Companies looking to be the next social media hit and follow in the footsteps of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn need to complement their services as well as provide sophisticated yet easy-to-use features to attract more users to their platforms, industry watchers urged.
Jake Wengroff, Frost & Sullivan's global director of social media strategy and research, said that besides Google, no one else is interested in "building a [social] network or media site from scratch" to unseat the current social networking giants. That is why the next big industry success would have to provide complementary services to these existing social sites, he noted.
This is a sentiment echoed by Ryan Lim, business director of social media marketing company Blugrapes, who said that aspiring social media companies should not attempt to replicate what is already in the market and produce another "me-too" offering. Instead, these new platforms must "simplify" complex user interactions yet maintain a rich and engaging experience, he suggested.
Essentially, the next big thing would have to be "simple enough for a child to use, but sophisticated enough for even doctors to use for professional purposes", Lim said in his e-mail.
"I'd liken [this product] to how Apple redefined the music, phone and tablet markets. This company will need to design the ultimate user experience and let the technology [deliver such an experience]," he elaborated.
Both industry insiders also identified having mobile access to the platform, fostering a critical user mass and ease of use as factors that have contributed to the current success and popularity of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. These are features that aspiring social media companies should strive to have, they noted.
With regard to user mass, Lim said as long as "must-have" contacts are signed up, the snowball effect asserts pressure on everyone to be on it or be "left out of the know". Wengroff added that having friends and colleagues on the network can be an influence to drawing more people to sign up for the service.
As for having mobile access to these social sites, this encourages people to log in and update their status on the go, which adds to their winning X-factor, the analyst said.
Wengroff also stated that the ease to "like, favorite, share or upload content" adds to these platforms' attractiveness.
Lim chimed in, saying that the ability to share information easily and quickly with a single "click" and have instant updates on conversations, information and breaking news from users' friends and trusted contacts give these social platforms the winning edge.
Monetizing the future
Besides the plus points, companies would also do well to take note of the not-so-successful aspects of these social networking giants, the analyst stated. Out of the three, only LinkedIn offers paid membership services while Facebook and Twitter continue to rely on advertising as their main revenue source, he said.
To better monetize their products, both companies should look to converting existing users to paying clients through offerings such as premium memberships or services, he urged.
Monetization strategies are something up-and-coming social sites should also pay keen attention to, Wengroff stated.