Despite every effort to steal its thunder, by replicating its features, and diluting the ‘uniqueness’ of the app, Meta just can’t seem to slow TikTok’s growth.
As per the latest app rankings data from Sensor Tower, TikTok was once again the most downloaded app in Q1 2022, beating out a phalanx of Meta-owned apps.
To be clear, Meta’s apps remain hugely popular, while the continued interest in Shopee highlights the expanding eCommerce market. But TikTok downloads are still rising, which would be a source of frustration for Meta’s team.
As you can see in the chart listings, CapCut, which is essentially a video editing tool for TikTok, also owned by ByteDance, has also held its place in the top downloads chart, following on from last quarter, which further underlines TikTok’s ongoing growth momentum. Which, again, would infuriate Zuck and Co. no end, because while they only ever seem to be talking about the metaverse these days, and looking towards the future of the web, at least part of that future focus has come about because it’s losing the present battle, with Facebook user numbers slowing and Instagram not providing an official update on its user count for years.
What’s more, a look at the consumer spend chart further highlights TikTok’s strength.
An important proviso here is that TikTok’s numbers also include consumer spend on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, which contributes around 60% of its overall revenue. But even with that in mind, TikTok had a record quarter for in-app spending, reaching $840 million in Q1, as per insights from data.ai.
Importantly, data.ai also notes that US spending in TikTok increased 125% quarter-over-quarter, showing that US users are indeed looking to spend more in the app, a positive sign for its evolving eCommerce plans. That could present significant opportunities, which would make TikTok an even bigger problem for Meta, at least in a competitive spend sense.
It’s difficult to predict, then, how the social commerce race plays out, with Meta also looking to make in-app spending a bigger element of both Facebook and Instagram.
Just this week, Instagram took another step towards leaning into product tags as a bigger revenue consideration for creators, by removing in-stream video ads as a placement option. The eventual progression will likely see Instagram make a bigger push to encourage more in-stream product discovery and purchase activity, which again seems like a move designed to blunt TikTok’s momentum in the same space.
But TikTok just keeps growing. As per data.ai:
“We forecast that TikTok would surpass the 1.5 billion MAU milestone in 2022, and after just 1 quarter in 2022, TikTok has indeed shattered that prediction. Not only does TikTok have a growing user base, the app has fostered deep engagement – with global users outside of China spending 19.6 hours per month on average in the app during 2021.”
TikTok’s growth is unprecedented, and its addictive ‘For You’ feed just keeps drawing more and more people in. It’s already one of the biggest social media apps in the world, and it looks set to become the clear second leading platform by the end of the year, as per App Annie’s prediction.
For clarity, Instagram is rumored to have around 2 billion total users at present, as per recent reportage, but Instagram and Meta have not officially confirmed this stat. That means TikTok could possibly have already surpassed Instagram usage, and is now inching slowly closer to Facebook itself.
Now you know why Meta’s so keen on looking towards the next digital plain.
It’s amazing to consider how significant TikTok has become, as it continues to expand into new markets. There are still concerns around its Chinese ownership, and the potential obligations that it has in regards to sharing user data with the CCP. That remains a key risk for the platform, especially as China takes a more aggressive stance on world issues. But all the signs suggest that TikTok is the platform of the moment, and where more and more people are spending more and more of their time.
The only other key challenge is effective monetization, and ensuring that TikTok stars get adequately paid for their efforts. That’s where eCommerce comes in, but it remains to be seen whether TikTok can translate its eCommerce and subscription type tools into an effective monetization pathway, comparable to YouTube and Facebook.
There is still a chance it could lose out on this front, but right now, TikTok remains the focal point for the current generation of web users.
Elon Musk Outlines New, Alternate Color Checkmarks to Clarify Verification
Elon Musk has revealed more details of the coming revamp of Twitter’s $8 verification program, which was initially launched three weeks back, but then pulled from live production due to a raft of impersonations which caused significant confusion in the app.
Those impersonations also led to stock price dips, corporate apologies, misreporting – the $8 verification plan, while only available to some users, for a short amount of time, immediately caused significant issues for Twitter and it’s as partners.
So Elon and Co. took it back, in order to revise and re-shape the program in a more brand-safe, user-friendly way.
And now, Musk has revealed more details as to exactly how the updated $8 verification plan will work.
First, to limit the potential of misrepresentation of corporate and government accounts, Musk says that those profiles will now get a different colored checkmark, which will ensure that people can’t just buy a blue tick and then pretend to be Coca-Cola for example.
As per Musk:
“Gold check for companies, gray check for government, blue for individuals (celebrity or not)”
It’s a sensible move, which will avoid similar incidents like this tweet from an $8 verified account, which tanked Eli Lilly’s stock price.
The updated gold checkmark will ideally limit the potential for future users to do the same, because they won’t be able to buy the official gold tick – though there will be a period of adjustment and education on such for users.
The alternate checkmarks will also likely kill off Twitter’s new gray ‘Official’ tick, which looks pretty ridiculous.
Of course, the new variations of checkmarks do also add the potential problem of another elusive marker that people will be trying to get. But we’ll cross that extra complication when we come to it.
Another concern with this approach is that it’ll require manual checking, as Twitter can’t know for sure that it’s a brand or government account without some kind of confirmation.
Initially, Twitter has thus far opted to avoid any kind of manual confirmation in this new process, due to the additional labor requirement, but now, Musk says that this will be integrated into the updated process:
“All verified accounts will be manually authenticated before check activates. Painful, but necessary.”
How Musk and Co. do that with any level of efficiency, with 65% less staff, I don’t know, but it seems like they’re going to at least try to find a way to check each $8 subscriber before approving their blue tick.
Musk also noted last week that any change in user name will result in a blue tick being deactivated till Twitter approves the new name.
So, like, a lot of manual monitoring, with a lot less staff.
Also, for the traditional blue checkmarks, there’ll be no differentiation between those who’ve been given the marker, and those who’ve paid for it:
“All verified individual humans will have same blue check, as boundary of what constitutes ‘notable’ is otherwise too subjective.”
Which is true – there are a lot of blue checkmarks on random accounts, and it has been a confused system. But at the same time, there are also a lot of high-profile individuals who could be at risk of impersonation under this system – which, incidentally, is why the blue ticks were introduced in the first place (in 2009, an MLB star sued Twitter for allowing a scammer to use his likeness to dupe people in the app).
There’s also this:
“Individuals can have secondary tiny logo showing they belong to an org if verified as such by that org.”
So an additional qualifier for spokespeople, CEOs and journalists, as another measure to avoid impersonation.
The updated elements will certainly lessen the scope for scam activity, but still, they do also introduce a level of risk, and at the same time, the scheme itself is unlikely to work out as Musk hopes.
The revamp of Twitter’s verification program is Elon’s first grand plan to save the app (aside from cutting costs), by giving users access to one of the most in-demand in-app features – the elusive blue checkmark.
Charging for verification could theoretically kill two birds with one stone, in verifying real humans (while making it cost-prohibitive to crate bot accounts) while also providing a direct revenue stream, thereby reducing the company’s reliance in ads. People want the blue tick, now they can get it, while Musk has also sought to amplify the cultural divide element, by presenting this as a way to even the field, and enable all users to get what only celebrities have thus far been able to access.
Initially, Musk was set to charge $20 per month for this service, but after an argument with the author of ‘Misery’, he reduced this to $8 per month.
In Musk’s view, this is a good deal, because who doesn’t have an extra $8 to spend?
He’s since sought to establish this as the norm, repeatedly telling his critics to ‘now pay $8’, as if it’s a forgone conclusion that people will indeed pay.
But they won’t, and history shows that there’s almost no chance that Musk’s paid verification scheme will actually work as intended.
Take, for example, Twitter Blue, which provides Twitter users with a raft of additional features, which was initially available for $3 per month.
Twitter Blue never saw much take-up, peaking at 100k subscribers, with even the addition of tweet editing, the most requested feature in social media history, failing to shift the needle in any significant way.
Given this, it’s difficult to see Musk’s new, $8 verification getting the number of sign ups he’d need to achieve his aims for the option.
- If Elon wants to get subscriptions to contribute 50% of Twitter’s revenue, as he’s previously stated, he’ll need 24.6 million users to sign on to pay $8 per month for a blue tick
- If he wants to use this as a means to verify all the humans, so that only bot accounts are the ones that don’t have a blue tick, you’d think he’d be looking at upwards of 75% of Twitter’s user base, or around 178 million users paying each month
- Twitter’s likely to actually lose around $6 per US user, per month, for each person that signs up to the new $8 Twitter Blue scheme, due to Musk’s plan to show Blue subscribers ‘half the ads’. Factoring in App Store fees from the monthly $8 payment, it could actually be a difficult balance from a revenue standpoint, with Twitter potentially even losing money on the deal, if it does end up cutting ad exposure
- The majority of Twitter users are outside the US, where $8 per month could be a lot more cost-prohibitive. This is especially true in India, where most of Twitter’s growth has come from over the past three years. India now has 18.8m users making it Twitter’s third biggest audience market, and while Musk has also flagged variable pricing by region, even $1 per month could be too high for developing markets
Essentially, there’s no precedent to suggest that enough users will sign up to Elon’s $8 per month checkmark plan to make it worthwhile for the company to run, as either a revenue or verification pathway. Just 0.41% of Snapchat users pay for Snapchat+, a fraction of LinkedIn users pony up for Premium, while Meta concluded long ago that charging users was no where near as lucrative as serving a bigger audience more ads.
These new measures do counter some of the issues that the initial version of Musk’s $8 verification program introduced, but then again, they could also avoid them entirely by revising the current blue check system, as opposed to simply letting people pay for the marker.
But regardless, Musk is determined to push ahead, and find out for himself either way
Musk says the updated $8 verification plan will launch on Friday next week (12/2).