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Can Google (yes, Google) save social media in 2020?

Is there a “good” social network? If so, which one?

If not, what’s the way forward in 2020 for companies and brands to leverage the social internet to connect with and serve customers?

As social networking grows increasingly sour, maybe the only “good” social network is no social network.

The social media-using public (which numbers somewhere between two and four billion people, depending on whom you ask) is divided up into dozens or even hundreds of impenetrable walled gardens. Users who use Twitter exclusively are blind to what’s happening on Facebook. Facebook-only users have no idea what’s going on with TikTok. And so on with dozens of social sites.

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Brands seeking to connect with consumers are stymied by sites like Facebook, which sever that connection through algorithmic control of News Feeds. Pay through the nose, and you might reach a low two-digit percentage of the customers who followed your Page to stay in touch. Fail to pay, and you could be looking at a less-than-two-percent access rate.

Maintaining a productive social presence is getting increasingly problematic.

The problem with Facebook and Twitter

Facebook’s growth appears to have plateaued or declined in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Twitter reported even bigger declines this year. Bots, many of which are state-sponsored and exist for using disinformation for causing social division, continue to plague social sites like Twitter, despite huge effort by the company to eliminate them. Facebook recently removed 583 million fake accounts that, until the removal, were engaging as and with real users.

Social media is partly blamed for growing political division and social strife, and the problem is getting so bad that brands need to increasingly wonder if social sites are a “bad neighborhood” they don’t really want to be associated with.

The one “bright spot” for social user growth is TikTok, which (after spending a billion dollars on mostly Facebook and Instagram advertising) is alone in marking meteoric user growth. The social network, called the second coming of Vine, involves 15-second algorithmically sorted videos with user comments at the bottom. TikTok algorithms favor memes, music-related videos and frivolous-but-addictive videos that emphasize body-language communication and humor.