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Social Media: Facebook Alternatives, Part 2
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Social Media: Facebook Alternatives, Part 2 - Executive Leadership Articles

Social Media: Facebook Alternatives, Part 2

Executive Leadership Articles

Social Media: Facebook Alternatives, Part 2

The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, combined with Congressional testimony by Mark Zuckerberg last month, have people proclaiming that they will quit Facebook, this time for real. There have been similar events in the news over the years, but this one seems serious, with real thought leaders waxing philosophical on how this social media train has left the station. The good old days are over, apparently.

As we said when this first erupted, leaving Facebook is easier said than done, although that came from a strictly technical perspective. From a practical perspective, there’s the assumption that if you’re not on Facebook, you need something else to fill the gap. Of course, that’s not an assumption being made by many influencers as they abandon ship; they’re simply done with Facebook and its entire type of online interaction.

If simply walking away and never looking back is your approach, this article is not for you. But if find value in Facebook’s service, it doesn’t hurt to consider options. There are more social media platforms than anyone can evaluate, but we’re going to make a few assumptions here in the interest of practicality.

First, we’ll assume that you’re looking for more than a niche network. Facebook didn’t invent social media: before that there were multiple networks for specific interests, and many have popped up since. Flickr for photos. Goodreads for books. WineLog for wine. Last.FM for music. You get the picture. For those of us who dragged our feet getting to Facebook, we eventually caved because of its lack of a niche audience. Your Aunt Myra and your cousins in Milwaukee and your work buddies and your high-school classmates: they’re all on Facebook in a way they never were in those other locations. A true Facebook alternative will have to have some kind of mass appeal, although not necessarily the massive functionality Facebook now has.

This knocks out Ello, which touted itself as never selling data and allowing anonymity. It recently pivoted to a social platform for creatives, taking away its chance (if it ever had one) to unseat Facebook. Of platforms we’ve looked at, it seems to have had the best chance to actually be the next Facebook, but that chance has passed.

Related to mass appeal is multiple modes of access. A Facebook replacement needs a web interface as well as mobile interfaces, and although they don’t have to work as smoothly as Facebook’s does, they have to be the kind of user-friendly that enables Aunt Myra to use Facebook. Longtime users will remember that early versions of the Facebook mobile apps were nowhere near as functional, easy-to-use, or aesthetically pleasing as the app is today. It’s what we’ve come to expect, and there’s no real going back.

This knocks out such almost-made-it-but-not-quite contenders as Peach and Diaspora. Path is still going, but its web interface is extremely simplified and doesn’t have anywhere near the functionality Facebook users expect. Vero has been the latest flavor of the week, but it has an elite techies-only vibe that won’t appeal to Boomers and older Gen Xers, and it doesn’t have a web interface. Neither does Amino, which is kind of a cuter, friendlier Reddit catering to multiple niches.

Finally, any Facebook replacement for the masses has to be infinitely browseable. Facebook’s massive functionality means that not only are there many ways and many things to share, but passive users can simply scroll, scroll, scroll through their streams for a range of content from a variety of social groups, all at the same time while doing nothing more than moving down in the stream. Facebook’s browsability is its unheralded strength, the thing that keeps many of us coming back every day. Here’s a photo from cousin Mike’s graduation. There’s another pie from Aunt Myra’s kitchen. That coworker on a monthlong vacation is sharing a review of sushi places in the midwest. Scroll, like, scroll, like, scroll.

If Tumblr didn’t seem to appeal only to Millennials and whatever we’re calling the generations following, it could practically replace Facebook, especially if it added more functionality. The problem is that for whatever reason, it’s remained a haven for sharing content by young(er) people, and never really caught on with the aunt-and-uncle set.

It may dismay you to hear it, but that seems to leave really only one option: Twitter. Think about it: over the years, Facebook has become more and more like twitter, especially in the easy, casual status updates and the @-triggered tagging. But if you haven’t paid much attention in the last few years, Twitter has at the same time become more and more like Facebook. Character limits are still there, but they’re double what they once were. Users can share multiple photos per status update. The “favorite” button has essentially become a “like” button. What were once (and are still) called tweet-storms are not threaded tweets, with easier-to-follow response threads as well. @ mentions don’t count against the character limit. Retweets are embeddable in new tweets.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter has allowed the proliferation of countless third-party apps, so there is a mobile interface out there to suit any preferences. And for all its problems with bots, fake info, manufactured outrage, and fomenting the baser instincts of many users, carefully curated friends lists (plus filter-friendly column viewing) make Twitter as infinitely browseable as Facebook. As an added bonus, the organizations, businesses, and artists we follow on FB are already on Twitter. We just have to convince our aunts and uncles to make the jump as well.

It’s unlikely. Chances are excellent that our aunts and uncles are either going to stay where they are, or they’re going to remember Facebook fondly for its glory days without replacing its place in their lives. It’s will have been a phase for them. But we can still get our cousins, classmates, and coworkers. That might be good enough.

For many of us, Twitter and Facebook have occupied different philosophical spaces in our brains and hearts, and that’s probably going to continue. But if we are looking for a true, workable replacement for Facebook, it already exists, and it’s right there where it’s always been. It’s not a perfect swap-out, but it seems to be the strongest contender.

 

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Social Media: Facebook Alternatives, Part 2 - Executive Leadership Articles

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