On 10 February 2016 Twitter posted its fourth quarter fiscal and audience figures for 2015. The results were not good. Active users were flat on the previous quarter at 320 million, with many analysts pointing out that this figure actually contains negative decline when you take into account the service’s SMS userbase. This presents the first real dip we have seen from one of the Big Boys of the ‘second wave’ of social networking, and not since the demise of MySpace have I seen a press and analyst dialogue so adamant that a social network was on the ropes.
If you think about the history of social its biggest claim to fame was that it shifted the media from content to conversation. Where existing publishers had previously survived by simply migrating their existing content online, they now found a change in the nature of media itself. Now as online conversation balances back from public to private and from forever to ‘for now’, we find in turn another shift taking place.
Think about the change from public Facebook to private messenger. Do you still share as much as you used to publicly? Or now that the same technological capabilities exist for private conversations do you find yourself sharing less? Snapchat – the latest talk of the media town – is specifically set up to allow users to send messages to ‘a controlled list of recipients’ using a well-publicised ‘time limit’ functionality. Even Instagram when you think about it, which remains a public platform, leans further towards locked user accounts and shorter public exchanges revolving around images and likes.
The end of broadcast social
What we have reached, and what Twitter’s impending demise is emblematic of, is the pinnacle of the ‘social share’. Public posting and social sharing will continue to exist but the collective public conscious that grew up in the first and second waves of social will be accompanied by a range of more personalised messaging options, that provide just as good a user experience. Media technology will continue to evolve and engage but the current incarnation of social as we know it has now reached its peak.