Let's face it, Facebook is a social media leviathan. With more users per day than some countries have people, the social networking phenomenon is beginning to run into a problem: it's become too popular. In fact, even President Obama recognizes that it's lost its luster; ever since mom, dad and your great aunt you haven't seen in 10 years sent you a friend request. It's become a place to track the growth of family members' offspring and read about the 17 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Probably Your Best Friend.
In fact, a recent report shows that holders of all things cool, millennials, are leaving Facebook with the social network down 3 million users in that demographic over the past three years.
So where are these makers of cool going? They're neglecting their Facebook apps in favor of more specified apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder and Yik Yak, where they're less likely to run into their grandmothers.
This shift in the coolness of the social media giants is causing a new wave of social media to enter the market: niche apps. While Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow users to maintain contact with anyone who requests them, niche apps are designed to offer more specialized services, thus allowing people to make a different kind of connection with others. Users of niche apps sign up for accounts with a specific agenda in mind and use those apps to meet that specialized need, whether it be for dating a certain type of person or getting laundry delivered in their area.
Even the social media giants are starting to get in on the niche trend. For example, Facebook now offers a messenger app that is entirely separate from its original app. The concept of creating apps and networks that allow people to meet others with similar interests or intentions offers a new realm of possibilities. These networks are meant for people of a certain profession or industry, or maybe for those with a specific hobby, or who have survived a serious illness, making niche social media apps the virtual support groups of the future.
One reason why these niche apps are becoming so popular is the ever growing rise in preference of using mobile apps, rather than a computer with Internet access. Millennials are the makers of cool here because they were born at precisely the right time. The older members remember the earlier days of the Internet but are willing to adapt to the ever-changing atmosphere of technology, while the younger members don't remember a life before iPhones and the App Store.
As the popularity of mobile technology continues to grow, the demand for social media apps becomes more and more specialized. Facebook has too many features that just aren't convenient for mobile use; Snapchat's features are far more basic, mobile-friendly, and limited to a specific function: the app is to share nonpermanent images and small bursts of text with a user's friends on the network, and nothing else. The conversations can't be saved for later viewing; and a user's prospective employee cannot simply access a Snapchat account to see what a user has been up to lately.
Twitter has the brevity that mobile users appreciate, but its web presence and permanence of its posts also make it unattractive to Millennials who want to use social media as a way to vent about their lives without threat of repercussion. Enter: Yik Yak, whose anonymity allows users to post what they please without wondering if their boss will run into it. In fact, if a user tries to post identifying information such as a phone number on Yik Yak, the app will delete both the post and the account.
As mobile continues to grow, it's clear it is the future of social media. Young users crave social media that is more specific to their needs, and offers basic functions that are mobile-friendly, a need which niche apps readily meet. With need-specific apps growing in popularity over the last year, it's obvious that 2015 will bring even more apps to quell even the quirkiest user desires.
Kevin Deegan is Chief Technology Officer of On.com, a People Discovery Engine that helps users meet new people through photos. Deegan started his career at age 13 when he began writing code and creating websites, and has spent the last 7 years in the professional web/app development space. Deegan holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara.