Hint: If you are over the age of 30, chances are “it’s you, not them” 😏
Let me explain.
The inherent value of social networks is based on network effects, but this reliance also comes with the need to grow fast. The super fast growth means that the networks work hard to saturate their target audience and onboard them super quick.
One unintended consequence of this chronologically compressed growth time-line is the fact that all the lowest-hanging-fruit style of audience (with minimal deviation in age, and interests) come together real fast.
In addition, most users on a social network want a social network with minimal deviation (deviation as they perceive it). Minimal deviation in ages, shared interests or proximity. Better yet, a strong combination of all three.
All online communities eventually struggle with growth vs. maintaining a healthy balance of these three variables. Eventually becoming a brand associated with a certain “age bracket” or “type of person”. This leads to it being disused by the next/incoming cohort.
All of this homegenity within the majority cohort of users translates to a sense of disorientation for new members when they join a social network that already has older members. Members who have many cycles of shared context, shared habits and shared history. A netiquetteof sorts. But this has a deeper undercurrent. Let’s walk through what really happens.
Here are some examples
Orkut for a subset in India and Brazil in the late early 2000’s. Facebook was the new-cool for gen X, SnapChat for the Millennials, Instagram for the fabulous. Don’t expect any of them to be cool for the kids born after 2009.
Most people are shocked when I introduce them to previously unheard-of social networks with tens of thousands or millions of users.
What does this mean?
What this boils down to is that there will always be an opening for the next-big-thing in social networks and it will probably be built by new kids for their own peer group. It may eventually be acquired by the maturing big daddies (hello, Insta) or copied mercilessly (hey, Snap); but the idea will usually come from within the cohort.
It means that everyone interested in Social Networks both as a phenomena and as a business has got to keep looking out for entrepreneurs experimenting with newer formats and models and building social networks for their newly created cohorts! It also means that this is extremely open ended and there will be space for new networks to emerge.
However, all that it means for the you and for me is that over time we will be relegated to our own social networks with our own cohorts and ithin our own comfort zones.
Who am I and why do I care?
I’ve recently become interested in startups working on technology for local language and vernacular based content, entertainment, gaming and social media. Especially for Indian users.
My own process of discovery is ongoing and I look forward to meeting new startups disrupting these spaces.