The absolute state of social media in 2021

Only a few moments ago I spotted a tweet highlighting that LinkedIn was working on a live audio room feature.

In case you have a life away from the internet and haven’t been following the twists and turns of social media platform development over the last year or so, Clubhouse. That’s the word. Clubhouse.

The new audio group chat app – which launched exclusively on iOS – attracted influences and professionals from a broad sweep of industries and interests and, in the briefest possible description, allows people to chat in a conference call-like group chat and let random members of the public listen in.

And with barely any hesitation, Twitter announced Spaces. Its version of Clubhouse.

It may be no surprise to know that Facebook too has its version of Clubhouse in the pipeline, and judging by ‘leaked’ pictures shared on (yes) Twitter, it looks a lot like the OG.


This copying is just one example of many where social platforms are slowly reforming themselves into each other. The other overwhelmingly clear example?

Stories.

The big joke of the last few years was how Instagram stories (a copy of Snapchat) slowly migrated to Facebook.

And then LinkedIn.

And it is now a feature on Twitter.

But it’s not called Stories on Twitter, it’s called Fleets, and it’s actually quite limited in functionality compared to its rivals.

The move to implement 24-hour posts on every platform gives me mixed feelings. For Instagram, it made sense. Not everybody wants to spam their friends’ timelines with six or seven pictures from a night out, or whatever they’re doing. But it feels more socially acceptable to have them in a place where they won’t last forever. And for those memories we do want to keep around longer, Story Highlights is a good solution. It is, in my opinion, a cleaner Snapchat on a platform that has finessed feed posts.


Another but perhaps more subtle cross-platform cloning is the addition of business accounts. We may be familiar with Pages on Facebook and LinkedIn, but up until recently there hasn’t been a way of distinguishing between individual or business profiles on Instagram.

Creator and business accounts on Instagram allow profile pages to display their category, contact options, or access analytics.

This makes a lot of sense and is something I don’t really mind. It helps users navigate the platform and have more of an idea, albeit subtly, of who they’re engaging with.

I was also not surprised when Twitter announced they were looking at how to treat businesses and creators. Ever since their launch back in 2006 there has only been one profile type. Okay, you can get your account verified and have the famous blue tick added to your profile and access different filtering for notifications and mentions, but otherwise everything else on the surface is pretty standard.

Once this rolls out across Twitter, it will resemble a lot of what we’ve gotten used to on Instagram.

Which, before I forget, seems to have taken those ideas from Facebook.


So as I got thinking, I started to list the features on each platform and where they are replicated – starting with Twitter.

FleetsStories on every other platform
SpacesClubhouse

Despite how much I love Twitter as a platform, Fleets is possibly the worst example of the Stories feature I’ve come across. The limited functionality, lack of creative options, and inability to add links makes it look and feel as rushed as it probably was.

Spaces was a great idea, and I think Twitter has a much more suitable audience for it than the other Clubhouse competitors, but it still needs working out. It’ll be interesting to see what LinkedIn do with the feature being a platform for professional career gloating and thought sharing but also one with much fewer users than its closest (on a functional basis) competitor, Facebook. Of course, different demographics have different needs and interests…

So here’s Facebook, and this is where I have the most beef.

Watch (long form video)YouTube, Vimeo, Vivo, Dailymotion, Twitch
GroupsMeetup, Eventbrite
EventsEventbrite, Eventzilla, Ticketmaster
MarketplaceeBay, Gumtree, Etsy, Amazon
MessengerText/SMS, email, iMessage, Telegram, Signal, every other site
WeatherMet Office, Dark Skies, countless apps and websites and news sites
OffersHoney, Groupon,
FundraisersJustGiving, GoFundMe, Crowdfunder, Virgin Money Giving, PayPal
GamingTwitch, YouTube, Vimeo, Vivo
MemoriesTimehop
StoriesInstagram Stories, Snapchat
Audio rooms (name TBC)Clubhouse

Facebook does a lot. And in my experience aren’t always very good at it. There are so many alternatives to what Facebook do that they could concentrate on making their core services better and more reliable, and better integrate other service providers for the rest.

We don’t need weather and offers and gaming and memories and audio rooms and weather built by Facebook, do we?

And Instagram…

IGTV (vertical long form)YouTube
Reels (vertical short form)TikTok
StoriesSnapchat, every other platform
Group StoriesClubhouse
ShopCountless apps and websites, eBay, Etsy, Amazon

I purposely didn’t include feed posts on this features table, even though you could draw comparisons to what Flickr offers. However Instagram started off as a picture sharing platform and is, I think, still very good for that. And when it introduced Stories to the great controversy at the time, I think it has added value. I draw the line at the way filters have come in, but then I’m hardly the demographic for them.

But Instagram Stories as a whole does work – functionally – incredibly well. It is easy for creators and businesses to offer swipe up options to external websites, it’s clean and efficient. Compared to how the Stories feature is offered on every other platform, it’s a walk in the park.

Fleets is awkward, limited and buggy. It’s awkward on Facebook, and given the sites are co-owned it makes more sense to create in Instagram and share over than to create something directly on Facebook. Plus, from my own experience, everybody looks at your story on Instagram – not Facebook.

Stories on LinkedIn? I can’t even.