Where I see things going.
I’m using this as a brain dump of what I’ve been thinking on right now re: social networks.
Let’s start with where I see social existing today.
These are social networks that are driven by relationships more than content. In these social networks, your content’s engagement is scaled relative to the size of your network.
You’re more likely to follow people you know on these networks. Content that you consume is more directed at your relationships more than your interests.
These are social networks that are driven by content more than direct connections. In these social networks, everyone and everything has the chance to go viral.
On these networks you’re more likely to find content from creators you might not personally follow. This content is more directed at your interests rather than your relationships.
The Rise of Creator-Driven Networks
I believe that the next chapter of social lies in creator-driven networks, places where the creator fully controls the distribution and their audience. Discovery can still happen on other platforms, but the creator will own their dedicated channel.
Creators who are building massive audiences don’t want to be at the whim of other networks to determine how to talk to their audience. They want to be able to exist outside of the algorithm and simply deliver their content to fans.
There are a few places that are starting to scratch at this:
Most of products are monetization-based, leaning into creator support & exclusive content to draw your attention. But in the future, I imagine creators seizing their own distribution in previously untapped and creative ways.
I think the closest this has come to fruition is via the Jeremy Renner app (lol) - an exclusive network where you can learn everything you need to know about 2 time Academy Award Nominee Jeremy Renner. The app had a host of issues regarding moderation, UI/UX, and more, but I really think it’s scratching the surface of a need.
Right now content exists on these major platforms in one of three formats:
Photo (Pinterest, Twitter, Patreon, Insta, Facebook, Snap, Reddit, OnlyFans)
Video (TikTok, Twitter, Patreon, YouTube, Insta, Facebook, Snap, Reddit, OnlyFans, Community)
Text (Substack, Community, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook)
The way in which you interact with this content doesn’t really change in any format. Sure, TikTok videos are vertical and YouTube videos are horizontal, but there has been little innovation in the realm of engaging with the content. You hit a button to like, hit a button to comment, and that’s about it.
I imagine a future where posts are interactive and users can do a variety of functions to alter or engage with the content. Koji is trying to scratch at this need by creating interactive, remixable social media and I think that is just the start of the potential possibilities of truly interactive media formats.
On top of the lack of engagement opportunities on any of these platforms, the monetization opportunities are also really limiting, with Substack, OnlyFans, and Patreon essentially just putting your content behind a paywall. Patreon allows a bit more flexibility with different tiered rewards that are tied to a specific creator, but I don’t think that’s necessarily scalable for top-tier creators (depending on the rewards).
Scalable, digital monetization strategies can exist in an isolated, personalized system and I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future we see major creators partnering with development teams to create their own unique experiences for content. This is beyond what we’ve seen previously - branded games, apps that are just glorified social media aggregate feeds… this is a catered experience to the communities of the largest creators in the world.
The (Continued) Rise of Community-Driven Networks
There’s a really interesting article about the future of the internet, entitled “The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet” where author Yancey Strickler says:
In response to the ads, the tracking, the trolling, the hype, and other predatory behaviors, we’re retreating to our dark forests of the internet, and away from the mainstream.
Yancey goes on to discuss how networks such as Discord, Snapchat, podcasts, newsletters, and more are increasing in usage as people want to move away from the “public square” mentality of online interactions.
I think the core of this migration can also be interpreted as people wanting more specialized content, relevant to their specific interests. This results in an environment where people can have multiple accounts on different platforms or multiple ways of using the same platform, with their type of usage influenced by their relationships to the others they are sharing with.
I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future we see more community-driven social platforms that focus on being your authentic self in the context of the community you’re in. Discord and Slack (maybe online forums?) are really the only ways communities can gather currently and they can get rather cluttered or overwhelming. Discord has even rebranded to shift away from their gaming perception to help address the desire for communities to organize online.
I sense there will be more players in this space that attempt to solve the need of organizing, managing, and growing communities.
That’s a high-level overview of where I see social going in the immediate future. I have a lot more thoughts regarding posting behavior and how communities organize & grow, but I’ll leave that for another time.
In the meantime, feel free to subscribe if someone sent you this! If you have comments, tweet ‘em at me (@thatswattsup).