4 Social Media Startups You Haven’t Heard Of
The number of people who are currently plugged into one or more of the many social media networks out there has never been higher. According to the most recent data, almost 4.8 billion people – that’s well over half the planet’s population – use social media. The numbers are also growing at a rapid clip, with around 137 million new social media users creating accounts in 2022.
Each year brings fresh trends that define the course of social media, and we may see some major shifts in 2023. The rise of generative AI is sure to be leveraged in multiple ways, with futurist author and software engineer Mark Pesce predicting that “before this year ends, our social media will be a combination of human and synthetic short form videos, each vying to be more engaging then the last.”
Other trends we can expect to see in 2023 are more brands embracing the super-charged communicative potential of TikTok, along with emergence of more niche platforms that will shake things up. As the stats show, the global demand for social media is only increasing, and – despite the longstanding hegemony of the likes of Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Twitter – the social media landscape is still a fertile landscape in which startups can flourish.
Just consider how relative newcomer BeReal has become one of the most talked-about platforms since its launch only a few years ago. And there’s no shortage of fresh startups that are demonstrating new ways to facilitate and potentially generate revenue from online communities. Here are just four that have crossed our radar lately.
Can the fairly mundane act of ordering food online be transformed into a compelling, community-set experience? The folks behind UK-based startup Nippi certainly think so, describing their platform as a place “where you can share food with your buddies, collect gifts, be rewarded for every order, and make tons of savings.”
The concept capitalises on social media users’ proven appetite for consuming food photos and videos on sites like Instagram and TikTok, coupled with the unprecedented ease with which most of us can order every conceivable kind of food through sites like Deliveroo and JustEat.
The platform has yet to launch, and the details of exactly how it will operate are still hazy. However, the potential of its premise has already attracted the notice of backers, with VC firm Antler ploughing £120,000 into Nippi earlier this year.
Can a new social platform for professional networking hope to thrive, or even just co-exist, with Linkedin still absolutely dominating this space? Polywork aims to do so by by providing a setting in which users can express skills and interests that are tangential to their “main” careers.
So, if you’re a web developer by day, but also have a side hustle as an animator, and also give guitar lessons a few nights a week, Polywork can be used to make connections in those secondary areas. This is in contrast to Linkedin, which – as one early Polywork community member says, “has created a culture where I literally feel like I can’t represent what I consider the best parts of me for fear of it being deemed ‘inappropriate’ or ‘unprofessional.’”
It’s a clever idea, given how the notion of reducing people down to the linear narratives of traditional CVs now strikes many (especially younger millennials and Gen Zers) as an outmoded way to hire and network. In late 2022, Polywork announced a $28 million Series B fundraise, with investors including big hitters like the founders of online shopping colossus Instacart.
Los Angeles-based platform Pearpop provides an agile, optimised way for creators and influencers to collaborate with brands and each other in the social space. The goal is to empower these creators to “earn a living doing what they love”, as Pearpop’s slogan puts it.
It does in a very simple and approachable way. A creator/influencer signs up to Pearpop, and connects with brands to undergo social media “challenges” for them. These might be taste tests for a food brand, say, or a dance-off for a streaming service. The creator/influencer then gets paid based on the kind of engagement their content receives.
So far, Pearpop has raised $34 million in funding, with celebrity investors including Snoop Dogg, Tony Hawk and, appropriately enough, YouTube sensation MrBeast. With this kind of A-list backing, with social media influencers increasingly overshadowing “legacy” celebrities like movie stars and singers, and with Pearpop having already diversified by creating its own subscription-only sitcom, this platform may well become a behemoth of the industry in the very near future.
“Superlocal is a social network that feels like a fun game.” As elevator pitches go, that’s a pretty good one, but what does it mean in practice? In effect, it gamifies everyday life. Users of Superlocal share their physical locations with friends, checking into places like cafes and restaurants by taking photos and writing messages, earning points and badges as they go.
It all makes for a fun way to get to know a town or city, as you tick off places you’ve been to, and compete with friends to earn points and even NFTs. Superlocal says that “only high quality check-ins” featuring good photos and captions can unlock rewards, which incentivises users to really make an effort and engage with locations in creative, eye-catching ways.
The platform, which has so far raised $1.3 million in funding, is certainly ambitious, with the founders promising that “in a world where every person uses Superlocal, people will feel a deeper sense of community, belonging, and connection to the local businesses that make up their communities.”