It is no secret that Facebook's population is aging, and that recent censorship moves are driving a segment of its population to other platforms. Competition to become the "next Facebook" is something real among alternative platforms like Minds. At the same time, the total population on Facebook is still growing, as is its income. If we want to make serious moves toward a post-Facebook social media environment, we should consider exactly what value Facebook provides to the users, and how alternatives can improve on the value proposition.
Something held in common by all social media platforms is promotion. With an account, you are, or were, easily able to reach a large audience using a simple, free, method. Usually, the amount of value that can be provided by a social platform in this context is "the network effect,"which means an organization which is already big is going to be the best place to be discovered. However, if a social platform effectively bills itself as catering to a certain type of person, and you want to promote yourself in that audience, then an alternative has a solid chance of winning.
We have helped some researchers recruit for human trials via Facebook, so from the advertising perspective, if you are looking to get a recruitment message to people a certain distance from your research center, within a certain age demographic, who have talked about certain topics... Facebook will find that for you at a cost of about $10 per participant. This is also where we get the saying "the user isn't the customer - the user is the product."
While we work on the Flashpoint project, some of the benchmarks we are using for our community features come from Groups pages on Facebook, Minds, and others. When you need a group with certain common features (discussion, storage of key files or at least links to that storage, etc.), it is very fast and straightforward to do this on Facebook. Also, if it involves getting people you know together, having everyone on a network so you can simply blast out "come join this group!" also helps.
One value proposition that is unique to alternatives is that of identity management. One early source of value for Facebook as a social platform was that users had to use their real identity. For a long time, this meant one had to avoid being inflammatory because it meant that you were speaking publicly. A new platform, or set of platforms, could provide a balance between complete anonymity, and voluntary sharing of your identity. Also, Minds and Steemit have been leaders in integrating cryptocurrency into their platforms, which has added a new dimension to the social media space, as well as an interesting business model.
When we look at the value propositions, including those which are unique among alternatives, we see a few possible outcomes for the future of social media, a future which may even bring about a post-Facebook era:
In the Minecraft game, the fact that servers are hosted by players creates a kind of "digital property" in which an admin decides who is and is not allowed on a server. This, of course, permits quality discussion and interaction, because an admin who wants quality discussion will quickly show trolls the door. One advantage that Minds offers versus Facebook is that if one wanted to have a group that included only their family, or their friends from a certain group, etc., one can host it here with no concern about a surprise ban. And of course, an active group also scores a few tokens for everyone involved.
Mainstream social media, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, or WeChat, are built around the "One Platform" model. Namely, One Platform is the center of all activity, and when you want to perform a new Internet-based social activity, you must go through One Platform. This predictably leads to a small number of very large platforms. Alternative social media could instead adopt a One Standard model, in which certain functions (i.e. posts and video) are interoperable. In this case, two platforms operating with the same standard would allow a user to post to both simultaneously, and reach audiences on both platforms simultaneously. This could help with handling the "network effect" issue, and is part of how platforms such as Diaspora and Mastodon operate.
This is something which is still theoretical for CeriumSoft, but something we see coming down that pipe in the near future will be an app or "platform" that lets you create multiple identities, such as a work, family, and politics identity. The app, in turn, manages your social media profiles for all identities, such that you can maintain different identities for different purposes. This way, if you have a political channel in which you want to stay anonymous *until* you are big enough to sustainably do it full time, you could do so. Also, an identity management system handles the ever-important need to separate personal and work life, and instead of having to manually handle multiple accounts on multiple platforms, you could handle all accounts and one platform through one interface. This would be a logical application of the One Standard approach to social media.
What are your thoughts about this? How do you think a new platform could be competitive with conventional social media?