One summer afternoon, when my family and I were up north visiting my grandparents, my grandfather and I stopped at Dunkin Donuts on a bike ride into town. We were sitting on a bench by the beach with coffee and donuts when I asked why the Dunkin Donuts in town was never really that busy. My grandfather told me that it was because everyone who wanted coffee was at Starbucks, and that everyone who wanted a donut was at a proper donut shop just down the street. I don’t remember his words exactly, but my grandfather essentially told me that because Starbucks specialized in coffee and the donut shop specialized in donuts, people went to those two different businesses instead of Dunkin Donuts.
I never really understood that idea until I watched the rise of social media. Facebook came out of nowhere, replacing Myspace as a more mature platform for connecting with friends. You could do everything with Facebook. You could send out status updates, connect with people you never thought you’d see again and upload pictures all on the same platform. When I first got a Facebook account, I didn’t think any other platform could do what it did and bring in the audience that it did. And then, of course, new platforms sprang forth.
Within the course of several years, we saw the rise of Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Just like the Dunkin Donuts situation, I was confused as to how this happened. These sites could only do some of the things Facebook did. Twitter would only let you send out statuses (small ones, too) and Instagram could only post pictures. It took me a while, but I eventually realized that the rise of social media and the way people used it was essentially the same way people used their breakfast restaurants. Sure, Facebook could do everything Twitter and Instagram could do and more, but they specialized in what they did. For that reason, people flocked to them.
Facebook is still the most commonly used social media platform, but we’re now at the point in history where brand new startups are showing promise in areas that Facebook never did before. Twitter and Instagram may have seemed like Facebook spinoffs at their inception, but now we’re seeing the rise of things such as mobile live-streaming apps like Periscope. As new developments like this have sprung out of the ground, Facebook is playing catch-up to utilize the new features these innovations introduce. However, it will never truly catch up with its competitors because it doesn’t specialize in anything anymore. If Facebook is like Dunkin Donuts, then Twitter is like Starbucks, Instagram is like the donut shop down the street and new apps, like Periscope, are the local stores selling breakfast sandwiches.