2015 will see users increasingly look for more intimate and personal social experiences
Nadav Shoval – CEO and cofounder of Spot.IM
Nadav founded Spot.IM while in the Israeli Army, Spot.IM is his fifth venture. He founded several internet companies and teenage web services and has been working on building startups since he was 11
Bill Gates once argued that there would be two types of businesses, those that are on the internet and those that are not, and “if your business is not on the internet, then your business will be out of business.”
He’s been proven right, and as of September 2014 there were one billion registered websites on the internet.Attempting to amend Gates’ statement for 2015 and beyond, the new standard is quickly becoming social media engagement. This statement is borne out by data: Facebook sees 21 billion monthly visits, with visitors spending an average of 20 minutes on site to view around 15 pages (http://www.similarweb.com/website/facebook.com). By contrast, the New York Times sees only 206 million monthly visits. The inescapable conclusion is that people like to be social, and even if the average website can’t (and doesn’t want to) be Facebook, there’s no doubt that the more social the experience, the more traffic and engagement. The question is then: how can site owners jump on this trend to ensure their survival and success moving forward?
The immediate answer seems obvious at first – build a presence on existing social network giants like Facebook and Twitter to take advantage of the large traffic volume on those sites and redirect it to your own. These social networks also provide a useful service as they are able to host the social interaction and engagement that your website visitors will invariably want to have – a social experience that you are unable to deliver on your own site because you simply don’t have the technology. Eventually, the ideal social situation is one where you have amassed thousands or millions of Facebook followers who are engaging with your content there, then heading back to your site to read it.
The problem with this approach is that it ultimately leaves website owners beholden to an external company to get access to their own community of site visitors. When Facebook changes its regulations about promotional posts from brands, site owners are suddenly in a position of being locked out of the room where their own fans are interacting – and only money will grant them access. Another problem is that relying on a news feed presence to get people to read your article is a risky strategy considering that most people end up reading the headline and moving on quickly to the next item in their feed.
What website owners need is a way of bringing social on-site and owning their own community, as opposed to competing for the attention of their own site visitors on larger sites like Facebook. As a website your site visitors are already united by their common interest in what you have to offer – what they need is a way to talk to each other and to you.
The potential success of this strategy isn’t just proved by the data we’re seeing at Spot.IM, where website owners using our technology are seeing a 50 per cent jump in page views on average, but is already demonstrated by all the smaller, more intimate social networks that have sprung up in the past year or so. For example, Take Path is a social network that caps your friends at 150 whereas Couple (formerly Pair) has reduced social networking to just two people.
If Facebook gives you access to hundreds and thousands of people you already know and Twitter lets you be part of a global conversation, then what people are clearly starting to look for is the more intimate and potentially targeted experience that a niche network can give them. While for some people it’s about privacy, for others it’s about looking to have conversations about shared interests without having to condense their thoughts into 140 characters. What these niche networks are really offering is a way to mimic the way people enjoy conversing in real life – settling on a topic that interests them and being able to freely talk about it with a limited number of people.
Ultimately, the social media giants like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will continue to thrive. But their success doesn’t preclude the rise of micro or niche networks that will be built on the web, within websites and on mobile apps. It’s clear that people are searching for an additional social experience beyond just being able to look at the photos of a distant cousin or ex-boyfriend. Bringing people together over shared interests and content will be one, powerful way of giving that experience to them.