Every so often social media gets excited about the next ‘next big thing’. At the start of last year it was Meerkat; at the start of this year it’s Peach. Which launched with the typical excited fanfare and then promptly died.

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The narrative at these launches is common – there’s a new app that is “taking social media by storm’, it does things in a completely different way, brands should explore how they can use it to reach new audiences.

The challenge with these launches is also common – in  most cases the audiences that are getting excited by the launch, downloading and experimenting with the app are audiences that have long used other social media platforms. The techies, the marketers and the early adopters. They’ve been on Twitter for years, are over Facebook and have tried out Snapchat. They’re the audience typically quick to jump on the new thing.

And there are good reasons for this – they may be starting to feel excluded from some of the other platforms; that things have changed too much since they started using them. They also probably like to experiment and try new things, or think that they should for their job. So another app appealing for share of screen-time from the same audience.

This experimentation is critical to the development of digital and mobile technologies – apps launch, people experiment with them and then they either settle or they disappear. It is only when they settle that they are likely to get wider adoption and use. And only when they settle that brands and agencies should be, genuinely, considering how they might be used.

Rather than chasing the next big thing, agencies and brands would be better focusing on existing app and platforms, especially those that, whilst long-established, might not have been used by them. Exploring how can they work Twitch (the platform for gamers that has been around since 2011), as just one example, would for many be a much better use of time than chasing the next big thing. Even focusing on what they can learn to improve what they do with more established platforms like Twitter or Facebook.

There is a real value in experimenting and trying things. But chasing the next big thing is usually the wrong way for brands and agencies to create more effective digital marketing. That time and effort would be better focused on working better with existing channels, platforms and communities.

Matt Rhodes

About Matt Rhodes

Digital Strategy Director for work. Marathon runner and charity trustee for fun.

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