Did you notice that all the big social networks have little sisters?

ConvoPrismLargeEDIT


We all know that Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are the olympic champions when it comes to social media. We also know that Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp are some of the new players disrupting the social media landscape.

The social media traffic is channeled through relatively few, mostly U.S. based sites. Only China – and, partly, Russia – offers real competition. Local competition have been tsunamied out from Japan over Brazil to Germany. In the EU, there are hardly any players anymore since the very few available here have been totally wiped out by the massive use of Facebook. The same thing has happened in Asia. In Africa, there are a number of successful local social networks active as this brand new blog post describes.

So while we wait for Merkel and Holland to design a new eurocentric Internet, let’s take a look at the current players in social media. Reviewing the top players, you will notice that they all have ‘little sisters’. Google, however, has a big sister. And Yahoo! have twin sisters.

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The ‘family tree’ of the top families active in social looks like this:

Facebook / Instagram
Twitter / Vine
Google+ / YouTube
LinkedIn / SlideShare
Flickr / Tumblr
So.cl / Yammer
Amazon / GoodReads
VK / Telegram
QZone / WeChat

Facebook / Instagram

The king of social media, Facebook, bought Instagram because they needed a vehicle for mobile advertising. Facebook, like Google, are advertising rather than hardware/software or e-commerce companies as some of the other players are. So far, there have been no sign of integration between Facebook and Instagram. It seems they are quite comfortable with sitting on two top 10 players with different target groups and it seems like good business sense to keep it that way.

Twitter / Vine

When Twitter decided to expand their business from 140 characters to moving images they created Vine. Vine did not become an instant success like Snapchat but it is a baby sister with a lot of potential. Vine could be the ‘Visual Twitter’ beyond just snippets of looping videos. There is only so much business in looped videos and gif animations but Vine as a real video driven Twitter platform could be huge for Twitter Inc. and Vine is a cool brand that Twitter could invest heavily into with all their IPO cash if they want to.

Google+ / YouTube

Google+ does not have a little sister. Google+ has a BIG SISTER. Recently, Google+ decided to integrate their social network  with one of the biggest sites in the world, if not the biggest: YouTube. Not only commenting is interconnected now but also the search algorhythms on Google Search have been altered to reflect the bundling of the two behemoths. Besides the interest based structure that makes Google+ so different from Facebook, Hangouts is the killer app and can be properly archived on YouTube. The problem with Google is that they are too big. They are everywhere. It is freaking people out. That is a challenge in social business.

LinkedIn / SlideShare

LinkedIn wants to be the preferred social network for professionals and it has basically achieved that goal. Their recent entry into creating original content was one of their best moves. Another one was buying SlideShare, the social slideshow destination. Like Facebook, it seems, the good people at LinkedIn Inc. will keep SlideShare as a separate business unit enabling them to have two brand players in the social sphere. With social becoming more mainstream in the enterprise business there seem to be plenty of room for both destinations.

Flickr / Tumblr

Yahoo! wants to be market leader in search, email and news. They are struggling to compete in these areas. They have had a golden opportunity to be the preferred visual driven social media with the popular Flickr service. But bad management gave Pinterest that corner of the market. They have since bought the social blogging platform Tumblr and now sit on two quality brands and services. The big question is what Lady Marissa will do with them besides revamping them technologically. They could profile Flickr as the premier visual destination (high quality photographs and videos) for a mature audience and Tumblr as the premier visual destination (entertaining ‘gifs’) for the young audience with a powerful social engine including sympathetic Creative Commons powered rights management underneath them both. And ‘motion photography’ is the next big thing in the contemporary art world.

So.cl / Yammer

Not only Yahoo! but also Microsoft have had its issues with management. The Redmond giant has a very cool – but rather unknown – product portfolio besides the well known trademarks. So.cl is actually an innovative and underrated social network with huge potential. An integration with the instant messaging service Yammer could be a smooth move. Add Bing translation services, Skype conferencing and X-Box gamification to their social media platform and Microsoft could come up with one of the strongest social packages on the market. And don’t forget. Microsoft is also an early investor in Facebook. (And I didn’t even mention Windows, Outlook or Office – imagine office.com as a competitor to Linkedin. It could fly. It really could.)

Amazon / GoodReads

What? Amazon is not a social network, it is a store, some will argue. However, Amazon is actually one of the first social destinations on the web. The commenting, the recommending, the sharing are all social actions that have been instrumental in making Amazon the most successful e-commerce story to date. Also they own the movie database IMDb. Their recent purchase of the book social network GoodReads is a move into ‘real’ social media, though. And with the Amazon cloud service and gigantic user base, Amazon could be another potential power player in social in the future. Facebook can feel like visiting your family. Amazon is like going to the mall. Many people prefer the latter.

VK / Telegram

VK is not very known outside Russia. It is basically a Russian version of Facebook. It is, however, one of the largest social networks in the world, popular in many of the former Soviet Union countries including Ukraine and available in three languages. It is the only major player left in Europe. One the most interesting developments lately is the launch of Telegram, a chat app, by its founders.  Telegram is an encrypted version of WhatsApp. If VK decides to bundle VK with Telegram in an all out, encrypted, secure social package they could benefit from the post-Snowden anger in the many markets outside the U.S. that was targeted by the NSA. Read: most of the world.

QZone / WeChat

Like VK, QZone is not that well known outside its home country China. But all the Chinese Internet enterprises are huge by default and QZone is no exception. QZone is owned by Tencent which is a true Internet powerhouse (the fourth largest Internet company in the world only surpassed by Google, Amazon and eBay). Their hottest ticket to global success is the chat app WeChat, which, along with WhatsApp, LINE and KakaoTalk, could be the biggest disruption for Facebook, Twitter and Google in the end.

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So who is missing from this breakdown of the big social players today? SnapChat and WhatsApp are quite possibly the hottest social applications right now and are both turning down billion dollar offers. Viber, based in Cyprus, was just bought by the Japanese e-commece giant Rakuten. If they play their cards right, they could use the Viber brand as a platform for a social play. In China, Sina Weibo (‘the Chinese Twitter’) and Renren (‘the Chinese Facebook’) are struggling to keep up with Tencent and the massive success of WeChat (that has the potential to be the number one social platform of ALL within a few years).  In Korea, KakaoTalk is the most used chat app and it is expanding rapidly worldwide. LINE was originally created as a lifeline for the tsunami stricken Japan, but is actually Korean owned, and, like WeChat and KakaoTalk, getting more and more attention in new markets. The three Asian chat app giants are – along with WhatsApp – the most likely to take market share from the U.S. giants in the near future.

Other apps that could come into global social play are the location based service Foursquare, the sharing app Path, Threema from Switzerland, Mxit from South Africa and more that you and I have not heard of yet. Several telcos also sit on social assets. Telefonica owns Tuenti in Spain. SK Telekom owns the Nate and Cyworld brands in South Korea.

And who will buy Pinterest? That purchase would take any company into the social top ten with one single cheque. There are probably many suitors.

These could include hardware makers Samsung and Sony or e-commerce giants Alibaba or eBay. None of these mammoth corporations have any social presence (there have been rumours, though). Like Apple, which is the most curious tales of all. How can the biggest brand in the world completely ignore the social media world? They have made minor efforts within the iTunes ecosystem but none of them were serious and made little or no impact. It is one of the biggest mysteries in modern business how the richest company in the world can have zero engagement in social business.

Local social networks, that are still active but have lost huge market shares include Mixi in Japan, Orkut in Brazil, Hi5 in Latin America (though headquartered in the U.S.), Bebo in the UK, StudiVZ and Xing in Germany. It is unlikely that any of them will be revived. But never say never. Look what happened to MySpace.

You can follow me on Twitter here and on Google+ here.

Illustration. The Conversation Prism version 4 by Brian Solis.

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One thought

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