The future of social networks is democratized. What does that mean for businesses and users? Deeper engagement, more mobile use, more local interactions, and a more integrated experience with the everyday. In this blog post, we'll explore how niche community platforms will shape the future of social networks and what that means for users and businesses alike.
When social media usage skyrocketed in popularity, many hoped that these platforms would become spaces for free speech, open discussion, and a wide range of opinions that were deemed too controversial for mainstream media. Unfortunately, a handful of centralized entities quickly gained majority control. It wasn’t long until traditional social platforms became spaces that were non-conducive to brand-controlled growth.
Today, social media users and businesses are growing more interested in the idea of niche, distributed communities. With freedom of speech, increased privacy, and meaningful interactions at the forefront of these alternative networks, the future looks bright.
Reimagining social connection
We’ve always used the internet as a way to connect with others. In fact, many of us spend the majority of our time online on social media. 3.6 billion people were active social media users in 2020, and in 2025, we expect a whopping 4.41 billion.
Social media isn’t a new concept. But the traditional model is losing its shine as we pursue a better, more meaningful way to connect online. The downsides of big tech-controlled social environments are slowly outnumbering the benefits.
Online social media networks are continuously evolving, but recent trends are centered around the following themes:
With traditional and centralized social media, power rests in the hands of the few. Every big platform dictates rules that all must adhere to. A single decision can change everything for a user or brand.
A lack of transparency means social media managers are subject to an algorithm that they don’t fully understand. While they accept that the stakes might change at any time, this adds a layer of volatility that doesn’t have to exist.
When all is said and done, popular social networks put business before users. Many brands are now choosing to own and manage their communities so that they can provide a more contextualized and secure experience for their users.
User data helps companies deliver a more personalized experience. But data laws differ from region to region, and many netizens are concerned about private information being exposed. When using traditional platforms, however, you expect to give up quite a bit of personal data. How can we trust these centralized corporations to keep our data safe when over 533 million Facebook users had their personal information exposed just last year?
Brands that own their social platforms can approach security differently, gathering first-party data, which is invaluable to business growth and revenue generation. They can also choose to request the bare minimum, and in doing so, give control back to the individual so they can have a say in their own online experience.
Reduced vulnerability gives individuals confidence that their personal information and social experience are treated with the utmost concern.
Netizens have been more actively visiting community platforms since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 66% of online users drawn by the prospect of connecting with others with similar interests.
There’s a clear movement toward smaller, interest-oriented communities. And more independent social platforms facilitate this change by allowing brands to create and self-govern their networks. Because these networks can set guidelines specifically catering to their needs, users can interact within the context of the community. This fosters deeper, freer, and more meaningful engagement.
Engagement is addictive. When people are actively plugged into a community, they want to participate and stay up-to-date with what is going on. Brands can use personalized notifications to ensure users are informed when something relevant to them occurs. And because users don’t want to miss out, they’ll often download mobile apps that make it even easier for them to stay updated.
There is immense potential for niche communities in the mobile app sector. The more localized social experiences become, the more users want to stay plugged in, even on the go.
The future of alternative social media
So what could social media look like in the future? In a nutshell: free, fair, and secure. Niche social media platforms built for interests-oriented communities remove control from a single centralized entity. And branded communities—while still owned by a singular entity—have much more control over their network because they own the technology and the user data that they gather. The end goal is to deliver a more contextualized, meaningful experience.
Users and businesses both benefit from the democratization of social networking platforms. Here’s how we envision it:
For users: A safer, less restricted method of social sharing
Freedom and safety are priorities for future social media platforms. Democratized platforms will offer individuals the following:
✅ Data privacy
One of the key concepts of democratized networks is that users have control of their data, interactions, and overall experience. Individuals don’t have to worry about having their information sold as market data to other platforms because anything gathered is first-party and used within the same business ecosystem to deliver a personalized experience.
✅ Freedom of speech
Another concern users might encounter on a major social app is censorship and guidelines restricting freedom of speech. Communities need rules to function harmoniously, but when corporations like Apple, Google, or Twitter decide what you see and interact with online, they can single-handedly paint a certain narrative and influence a particular outcome.
In the near future, social networks should offer users the freedom to engage as much or as little as they want to, within the guidelines of their network. Moving away from centralized social media platforms allows communities to self-govern and decide what is appropriate within the context of their use.
✅ Contextualized engagement
Interest-based social communities are on the rise, and vertical networks will cater to this movement. Online social circles will likely become smaller in size but deeper in quality. Since many of these networks share distinct common ground, members can engage in context and build deeper bonds.
Future social media platforms will stress quality over quantity because individuals have a bigger say in the networks they engage in. While the general formats—text, photo, video, audio—will likely remain the same, content is distributed with greater relevance to end-users.
For businesses: Clear forecasting and niche community building
Businesses have been susceptible to volatility on social media sites for years because they have no say in how the platforms are run. Marketing teams have to adjust their strategy in response to algorithm updates, and even then, they often lose to brands with larger advertising budgets. A more decentralized model presents them with several opportunities:
✅ Transparency of technology
A major advantage of vertical social networks is transparency. Businesses have direct access to communities they own, which gives them the power to make it work to their advantage. They also hold full command over their technology, which reduces the guesswork and allows forecasting with greater precision.
✅ Democratized control
Independent social platforms own, moderate, and govern themselves without interference from a primary authority. Businesses have a say in their own networks, meaning they can build communities with more freedom and yet, more control.
Democratized decision-making gives users a greater stake in the game. Inevitably, they take a more active role in their communities. Fans are encouraged to voice what they want and need. With that insight, community managers are able to create precisely what their users require without having to draw unbiased assumptions.
✅ Tailored guidelines & permissions
Every network has a specific use case, yet popular social media sites largely judge everything by the same standards. The platforms of the future allow networks to tailor everything to their needs, including how many moderators are needed and what moderation privileges they will hold.
Some networks might choose to give users as much freedom as possible, while others might elect to limit discussion topics for maximum relevance. Some might allow anyone to join, while others prefer to keep their network invite-only. Whatever a brand needs, it can create.
✅ Alternative engagement strategy
Social media companies of the future will likely employ an engagement strategy very different from that of popular sites today. Rather than run more ads or sell user data, they will invite fans to bet on their brand.
Online platforms have given creators and businesses the opportunity to skyrocket their influence. Why shouldn’t fans have the chance to support them directly (and potentially profit) when they find a community they believe in?
Platforms that allow fans to put money on businesses and influencers they love will have a service proposition unlike any other. And since users have a personal stake in the success of those they back, they engage more frequently and bring friends on board.
The social media landscape is changing
As uncertain as the future of social may seem, one thing is for sure: people are prioritizing the quality of their relationships online. They aren’t nearly as concerned about the follower count or frequency of posts if they aren’t receiving value. And they certainly don’t want to engage with brands that only see them as a dollar amount.
Online user and creator needs are evolving. Traditional social media platforms either have to adapt or make way for democratized environments where users and businesses can interact with more freedom and higher quality engagement.
Make way for more meaningful engagement
If you want to move away from traditional social networks and create a democratized community of your own, you’ve taken the first step to more meaningful engagement. It might seem like a massive undertaking. But with so many incredible tools like ours that remove the grunt work, branded communities aren’t at all difficult to build.
Democratized communities are the future of social media. And it isn’t just users that benefit. As we move towards more freedom, privacy, and localization in our digital interactions, we grow closer to providing a fair and positive digital experience for all.