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Social Apps: Liked, Loved or Hated?

Social Apps:  Liked, Loved or Hated?

With millions of apps out there — and thousands launched each day — consumers and businesses would be wise to evaluate the landscape and decide what apps they should consider adopting, or replace the ones they already use.  And even if they have their app preferences set to automatic update, they should also explore ways to improve their experiences with these apps.

While it’s anyone’s guess as to why one app succeeds when another one fails, a review of an app’s overall features, functionality, and experience can provide insights as to what users prefer when reaching for their smartphones and tablets.

But more specifically, let’s have a look at ‘social apps.’  What are social apps? What exactly makes an app ‘social’?  A website, network, or app is generally considered social if it allows for personalization, content creation and publishing, and the sharing of that content outside of the app.

Clearly a generalist and all-encompassing approach, anything from games like Words with Friends to messaging platforms like WhatsApp would be considered social apps.  But let’s take a look at some of the more popular social apps — and consider a few of these social apps that over time have been liked, loved — and even hated (ok, well strongly disliked).

Social Apps : Liked

Twitter

  • Now a publicly-traded company boasting 2,700 employees and $312 million in Q2 2014 revenues, Twitter is still somewhat of an enigma to most social media users, though clearly it is still considered the ultimate of the ‘social apps.’
  • While Facebook and LinkedIn provide more intuitive interfaces and experiences, Twitter’s most basic functionalities and style — when to use the @ or # symbols, for example — confound most people.
  • Twitter continues to focus on advertisers, and rolls out services that are most engaging in ‘Twitter Desktop,’ or the website version of Twitter.  The majority of users access Twitter via a smartphone or tablet app, so many of these dynamic experiences will be lost.
  • As such, the Twitter interface — for both users and advertisers — varies widely from app to app and device to device, diluting Twitter’s overall user experience.  This is why Twitter looks so different from website to smartphone to tablet to third-party app, like HootSuite.
  • What I like about most Twitter social apps (or ‘clients’ as the software is called once it is downloaded to your smartphone or tablet) is that there is recognition for past hashtags — just type in a few characters and they appear.  Also, the ‘home’ for the app is your newsfeed, which you can easily scroll through, or swipe down.  Finally, alerts complete the experience — whenever your name is mentioned with the @ sign — so you don’t need to constantly be in front of the app.

Tumblr

  • Tumblr offers an alternative or ‘in-between’ to Twitter and longer-form blogging platforms, wherein the user could easily share and publish short-form content found from around the Web on a Tumblr microblog.
  • Less a social network and more of a publishing platform, Tumblr was founded in February 2007 and was acquired by Yahoo! in May 2013 for approximately $1.1 billion.
  • There are close to 200 million microblogs on the Tumblr network.  Most of these blogs include reposts of photos found from other Tumblr blogs and from around the Web.
  • The social app version of Tumblr for mobile devices and tablets creates a faster, more dynamic experience, and is expected to include advertising from the Yahoo! network.  (Thousands of influencers, artists, and power users of social media were known to close their Tumblr accounts once it was known that Yahoo! was acquiring the network.)
  • Tumblr is one of the social apps I like, because of the ease of sharing content from other Tumblr blogs onto your own.  It’s not only quick and easy — it’s ethical, too, so you don’t need to contact the blog owner.  Additionally, the Tumblr app standardizes and speeds up the Tumblr desktop experience, which is often slow and clunky from old frameworks and themes.

WordPress.com

  • By now, most bloggers and would-be bloggers realize the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org — though confusion has raged on for years.
  • Though both are free to download, install and use, WordPress.com is a commercial venture owned by Automattic and limits the number of features and functionalities available to users.  WordPress.org is the open-source software project, and the software requires much customization and a steeper learning curve for the average user or would-be blogger.
  • However, WordPress.com’s ubiquity — the cursive capital ‘W’ — in third-party apps and social media sharing sites allows for bloggers to find relevant content from around the Web and instantly and easily publish to their blogs.  This is what I like the most about WordPress.com and is also the feature that makes it one of the truly social apps.
  • I also like WordPress.com because it has introduced blogging and self-publishing to ordinary people, turning them into bloggers.  It has democratized social media in a large way and continues to be the entry-level for those determined to utilize blogging for their business.

 

Social Apps : Loved

Instagram

  • Though not the most advanced mobile photo sharing and editing app, Instagram appeared on the iPhone in October 2010 and took social apps by storm.  There are currently 150 million monthly active users of Instagram.
  • The service was acquired by Facebook for an astonishing $1 billion in April 2012.
  • Social apps features of Instagram include the ability to share edited photos not only on the Instagram network, but also externally to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr, and WordPress.com.
  • Needless to say, I LOVE Instagram because of the beauty of the photos that render.  There was an instant attraction to the ability to beautify anything, and though the initial newness of it all eventually wore off, I remain impressed with Instagram’s ability to roll out additional social publishing features (video, one-to-one messaging, etc.), deepening the functionality and utility of the platform.

Reddit

  • The social news site bills itself as the ‘front page of the Internet’ and offers users the ability to create topic threads whereby other users provide additional comments and vote content up or down.  Algorithms then amass this data to provide a presumably 100% curated social news site.
  • The developer community loves Reddit because the code is 100% open source, residing on social coding site GitHub.
  • Though owned by media empire Conde Nast, the publisher of glossy magazines such as Glamour and Vogue, the parent company has maintained a hands-off policy to the content and development of Reddit.
  • I love Reddit because after several years, the site still maintains a simple, homegrown look and feel.  It’s still hard to believe it’s owned by a mainstream media conglomerate, and I love the ability to vote on threads.

 

Social Apps : Hated (or Strongly Disliked)

Sonar

  • Sonar was a free social mobile application that showed the user how connected they were to others nearby via information from publicly available social media profiles and location information from Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook.  Launched in 2011 at TechCrunch Disrupt New York, it closed up shop in mid-2013.
  • I hated (or strongly disliked) Sonar because it was a one-trick pony and could not hold my attention in the same way that Foursquare, Facebook and Yelp could, and there existed no other information of value, such as reviews of nearby businesses.
  • I also disliked Sonar’s lack of gamification and the ability to compete with friends for the mayorship of a location (Yelp calls it a Dukedom).

Myspace

  • Myspace is not exactly dead:  there is still an app in the iTunes and Google Play stores.  (The iTunes app is rated 3 stars from a paltry 205 reviews.)
  • One of the earliest social networks, Myspace was founded in 2003 and was acquired by News Corporation in July 2005 for $580 million.  From 2005 until early 2008, Myspace was the most visited social networking site in the world, and in June 2006 surpassed Google as the most visited website in the United States.
  • Myspace’s popularity was soon overtaken by Facebook in 2008, and steadily declined.  Early on, I disliked Myspace’s policy of allowing anonymous accounts, which could easily spur fraud or cyberbullying, but it was perhaps due to Facebook being the ‘new kid on the block’ that stole Myspace’s influence.
  • In June 2011, Specific Media Group and pop artist Justin Timberlake jointly purchased the company for approximately $35 million.  Once employing over 1,600 people, the company now has about 200 on staff.
  • Although I was late to the party — joining Myspace in 2008 — and only recently downloading this social app, I am severely disappointed.  It is less a social network and more of a music marketing platform.  The app also froze on me several times — telling me that the company did not invest as much in it as other companies have in their mobile app versions.

Swarm

  • Apparently, Swarm is the new name for geolocation social network Foursquare, which is currently undergoing an identity crisis (or perhaps, a valuation or revenue crisis).  For me, Swarm automatically downloaded to my phone, as I have my settings set to automatic download for new versions of apps I already have installed.
  • Swarm was announced back in May, as Foursquare decided to split its main check-in app into 2.  The other service has yet to be announced, though it is rumored to be a ‘Yelp-killer,’ and serve to primarily let you know what places are nearby.
  • Swarm uses ‘passive location data’ — not check-ins — to let users know if and where nearby friends might be located.  The company thinks this makes the app less creepy than checking in, but it’s still creepy.
  • It was also announced that Foursquare’s gamification features, like mayorships and leaderboards, will be retired with the new other app.  I actually liked the gamification, and it was also tied to discounts and deals associated with a particular restaurant or store.
  • Lastly, I tried Swarm, and it was confusing.  The Plans icon supposedly allows you to post a Plan, such as ‘Anyone want to meet for coffee?’ but it must only work in densely-populated areas where one has a lot of friends nearby also using the app, because I tried it, and NO ONE responded.

 

We here at PurpleSlate have evaluated hundreds of social apps in our journey to create a fun and useful user experience.  We strive to encourage more live, in-person interactions via the use social apps features such as mobile based event invitations on the go making it really easy to make plans, a fun photo editor to beautify photos, a messenger service to chat right inside the app, etc. It is a killer combination of features from social apps that most social media users love and has the unique mobile invitation maker making it really easy to make plans with people who matter. We also respect people’s privacy while sharing information on social apps and have therefore kept no sharing features outside our mobile app. Get notified first when we launch as we are coming soon!

What social apps have you liked, loved or hated?  We’d love to know!

 

Posted by Jake Wengroff on August 21, 2015.

Jake WengroffI have served as the Founding Chairman of the Social Media Strategies Summit, and have written for publications such as CMO.com and InformationWeek. I have been quoted in Time, Reuters, Bloomberg, and other publications on the topics of social media and marketing. If you enjoyed reading this post, join our email list to get free email updates.

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