What gives a social media platform lasting power online? It can be challenging to tell what sticks with changing preferences, trends, and more. Here’s HigherVisibility’s New Findings on the Evolution of Social Media.
Today, we are speaking with Mahida Rahman, the Digital PR and Outreach Executive at HigherVisibility, and Schaunagh, a Digital PR and Outreach Specialist at Honcho Search. She works with HigherVisibility on PR campaigns.
What is HigherVisibility?
Mahida shares, “HigherVisibility is a digital marketing agency that focuses on increasing conversions with the clients they work with. They do that through SEO, PPC, and social media services.”
Since 2009, HigherVisibility has worked with hundreds of companies, including both small businesses and large Fortune 1000 companies. They start by identifying a company’s pain points, then work to create a customized strategy to meet the company’s specific needs. Recently, they were named SEO Agency of the Year by Search Engine Land. They’ve also been featured in various publications, such as Forbes, The Huffington Post, Search Engine Journal, and Inc.
The Evolution of Social Media
Recently, HigherVisibility published a blog article sharing new research about the evolution of social media.
Mahida shares, “We were interested in researching the topic because of how social media is constantly changing. We’re constantly seeing social media compete with each other and pop out of nowhere right now. An example of this is BeReal, which we haven’t included in our study because it was new at the time of the research.”
She adds that the BeReal app is just one example of how social media’s constant drive, innovation, and development can lead to popular social media platforms in a very short period.
The study found that the most successful social media platforms over the last 30 years have been Facebook and Instagram, based on the number of monthly active users. However, TikTok has recently joined this ranking as the third most successful social media platform by these standards.
Mahida adds, “We feel like it wasn’t good to dismiss those kinds of platforms as failures just because they are no longer in use, so it helped to see what kind of social networks had a cultural moment even though they weren’t around.”
What Makes Social Media Successful?
A social media platform’s success can be measured by many things, such as the number of users, time on the market, active monthly users, etc.
In HigherVisibility’s study, they defined success primarily by the monthly active users and longevity within the social media industry.
Schaunagh shares, “Those are quite key metrics in terms of gauging whether a social media platform is successful or not. For example, Mahida was saying user demand is really driving social media at the minute, so monthly active users are a good gauge of that. Of course, things like that can’t be relied on by themselves, as we found from a study.”
For example, Schaunagh explains that platforms like Vine had almost a hundred million monthly users when the platform was popular, much like Discord today. However, despite Vine’s declining popularity today, it’s crucial that its cultural impact is still measured and analyzed.
Schaunagh notes that Facebook and Instagram still have some of the highest monthly active users despite being around much longer than TikTok.
Facebook and Instagram may still be popular, despite platforms like Vine falling to the wayside, because they have adapted and enhanced user experiences. For example, many people left MySpace and began using Facebook instead for similar but improved user experiences.
Even platforms like Vine, which are no longer popular, have had massive impacts on the creator community when developing short-form content popularity.
In response to short-form video content platforms, Instagram even added reels, which is just one way that the platform adapted to continue meeting users’ needs. Other platforms, like Musical.ly, were also developed from this newfound fascination with short-form video content, eventually leading to platforms like TikTok.
When asked about the characteristics a platform must have to succeed, Mahida shares, “I think given the pace of digital culture right now, social media platforms do have to conform with the trends quite quickly. So, the platforms that have been easier to use, like TikTok, tend to gain a wider audience, and because they’re more simple to use, there’s no specific demographics.”
A simple user interface ensures that there are no specific demographics or niches that the platform has or excludes, allowing more people to use the platform.
Mahida adds, “They need to be consistent with the innovations too. MySpace was very easily passed by Facebook because it didn’t develop in a way to keep up with its audience and its needs. Facebook became a lot more interactive and allowed the user to communicate with each other, while MySpace didn’t do that properly.”
The Future of Social Media
Mahida shares, “From this study, I think we can see the platforms that allow a lot more interactions have succeeded against the rest, so social media like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok all require engagement in order for it to thrive.”
She adds that many social media platforms are also starting to be used as search engines for users looking for makeup, product, or restaurant recommendations.
In the future, Schaunagh believes social media will continue developing into a more authentic experience.
Schaunagh says, “With the development of BeReal, we’re kind of seeing a more authentic side of social media if you can call it that. It’s really going to be interesting to see whether this is going to be continuing as a trend in the future or if it’s something that’s just a passing phase.”
Amy DeYoung is a freelance blog post writer covering influencer marketing and business topics. As the daughter of two business owners, she's been fascinated by all things business from a young age, which led her to graduate from college with a bachelor's degree in business. When she's not typing away, she spends her time reading nonfiction books and mystery novels, baking scrumptious desserts, and playing with her dog.