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Social Commerce May Not be the Trend That Many Had Hoped – Which is Bad News for TikTok

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Social Commerce May Not be the Trend That Many Had Hoped - Which is Bad News for TikTok

Will social commerce ever catch on in western nations, and become the big money maker that it has in some Asian markets?

It’s a key question, particularly for TikTok, which isn’t able to directly monetize content through in-stream ads like other video apps. On the Chinese version of TikTok (Douyin), in-stream commerce has become its biggest income stream, with live commerce, in particular, generating big dollars for the app and its creative talent.

But thus far, users in the US and Europe haven’t shown much interest in buying on social apps, so much so that Meta has now opted to shut down its live commerce initiative on Facebook, as well as its affiliate product tagging option on Instagram.

Originally launched in June last year, Instagram’s native affiliate program currently enables eligible creators to discover new products that are available for purchase in the app, then share those products with their followers, via dedicated shopping tags. Creators then earn a commission for any subsequent purchases that they’re able to drive from their content.

It seems like a good supplementary income stream for IG creators – but again, like all in-stream shopping options, it hasn’t really caught on as Meta would have hoped.

As reported by Digiday:

“The program [has] struggled to gain adoption among creators, according to the creator industry executives. Specifically, the program involved too many steps for creators to get set up, and once a creator participated in the program, they were no longer able to tag products that were not included in the program in posts on Instagram.

So it’s not as directly attributable as in-stream shopping, in general, not catching on, as there are other complications noted here. But you can bet that if Instagram was making money from it, it wouldn’t be shutting it down, which goes the same for live shopping on Facebook (live shopping on Instagram, however, will continue to be developed).

Which is bad for Meta, and its own commerce ambitions, which it had hoped would enable it to build on the pandemic-led eCommerce boom and establish both Facebook and Instagram as more all-encompassing discovery, recommendation and shopping platforms, in addition to their social and entertainment elements.

Indeed, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri recently addressed the lack of enthusiasm for in-stream shopping tools, explaining that:

 “Many companies assumed that the swells and business they saw when the pandemic hit were an acceleration of existing trends that would have staying power. In practice it seems like almost all these trends reverted to pre-pandemic trend-lines.”

But again, this is even worse for TikTok, which is largely reliant on in-stream commerce becoming a thing in order to truly maximize its revenue potential, while also keeping its top talent aligned to the app.

TikTok too has had to scale back its eCommerce plans, with its initial push into live commerce seeing poor response in Europe, forcing it to delay its expanded rollout plans. That’s a big blow – because at the same time, more and more TikTok creators are sounding the alarm about the low payments that they’re increasingly seeing from the platform’s Creator Fund, its key, direct monetization pathway, which is subsequently seeing more and more of them spend more time creating for YouTube and IG instead, where they can make real money, without having to organize their own third-party affiliate deals.

That, eventually, could become a bigger threat to TikTok’s current dominance, while others have also noted that the app isn’t really designed to help creators build an audience, as such, as the broader content focus is more about uncovering the latest, trending posts, from anybody, as opposed to driving users to follow specific creators and accounts.

In-stream commerce is supposed to be the big thing that enables its top stars to make money directly from the app. But if users aren’t interested, and creators aren’t taking it up, as many Chinese stars have, that could be the start of a downward trend for the app, as more of them then spend their time building their audiences elsewhere.

It’s not a problem as yet. TikTok is still growing, and its addictive ‘For You’ feed continues to lure more users back to the app more often.

But what if its top stars begin posting exclusively to YouTube, and YouTube Shorts instead? What if YouTube offers them exclusive contracts, pulling their content out of the app – what if TikTok is no longer to hive of the latest, greatest trending content anymore, because people can make more money elsewhere?

It seems unlikely that TikTok’s going to lose enough momentum for that to be a real issue, with projections that it’ll soon hit 1.5 billion active users. But it does feel like an inflection point is coming, where TikTok will either need to provide another revenue pathway for its stars, or it’s usage will start to plateau, then decline slowly over time.

Maybe we’re too addicted to short-form video now for that to happen. But if the next viral, short-form trend originates from Instagram or YouTube, I’d be taking note.

It’s not going to be a sudden decline, but like Vine before it, if TikTok fails to take care of its top talent, they will start looking elsewhere.



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The Most Visited Websites in the World – 2023 Edition [Infographic]

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The Most Visited Websites in the World - 2023 Edition [Infographic]

Google remains the most-visited website in the world, while Facebook is still the most frequented social platform, based on web traffic. Well, actually, YouTube is, but YouTube’s only a partial social app, right?

The findings are displayed in this new visualization from Visual Capitalist, which uses SimilarWeb data to show the most visited websites in bubble chart format, highlighting the variance in traffic.

As you can see, following Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the next most visited social platforms, which is likely in line with what most would expect – though the low numbers for TikTok probably stand out, given its dominance of modern media zeitgeist.

But there is a reason for that – this data is based on website visits, not app usage, so platforms like TikTok and Snapchat, which are primarily focused on the in-app experience, won’t fare as well in this particular overview.

In that sense, it’s interesting to see which social platforms are engaging audiences via their desktop offerings.

You can check out the full overview below, and you can read Visual Capitalist’s full explainer here.

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Cheeky branding wins (and missteps)

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Cheeky branding wins (and missteps)

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Branding and rebranding is getting more fun, here we look at some of cheekiest brands that have caught our eye – for the right and wrong reasons.



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Google Outlines Ongoing Efforts to Combat China-Based Influence Operations Targeting Social Apps

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Google Outlines Ongoing Efforts to Combat China-Based Influence Operations Targeting Social Apps

Over the past year, Google has repeatedly noted that a China-based group has been looking to use YouTube, in particular, to influence western audiences, by building various channels in the app, then seeding them with pro-China content.

There’s limited info available on the full origins or intentions of the group, but today, Google has published a new overview of its ongoing efforts to combat the initiative, called DRAGONBRIDGE.

As explained by Google:

In 2022, Google disrupted over 50,000 instances of DRAGONBRIDGE activity across YouTube, Blogger, and AdSense, reflecting our continued focus on this actor and success in scaling our detection efforts across Google products. We have terminated over 100,000 DRAGONBRIDGE accounts in the IO network’s lifetime.

As you can see in this chart, DRAGONBRIDGE is by far the most prolific source of coordinated information operations that Google has detected over the past year, while Google also notes that it’s been able to disrupt most of the project’s attempted influence, by snuffing out its content before it gets seen.

Dragonbridge

Worth noting the scale too – as Google notes, DRAGONBRIDGE has created more than 100,000 accounts, which includes tens of thousands of YouTube channels. Not individual videos, entire channels in the app, which is a huge amount of work, and content, that this group is producing.

That can’t be cheap, or easy to keep running. So they must be doing it for a reason.

The broader implication, which has been noted by various other publications and analysts, is that DRAGONBRIDGE is potentially being supported by the Chinese Government, as part of a broader effort to influence foreign policy approaches via social media apps. 

Which, at this kind of scale, is a concern, while DRAGONBRIDGE has also targeted Facebook and Twitter as well, at different times, and it could be that their efforts on those platforms are also reaching similar activity levels, and may not have been detected as yet.

Which then also relates to TikTok, a Chinese-owned app that now has massive influence over younger audiences in western nations. If programs like this are already in effect, it stands to reason that TikTok is also likely a key candidate for boosting the same, which remains a key concern among regulators and officials in many nations.

The US Government is reportedly weighing a full TikTok ban, and if that happens, you can bet that many other nations will follow suit. Many government organizations are also banning TikTok on official devices, based on advice from security experts, and with programs like DRAGONBRIDGE also running, it does seem like Chinese-based groups are actively operating influence and manipulation programs in foreign nations.

Which seems like a significant issue, and while Google is seemingly catching most of these channels before they have an impact, it also seems likely that this is only one element of a larger push.

Hopefully, through collective action, the impact of such can be limited – but for TikTok, which still reports to Chinese ownership, it’s another element that could raise further questions and scrutiny.

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