Social Media Landscape 2014

Si vous cherchez la version française de cet article, elle est ici : Panorama des médias sociaux 2014.

Like every year for the past 6 years, May is the month I publish the latest edition of my Social Media Landscape, and as it is often the case, most of services listed in this landscape are the same as last year. This year’s changes are not to be found in new comers, but in new usages and the shift of users’ attention to mobile devices.


Welcome to the Social Mobile Worldwide Web

When I created this landscape back in 2008, social media was a category, a sub-part of the web. Things are different nowadays since social media are everywhere: nearly all websites are linked to social accounts, and social platforms are filled with content grabbed on traditional websites. Long story short: social media and the web are the two faces of the same coin. This is 2014’s first major change: their is no social media any more, only one global social web.

The second major change is the advent of mobile devices, and the awareness of smartphones’ domination in our daily habits. First introduced in early 2000, internet-enabled mobile phones did not appeal to the public (who can remember the 7110 from Nokia?). Then the iPhone was introduced and everything changed, forever. Do not get me wrong, mobile devices did not replaced computers, they will never, but smartphones takes a lot of space in customers’ daily life: they are always on, connected and ready to provide users with a infinite number of content and online services. Smartphones are now the first device used for communication, whether it’s email or text messages. This can explain the astonishing amount of the WhatsApp buyout by Facebook ($19B).

Social mobile app’s wide popularity also allowed the occidental world to acknowledge the incredibly dynamic asian online market, and Chinese’s online player limitless ambition. In a very surprising way, smartphones are the doorway to the local web (thanks to localisation features) and to the worldwide web, through asian mobile apps like WeChat, Line or KakaoTalk. If you are interested on what is happening in this part of the world, you should check the CIC 2014 China Social Media Landscape, but it will only provide you with a local vision.

The 2014 Social Media Landscape

Enough with words, it is now the time to unveil the latest edition of my diagram. As you will notice, their are two major changes:

  • Usages are not cyclical anymore but linear, since less and less users are interested in publishing, all they are looking for are snackable content to share in order to start quick conversations and social interactions. Yes, you can still publish and grow your network, but it seems to be less of importance, since everything is now public (did you personally meet all your Facebook “friends” or Twitter followers?).
  • Traditional online players investing in social platforms in order to find new growth / reach channels. These big players are coming from media (AOLYahoo!,GlamMediaWebedia), commerce (AmazonAlibabaRakuten) or technology (Google etTencent), and they have a strong appetite and deep pockets.

These changes leaves us with a more complexe diagram, but which better reflects the reality of the market and background stakeholders.


At the center of the diagram, we have the same three usual suspects: Facebook, the undisputed largest social platforms ; Twitter, the eternal rival with a much smaller audience, but an equivalent reach thanks to media coverage ; Google+, Google’s social layer from which no one can escape (wether you make a search, watch a YouTube video, own an android device…).

These three social platforms are at the center, because they can provide users with a wide range of functionality to publish, share, discuss and network. But they recently begin to share spotlights with a new wave of mobile apps (WhatsApp, SnapChat, Tango, WeChat, Line, KakaoTalk…). In just a couple of years, these mobile apps manage to gather hundred of millions of users and initiated a serie of spectacular investments (WhatsApp / Facebook, Tango / Alibaba, Viber / Rakuten…). Their are numerous mobile apps, but the six displayed at the center of the diagram are the most popular ones.

Besides these three major social platforms and mobile apps, social media is a wide ecosystem of online services and mobile apps, which can be classified according to their usage:

As you can witness it, it is a long list, and I choose to shorten it (see the Conversation Prism for a more exhaustive list). As It as been said earlier in this article, all these services are the visible part of the iceberg, since large organizations has invested in some of them (Japan’s Rakuten invested in Pinterest and Viber, France’s Webedia took on Overblog, and Russia’s DST invested in Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, Groupon, Spotify, AirBnB… It would be too complicated to chart all investments, the only thing you have to remember is their is a very active grey market in which medias, services, commerces and technology are interlaced.

What to do with this diagram?

It would take an much longer article to explain you all the dynamic of social media and the way brands can benefit from it (I wrote a book on this topics, in french!), but I can provide you with a few advices:

  • There is no urge. Social media is a vast a complex territory to master. The worst thing you could do is to mandate an external agency to do it in the name of your brand: Would you outsource your sales team? Take the time to learn and to gain knowledge in order to keep things in control and do things at your scale (unless you are more famous than Red Bull, which I assume is not the case).
  • Set the right objectives. I know how tempting it could be to enter the fans / followers chasing race, but this will swallow all your ressources and energy. We know now that Facebook and Twitter are paid media, so budget are to be spent wisely. Keep in mind that Facebook fans are not your fans, nor their are your clients. Amassing more fans won’t necessarily bring you more money, it will only make things more complicated. In the end, quality / proximity will beat quantity, especially regarding conversations.
  • Focus on good content. The only way to stand out is to tell nice stories. Brands are now embarked in an arm-race to provide fans with the most inspiring stories and media pieces. The best thing you can do is to acknowledge you will never have their budget. so the wiser thing to do is to stick to your brand’s value and not to try to be the next GoPro. Content is the fuel to conversation, it is a valuable investment you cannot avoid.
  • Do not be shy. Recent stats about social media can intimidate lots of CMOs, but keep in mind that the best social interactions are based on proximity (geographic, emotional, topics…). If you know how to talk to your clients, you will be able to handle online conversations on social media, as long as you stay in your confort zone (topics you are relevant on). Even if the market is moving fast, setup a simple action plan and move on, one action at the time.

These are common sens advices, but it is in my duty to remind you that you should not succumb to the sirens’ song, and do thing at your level in order not to loose control. I hope this diagram will help you better understand social media and take the right decisions. Feel free to share this diagram, but please comply to the Creative Commons licence.

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