By Josh Hoffman
A recent Pew Research Center survey shows the number of Instagram and Pinterest users has doubled since 2012. In comparison, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have seen minor gains.
Certainly, Instagram and Pinterest are newer platforms compared to the other three networks, so we can attribute some of their growth to the fact that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn largely piqued before or around 2012.
However, this doesn’t tell the entire story because, ultimately, a social media platform can only acquire and retain mass followers if the platform’s user experience matches its hype. Instagram and Pinterest both embody an incredible user experience - an experience that in many ways is superior to that of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
When I was studying journalism at San Diego State University less than a decade ago, there was an ongoing focus on the death of traditional newspapers by virtue of the Internet and an ever-growing consumption of digital media. However, as print newspapers were dropping like flies, the 20,000 magazines that were in print and circulation at the time barely took a hit.
The theory, my professors explained, was that magazines had survived the digital content tsunami because they offer niche-based, self-serve, visually engaging content with a better user experience than newspapers.
On the other hand, newspapers were not niche-based and self-serve - you had to buy an entire newspaper even if you just wanted to read the sports section, for instance - while featuring heavy amounts of text and less visually aesthetic content as a whole.
In my estimation, that is precisely why Instagram and Pinterest have seen this type of growth during the last three years: Their user experience is a lot like that of a magazine.
On Instagram, for instance, we have the ability to flip through visual content a few seconds at a time, sometimes stopping for a bit longer in order to further engage in a photo or short video. Sounds just like the experience of a magazine, right?
Even more than Instagram, Pinterest is essentially the digital version of a magazine. With the ability to follow specific boards of an account - as opposed to an entire account - Pinterest takes the concepts of niche-based and self-serve to a whole new level. That’s like saying, “I only want content about the Los Angeles Lakers in the LA Times.” Unprecedented. And of course, Pinterest is all things visual.
I remember last year, Mark Zuckerberg said that he wanted Facebook to represent a newspaper of sorts. In many ways, it already does: loads of content about topics across the board, in a variety of formats (photos, videos, links). LinkedIn and Twitter essentially offer the same experience.
If the rise and fall of newspapers is of any indication, Instagram and Pinterest will continue to enjoy growth and success - while eventually, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn may start to go by way of traditional newspapers as we know them.
Josh Hoffman is an international social media consultant and the author of the Social Media MasterCourse. Connect with Josh on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.