It is pretty much impossible to imagine a world without social media networks but even so their growth seems to have reached the end of its lifecycle. They are losing users and people are refusing to participate in them. So, what has changed and why could this mean the end?
7 threats to social media networks
Nine out of ten Internet users in Spain is a regular social media user, a proportion similar to other developed countries. Desoite this statistic, not everything is going well in the social media: since 2012, the use of social networks has decreased slightly (from 92% to 89%) according to the Observatory of Social Networks. More and more Internet users are deciding to close their accounts on social networks or to stop posting and being active. What is happening? In our latest blog post we have detected 7 key aspects that are threatening life as we know it on social networks:
- User fatigue
Update your Facebook profile. Tweet about something witty. See the latest viral video on YouTube. Upload an original photo on Instagram… Spanish users spend around 4 hours per day in social media, a dedication which is beginning to take its toll. And so now there is a tendency for a more “passive” use of these platforms with just one in three users generating content for social networks on a regular basis, while the others prefer to watch and comment on the content the others publish.
- The manipulation of the platforms
In the beginning there was just Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. Then YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat appeared and the list keeps growing. Nowadays, Spanish people use an average of 6,2 social networks per week and this leads to a progressive decrease in time they spend on each of them.
Facebook is still in poll position as the most used network (with 82% of penetration), followed by Twitter (43%), LinkedIn or Instagram (both with 27%) and Pinterest to a lesser extent (13%). New platforms keep growing at the expense of the big ones.
- Messaging apps
A platform that has been growing and gaining popularity is WhatsApp although it can´t be considered as a genuine social network. It is a preferred app for 45% of the users (compared to 28% of Facebook) and 86% of Internet users uses it every week, according to the data provided by Kantar. In comparison to the increasing complexity of social media, what users appreciate especially is that this messaging app doesn´t offer a swamped quantity of information as other platforms.
Additionally, the rise of WhatsApp coincides with a greater usage of social networks from mobile devices: 83% of users log on to their social media profiles from a smartphone comparing to 76% of those who do it from a PC.
Just one out of three users posts regularly contents on social networks
- The increase of “dark social”
This expression refers to the traffic that comes to web pages without anyone knowing from where it comes from. But, more and more it is used to refer to an activity on social networks that is private, in other words, sharing the contents exclusively with an intimate circle of friends.
An example of this could be sending a meme o sharing a pie recipe with friends over WhatsApp: it is a social activity, but stays away from the control of analytic tools. And that makes social networks anxious, and has implications for PR agencies and brands.
- The risks of social networks
Another reason why users opt for messaging apps and “dark social” instead of public social networks are growing threats that platforms open to the world are facing. Cyber-attacks, trolls, blackmailing, identity robbery, fake news, inappropriate comments that become viral… Users are more and more conscious about the risks of exposing their private life and are becoming more cautious when it comes to opening profiles, posting personal information and sharing photos and videos on social media.
- The rejection of social ads
Users have less tolerance to the growing presence of brand advertising in major social networks, eager to monetize platforms with millions of users, but not a lot of revenues (perhaps the most paradigmatic case is Twitter). Here is a curious paradox: although for example 68% of users follow a brand on Facebook, 55,5% believe that the presence of brands on these platforms is excessive (too many ads, company pages, sponsored content, etc.). The solution? Make a proper use of content marketing to generate posts appealing to users and not disturbing them.
Up to 77% of content is shared via “dark social”, according to the study
- An inappropriate use of Big Data
Finally, brands have found in the social networks a gold mine to gather data that allows them to know better their users thanks to Big Data. Until now, most of the social media users have blithely consented to relinquish this information when they accept those endless conditions of use that no one reads when registering on any of these platforms.
But as users become aware of all that these companies know about their tastes and activities (especially when they use the information to sell them something), a wave of rejection towards social media rises that, although is still in its initial phase, will become bigger. For example, the philosopher Javier Echeverría warns of an imminent “infowars” that will confront these “lords of the air” (Facebook, Google, etc.) between them and with the users for the control of the data.
At the beginning of the year we saw some of the most striking PR trends among which we highlighted the decline in the “idyll” of brands with social networks. And while in this inaugural article we anticipated 3 possible threats for them, few months later we dare to expand this list up to 7 reasons that can take them to an end. Social networks are not going to disappear, but something is changing in the virtual world. The new channels have modified the society, which is adapting them to respond to its needs.
What is clear is that both brands and PR agencies should always be aware of changes in the virtual world and take advantage of the opportunities it offers. We can adapt to the needs of users, and communicate with them in a more subtle and meaningful way.