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5 apps challenging the social networking paradigm… and what they can teach you

Just over a year ago, Musical.ly hit number one in the app store.

When apps like this break out and pull in millions of new users, other businesses are forced to take note and competitors must adapt. And the slower-moving giants like Facebook and Tinder can’t stop the small guys from turning up the competitive heat. Many of these new apps/companies are created by millennials and cater to a generation that’s grown tired of the same old social networks.

The social networking mobile app scene is already bursting at the seams, so when a new success shows up, businesses must pay attention or be left behind.


Some more serious people have grown exhausted by Tinder’s seemingly infinite swiping that never leads anywhere (or perhaps anywhere serious). The Once app presents itself as a more mature and intimate version of Tinder: Instead of a complicated algorithm, Once uses actual humans to match people and sends them a potential match every day at noon.

It’s not quite as serious as something like Match.com, but isn’t as flippant as Tinder either — it falls somewhere in the middle. Once fits easily into the lives of busy single adults and stays top of mind with a daily notification. Because there’s little spam and matches are premeditated, the app makes itself naturally more valuable to its users than the alternatives.

How it’s affecting the market: The 3 million users on Once represent a shift in the way apps are being used when it comes to personal connections – it pairs the technological element of deepening the dating pool with a human element of intuition of matchmaking. And, by identifying a hole in the current market, albeit a small one, Once is able to carve out a sizable niche for itself.


When Musical.ly first launched in 2014, it wasn’t an overnight success; in fact, it was just about to shut down when its “break out” happened. After they made sure their logo was displayed on all their videos, no matter the network it was being shared in, the app took off.

Today, more than 10 million people use the app to add cool effects to videos, like lip syncing to music, adding music to a dance video, slow motion effects and others. Over 80 million people have now registered as Musical.ly users, and it’s still growing.

But, Musical.ly isn’t just a lip-syncing app; it has a deep social aspect to it that encourages engagement with its users very effectively. As it turns out, that’s what their whole business model revolves around — engaging their users. Comedians have shared things like short comedy skits, bands have launched premier songs on the platform, and entertainers have released performances, all to increase their professional popularity. Many of those creators have seen success over the platform.

How it’s affecting the market: Very few could have predicted an app like Musical.ly would take off so explosively because its initial offering wasn’t really anything special. However, after Musical.ly began their laser focus on engaging their current users, the app quickly started making an impact in the social media space. Businesses should take note that engagement isn’t something any app can ignore.


Flipagram makes adding music to a video painless. After you’ve filmed something and touched it up with music, you can share it to Instagram, its own network, or anywhere else you want.

The app makes sure the music made have available is licensed and legal to use, which is especially nice for free downloads. The creators of this app saw an opportunity to capture a missing element in a thriving market that many app users desired, and Flipagram is capitalizing off of it.

How it’s affecting the market: Likely, this app will be bought by Instagram or Facebook at some point, but it’s already shown the business world that if people want it, someone will build it. Ancillary products and services can be big business if the core audience is big enough. And, for Facebook and Instagram, the critical audience mass is definitely there.


Slack roared onto the enterprise scene and has captured a massive market share for its slick messaging platform. With mobile integration, it allows teams to collaborate far more effectively than email alone. But, there are sometimes still a need to jump on the phone or a video teleconference, which Slack doesn’t really handle. Enter FreshTeam — they’ve stepped in as a heavyweight competitor that lets you see your teammates live on a map, instantly create and join conference calls, and all kinds of other time-saving tools.

FreshTeam capitalizes on our “always mobile, always on” world. You can tell they made their app with one goal in mind – to make communication as easy as possible from your phone. So while Slack does offer some great tools for team communications, FreshTeam took it a step further to integrate every service and feature you could possibly need to work together.

How it’s affecting the market: FreshTeam is teaching businesses that efficiency and comprehensiveness aren’t something you can ignore. Every hard-working adult is tired of aggravating dial-in numbers, having to use multiple apps to communicate, or constantly asking for addresses — FreshTeam is more than happy to supply an alternative.


As the leading voice blog app, Bubbly exists in a unique space to allow users to record their voice and share it with friends and followers. 

Although it has been around for more than 10 years now, the ongoing success of Bubbly makes sense with the resurgence of podcasts in the last few years. One tap and you’re recording your voice and adding any audio effects you want. Bubbly also lets you share the audio clips over email or whatever social channel you choose. You can find big celebrity names and their audio clips on Bubbly as well; why read a status when you can listen to it?

Along the same lines as listening to podcasts, after users of Bubbly find their favorite celebrities, they follow the voice blogs they release and come back for more over time.

How it’s affecting the market: This app appeals heavily to two kinds of people: those who enjoy listening to others talk while doing something else and those who want to create a story but don’t like video creators like Snapchat. There’s a surprisingly large market for this that very few apps are taking advantage of. Just because Snapchat exists, doesn’t mean there’s no space for other story-creation apps – as Bubbly has shown us.  

The number of people abandoning apps on their phone’s home screen each day is growing. And more apps are fighting for attention from users than ever before. With more than 1,000 apps being produced a day, the chance of failing in this space is astronomical. New social networking apps are disrupting the big names out there, and apps like Musical.ly will be disrupting the market more and more. If you think we missed an awesome app from this list, let us know and we’ll update it!


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Jeff Francis

Jeff Francis is a veteran entrepreneur and founder of Dallas-based digital product studio ENO8. Jeff founded ENO8 to empower companies of all sizes to design, develop and deliver innovative, impactful digital products. With more than 18 years working with early-stage startups, Jeff has a passion for creating and growing new businesses from the ground up, and has honed a unique ability to assist companies with aligning their technology product initiatives with real business outcomes.

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