Social Media Changes Foreshadow New Retail Developments

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Social media keeps on evolving, and that could bring big changes to the retail environment, especially as the preferences of younger consumers continue to evolve.

An example of all that comes from up-and-coming player Squad, which has started to get a foothold in a market that as recently as two years ago most experts were declaring closed to new entrants. Billing itself as “a better way to get together,” Squad quickly built a base of highly-engaged young female users on a broad geographic scale united by a single need. It is a social media platform built from the ground up with a foundational concern for their safety and privacy when interacting online.

New Audiences

“Completely accidentally we’ve developed this global audience of users and it’s girls all over the world,” Squad Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Esther Crawford said in an interview with TechCrunch. “In India, it’s girls. In Saudi Arabia, it’s girls. In the U.S., it’s girls. Even without us localizing it, girls all over the world are finding it.”

Because, Crawford said, girls all over the world need a hub like Squad — one that makes it easy to connect with people they want to connect with at distance digitally, without having to hang an “open for business” sign out for the wider web to access. With almost no marketing, Squad since its launch earlier this year has picked up 450,000 users, 70 percent of whom are teenage girls who have collectively logged 1 million hours within the site.

Squad is, at base, a video chat app that allows users to share screens with each other by invite. Its features are similar to Twitch, WhatsApp or Snap insofar as they also offer group video chats. The difference, Crawford said, is in the focus on the audience, and the safety protections built in so that girls can actually feel safe using — and staying on — the app.

“Girls have been completely pushed off of Twitch,” she said. “The Twitch community didn’t want them there and they weren’t friendly to them. For boys, there are places you can go to consume content with other people, like Fortnite, but for girls there hasn’t been a place that’s really broken out. We want to be a place where girls can come and hang out.”

Those safety features include things that it took other platforms a lot of time to add, and an even longer time to run well. Squad makes it easy to block unwanted company and report inappropriate behavior.  Members can only be searched by exact username.

Facebook Subscriptions

But don’t factor out the big players, of course. Take Facebook. A few months ago news emerged that Facebook is going to start testing subscriptions to certain video streaming services that can be viewed inside its “Watch” hub, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

The services being tested are the BBC-owned BritBox, Tastemade Plus, Discovery Communications’ MotorTrend on Demand and Dropout, a network from CollegeHumor.

As an example, the Dropout subscription will cost $4.99 a month for all of the service’s original programming, as well as the ability to have chat-enabled virtual watch parties with other viewers. There will also be a new feature that will catalog all of the streaming content.

Subscribers will also be able to watch on Facebook apps on other platforms, like the Roku and Apple TV. Facebook will take a cut of subscription fees.

Facebook is also reportedly in talks with major streaming services like HBO, Starz and Showtime about providing their content to watch on the social media channel.

Services like Amazon, Hulu and Apple already “resell” services to users. For example, Prime Video subscribers made up 35 percent of HBO Now subscribers at the end of 2018.

You can bet the early part of the new decade will continue to bring big news about social media.


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