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Social at 16

3 min read

David Kirkpatrick, Board Digital & Strategic Director

by David Kirkpatrick, Board Digital & Strategic Director

Core Media | Spark Foundry

Social Media is celebrating its 16th birthday this year, but has it truly come of age? Speaking at a Core Learning and Dublin Chamber of Commerce event in April 2019, I looked back on the history of social and where to next.

In 1999, Yahoo and Microsoft were the pioneers of social media with their messenger apps, quickly followed by Friendster in 2002, a subscription-based friend discovery engine. It was not until 2003 when the social media pioneers that we now know came onto the scene. In that year Linkedin was born (along with MySpace) and a year later came Facebook. But 16 years on, has social delivered everything it promised for brands, and in this mature age of social media, is there space for anybody but the major players?

From a user perspective, in 2018 we thought that Facebook may be abandoned, but that was short lived. Over two thirds of all Irish people have a Facebook account (according to IPSOS research) and that dwarfs its nearest competitors. But consumer behaviour is certainly changing. No longer are we sharing private images in public with reckless abandon. Almost all sharing (84%) of private photos, videos and posts are now in the world of messenger apps, creating a two tier social media world. On one side there is our public behaviour and content consumption, and then in the messenger world is our private behaviour.

How do brands break through in this new world? Is it just for those with big budgets? The model is built for those with deep pockets, but the competition for attention is still fierce. Brands speaking their minds and with purpose are winning that battle. But, importantly, there is absolutely room for the little guy. Irish second hand retailer Siopella, has amassed a 70k+ following, by simply and creatively promoting their once loved designer goods.


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Finally the biggest shift in the social space is in Social Commerce (led by Instagram) and the ability for people to browse goods and purchase seamlessly in the app experience. Adidas are a great example of a first mover in this space, but again, there is a disruptive potential for newer players. The apparel industry has seen a flurry of smaller producers flood our Instagram feeds, free from the shackles of needing a physical sales channel. The same can be seen emerging from in the make-up and cosmetics markets.

While it is certainly challenging to compete in social without big budgets, those who have a clear and simply defined goal will succeed.

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