Jul 25, 2023 - Economy

Social media's copycat conundrum

Data: Axios research; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Nearly every major social media feature has been copied or iterated on by rival apps, causing most major social media platforms to begin to look the same.

Why it matters: Social media giants have a long track record of adopting popular features and integrating them into their own apps to stay competitive. Their key points of differentiation are increasingly becoming their philosophies, values and use cases.

  • Meta, for example, says Threads — its Twitter, or now "X," rival — is meant to be "a friendly public space for conversation" that won't focus on news and politics.

Driving the news: TikTok on Monday debuted a set of new text features akin to Twitter and Threads that lets users share written thoughts and updates.

  • The company declined to provide many details about why it's moving into the text space, especially because it's long been so committed to vertical video, but noted that text "broadens options for creators to share their ideas and express their creativity."

Yes, but: When a trend dies out, it tends to do so across the whole ecosystem.

  • For example, Reddit, Spotify and Meta have all shut down their Clubhouse copycat features and apps for live audio in the past 18 months.
Global Android users' daily <b style="color:#15a0ff; font-weight:900;">Twitter</b>  and <b style="color:#835bff; font-weight:900;">Threads</b>  engagement
Data: SimilarWeb; Note: Engagement measures the number of people opening and/or using the app; Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

The big picture: Copycat features often struggle to attract the momentum long-term needed to displace competitors.

  • Engagement with Threads, for example, has slowed since its blockbuster debut two weeks ago, according to new data from Similarweb, which found that app engagement with Threads has decreased by roughly 75% since its peak on July 7, two days after it officially launched.

Of note: Similarweb's data only measures Android engagement, for now. But at this scale, its data scientists say the trends don't tend to be significantly different for Android vs. iOS.

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