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Vero and the Tenuous Grip of Social Networks

Vero and the Tenuous Grip of Social Networks

Nik Speller

Nik Speller

March 1, 2018

We all know that social networks—just like companies, fads, fashions, and everything else in the world—can fail.

"A hindsight that is crystal clear and starkly obvious."

LinkedIn

Nik Speller
Senior Influencer Manager, Socialyse

February 28, 2018

Not being one to pass on the opportunity to opine on a subject or jump on a bandwagon, especially where social media is concerned, I thought I’d write something on the new social network that everybody is talking about: Vero.

Actually, that’s not quite fair—at least three people have asked for my opinion on Vero and quite a few people liked this tweet, so I feel I have a legitimate reason to write about it.

Anyway, this isn’t going to be a “What is Vero?” type of a piece—for that, see this brilliant post from Sara Tasker. In fact, this isn’t going to be a piece about Vero at all. What it’s really about is summed up in that tweet: The tenuous grip social networks have and why people leave them.

Before we start, let’s just dial one notch back.

We all know that social networks—just like companies, fads, fashions, and everything else in the worldcan fail. They’re born; they burst on to the scene; everyone is interested, intrigued, and astounded by them, and a few years, or decades, later they die. Of course, we only ever know this with hindsight—a hindsight that is crystal clear and starkly obvious.

MySpace, New Coke, Carillion are so obviously all going to fail. Poorly managed, poorly marketed, corrupt to the core, a nonsense product, not delivering what their customers want, etc.—their catalog of errors is huge, heavy, and slaps you in the face from the start of their dusty Wikipedia entry until the end.

Current businesses, though; they’ll never fail. How could they? They’re monsters in size, growing rapidly, adaptable to what customers want, blemish free; and, even if they’re not the latter two, their size allows them to be Teflon under scandal and shrug off customer complaints without a second thought.

I remember reading, two lives or so ago, that Africa was, without a doubt, the new economic powerhouse of the forthcoming decade, and then it was the BRICS. Meanwhile, domestically, Byron Burger and Jamie Oliver’s various restaurants were eating up each and every high street. All of that economics was sublime, each of these businesses strategic masterclasses, all on an upward trajectory, so steep and so endless, we’d soon all be speaking Portuguese, and Byron would soon be opening branches of Byron within existing branches of Byron.

This is at least a three-paragraphs-too-long way of saying that we only ever see failure as having been obvious when it happens and very rarely preempt it.

Let’s turn that lens (I really have worked in marketing for too long) to the social networks. Instagram; huge. Facebook (Instagram’s owner)—even bigger. They won’t fail, no matter what scandal eases through the cracks of their ivory tower and no matter how many people cry “stop” as they change their tools, services, terms and conditions for the 200th time, this year.

And then a new service comes along: Vero. It builds a wave of interest and popularity, seemingly out of nowhere, swallows up fans, supporters, users, and handfuls of people who’ve had their curiosity aroused. It’s glitchy; it’s confusing, and most people who join can’t quite see the point of its existence; yet, still they join and, all of a sudden, the solid, rock-like status of the established social networks looks like sand.

Why?

Well, it seems to me that, in the main, it all hinges on that word: curiosity. People are always curious about new things; that’s especially true of those who use social media. The curiosity of the world, of people, of technology, of things, is why they signed up to social networks in the first place and why they continue to use them.

Human curiosity is the lifeblood of social networks. It’s the reason for their existence, growth, and survival. But, it’s also a major threat. Curiosity is the reason social networks only ever have a tenuous grip on their users; because, those users are always tempted to look elsewhere, to satisfy their curious minds.

And, it’s this threat from the curiosity that drives change within social networks.Instagram, for instance, has continued to bring in new services, adapt existing ones, and all the rest, not just because they feared rising challengers, like Snapchat; but because they were scared their users would just get bored. Changing up a network keeps it interesting, satisfies people’s curiosity, and keeps them logging back in for more.

However, while the networks seem to spend a good deal of time countering the threat curiosity brings, they spend a lot more time increasing that threat by creating and building animosity amongst their users.

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and now Snapchat have all been guilty of this; making changes they feel are for the best but that a lot of people hate.

In some ways, they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

People don’t know what they want until they see it, like those apes who couldn’t understand why people would want to fly— and, sometimes, they don’t think they’ll like it until they do. Basically, everyone who scoffed at the iPhone and £2.60 coffees.

So, networks have to try, trial, experiment, and force things on us that we’d tell them we wouldn’t want—or, that we’d tell them we would, but would then never use (the old problem of the McDonald’s salad).

But, for all of my (limited) sympathy, the networks really do themselves no favors with their behavior. For once, I’m not just going to pick on Instagram here. Twitter, is full of irrelevant ads and a “In case you missed it…” function, that shows me old tweets, relevant only to last Thursday. Facebook does, more or less, the same and has innovated from a place where I connected solely with friends and family, to one where I see all manner of unwanted posts; with sh*t posting, clickbait, and kitten videos swamping my feed to the point where I quit.

And, OK. Let’s go back on what I said and take a poke at Instagram.

We all know the problems of Instagram. I won’t dwell on the algorithm, as I really don’t think its impact is as great as people make out; but, a large proportion of their audience don’t like it, so why not offer them the choice to toggle it on or off? What I care about, as everyone reading this will know, is the hyper-automated activity on the system, the millions of bots, fake accounts, spam accounts, and everything that could so easily be tackled, but isn’t. And so, blights an otherwise fantastic service.

All in all, the networks don’t do enough to counter the pull of curiosity and, if anything, contribute to that pull by offering up a good deal of their own push. I’m not saying this means that I’ll be closing down my social accounts, left, right, and center, and then running over to a Vero-only existence. For one thing, the app is glitchy as heck; for another, the owners seem to have multiple scandals ready and waiting in the wings; and finally, I still don’t understand the true value of the service.

But like millions, or thousands, of others, I’m willing to give it a try—partly due to FOMO, yet mostly due to my inherent curiosity and the genuinely tenuous connection the other social networks have on me.

The next question: Will Vero deliver the value needed for users to maintain an interest in a social network—the content, people, connections, and interactions they want to see? If they can, they’ll only grow from here, particularly if the established social networks continue to frustrate their own users and provide the additional push that fuels everybody’s curiosity. If they don’t, they’ll go the way of MySpace, Friends Reunited, and the rest.

We’ll watch this space, I guess. Oh. And come find me on Vero. I haven’t yet figured out how to share a link. Instagram it is then.

(Edited for grammar, style, and clarity.)

"A hindsight that is crystal clear and starkly obvious."

LinkedIn

Nik Speller
Senior Influencer Manager, Socialyse

February 28, 2018

Not being one to pass on the opportunity to opine on a subject or jump on a bandwagon, especially where social media is concerned, I thought I’d write something on the new social network that everybody is talking about: Vero.

Actually, that’s not quite fair—at least three people have asked for my opinion on Vero and quite a few people liked this tweet, so I feel I have a legitimate reason to write about it.

Anyway, this isn’t going to be a “What is Vero?” type of a piece—for that, see this brilliant post from Sara Tasker. In fact, this isn’t going to be a piece about Vero at all. What it’s really about is summed up in that tweet: The tenuous grip social networks have and why people leave them.

Before we start, let’s just dial one notch back.

We all know that social networks—just like companies, fads, fashions, and everything else in the worldcan fail. They’re born; they burst on to the scene; everyone is interested, intrigued, and astounded by them, and a few years, or decades, later they die. Of course, we only ever know this with hindsight—a hindsight that is crystal clear and starkly obvious.

MySpace, New Coke, Carillion are so obviously all going to fail. Poorly managed, poorly marketed, corrupt to the core, a nonsense product, not delivering what their customers want, etc.—their catalog of errors is huge, heavy, and slaps you in the face from the start of their dusty Wikipedia entry until the end.

Current businesses, though; they’ll never fail. How could they? They’re monsters in size, growing rapidly, adaptable to what customers want, blemish free; and, even if they’re not the latter two, their size allows them to be Teflon under scandal and shrug off customer complaints without a second thought.

I remember reading, two lives or so ago, that Africa was, without a doubt, the new economic powerhouse of the forthcoming decade, and then it was the BRICS. Meanwhile, domestically, Byron Burger and Jamie Oliver’s various restaurants were eating up each and every high street. All of that economics was sublime, each of these businesses strategic masterclasses, all on an upward trajectory, so steep and so endless, we’d soon all be speaking Portuguese, and Byron would soon be opening branches of Byron within existing branches of Byron.

This is at least a three-paragraphs-too-long way of saying that we only ever see failure as having been obvious when it happens and very rarely preempt it.

Let’s turn that lens (I really have worked in marketing for too long) to the social networks. Instagram; huge. Facebook (Instagram’s owner)—even bigger. They won’t fail, no matter what scandal eases through the cracks of their ivory tower and no matter how many people cry “stop” as they change their tools, services, terms and conditions for the 200th time, this year.

And then a new service comes along: Vero. It builds a wave of interest and popularity, seemingly out of nowhere, swallows up fans, supporters, users, and handfuls of people who’ve had their curiosity aroused. It’s glitchy; it’s confusing, and most people who join can’t quite see the point of its existence; yet, still they join and, all of a sudden, the solid, rock-like status of the established social networks looks like sand.

Why?

Well, it seems to me that, in the main, it all hinges on that word: curiosity. People are always curious about new things; that’s especially true of those who use social media. The curiosity of the world, of people, of technology, of things, is why they signed up to social networks in the first place and why they continue to use them.

Human curiosity is the lifeblood of social networks. It’s the reason for their existence, growth, and survival. But, it’s also a major threat. Curiosity is the reason social networks only ever have a tenuous grip on their users; because, those users are always tempted to look elsewhere, to satisfy their curious minds.

And, it’s this threat from the curiosity that drives change within social networks.Instagram, for instance, has continued to bring in new services, adapt existing ones, and all the rest, not just because they feared rising challengers, like Snapchat; but because they were scared their users would just get bored. Changing up a network keeps it interesting, satisfies people’s curiosity, and keeps them logging back in for more.

However, while the networks seem to spend a good deal of time countering the threat curiosity brings, they spend a lot more time increasing that threat by creating and building animosity amongst their users.

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and now Snapchat have all been guilty of this; making changes they feel are for the best but that a lot of people hate.

In some ways, they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

People don’t know what they want until they see it, like those apes who couldn’t understand why people would want to fly— and, sometimes, they don’t think they’ll like it until they do. Basically, everyone who scoffed at the iPhone and £2.60 coffees.

So, networks have to try, trial, experiment, and force things on us that we’d tell them we wouldn’t want—or, that we’d tell them we would, but would then never use (the old problem of the McDonald’s salad).

But, for all of my (limited) sympathy, the networks really do themselves no favors with their behavior. For once, I’m not just going to pick on Instagram here. Twitter, is full of irrelevant ads and a “In case you missed it…” function, that shows me old tweets, relevant only to last Thursday. Facebook does, more or less, the same and has innovated from a place where I connected solely with friends and family, to one where I see all manner of unwanted posts; with sh*t posting, clickbait, and kitten videos swamping my feed to the point where I quit.

And, OK. Let’s go back on what I said and take a poke at Instagram.

We all know the problems of Instagram. I won’t dwell on the algorithm, as I really don’t think its impact is as great as people make out; but, a large proportion of their audience don’t like it, so why not offer them the choice to toggle it on or off? What I care about, as everyone reading this will know, is the hyper-automated activity on the system, the millions of bots, fake accounts, spam accounts, and everything that could so easily be tackled, but isn’t. And so, blights an otherwise fantastic service.

All in all, the networks don’t do enough to counter the pull of curiosity and, if anything, contribute to that pull by offering up a good deal of their own push. I’m not saying this means that I’ll be closing down my social accounts, left, right, and center, and then running over to a Vero-only existence. For one thing, the app is glitchy as heck; for another, the owners seem to have multiple scandals ready and waiting in the wings; and finally, I still don’t understand the true value of the service.

But like millions, or thousands, of others, I’m willing to give it a try—partly due to FOMO, yet mostly due to my inherent curiosity and the genuinely tenuous connection the other social networks have on me.

The next question: Will Vero deliver the value needed for users to maintain an interest in a social network—the content, people, connections, and interactions they want to see? If they can, they’ll only grow from here, particularly if the established social networks continue to frustrate their own users and provide the additional push that fuels everybody’s curiosity. If they don’t, they’ll go the way of MySpace, Friends Reunited, and the rest.

We’ll watch this space, I guess. Oh. And come find me on Vero. I haven’t yet figured out how to share a link. Instagram it is then.

(Edited for grammar, style, and clarity.)

Nik is one of a dedicated team of influencer marketing specialists, based in the Havas London office.

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