After reading the recent Chris Hughes Op-Ed in the NYTimes about Facebook I have been thinking about social networks. Having used just about every service out there, tried my hand in helping build one, and being immersed in social feeds for the last decade, I wanted to weigh in on where things might be going.
There is a great quote, loosely attributed to a few folks, that says;
The best camera is the one you have with you.
(can’t find the perfect source)
To me this is the perfect way to think about the future of social networks, feeds, and where you interact with your friends. Go to where your people are in real time.
The bifurcation of social media is already well upon us. If you are anything like me you are moving away from certain networks, and have friends and conversations across many others. Let’s take a trip into my “Social” folder and I will share what I use often;
Telegram — I have ongoing 1:1 and 1:close friend conversations I am actively engaged in on an almost daily basis. I also passively “listen” to a few group chats that are more consumption feeds (low participation) that certainly influence what I read.
WhatsApp — I have 1:1 conversations here with folks, many who do not use other services, and prefer this method of communication.
iMessage — This is one of the most active “social networks” for me because in the past few years a group of friends uses this almost exclusively vs. what we used in the past (read: replaced email). I say iMessage because we happen to be in the Apple ecosystem and use the TapBack functions quite often. In fact, this virtual fist bump, is the best way to acknowledge something shared.
Swarm — Still Holding! — I of course use Swarm for what the kids call life logging, and sometimes share out to other networks (mainly Twitter) on the *where* I am. This is a passive view on many of my old colleagues from Foursquare, but also a small contingent of die-hard Swarm/Foursquare fans that I keep in touch with.
Instagram — This photo gallery turned social network has turned into a major grouping of friends. Now with kids Instagram is an active network for me sharing stories (read: closed sharing network of people seeing my family ridiculous videos), sharing photos (getting back responses publicly or privately) and the growing meme garden of jokes (and dad jokes!) that are out there.
TikTok — Anyone that knows me knows I love sharing ridiculous videos of my dog eating spaghetti in slow motion (what else are you supposed to use a slo-mo camera for if you don’t base jump or heli-ski??). TikTok is the latest place I am sharing these videos. This network is the hit of 2019 if you are sleeping on mobile video networks.
ProductHunt — Yup, including as a social network here. I have a lot of friends that are “Makers” on the platform that are shipping updates, features, new companies — basically a place to launch. This provides me a clean and simple way to keep up with those folks and support them. It is also a startup discovery engine and bookmarking tool for solutions that are out there. Personal CRM anyone?
Twitter — saving the best for last — This is my goto social network. Its a place where I have shared my writing, gotten feedback, met countless internet strangers, and interacted with so many. This is truly the worlds watercooler for me. I have expanded my “rules” recently and followed/liked many folks who are taking new journeys/jobs and expanded my exposure to new ideas.
Discord — as an OG gamer I love discord, but have also found another emerging category of users — crypto communities. I am a passive part of a few companies I am involved with (shout out to StateSpace + AimLab here!). Through this app I have also been in rooms with folks who I quasi-know from Twitter or IRL and have side chats. Obviously the core use case is using it while gaming — sometimes with people I know with PubG, but mainly with people I don’t in larger MMORPG games. (in my Messaging folder which is why its not here)
Snap — (are the cool kids still using this?) I keep up with a small group here and try out all the latest and great fun AR things they are building. Admittedly Instagram ate their lunch on stories here and I have used less and less, but always hopeful for the underdog I think there are some location and augmented reality capabilities
So what is the point of writing up all these use cases? The title of this post:
The best social network is the one you have with you.
Talking to friends, colleagues, acquaintances, other players, communities you are a part of, alumni groups, interest groups and more are all split across the mobile and social web we have weaved. I think the next generation of social networks will start to appear on or around the things that you start using every day. A good example of this would be the camera as an app layer which is a post that is great from M.G. Siegler. The idea that things appear, and who, in realtime seems like the magic that Snap brought us, but is just closer to the platform itself.
My thoughts as of mid 2019 is that social networks that emerge out of real utility with use cases are the best apps for that moment. Gone are the days that you can build one platform to rule them all and here are the days that you must solve a real problem or let a real connection happen exactly when it’s needed.