We’ve talked a lot in class about the complete dominance that women seem to have over Pinterest, and remembering back to Meg’s presentation, she had the numbers to back it up. My fiancé has gone crazy for it, and she’s never even gotten the hang of Facebook! Now that’s saying something for a social media site. But men haven’t really picked it up. I know a guy who recently joined Pinterest and told all of his friends that they should join too. They made fun of him until he cancelled his account. These people are in their 30’s.
This week however, I stumbled across a site that is basically Pinterest for men. A “Manterest” if you will. It’s called Gentlemint (a mint of manly things) and it was apparently named “…one of the more manly websites on the planet” by the American Moustache Institute. And the American Moustache Institute doesn’t just throw praise like that around willy nilly. As far as I know…
I’ve had a quick look around, and though I’ve been impressed by some of the subject matter (The ultimate bacon burger? Nice. Classic James Bond novel cover art? Now that’s manly.) it basically is just Pinterest with different stuff. Manly stuff. So if Pinterest were to catch on with men, there’s really no reason for this site to exist, and yet it’s gaining a bit of traction in our fractured social media landscape.
This all brings me full circle to how I felt about social media on a macro level at the beginning of class, and that’s the theory of natural monopolies. A natural monopoly is a situation where due to the monumental scope, standardization, or connectedness required of a certain task, it just makes natural sense that one company or organization should do it. An example is utilities. You couldn’t have each neighborhood with their own gas company because the networks of pipes and transportation channels wouldn’t connect to each other, the companies would argue over turf, and everything would be infinitely less efficient than if you just let NSTAR do the whole thing.
Earlier in the evolution of the internet and social media, this seemed to be the natural trend. First we had AOL’s homepage that tried to be all things to all people, and be the one internet portal. And that worked for a few years, before we realized the possibilities of the internet and we all outgrew it. Then there was a series of monopolies in social media, that one by one replaced each other, unable to coexist. First was Friendster, which was toppled by MySpace, which was then obliterated by Facebook, all because the network effect was so strong that there was only room for one giant at a time. Natural monopolies.
Now however, as we’ve seen in this class, there are all kinds of social media sites popping up to service all kinds of interests. We have sites for micro-blogging, sites for shopping, sites for getting deals and even paying for things in-store. There are sites for video, audio, and all kinds of other content discovery. I had started to doubt whether the natural monopoly theory could continue with all of these disparate social media platforms popping up, but when I found out that there was a Pinterest for both men and women, I knew things had gotten out of hand. Jason mentioned on Twitter that he felt that there might be a bubble about to burst when it comes to Social Media, which I thought was a good observation. But instead, I think that what we’re ready for is the new natural monopoly. That new web portal that sucks us all into one space through which we access everything else we need on the web (or our phones). And it may sound boring, but the best guess as to who can do that is Facebook.
Facebook has already integrated photos and videos into their platform pretty well. They’ve integrated some of Twitter’s value proposition, and remained innovative in their own right with updates like timeline. Now they’ve purchased Instagram. I’ve even read articles that claim Facebook is working on their own web payment system (which I assume would include mobile capability if they know what’s good for them. And they do.) Sure, there are plenty of other social innovators out there, but the fact is when you are as big as Facebook every other company is just your crowdsource, because as soon as their ideas ripen, you can probably just buy them out.
I actually think that if Facebook really is thinking along these lines, it will be a good thing for consumers. It will allow a much wider audience (not just us savvy MI621-ers) to take advantage of sophisticated social media capability. And yes, maybe they would be like the Borg, going from site to site and assimilating them into the collective, each one losing a bit of what made it unique (nerd alert) but if anything is for sure here, it’s that even Facebook won’t last forever. Just like AOL, just like Friendster, MySpace, and whatever else, we’ll eventually outgrow Facebook and the new innovators will blow it up with the next big thing. I think Facebook has more staying power than those sites previously mentioned, probably because it learned from their mistakes, but it has the potential to add a lot more to the social media experience before it fades away.