Social media revolutionized the tech industry in a wide variety of ways. From the earliest days as a web-based tool, content was shared in a stationary way. Users devoted time to sitting at a desk and scrolling through their feeds, uploading media that had been transferred and saved to their hard drives. They connected with a small but personally significant group of friends and relatives.
Social media platforms learned there was a built-in way to monetize that model, namely through advertising.
With the widespread adoption of screen-based mobile devices, though, social media went on the move. Some of the original websites like Facebook and Twitter grew into apps, which obviously meant a lot more adoption and a lot more usage. The ever-present screen meant users could log on from anywhere, at practically any time. Rather than dedicating time to sitting down and using the platform, users were more prone to check in all throughout the day.
With this uptick in repetitive short-burst usage, social media apps found another financial avenue—harvesting and repurposing users’ data, including things like their photos, preferences, locations, and consumer practices.
The platforms weren’t the only ones to adjust as the technology grew. The users themselves began to shift their behaviors. For starters, as users also found ways to monetize their social media usage as influencers, they worked to amass enormous lists of followers. Companies began to look for applicants’ social media reach when considering hiring. Content creators and professionals even resorted to paying experts to grow their reach and increase their following.
Social media became less connected and more about broadcasting one’s own material.
But that behavior is shifting. The internet has had its fun, but a new paradigm in social media usage is a back-to-its-roots attitude towards smaller friends’ lists, more personal connections. Apps like Snapchat that let users choose to broadcast a story or connect to an individual, depending on their needs at the moment. Facebook and Instagram have also adopted a “story” format that fits different content needs each time users open the app.
Now, newer players have emerged to build social platforms that specifically fill a long-empty niche: genuine connection between people users actually care about.
One platform called LiveIn, for example, launched in February 2022 with a new design to enable users to connect with their best friends—sometimes as small as three to five people many users tend to interact with. By utilizing the widget capability of most smartphones, LiveIn lets a user send image-based content directly to another user’s homescreen without the need to open an app or check for notifications. This ability means the image is both sent and received while the thought or activity is still taking place.
But isn’t one of the benefits of apps the ability to avoid intrusion? A user can check their app at their leisure and not be disturbed.
That’s the beauty of curating a very small, very intimate, very meaningful list of immediate users. The aim is shifted from spreading a message to a vast but faceless group, and more like sharing a thought of experience with no more effort than picking up a phone.
The real question seems to be, “Will social media users actually adopt this method?” So far, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Largely thanks to viral content on another platform, TikTok, that featured the LiveIn platform, downloads of the widget-based app were at the top of both the iOS and Google Play app stores only two months after its US launch.
“I feel like LiveIn is more private. There are no ‘profiles’ or ‘bios’ to view, so it pushes everyone to actually talk to each other,” said Esmond, a LiveIn user when talking about differences between LiveIn and Instagram.
The takeaway from this single example could revolutionize all of social media as we know it. While there is certainly a market for broad reach and impersonal content, it will be interesting to see if some of the mainstays adapt to more personal tools.