“Websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking” is your boilerplate definition of social media. When somebody says it, you likely think of Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram or another platform. Yet, is “social media” becoming a useless connotation that misrepresents what these companies actually are?
Despite an understandable hesitation about embracing the label, Facebook is a media company. Co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is finally putting a stop to his dancing around the admission, and the company’s upcoming investments in original content further confirm it.
Facebook is using Instagram to pick off Snapchat’s audience, but the budget that will be allocated to its original content shows that it wants to further bite into YouTube’s online video dominance. How long until it sets its sights on Netflix and Amazon if its initial bet on premium content pays off?
Facebook also unsuccessfully bid alongside eventual winner Amazon, YouTube, Twitter and Yahoo for National Football League Thursday Night Football rights. Sports rights are a challenging space, but these companies all have their eyes on the expiration dates the major sports leagues have with traditional television companies.
Twitter already livestreamed NFL games last year and is snapping up whatever rights remain out there in other niche sports. It is also active in the original content space, as it beefed up its video distribution format to help compensate for its user growth issues.
Beyond video, Twitter is a hub for just about every major journalist in the world. How many of them are breaking their scoops with a tweet, rather than an article? It is a media hub for people to consume their daily news in 140 characters, emojis and GIFs.
Snapchat has always pushed back on its social media categorization, instead painting itself as a replacement for the camera in your phone and/or your text messaging. It is a messaging company. It is a camera company. It is not a social media company, which is why you do not need to worry about how many “followers” you have, and that data is not made public.
Snapchat is also a media company that is aggressively looking to purchase premium, original content, just like Facebook. This is already after building out its editorial Discover feature and hiring journalists to beef up its coverage of major news events. How long is Snapchat away from dabbling in the rights game and further diversifying how it distributes content that it outright owns?
What does that leave? YouTube is Google’s video hub and is directly taking on cable with its new bundle offering. Kik is a messenger service alternative to Facebook. Pinterest “relies on showing people images that resonate with them, rather than connecting them to their friends.”
Is “social media” only left to describe a job hub like LinkedIn and dating apps aggregated under Match Group ownership?
In the coming years—as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and others are more widely accepted as media companies—it will be interesting to see how the evaluation of their success evolves and their investments continue to diversify.
Joe Caporoso is vice president of social media for Whistle Sports.
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