There is a war between two of the richest men on the planet, both of whom want to control our hearts, minds, and attention with social media. Mark Zuckerberg has gone on record calling Elon Musk’s view of Artificial Intelligence “irresponsible”. And Musk has retorted by saying that Zuckerberg does not really understand Artificial Intelligence.
Zuckerberg and Musk are both vying to control us via their social media platforms. Zuckerberg's Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook) is the largest social media company in the world, with over 2 billion active users. Musk's Tesla and SpaceX are two of the most innovative companies in the world, and he is also the CEO of Twitter.
The two men have very different visions for the future of social media. Zuckerberg believes that the future of social media is about connecting people with friends and family. He has said that he wants to build a “metaverse” where people can live, work, and play in a virtual world. Musk, on the other hand, believes that the future of social media is about connecting people with information. He has said that he wants to build a "social media that is more like a public square."
Both have been accused of enabling trolls. Musk with his unabashed belief in free speech and his dangerous support of neo-Nazis’ views on his platform; and Zuckerberg via Facebook algorithms that have spread fake news, and empowered far-right movements. The competition between Zuckerberg and Musk is likely to shape the future of social media. Both men have the resources and the vision to make their world views a reality.
Instagram, owned by Meta, recently launched a new text-based social media app called Threads. The app is designed to be a more intimate and personal way for users to connect with their close friends and family. Threads allows users to post short text updates, photos, and videos that are only visible to their followers. Threads suspiciously looks like the early Twitter. Since it launched on July 5, Threads has been the fastest growing app ever — with over 110 million sign ups.
Musk, who paid $44 billion to buy Twitter, was not amused. “Competition is fine, cheating is not,” he said, and then threatened to sue Meta. He followed that up with a series of extremely personal attacks on Zuckerberg. And then ended his tirade by rebranding Twitter as X — changing the blue bird to a white-on-black X. Musk insists that the new name reflects its commitment to “openness and transparency”. He has also said that X is working on a number of new features, including a new algorithm that will prioritize tweets from people that users interact with the most.
But it is not just Threads and Twitter. A few days ago Tik Tok launched text-only posts. A platform hitherto known for short videos and tremendous engagement is trying to reposition itself as an all-encompassing platform.
The launch of Threads, the rebranding of Twitter as X, and the repositioning of TikTok are just three of the latest developments in the world of social media, which itself is changing. In the last decade social media has become the go-to service for anyone with a smartphone as their stream of consciousness. Each of these platforms is trying to become the “single ecosystem” for their customers. And the war between very rich men is just going to intensify.
As social media continues its steady evolution, businesses find themselves adapting quickly, harnessing these platforms as critical channels for customer engagement. Centre stage in this evolution is the concept of social Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Social CRMs offer businesses a robust tool to effectively manage customer relationships on social media. These systems serve as the watchful eye, monitoring customer interactions, measuring the success of campaigns, and spotting potential leads. It's this rich insight into customers' needs and interests that becomes a veritable goldmine for businesses. This data doesn't only provide a snapshot of customer behaviour; it's a tool to enhance customer service, shape new products and services, and craft targeted marketing campaigns.
This strategy is not exclusive to the Western market. In the East, China has emerged as a dominant player in the social media landscape. Its poster child, WeChat, is a mobile app that transcends traditional social media boundaries. Beyond messaging, WeChat encompasses social networking, payments, and gaming — effectively creating a "single ecosystem" social media platform. This one-stop-shop design makes WeChat exceptionally user-friendly, contributing significantly to its popularity in China.
However, the rapid expansion and influence of social media also bring about significant questions— chief among them, the contentious issue of data ownership. When we post a photo on Facebook, whom does that image truly belong to? The user or the platform? Clarity is elusive, as social media platforms’ terms of service often grant them the right to utilise the data shared for various purposes, including advertising and research.
This power amassed by social media platforms has led to a growing demand for regulatory control. With mounting apprehension over their near-omnipotence and an often-lackadaisical approach to privacy protection, the need for regulation grows ever more undeniable. Worldwide, governments are sitting up and taking notice of the tech juggernauts, the data troves they command, and the resulting privacy implications. The tech titans, however, hit back, arguing that such regulation strikes a damaging blow to the heart of freedom. The future is shrouded in uncertainty. The journey ahead for social media seems set to be a tightrope walk, balancing innovation and evolution against the weight of responsibility and oversight. As the shadow-boxing between governments and tech Goliaths escalates, one thing is certain: we’re in for a high-stakes showdown.
The writer works at the intersection of digital content, technology, and audiences. She is a writer, columnist, visiting faculty, and filmmaker