Facebook: Innovative Or Imitative?

Last Monday was a very exciting day in the social media world! Or... was it? Facebook launched a new feature on their app, and once again, it doesn’t look all that different from something we’ve seen before.

Facebook’s business model has pivoted a lot in the last 10 years. It went from a simple photo-sharing app to a one-stop-shop for your online needs. You can now do everything from shopping, live streaming, researching, and more. But has Facebook got there in an innovative, or impressive way? That’s certainly up for debate.

Facebook competes with other social networks for advertising dollars. Since we, as users, don’t pay to join or use Facebook, they make money by charging companies to share ads on their target market's screens. Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and every other platform work pretty much the same way. So to an advertiser, the platform with the most users is going to get the most advertising dollars. It’s because of this that Facebook has made some pretty bold moves in order to try to eliminate users from needing to leave their website.

Here’s a look at a couple different ways that Facebook has been updated to try and take out other players in the game...

  • Facebook Videos: Ever noticed that your FB timeline is becoming filled with videos? Seriously... scroll down your timeline right now and we will bet you that 50% of the posts you see will be video content. Well, this isn’t a coincidence. Video popularity (in general) has been increasing over the past few years, and Facebook wasn’t going to stand by and let YouTube have all the fun! FB started asking users to upload their videos directly to their own which allows them to skip over YouTube entirely.
  • Facebook Live: Remember the app Periscope? If your answer is no, we aren’t surprised. This app, which lets you "explore the world through someone else’s eyes", was popular for a short time, as it was a new and exciting concept. You could stream a video through your phone and have thousands of people watching you in real time within a few seconds. But, it wasn’t long before FB stepped in and created its own version of live stream videos. Surprise, surprise!
  • Facebook Stories: The most recent and obvious imitation Facebook has made to step up against it’s rival, Snapchat. Snapchat stories had a good run. The concept of stories was introduced by SC in 2013, and allowed users to post photos or videos that would remain viewable for 24 hours. This feature was unique to SC and aligned with its brand which initially only allowed photos or videos to be viewed one time. But, it wasn’t long before Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, and just about every other platform had an eerily similar feature.
  • Facebook Saved Posts: In 2014, FB made it possible for users to privately "save" posts to their page. This is particularly useful for things like recipes, DIY’s, home improvements, funny videos, etc. Sounds a lot like Pinterest, don’t you think?
  • Facebook Messenger: This feature on Facebook is a little different, and actually targets a lot of different competitors. Almost every app you download today (social networking or not) has a direct messaging feature. But remember, Facebook wants to have you leave their platforms as little as possible. They don’t want you messaging people on any other platform then their own. One particular competitor that the Messenger app targets is WhatsApp, which Facebook eventually purchased in 2015.

The question is, what does all of this say about Facebook? Are they unoriginal copycats who aren't innovative enough to create their own features? Or is what Facebook is doing simply a smart business move? One thing we often forget about social media platforms is that they, too, are businesses, and businesses need to fight to stay alive. We'd love to hear what you think. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.