When you visit the App Store or Google Play and search "social media," there are hundreds of apps to choose from. But, as the pool of social platforms grows, will any of them really change the game for marketers this year?
The truth is, probably not. In fact, HubSpot's own social media experts say we should be paying attention to how older platforms evolve in 2019.
"For 2019, what I’m keeping my eye on is some of the forgotten channels. Those will be the 'new' channels for 2019," says Kelly Hendrickson, HubSpot's Social Media Manager.
She adds, "We’re seeing Snapchat make a play to provide more relevance to new demographics, especially with the gender-swap feature's popularity. And with Facebook’s push for privacy and connections with friends and family, Facebook Groups could be seen as a new channel as the newsfeed becomes more challenging."
But, if your role specializes in social media, audience growth, or online engagement -- or if your company targets the early-adopters in Gen-Z or millennial age groups -- you'll still want to be on the lookout for platforms that could gain momentum later on.
Why? Watching the growth of young, promising social channels will help you determine which are worth joining and which aren't worth your time. And, if you do end up joining a hot new social channel early on, you may have more time to pick up on what promotional really content works there. This will put you ahead of competitors that launch their accounts later and might struggle to come up with creative post ideas.
To help you stay on the cutting edge of social media, we've compiled a list of five young social platforms that you might want to put on your radar this year. These platforms were either launched or completely rebranded in 2016 or later. They've also all gained a large user base, interest from investors, or news buzz in recent months.
For each platform, we'll walk you through how it works, its user base, why it might be promising to marketers later on, and how you should approach it today.
New Social Media Platforms Marketers Should Watch
Year Launched: 2017 (Founded in 2016)
Number of Users: 500 million+ monthly active users
In 2018, the lip-syncing app, Musical.ly merged with a similar one-year-old app called TikTok. Since then, TikTok has reportedly passed 500 million active monthly users. With more than 800 million global downloads, TikTok is now more popular in app stores than Facebook, Instagram, and other prominent social media platforms.
For those who remember Vine or Musical.ly, TikTok is like a mix of the two. The platform allows you to film short videos that play on a repetitive loop just like Vine. But, like Musical.ly or Snapchat, you can add fun effects, AR filters, text, and musical overlays to zest things up. Like similar video platforms, it has been primarily adopted by users under 30 years old.
Once you make a video, the app also allows you to optimize it by adding hashtags that can make it easier to find via search.
One way hashtags have been embraced on TikTok is through its "Challenges" tab. This area of the platform prompts you to propose a challenge with a themed hashtag. When you post a video that responds to a challenge, you can include the corresponding hashtag so those following the challenge can see your videos.
Along with being widely discussed by publications including the New York Times and Digiday, the app has also gained notoriety from comedians like Jimmy Fallon. Here's a clip from The Tonight Show where he talks about the app and tells fans to compete in his #tumbleweed challenge:
Aside from being fun and entertaining, the app is "leaking into brand territory," according to Krystal Wu, HubSpot's Social Media Community Manager. She explained that more brands are on the platform, adding that, "The Washington Post is on TikTok and they are pretty popular too."
The Washington Post, as she mentioned, has already gained more than 54,000 followers.
While you would expect a newspaper like this to post content with a more serious or investigative tone, the Post shows off a lighter, behind-the-scenes look at its newsroom. In this example, one of its journalists struggles to walk up the stairs to the sounds of MGMT's "Electric Feel":
Brands like Guess have also started to experiment with TikTok. To highlight its new line of denim clothing, Guess launched the #inMyDenim challenge encouraging users to publish videos of themselves wearing Guess denim with Bebe Rexha's song, "I'm a Mess." playing in the background.
Here's a video that someone posted in response to the challenge:
At the moment, fashion, publishing, and entertainment companies are starting to play with TikTok. As the platform grows, we might see it expand to other industries that are able to get creative and visual with their marketing tactics.
While you might not want to focus all of your social media resources on TikTok just yet, it's a great time to familiarize yourself with the app and start experimenting with a few fun videos. You could also try to brainstorm a few challenges or video ideas that could align well with your brand and the platform's young audience. If you see any brands that are in a similar space as you, follow them for some added inspiration.
Number of Users: Unspecified
Caffeine.tv, a platform built by ex-Apple designers, allows you to create live broadcasts for friends and followers. The broadcasts show up in a feed where you can give an emoji reaction or respond with comments.
Along with live video broadcasts, you can also stream your computer or TV screens as you play video games. This makes Caffeine a possible competitor to the slightly older game-streaming service, Twitch.tv. Like Twitch, which offers you money for high views or subscriptions, Caffeine has launched a monetization program that rewards engaging broadcasters.
The company hasn't specified user numbers yet, but its Crunchbase profile reveals that is has over $140 million in investments so far. Caffeine's biggest investor to date is 21st Century Fox.
Aside from investor interest, the platform is starting to make waves in the worlds of entertainment and sports. Recently, Fox launched a broadcasting initiative with the company. The platform was also used to broadcast the 2019 X Games in Aspen.
Caffeine's success so far demonstrates how live video and video platforms are gaining quick adoption from younger audiences, especially in the Gen-Z age group. If the app continues to gain interest, marketers might consider using it to show off their brand through a variety of strategies, like behind-the-scenes content, Q&As, or other live videos. This platform could also be useful to marketers in a wide variety of industries, including news, entertainment, gaming, and sports.
If live streaming could help your company spread awareness of a product, it might be a good time to familiarize yourself with both Caffeine and Twitch. As you learn more about the platforms, be sure to determine if your audience is actually using either of them and what they're using them for. Similarly to TikTok, you should also check out what similar brands are doing if you find any with active accounts.
If you have an idea for a live stream that seems too out of the ordinary for Facebook or Instagram, Caffeine could be an interesting place to test it. Because the platform is new, there might not be many norms or rules associated with what content works or doesn't work just yet.
Year Launched: 2018
Number of Downloads: 70,000+ in the U.S.
Lasso, which was quietly launched by Facebook in 2018, competes directly with TikTok as you can use the platform to make short videos with filters and musical overlays. Here's a quick example of a Lasso post with a musical overlay:
While Lasso is just getting started, it might be a promising platform in the future because it's owned by Facebook. This could mean the app might benefit from Facebook's user base, technological resources, and financing.
While the user base for Lasso is still small and its demographics aren't yet specified, this might be Facebook's attempt to reach younger audiences similar to those on TikTok. If that's the case, companies targeting Gen-Z or millennials should continue watching and comparing Lasso and TikTok to see what types of content thrives on these platforms.
Like TikTok, this type of social platform could be of interest to people in visual or creative fields like publishing, entertainment, and fashion.
Year Launched: 2016
Number of Users: 20 million+
Houseparty is a group-video messaging app that allows video chats that can host eight users at a time. To make things more fun for everyone in the chat, you can use video filters, stickers and other fun effects while a live conversation is in session.
While the app itself has been around for a few years, it has gone through a few evolutions and recently gained large bumps in interest and usership. The app first started as Meerkat, but rebranded itself to Houseparty and revamped its features in 2016. Since then, Houseparty has climbed app store charts and risen from 1 million to 20 million users in 2018.
In 2018, Houseparty continued to expand by launching an in-chat gaming feature which allows you to play games with your friends. The app company reports that over 10 million users have already played the trivia game, Heads Up, on the platform.
Although the app does offer ad-space, marketers of the future might use it in other creative ways. For example, a small makeup company might sponsor a "houseparty" where an influencer can answer beauty questions and show attendees how to use one of their new beauty products.
Although it might sound promising, still keep in mind that this app has a number of big-name competitors, including Snapchat which rolled out group video chats in 2018.
This app might also take added time and creativity. If you don't have time to host a houseparty or can't think of one that would effectively market your product, you might want to prioritize other platforms first..
Year Launched: 2016
Number of Users: Nearly 1.2 million
This platform is like Reddit with a cryptocurrency twist. While Reddit rewards "upvoted" engaging posts by pushing them to the top of feeds, Steemit also gives you "Steem" coin if your post does well. Like Reddit, you can engage with posts by sharing, commenting on, or upvoting them.
Here's a look at the platform's "life" category feed. The site's design is simple and similar to Reddit's older website designs with a white background and basic feed style.
Because users might be aiming to earn, use, or sell Steem coin, the interface also includes a sidebar that shows the cryptocurrency's live value up against other prominent coinage like Bitcoin.
Steemit claims to have over 1 million users and over 50,000 monthly active users. While its user base is still much smaller than other platforms, it has been buzzed about by TechCrunch, WIRED, and other publications. It has also been called a leading social platform in the world of cryptocurrency.
Even though Steemit is still small, we've included it on this list because it's notable in cryptocurrency communities, discussed by tech journalists, and seems to be one of the first platforms of its kind. Even if the platform does not take off, it's a good example of how cryptocurrency and social media could align to create a social platform in the future.
However, we encourage this to stay just on your watchlist for now. Although Steemit seems new and unique, marketers shouldn't heavily invest time or money into it just yet. Its biggest flaw is that it relies on a strong cryptocurrency market to succeed.
The platform already took a huge hit during the "cryptocurrency winter" of 2018 when most major coinages lost serious value. While Steem began at $7 USD, the coin's value dropped to just over 40 cents. Today, the coin's value is only 25 cents -- equal to 2.5 Bitcoin Bits.
According to TechCrunch, this loss led to mass layoffs at the company. Since then. Steemit has begun to hire more staff and recently named a new chief officer.
If this platform, or one like it, were to take off, it could be a great marketing tool for companies that sell products or services in exchange for cryptocurrency. If cryptocurrency gains more adoption and gains a greater sense of understanding from younger, more tech-savvy audiences, this could boost opportunities on other social platforms like this.
How to Navigate This Crowded Landscape
A marketer who discovers a hot new social channel first can become an expert on posting engaging content before their competitors even sign up. But, while it's important for marketers to keep interesting platforms on their radar, the first priority should still be to focus time, effort, and resources into the platforms that are already thriving.
To make sure you're balancing your time between new and old channels accordingly, focus on growing and refining strategies on the successful platforms, then timebox an hour or so once a month to look into newer platforms.
If you find a platform like TIkTok, that's both relatively new and has a fast-growing user base, brainstorm and schedule a few experimental posts.
Be sure to use experimentation time wisely and on the right platforms. While TikTok is a great place to experiment and doesn't seem like it's going anywhere soon, there's always a chance that an extremely niche platform, like Steemit, could get purchased and absolved -- or that it could shut down quickly if it fails to grow.
When you're determining which platforms are worth watching or experimenting on, here are six questions your team should ask themselves:
- What are its active user numbers? Big numbers could mean that the platform is gaining momentum and that you have even more chances to engage with a large pool of users.
- Are publications or thought leaders talking about it? If a platform doesn't specify exact numbers, but a lot of people, prominent figures, or news publications are discussing it -- it might be promising.
- Do older platforms have a similar tool and a bigger user base? If an older platform does the same thing, people might hesitate to adopt a newer platform. For example, marketers primarily use Stories on Instagram as opposed to Snapchat. Although Snapchat pioneered the story, the Instagram interface and experience is something that a lot more people know, understand, and trust.
- Will my audiences understand how to use the platform? It might be challenging to get a less tech-savvy person to join Snapchat or TikTok, but they might love a platform like Facebook or Twitter because the interfaces might be easier to understand. Pick platforms that your audience can easily use and enjoy.
- Will audiences even be interested in the platform? While a tech novice might not enjoy TikTok, a teenager might get bored on a platform like Facebook. In fact, younger people prefer visual apps like TikTok and Instagram. While you want to pay attention to the level of adaptability, you also should pay attention to how your audience wants to consume media.
- What type of content or post could we use to promote our brand on the platform? You should always make a plan of action when considering or launching a social platform. If you can't come up with any interesting ways to market your specific product on a really niche platform, you might want to hold off on making an account. On the other hand, experimenting with different posting strategies could allow your brand to look creative and cool to the platform's audience.
If you ultimately decide that you aren't ready to jump on to a new platform right now, and just want to focus on the bigger platforms, here's a guide to the different types of social media and how you can use them for your next marketing campaign.
Originally published Jul 23, 2019 7:00:00 AM, updated February 18 2020
Topics:Social Media Marketing