Why Are Social Media Platforms Copying Each Other’s Features?
Have you noticed that all the major social media platforms are starting to feel the same?
No big tech company wants to be the next Myspace or AIM, but it feels like a game of survival of the fittest has become survival of the copycat until we’re eventually left with the exact same social media platform under different names. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook all have private messaging, 24-hr long stories, and a live video feature. And they will soon be adding more.
As Instagram works to copy TikTok after the creation of Instagram Reels, they are now developing a “Remix” feature, similar to TikTok’s “Duets.” Duets are a big part of TikTok, allowing users to record reactions and responses side-by-side with another video. Duets have been a key player in creating community on TikTok. For example, duets were crucial in the development of the musical numbers that made up the Ratatouille Musical, allowing users to add new character lines and harmonies. Snapchat is developing a similar feature, also called “Remix.”
Many people were excited when Clubhouse launched, bringing an exciting audio-based twist to the social media space. But alas, Facebook, Spotify, and Twitter are already working on their own Clubhouse-like features.
While one would assume that the original is always better than a clone, some companies have succeeded in the rip-off games. Even though Snapchat launched its stories feature three years before Instagram created Instagram Stories, Instagram’s features are much more popular than Snapchat’s ever were and have even lead to a decline in use of Snapchat. Similarly, Instagram Live launched a year and a half after Twitter and Facebook made their debuts with live video, but Instagram Live is utilized far more often.
Quoted in Wired, Patrick Janelle, an Instagram influencer and the chair of the American Influencer Council Board of Directors said, “It just doesn’t feel important, as a creator, to have the same format replicated on all of the platforms.”
Philip Storey, founder and CEO of the email marketing agency Enchant, hypothesizes that this mad dash to copy features is due to “transformed consumer contexts.” On his blog, Storey writes, “Consumer expectations are without any doubt, higher than ever, meaning that once we experience a service or tool that’s a true game-changer, such as Uber or Amazon Prime or Amazon one-click purchase, we expect the same level of capability from any tool, service or company. I feel that this transcends how consumers feel about the entire ‘If I can get it there, I want it here too’, is the theory. And this is the main reason I think social networks are cloning each other’s features as a strategy.”
However, as companies continue to copy each other, we imagine the users will be the ones who determine the purpose of each app. For example, while Facebook has copied countless other apps, even killing off Myspace, its most utilized features now are Groups and Facebook Marketplace. And while Instagram now has its Reels, TikTok is utilized more for off-the-cuff, humorous, meme-worthy content, whereas Instagram remains the place to share more polished photos and videos. As these social media giants continue to develop, it will be interesting to see where they all land and how their purposes grow and change.