers are following suit.
Still, there’s something Snapchat can learn from Twitter. The challenge is can it remain Facebook-proof but not become a niche network?
Can Snapchat Beat The Odds?
Snapchat, through its parent Snap, recently launched an IPO and is the next challenger for the attention – and dollars – of advertisers and marketers.
Despite the success of its initial IPO, some believe Snapchat is the believe Snapchat is the heir apparent for Facebook’s next takeover. The question, in my opinion, is not if, it’s how?
Will Facebook acquire Snapchat the way it did Instagram? Or, will it simply clone the technologies that make Snapchat appealing to younger audiences, starving the growing network’s growth of digital oxygen like it did with Vine?
If the writing is on the wall, what’s Snapchat to do to grow? Or remain relevant? Or stay in business, for that matter?
It does seem that there’s no beating Facebook, which has innovated, spent, and cloned its way to an omnipotent social media juggernaut. Can Snapchat survive the inevitable takedown by Facebook?
The solution is not technological.
The One Thing Facebook Cannot Do
Snapchat will never beat Facebook. Facebook has proven it will buy or clone what it wants, assimilating and cloning technologies. Its only chance to remain independent and a competitor to Facebook’s advertising prowess is to do the one thing that Facebook cannot: Stay relevant to younger audiences.
The Millennial generation has proven they do not want to be a member of their “parent’s social network.” Now that Boomers have become digitally savvy themselves, Millennials – and each generation after them – will always jump to newer, hipper, and sexier networks. Any network their parents join will become instantly irrelevant.
Facebook may clone Snapchat’s self-destructing social post model, or it may just buy the network, but that will just send the next generation in search of a social channel of their own.
Snapchat has an opportunity to beat the odds but staking a claim on the official “voice of the next generation.” In other words, Snapchat could be the first one to beat Facebook at its own game: Buy and clone new technologies and channels relevant to younger audiences, driving a bigger wedge between what’s hip and “my parent’s social networks.”
Doing so could replicate Apple’s success in becoming a cultural brand rather than a product or technology. Becoming the “cultural voice of a generation” would render it toxic to a Facebook takeover.
Just imagine Apple being purchased by Microsoft. What would that do to Apple’s cache among its core audience? Would they continue to be as blindly loyal and fanatic – even if the technology didn’t change – if owned by Microsoft? Of course not.
In the same vein, Snapchat has a chance to make itself toxic to predators.