8.24.15

Knocking on Social Media Heaven’s Door: Why These Social Media Sites Met Their Maker

BY JENSEN SMITH

Admit it. It's entertaining to reminisce about old MySpace and Xanga profiles. Do you people even remember Xanga or was I on an island by myself? I fear I might've been alone.

As I started thinking specifically about how many social media sites have failed, I thought it might be important to briefly define social media. According to Google, social media are websites and applications that enable users to create and share content, or to participate in social networking. I realize that’s elementary info for one-fourth of the world’s population (for real, 25% of the world uses social media) but take a step back and think about it. Facebook is a social media platform. But so is Spotify. And so was Orkut. Don’t feel bad for not knowing that one; it was only slightly popular in Brazil.

If social media is so dominating, why have so many platforms failed? There are a lot of theories. Some theories state that these failed platforms broke a specific set of rules. Others think that platforms fail because there aren’t enough users. Or maybe the interface and load time was just ridiculously frustrating. These are all factors, but I have my own theory (supported by research from legit sources, I assure you).

A social media platform will fail when it stops making connections to engage. Specifically, when social media sites stop adapting and performing to the user’s preferences, purpose and ego, they can no longer make that essential connection to the user and influence them to engage. The moment users stop being able to shout their story and define their identity immediately and with little-to-no effort, they abandon ship.

Here, I’ll even prove my theory.

Xanga (RIP).

Let’s be honest, it wasn’t as cool as MySpace. Sleeker, more user-friendly blogging platforms started to emerge. Ultimately, users didn’t have as many people to tell their story to and blogging became easier and better-looking elsewhere.

Xanga, because it didn’t keep up, wasn’t able to connect with the users and get them to continue to engage with the platform or with one another.

Digg.

It’s like the older version of BuzzFeed. But, their content quality began to decline and users went elsewhere for immediate news. Also, it wasn’t particularly easy to share content found on Digg.

Digg failed because users couldn’t connect with the correct information quickly enough. And even if they did find the news they wanted, it wasn’t effortless to share on Facebook, start a conversation, establish their identity and boost their ego. Harsh, but true. It’s about the connection and engagement.

Google+.

It was a good idea. And you can believe the functionality was there - it’s Google. Social Times described it perfectly: “Social is people and the people are on Facebook.” If no one is on Google+ who is there to connect with? Who is there to share stories with? Who is there to engage with my content and make me feel good?

Eons.

You might’ve never heard of this one. Eons was a site that attempted to connect baby boomers socially. Ironically, this is working wonderfully on Facebook currently. [Insert hilarious story about your grandma or overly opinionated uncle here].

So why didn’t it work? Well, Eons launched in 2007. This was entirely too early for that generation to start connecting socially. Confused, sparse users who hadn’t yet experience the joy of storytelling on social media is a perfect recipe for no connectivity and no engagement.

The moral of the story is to make it easy and rewarding for people to connect and engage. Find a social media site with too many obstacles and not enough ego-boosting functionality for a user and you can bet it’ll be on its way out soon.

Jensen Smith
written by JENSEN SMITH

Jensen is an account manager at Carbon8. Her experience includes marketing communications with an emphasis on branding, digital and traditional advertising and media relations. She is results-oriented with a passion for client service and coming up with creative solutions.

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