In an article for Forbes, the shocking news arrived that Pokémon GO was on the brink of passing Twitter in terms of daily active users. As of time of writing, it still is. As of one week from writing, this will likely have happened. Much has been made of Twitter’s struggles, but it’s not for a lack of effort to turn it around. They’ve signed deals with the NFL, integrated Periscope, and are teasing users with a raft of possible changes. Except, it’s not just Twitter failing this time. What’s particularly curious, is that Pokémon GO hasn’t reached all regions, and even so, it’s toppled Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook to take the top spot on the Google Play store. How did it come to pass, that the enslaving of cute and friendly super-animals on our phone became the centre of our attention?

Answer #1 – Humans are boring creatures.

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Thanks to the unique power that is social media algorithms, increasingly few platforms allow for anarchic chaos. Some may regard this a good thing. However, consider that your Facebook news feed will prioritise video and show friends over publishers and pages. Now consider that before showing you content from friends, it segments further into more “filter bubbles” – so that even the friends you disagree with don’t typically make it to the top. Pro – it stops you discovering a former best friend is now a racist. Con – that’s the kind of thing you probably want to know. The intrusive nature of social platforms upon users is making social media increasingly dull. Twitter is a news ticker. Facebook is an ad-spam mess. Instagram will soon lose it’s uniqueness. And Snapchat…well, OK, you’ve got us here. They’re the apple of everyone’s eye. But it’s a toy we’ve all played with. Pokémon GO offered something old – Pokémon – and something new – Mobile, Free, Social, AR, and Fun. Social media platforms need to recapture this, and entertain their fans – sometimes, that means not giving us what they think we want.

Answer #2 – The Power of Nostalgia.

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As mentioned, social media is increasingly becoming a live news ticker. The prioritization of video does little to change this, if anything, it promotes it. Consider the news items we’ve had over the last few weeks. Brexit, Zika, Orlando, Dallas, ISIS, Syria, Trump/Clinton, and much more. It’s hard-hitting content that could easily shift the status-quo of all we know. Can we really be surprised then, that when presented with the opportunity to check out for a while and capture a Pikachu on the railway, people are incredibly keen? Social media has a responsibility to inform and allow the sharing of information, and as we’ve seen in the Arab Spring, it can be a tremendous force for good. However, rightly or wrongly, we now approach information overload much faster and have a much reduced attention-span. Nobody wants to tune into Chernobyl FM unless it’s for Schadenfreude, and to this end, social media needs to re-invent itself. We would never endorse the burying of difficult content. But we do endorse the ability to choose how we approach it. Social media always presents it in cold-light, before your eyes – and sometimes, all we want is a cat picture.

Answer #3 – People Like Free Stuff.

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Word of mouth, and to a lesser degree, electronic Word of Mouth, remains the most powerful means of marketing. It’s therefore no surprise, that it’s incredibly hard to generate. Except, Pokémon GO got this right. Social media presents a unique opportunity to generate rapid global traction within minutes, if engaging with the right people at the right time. Trusted figures jumped on the bandwagon, and soon it was rolling with genuine pace. This highlights two things about social media in it’s current form. Firstly, that there’s no replacement for interesting content that people want to engage with. Secondly, that accessibility wins prizes. Through allowing a free and easy download, Pokémon lends itself to being approachable for all – new and old to the franchise. Social media may be free, but is it truly approachable to all? We’re inclined to say not. Not everyone likes sharing. Some can’t do it in 140 characters. Some hate photos. Social media needs to become flexible to the wants of users, and make life as easy as possible for users to share as they please. Once the penny drops, the second coming of social lies just round the corner.

Goodbye, Mewtwo. Hello, Peach.


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