The acquisitions made by the two most popular social media companies give some clear pointers to their strategies and goals and also provide indications of how they will look in a few years’ time.
In recent years Facebook and Twitter have between them acquired over 90 companies. Roseanna Ellis and Marie Dollé, two analysts at market research firm Kantar Media, have been studying the history of the dozens of company takeovers made by these two social network firms since they were founded, as a basis for predicting what the future will hold for them. The results reveal that, apart from some superficial rivalry, Facebook and Twitter are not really in direct competition with each other. The Kantar Media report indicates that the two social network providers differ in concept and ambitions. While Facebook is basically a communication platform for defined social groups, Twitter is determinedly public in approach, providing a showcase for anyone and everyone.
Facebook going beyond Facebook
On the one hand, Facebook seems to be “heading towards becoming a huge social media conglomerate,” suggest the Kantar analysts. In addition to its acquisition of photo-posting site Instagram and instant messaging platform WhatsApp, Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild has been taking over companies in a range of fields not directly linked to social networks – e.g. virtual reality games developer Oculus and connected fitness app provider Protogeo Oy. The strategy is to allow these firms to continue operating independently under their existing names without any specific Facebook branding. Since being taken over in 2012, Instagram has remained Instagram. The platform now benefits from additional social functionality but is not really directly linked to the social network.
So rather than creating a huge single platform, Facebook seems to be pursuing a strategy of diversifying its products and services, becoming a sort of social media conglomerate under whose umbrella various different ‘social’ tools in different fields are provided. The Kantar Media report predicts that Facebook will spread its tentacles further through the social media universe, providing applications and services, many of them with no direct link to the original social network. The overall number of Facebook users will continue to increase but, further down the road, most of them will not even be aware that the tool they are using is part of the Facebook stable, reckon the Kantar authors.
Twitter becoming a cross-media instant news platform
Meanwhile the micro-blogging platform, which has seen its users’ messaging activity become a new verb in several languages, appears to be taking a rather different path. Twitter is focusing on news, and is steadily becoming the main source of real-time information, essentially a highly popular platform that centralises all the tools to do with ‘breaking news’. Although Twitter’s recent acquisitions have ranged from social TV to mobile advertising and even the e-commerce field, all these takeovers relate to services which could be – and in many cases already are – linked to news flows. The micro-blogging platform has recently become governments’ favourite medium for connecting with citizens and has even been identified as a valuable source of indicators for financial markets. So, while Twitter and Facebook have in the recent past been rival bidders for one or two social media specialist firms, the Kantar analysts point out that their positioning is very different and conclude that their future prospects lie in quite different directions – one in social media, the other in instant news and information.