TikTok is a video-sharing platform that specializes in short-form mobile video. While Meta, the parent company behind Facebook and Instagram, has been the biggest player in the social network arena for years, the giant is losing engagement to TikTok. Facing mounting pressure, Meta is fighting back. Will it be enough?
What makes TikTok unique?
Unlike other video platforms such as YouTube, TikTok encourages users to interact and engage with other users’ content. For instance, a user can use another person’s audio, duet another video side-by-side, and reply to others by “stitching” their content with a video response. This has created a collaborative community. TikTok has acted as a launchpad for many musical artists and the next generation of social media influencers.
The platform’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, especially with Gen Z and Millennials. TikTok is known for its meme culture, collaboration, dancing videos, challenges, and comedy sketches. Users also like the platform’s “for you” page, a highly personalized feed of content from across the platform thanks to the company’s advanced algorithms. Because of the way the algorithm works, every user has a chance at going viral without having to build a following first.
Facebook supports creators with revenue sharing
In its latest move to compete with TikTok, Facebook will allow content creators to earn money from videos with licensed music. The revenue split enables creators to receive 20 percent of the revenue earned through in-stream ads on their 60-second videos that use music from the company’s licensed music library. The songs’ rights holders will take another slice of the pie with Meta taking the rest. While many creators like guaranteed revenue-split arrangements such as this, other platforms, such as YouTube, offer creators a greater share of the revenue.
Facebook has higher standards for creators to earn revenue than TikTok. For example, for creators to be eligible to earn from in-stream ads for on-demand videos, creators must have at least 10,000 followers and 600,000 views during a 60-day period. TikTok has the same follower requirement but only calls for 100,000 video views during a 30-day period.
It seems Facebook’s strategy is to drive traffic to its platform by first attracting individuals that can attract an audience (i.e., content creators). Meta, Facebook’s parent company and the company behind Instagram, says it is reallocating resources to support the creator economy.
Meta is criticized for copying TikTok
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that Instagram Reels (its TikTok-like video feature) is the company’s fastest-growing format. When the feature was launched in 2020, the company offered TikTok creators monetary incentives to use it. After a successful launch, Facebook introduced its own version of Reels.
Meta has also been criticized for copying TikTok’s approach to the home feed. Originally, Facebook users only saw posts from people and pages they followed. Over time, this changed to include posts from recommended pages. Now, Facebook says it will dive deeper into this approach, relying on artificial intelligence to recommend content for its users.
Many users, it seems, are unhappy with the change. More than 200,000 Instagram users (and counting) signed a Change.org petition urging Instagram to stop trying to be like TikTok. The campaign was launched by influencer and photographer Tati Bruening (@illumitati) and was later shared by celebrity Kylie Jenner who has more than 360 million Instagram followers.
While many criticize Meta’s approach to combatting TikTok, it’s hard to ignore the rise in short-form video. Additionally, the way people use social media has changed over time. In social media’s early years, social networking was a way for people to find friends and stay in touch with their direct connections, but more and more social media has become a way for people to engage with strangers, discover new content, learn new skills, gain knowledge, find inspiration, and more. Facebook and Instagram have struggled to stay relevant to younger users, and its user base is aging.
As Facebook and Instagram grapple with reduced engagement, it’s clear something has to change. In February 2022, Facebook’s total user base declined for the first time in 17 years. While the decline could be a small blip in Meta’s timeline, it could also represent a cultural shift and an indicator of things to come.
In the Classroom
This article can be used to discuss social networks (Chapter 13: Digital Marketing and Social Media).
What is TikTok?
Why do you think TikTok is more popular than other social networks with younger users? How do you think Meta can drive engagement with this audience?
Do you think it’s more important for Meta to retain existing users or attract new users? Explain.
This article was developed with the support of Kelsey Reddick for and under the direction of O.C. Ferrell, Linda Ferrell, and Geoff Hirt.
Andrew Hutchinson, "Instagram Users Call for the App to Stop Trying to Be Like TikTok, with Kylie Jenner Joining the Push," Social Media Today, July 25, 2022, https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/instagram-users-call-for-the-app-to-stop-trying-to-be-like-tiktok-with-kyl/628074/
Sarah Donaldson, "Meta to Let Facebook Creators Earn Money for Videos with Music," The Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/meta-to-let-facebook-creators-earn-money-for-videos-with-music-11658762053
Shirin Ghaffary, "Facebook Is Shrinking," Vox, February 2, 2022, https://www.vox.com/recode/2022/2/2/22915110/facebook-meta-user-growth-decline-first-time-metaverse-mark-zuckerberg-tiktok-competition-earnings