Is it time for second-gen social media apps to shine?

Gary Knight, CEO at WOLF, an app which offers an audio-based virtual world of entertainment communities, built specifically for Arabic users, argues that marketers need to prepare for the second generation of social media apps.

Social media is a huge part of everyday life for people across the world; currently, according to Datareportal, over 4.8bn use a variety of social network sites globally. But the landscape is changing.  How we use and engage with platforms is evolving and brands must prepare for a wave of second generation apps to take the spotlight.

Much like the evolution of television, social media is offering us more and more channels to choose from. Whether we decide to share photography, engage with like-minded communities, enjoy online entertainment or reconnect with networks, the social media ecosystem has transformed our lives.

And with so many social media apps – although TikTok considers itself an entertainment app – it’s important for businesses to understand which platform can best help engage target audiences, build brands, and ultimately, generate revenue. Businesses should target their niche audiences using platforms that will satisfy users’ needs and wants. And, importantly, remember that the audience is extremely discerning.

Bluesky is the app making noise right now. Created by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, this new platform aims to give users an opportunity to pick their algorithms to determine what they see. The rumour is that it’s very similar to Twitter, possibly in the same way that BeReal has become the cooler version of Instagram, embracing the idea of a no-filter, no-photoshopped image. The premise of BeReal is, every day at a random time the app sends a notification to all of its users to ‘be real’. Every user then has two minutes to take a photo of whatever it is they are doing at that time. The concept has caught on. According to, in 2022, BeReal’s usage was up 312 per cent, and downloads were up 1,000 per cent on the previous year.

So, what should marketers be aware of to drive opportunities for 2023 considering the rise in popularity and expected growth of this second generation of social media apps? And from the other perspective, how should the original social apps recognise it is time to evolve to hang on to their users?

Firstly, it looks like social media is the future of e-commerce, whether through live stream or static posts. HubSpot reports that, for consumers aged 18 to 54, social media is the chosen channel for finding and buying new products, with Instagram the preferred app for shopping experiences.

And to complete the eCommerce experience, direct messaging will be the preferred customer services channel for users. It seems brands are already prepared for this, with 76 per cent of social media marketers saying their company currently offers customer service via social, according to HubSpot’s data.

But, before the eCommerce and product discovery begins, brands with an engaged social media community will be the winners in 2023; connecting and engaging with your target audience is paramount. Social commerce should become part of a brand’s marketing strategy sooner rather than later. Understanding what is driving your audience, and what will be of interest to them tomorrow, should be a continual focus to keep them engaged.

Interestingly, it could be that the social media apps also become the catalyst for the decline of search engine use. In 2022, Google’s Senior VP of Knowledge and Information said: “almost 40 per cent of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, don’t go to Google Maps or Search, they go to TikTok or Instagram.” Youngsters seem to favour visual-rich results instead of text, and this seems to be the trend going forward. Reels and videos are what users want to see, capturing all the necessary data in a short, fun and enticing way.

It is also probable that the celeb-endorsement era will be eclipsed by micro-influencers creating user-generated content that becomes mainstream. The benefit of moving away from famous faces is that this strategy is more affordable, establishes longer-term partnerships and offers access to engaged, niche, tight-knit audiences. According to, a massive 89 per cent of marketers agree that ROI from influencer marketing is comparable to (41 per cent) or better than (48 per cent) other marketing channels.

What’s more, short-form video gives the highest ROI, and will see huge growth in 2023. Unsurprisingly, TikTok will continue to dominate. The short-form videos of under 10 minutes that TikTok champions will be replicated on many social media platforms this year. That said, the video length of between 15-60 seconds will remain the most popular for quick, easy consumption to capture attention.

Also continuing to grow, unsurprisingly, are virtual and augmented reality, with reports that Instagram, Snapchat and Google are all planning to make more use of AR to increase their advertising revenue, whilst refreshing marketing offerings.

The focus on niche audiences with specific, targeted content is the way the second-generation apps are going to grow and retain users going forwards, stealing ever more market share from the likes of Meta. Maybe the lesson to be learnt for the first-generation apps is to understand what today’s and tomorrow’s audiences want and evolve and improve to deliver it quickly.

This is the approach we have taken with our app, which offers an immersive audio, virtual world of entertainment communities, built specifically for Arabic users. Much like TikTok, WOLF doesn’t specifically fit the social media mould, but offers a niche entertainment platform with incredible choice.