Social media is facing enormous pressure to transform. It has become tainted with the result of keeping platforms open and democratic and thus allowing all manner of hateful and abusive content.
In some cases Governments have responded. In Vietnam (as we reported here) the Government called on domestic technology companies to invent new social media platforms so that the Vietnamese are kept away from Facebook and other Western media platforms.
It is not only Government that is calling the tunes.
Users, particularly younger users, want different things from their social media than a few years ago. Instagram is experimenting with not ‘counting’ the number of likes a post receives. The aim is to take the competitive element out of the quality of posts and the number of followers who like them.
Across Asia, of course, the smartphone is the device of choice for accessing the internet, which means social media is much more accessible. In fact, according to an excellent round up of what is going on in social media by The Innovation Group, 40% of WeChat users in China spend between one and four hours a day on the app.
Social is, according to the report, now about social enrichment. Tech companies are working on ways to reverse the current negativity of social platforms and instead offer enriched creative shopping and social interactions.
There is also a trend to reverse the negativity around the cascade of adverts. This will take various forms but already subscriptions that eliminate adverts are appearing on some content channels.
Avatars, AR and VR are now beginning to play in social media. Immersive games, parties and shared experiences such as music are now becoming popular.
From Snapchat, to Spotify, to ByteDance with its new ‘interest based interaction’ focus, all social media are working on transforming their platforms. Platforms are even leveraging the idea that fans can buy content from influencers, leaving the influencers with more freedom of expression and keeping their fans free of adverts.
There are some well-funded start-ups, especially across China and SE Asia, that are transforming ecommerce, bite size video and ‘local’ crazes such as anime and the established platforms should be worried.
At the other end of the world, the pressure on the largest tech companies is piling up. No longer will they be able to run free with users’ data, they will be accountable and before that they will be reprimanded for their irresponsibility.
One way or another, social media will look very different in a few years’ time and provide a very different role and service for society.