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In business parlance, there is a concept known as – ‘first mover advantage’. This implies that there are certain demands that people have but they are unaware of and when someone does execute a working plan of the same, the firm gets derives instant success purely out of its status to have entered the market first. Initially its position is that of a free rider; it gets benefits without facing major competition until someone comes up with a plan to counter or even better that. Similarly a term not so well known yet possibly even more powerful is – second / late mover advantage. This implies that a firm enters a line of business which it does not ‘invent’ or develop first hand but instead is the latest avatar in a line or earlier attempts. The earlier ones may have gained some successes along with some failures, but the newest avatar weeds out the negative points of earlier forms and only incorporates those which are time tested successes.

Facebook can be considered one such success story for a second mover. One of those social networking sites which used to be very big was Orkut. Initially a lot of the approach from Facebook had similarities with Orkut. And like Orkut, Facebook too was a forum designed for conversations between friends.

Over time though things have changed. The smart phone was not around during the heyday of Orkut, so Facebook had to change the game plan for the mobile device. Thus the concept of a ‘check-in’ was introduced as Facebook rightly realized that people loved sharing news about fancy, fashionable places which they had visited for a meal, movie or holiday.

Instagram further changed the market dynamics. While Instagram started as a small firm, it grew exponentially until being the subject of a successful takeover by Facebook itself. Now not only is Instagram growing faster than Facebook, we are instead seeing the application actually dominate proceedings on Facebook. Now long posts and discussions hardly work. ‘Readers’ no longer have the time or interest in going through long posts and then discuss on politics or life matters. Instead Facebook is getting dominated by pictures. Even check-ins hardly create a ripple unless backed by interesting pictures of either the persons involved or food item in case of a restaurant. In fact even photo albums are being replaced by single picture captions as people again have lost the interest in going through extensive albums of say 30 plus images. Beyond pictures, where Instagram’s influence appears strongest is the extensive usage of hash tags. Originally a product of Twitter, now hash tags have become intrinsic to Facebook but more so as an influence from Instagram rather than Twitter which does not have quite so deep a presence in certain countries like India. Now the regular users have even stopped writing in proper sentences, instead replacing them with hash tagged statements. In fact an overdose of ###s. The perfect example of this hash tag overdoes comes from a recent IPL match between 2 teams shortened as DD & KXIP. The user in order for his post to get noticed from all corners put up a number of hash tags including the teams’ names in both sequences i.e. #DD vs KXIP # KXIP vs DD!

Thus from being a forum to being a tab on users’ movements to now being a visual library, such has been the journey. We now await the next major movement within the world of social networking.

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By - Aritro Dasgupta

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