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The State of
The Social Network

A Reflective Report

Overview

There couldn’t be a more apt time to analyse the state of the social network. With 10 year challenges forcing us to analyse ourselves, as an emerging social network we at Dysco are taking this opportunity to consider the evolution and pitfalls of existing social networks. What we want to put forth, are 6 forward looking trends, the wants and needs of people over connected in the digital age, who demand and deserve a more ethical, more valuable and more thoughtful social networks.

As working professionals, enterprising companies, and innovative brands, our lives are entrenched in and highly dependent on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Whatsapp, Instagram and other similar platforms. The growth and speed at which these platforms disrupted business was unprecedented, without research or regulation to reign them in.

Dysco surveyed 130 people to gauge their stand on the dynamic nature of social networks. Our observations, readings and conversations have led us to 6 key trends that we believe will guide positive experiences on future social networks. While some might consider these utopian, we see them as imperatives. Technology and digital media isn’t dying, but it’s for people, not ‘users,’ to set the tone and ask for what’s owed to them.

SOCIAL NETWORKS TRANSFORMED THE FABRIC OF SOCIETY, FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE.

MORE CONNECTIVITY
LESS MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS • MORE INFORMATION
LESS TRANSPARENCY
MORE INFLUENCERS
LESS ADMIRATION • MORE FEATURES
LESS RULES
MORE METRICS
LESS MEANING • MORE PROFILES
LESS PERSONALIZATION
MORE REACH
LESS PRIVACY

Overarching theme

back to
the
FUTURE

Amidst all the pandemonium on platforms, the most accomplished and privileged have begun extolling the virtues of being able to go back to the basics. To more frequent digital detoxes, more ‘human’ interactions, greater control over privacy, less information overloads, more personal relationships and meaningful interactions, and enhanced trust in their businesses. We explore professionalism in the modern, socially connected age.

PEOPLE ARE MORE THAN JUST USERS, MORE THAN SIMPLE NUMBERS, MORE THAN THEIR DISBELIEVERS, MORE THAN JUST HASHTAGS. PEOPLE ARE WHAT MAKE HUMANITY, HUMAN.
#1

SOCIAL NETWORKS THAT
FACILITATE MEANINGFUL
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Creating a profile on a global database is far from being a part of a meaningful community. You wouldn’t say that 100 creepy DMs mean you’re making valuable connections, would you? Building meaningful connections requires effort, the effort that distinguishes connecting people, from connecting profiles. The purpose of most social networks is to build and facilitate communities for people to participate in, a place to communicate with others, discover events and exchange information. Joining a platform and having your data determine what ads you see is unlikely to make you feel like a valued member of a platform.

We envision a shift in the power dynamics of social networks from top-down, to more horizontally integrated. Engaged and interactive community members will share knowledge, support and resources amongst each other, using the features built in to social networks.

Help and support will become a bigger part of valuable social networks. Inspiration and content discovery will be via ambassadors rather than influencers. Social networks that build safe, strong and secure spaces for community development will find more long term members.

“When technology engineers intimacy, relationships can be reduced to mere connections,” says author Sherry Turkle.

DYSCO RECOMMENDS

  • Build a community of like-minded people who share the same values, ethics and mutual trust.
  • Shift the focus from ROI (return on investment) to ROR (return on relationships).
  • Create tools and features that help a community interact, disseminate knowledge, and share resources with one another.
  • Focus on building sub-communities rather than one overarching community.

#2

SOCIAL NETWORKS THAT
HAVE TRUST & AUTHENTICITY
BUILT INTO THEM

It’s safe to say that we’re slightly suspicious and quite weary of the empty promises and unethical values of dominant social networks. Yet, some platforms evoke more trust than others, and encourage more authentic interactions than others, for example Medium or Behance vs Facebook or Instagram). The World Record Egg didn’t exactly go viral on LinkedIn did it...

Real communities are born out of honesty, transparency and have symbiotic relationships. In an information sharing age, trust is a prerequisite for creators, seekers, audiences. Trust and authenticity need to be built into social networks that house such communities and people. They aren’t virtues that are simply stated, but a pillar around which all features, policies, guidelines and rules are to be crafted. “86% consumers say they seek authentic content,” says SocialMediaToday. The responsibility of ensuring honest and transparency will be shared amongst the platform creators, the community members, and external regulators too.

70% of Dysco survey respondents believe that it’s users who should regulate platforms, followed by 58% who think the platforms themselves should be responsible. Issues like bullying, plagiarism, mislabelled advertising and hateful speech require the coordination and cooperation of human moderators, intelligent filters, advanced technology and honest intentions. For users to trust brands or businesses advertising products and services, there needs to be transparency in partnerships, sponsorships and collaborations. The availability of and access to vital information needs to be democratised on social networks.

DYSCO RECOMMENDS

  • Craft a clear and precise credo for your partnerships, interactions and among members.
  • In moments of uncertainty around brand ethics and values, own up to human error and attempt to rectify the same.
  • Share important information with customers in an easily accessible and understandable manner. An educated support community can boost brand value.
#3

SOCIAL NETWORKS OF INSPIRATION
& THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

The term ‘influencer’ went from being coveted to cringeworthy as quickly as The Fyre Festival self-combusted. People don’t want to see walking-talking billboards on their social networks; they want ideas, hacks, motivation, insight, and inspiration. The first reason to seek out information is to gain knowledge. Not a peak of an unrealistically grandiose life, with no information on how to get there yourself.

It’s time we talk about the elephant in the room (and people are talking loudly and incessantly): Influencers; who, what and how do they really influence? With the cacophony of coupon codes, stories, live feeds, giveaways and selfies on social networks, only 14.7% of Dysco survey respondents make purchase decisions solely based on influencer recommendations.

The business of buying followers works on bots and only a few bills. What metrics really matter to us, as people and businesses? The English lexicon got richer with the addition of ‘FOMO,’ the gateway to life-altering mental illnesses, depression, anxiety, and overall satisfaction of life. Which begs the question, who do influencers positively influence?

The light at the end of the tunnel pays no attention to metrics of followers, and the mean girls of social media. Instead, the future will be about micro-influencers, thought leaders, mentors and community leaders. Those who can be respected as real, engaged, responsive, trusted, unique and helpful. Those who have accumulated expertise, and practice what they preach. Those who possess an altruistic and self-interested will to share information via social networks to help others while helping themselves. Think TED talks, think Medium articles, think Reddit forums, think Masterclass tutorials. Think of those that evoke feelings of inspiration and happiness, not depression and envy. The real Feel Good Inc.

DYSCO RECOMMENDS

  • Encourage quality and creative content creation, rather than popularity and vanity.
  • Focus on metrics that demonstrate engagement and trustworthiness rather than fickle fame.
  • Create systems that allows the crowdsourcing of true ambassadors and democratises applause and admiration.

#4

SOCIAL NETWORKS DELINEATING
SOCIAL & PROFESSIONAL,
PRIVATE & PUBLIC

Gone are the days when the purpose of social networking was simply to connect with and update friends about our personal lives. The lines have blurred between social and professional; 80% of Dysco survey respondents use social networks for both work and play. There’s ambiguity about if and when you can really switch off, at the risk of hampering your personal-professional brand or missing business opportunities. Is it rude to ignore a Whatsapp message about work after hours? Are you compelled to post a story about the #digitalnomad life on the beach? Can you stop a future employer from checking your Facebook or Insta profiles? Blue ticks, read receipts, lists of viewers - you can run, but you can’t really hide.

People are pushing back against features on social networks that encourage feelings and behaviours of anxiety, answerability, obligation and addiction.

Exploiting professional etiquette, human psychology and sensory stimulation is no longer lauded, but condemned. Humanity demands more ethical treatment, and people need more nuanced choices that enable privacy and control. Social networks need to shift the balance between work and personal life, to enhance the quality of health and mental wellbeing.

There’s a tectonic shift in the usage of social networks; work conversations moving from Whatsapp to Slack; content publication moving from Facebook to Medium; general updates moving from public broadcasts to targeted newsletters. The future lies in delineated and dedicated spaces for people to tune in to work when they want to, and switch off when they need to; with a greater degree of specificity.

DYSCO RECOMMENDS

  • Give users more control over their privacy, visibility, and discoverability. Discerning users will invest more time on platforms that they have more control over.
  • Networks of the future should distinguish between social and professional, making it easier for users to craft distinct personas based on their intentions and purpose.
#5

SOCIAL NETWORKS THAT ARE LOCAL
OVER GLOBAL, CURATED OVER GENERIC

There is such a thing as too much information. Global discovery on social networks is great, but when trying to target, advertise to, or search for specific requirements, universal reach can often be detrimental. Social networks that are localised and curated offer much more value to people, in discovering more viable opportunities, more relevant content, and more actionable connections. Intimacy lends a sense of exclusivity, while mass elicits more of a mess.

Generic (not specialised) platforms are a breeding ground for irrelevant content consumption, endless hours wasted watching advertisements, rampant and unethical data collection, and a burdensome information overload. “As social networks become bigger, content becomes garbage,” says Romaine Dillet of Techcrunch. Instead, social networks are leveraging the power of their sub-communities and groups, valuable because of their shared proximity, shared skills, shared purpose or shared demographic.

Most people and businesses look for marketing and partnership opportunities in their geographical area, rather than worldwide. Most brands want to target consumers with certain interests and preferences rather than everyone under the sun. More communities are supplementing online interactions with offline engagements; more content creators and influencers are hosting IRL meetups with their fans; which is facilitated by localised and curated social networks.

We’re seeing people turning back to basics. Dysco survey respondents see the future of social networks hailing quality over quantity, relevance over reach, and curation over scale.

DYSCO RECOMMENDS

  • Engage in smallers groups or communities on platforms that have specific purpose or objective.
  • Build networks that allow and enable interactions and connections within defined geographical areas, encouraging virtual relationships to become real ones.
  • Curated communities, opportunities, and content is more valuable to people and can be offered at a premium.

#6

SOCIAL NETWORKS
THAT ARE SAFE, SECURE &
POSITIVE SPACES

With the advent of social networks, we’re more connected than ever, we can stand up for what we believe in, and we’re able to share our thoughts with audiences far and wide. Yet, the comfort of hiding behind a screen has bred a new spate of digital bullies, vengeful trolls and hateful speech. This also means more divisive opinions, controversial statements, and extremist propaganda proliferating at lightning speed. 43% of Dysco survey respondents believe that social networks have only become increasingly hostile and unsafe. How do we keep online spaces safe, secure and positive?

Social networks have facilitated the growth of various support groups and resource communities for worthy causes. They have given a voice to the voiceless, or spread powerful movements like #MeToo or the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

They’re being used increasingly to spread messages about body positivity, inclusion and diversity, women’s rights and sustainability. However, as digital platforms lend the villains of the internet weapons of anonymity and invisibility, it’s also their duty to ensure a safe and positive environment for their community members. It’s evident that technology can’t keep up, and the onus falls on old school methods - human moderators, community ambassadors and regulators to ensure rules are abided by, and violators are penalised.

Often social networks struggle to keep up with the deluge of negativity because of the sheer size and scale of their platforms, compounded with the policies of freedom of speech or identity protection. However, these stances will have to be challenged, perhaps at the cost of reduced users, less revenue or removal of content.

DYSCO RECOMMENDS

  • Adopt a zero tolerance policy towards bullies, trolls and bots, resort to human intervention when needed.
  • Push content and other material that details your platform’s values and encourages users to behave in a similar manner.
  • Develop tools for a community to self-police and flag inappropriate behaviours. Reward positive behaviour and penalise negative behaviour.

Instagram and YouTube are the most frequented social networks while Behance, Slack and Medium are least known.

Most people use social media for inspiration and to learn new things. Followed by occupational demands, and out of boredom.

More than 90% of people can tell the when they’re seeing an advertisement or sponsored post on social media. People believe that ads are the least important and least useful feature of social networks.

Most people are reading news online, through a combination of websites and news apps, social feeds and email newsletters (in that order).

43% of people have deleted at least one social media profile, while 11% deactivate profiles frequently.

Increased privacy, greater control, better curation and quality of content were the most in demand features missing in existing platforms.

Verification and shares are the most trusted metrics for engagement. Likes and followers are the least trusted metrics.

97% of people have a changed attitude and behaviour towards social media networks following data leaks and privacy scandals.

Only 15% of people use social networks exclusively for personal needs. 85% use it for personal and professional reasons.

The most important aspect of social networks is the quality of content, people and brands using the platform.

Only 6% of respondents said they find influencers to be inspiring. 85% of people said they would not make a purchase decision solely based on influencer advocacy.

Most people believe that regulating networks is the responsibility of users, second to the platforms themselves.

A majority of the people spend 2-3 hours a day on social networks. Less than 18% use it for under 1 hour a day.

Over 91% of people reported social networks as becoming increasingly unsafe and hostile, to different degrees.

Word-of-mouth was the highest reported resource for employment.

A clear majority of people are confused about whether being on a social network amounts to being a part of a community.

OTHER TAKEAWAYS FROM THE
DYSCO SURVEY

We derived these results from surveying 300 people (130 survey & ~200 poll respondents), and used this along with other resources to prepare the Reflective Report above. Data lovers can find and study the survey results here, and poll responses here.

APPENDIX
FRONT PORCH FORUM VERMONT SOCIAL NETWORK LISTS LOCAL COMMUNITIES ONLINE, THE VERGE
FYRE FESTIVAL, THERANOS AND OUR NEVER ENDING ‘SCAM SEASON’, NEW YORK TIMES
GUIDE TO SETTING BOUNDARIES AT WORK CAN HELP YOU UNPLUG, THE MUSE
HOW TO BUY A PIECE OF INDIA’S BURGEONING INSTAGRAM ECONOMY, VICE
SHOULD TWITTER GET RID OF FOLLOWER COUNTS, MEDIUM
THE SMART STRATEGY THAT ONE LGBTQ FORUM USES TO KEEP OUT TROLLS AND BULLIES. TED IDEAS
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