Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) is enjoying its dominant position in online social media despite all the criticism and debate over the future of the social media titan. However, considering the versatile nature of the content, products and services offered by companies, marketers are looking beyond Facebook. This has triggered a debate on The Big Three Of Social Media. But then a question arises why only three and why not beyond the Big Three ? There’s something about the number “3” that screams completion or mastery of skill.
In education, the completion of three degrees typically symbolizes the pinnacle of understanding as the third degree is usually a Doctorate. In sports, the “three-peat” or winning of 3 consecutive championships signifies dominance and often crowns the accomplishing team as a dynasty. In religion, we have the “Big Three” or the three most widely practiced religions in the world: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam which all stem from similar origins. Even in the secret world of Freemasonry, it is widely known that an initiate’s successful attainment of the 3rd “level of knowledge” or “degree” makes him a Master Mason.
Aside from all of the cultural, political and religious attachments to the number, there seems to be the easiest numerical concept for humans to understand when comparing and contrasting complex ideas. Just think about how we tend to add meaningful value to numbers when surveying or requesting feedback. Rating scales limited to the range of 0 to 2 only capture affirmation, with positive responses tied to the number one and negative to the number two. When we extend the range from 0 to 3, we are able to extract a neutral value between the positive and negative response. This all goes to say that no fair comparison or evaluation can be made about anything with less than three choices so it is no surprise that discussion about social media tends to boil down to “the Big Three.” You may ask, “What social media compose the Big Three?”, and the answer will differ from one user to the next. But one cannot deny that there are a few in the bunch that have stood the test of time and will be valuable to users for years to come. We, thought that two questions still remained. Who are “the Big Three”, and who will remain such as the Web continues to evolve?
I asked a few close friends and colleagues to name their “Big Three” and they all had trouble narrowing it down to such a small number. The names that came up most often were: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and Youtube. There was no question about Facebook, given its leadership in the category, massive number of users, and continued push for innovation. The most intriguing point about Facebook’s position in “the Big Three” was the networking site’s successful incorporation of other widely-used social media functionalities into its own, whether through cross-platform usage or actually developing Facebook solutions.
The conversation then moved, surprisingly, to Instagram. I say “surprisingly” because, in my mind at least, Twitter is the natural direct competitor to Facebook in terms of usage, popularity, and more recently market performance, but these conversations revealed a different reality. Most of my respondents quoted Instagram as their second choice in “the Big Three” because of its focus on sharing visual content in a manner that is easy to consume. Other bonus points for Instagram included cross-platform functionality and engagement tools, but they also appreciated Instagram for its lack of cluttered content. One respondent said, “Twitter and Facebook timelines can be easily cluttered with reposts, promotions, and content you don’t really want to see.” He continued, “Instagram’s timeline can be easily managed with a simple unfollow.” So, it seems as though Facebook and Instagram are the first two of “the Big Three”. Which site would complete the trifecta?
To be honest, I am not really sure. Discussion about the last space jumped back and forth between Vine and Youtube. Some even mentioned Soundcloud. What we all agreed upon, however, was that this third social media giant had to be a master of multimedia, facilitating the seamless sharing of video and audio content. I made the executive decision to place Youtube in 3rd place because of its massive reach and value to media in general. With organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America, Nielsen Soundscan, and Billboard now willing to acknowledge Youtube views as a part of their rankings for most popular records, the video site’s importance to popular culture and advertisers cannot be denied.
Here you have it, my social media “Big Three”:
What’s your Big Three?