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TikTok Scales Back Live-Stream Commerce Ambitions, Which Could Be a Big Blow for the App

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TikTok Expands Test of Downvotes for Video Replies, Adds New Prompts to Highlight its Safety Tools

TikTok’s facing a significant reassessment in its business expansion plans, with the company forced to scale back its live eCommerce initiative in Europe and the US due to operational challenges and lack of consumer interest.

TikTok has been working to integrate live-stream shopping after seeing major success with the option in the Chinese version of the app. But its initial efforts in the UK have been hampered by various problems.

As reported by The Financial Times:

“TikTok had planned to launch the feature in Germany, France, Italy and Spain in the first half of this year, before expanding into the US later in 2022, according to several people briefed on the matter. But the expansion plans have been dropped after the UK project failed to meet targets and influencers dropped out of the scheme, three people said.”

TikTok has since refuted some of FT’s claims, saying that the reported timeline for its commerce push is incorrect, and that it’s focused on fixing problems with its UK operation before expanding, which is still in its roadmap. But the basis – that its program is not going as smoothly as planned – is correct. 

TikTok’s UK shopping push has also faced internal problems due to conflicts over working culture and management.

Last month, reports surfaced that TikTok’s parent company ByteDance had been imposing tough conditions on its UK commerce staff, including regular 12-hour days, improbable sales targets, and questions over entitlements.

Now, it seems like the combination of challenges has led to a new growth dilemma for the app – which once again underlines the variance between Asian and western app usage trends.

Social media and messaging apps have become a central element of day-to-day life in several Asian countries, with apps like China’s WeChat and QQ now used for everything from purchasing train tickets to paying bills, to buying groceries, banking, and everything in between.

That spells opportunity for western social media providers, with Meta, in particular, looking to use the Chinese model as a template to help it translate the popularity of WhatsApp and Messenger into even more ubiquitous, more valuable functionality, which could then make them critical connective tools in various markets, solidifying Meta’s market presence.

But for various reasons, Chinese messaging trends have never translated to other markets.

Meta’s Messenger Bots push in 2016 failed to gain traction, and after its Messenger app became ‘too cluttered’ with an ever-expanding range of functionalities, including games, shopping, Stories, and more, Meta eventually scaled back its messaging expansion plans, in favor of keeping the app aligned with its core use case.

Meta then turned to WhatsApp, and making messaging a more critical process in developing markets like India and Indonesia. That expansion is still ongoing, but the signs, at present, don’t suggest that WhatsApp will ever reach the same level of ubiquity that Chinese messaging apps have.

Which then leads to TikTok, the world-beating short-form video app, which has seen massive growth in China, leading to whole new business opportunities, and even market sectors, based on how Chinese users have adapted to in-app commerce.

The Chinese version of TikTok, called ‘Douyin’, generated $119 billion worth of product sales via live broadcasts in 2021, an 7x increase year-over-year, while the number of users engaging with eCommerce live-streams exceeded 384 million, close to half of the platform’s user base.

Overall, the Chinese live-stream commerce sector brought in over $300 billion in 2021. For comparison, the entire US retail eCommerce market reached $767 billion last year.

Given this, you can see why TikTok would view this as a key opportunity in other markets as well – but as noted, Chinese market trends are not always a great proxy for other regions.

The decision to scale back its eCommerce ambitions is a significant blow to TikTok’s expansion plans, not only from a broader revenue perspective (and worth noting, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance recently cut staff due to ongoing revenue pressures), but also in regards to revenue share, and providing a pathway for creators to make money from their efforts in the app.

Unlike YouTube, TikTok clips are too short to add mid and pre-roll ads, which means that creators can’t simply switch on ads to make money from their content. That means that they need to organize brand partnerships to generate income, and on Douyin, in-stream commerce has become the key pathway to exactly that.

Without in-stream product integrations as an option, that will significantly limit creator earnings capacity in the app, which could eventually see them switch focus to other platforms, where they can more effectively monetize their output.

Which may not seem like a major risk, but that’s exact what killed Vine, when Vine creators called for a bigger share of the app’s revenue, then switched to Instagram and YouTube instead when Vine’s parent company Twitter refused to provide such.

Could TikTok eventually face a similar fate?

TikTok, of course, is much bigger than Vine ever was, and is still growing. But limited monetization opportunities could end up being a big challenge for the app – while it also continues to face scrutiny over its impact on youngsters, and the potential for it to be used as a surveillance tool by the Chinese Government.

In isolation, it may not seem like a major move, scaling back its eCommerce ambitions just slightly as it reassesses the best approach. But it’s a significant shift, which will slow down TikTok’s broader expansion. And it could end up hurting the app more than you, initially, would think.

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Moore Digital Names Two Executives To Serve Nonprofit Fundraisers 02/07/2023

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Moore Digital Names Two Executives To Serve Nonprofit Fundraisers 02/07/2023

Moore Digital, which assists nonprofit clients with fundraising, has named Adva Priso as chief strategy officer and Bonnie Huey as senior vice president of
digital media.

They are joining a team of “more than 70 top digital experts from across the for-profit and nonprofit industries, including strategists,
media planners and …



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Pinterest Now up to 450 Million Active Users, Posts Solid Numbers in Latest Performance Report

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Pinterest Now up to 450 Million Active Users, Posts Solid Numbers in Latest Performance Report

Pinterest has posted its Q4 and full-year earnings for 2022, showing steady increases in both users and revenue, as it continues to build out its various offerings.

First off, on users, Pinterest added five million more active users – most of them coming from Europe – within the final measurement period of last year.

That’s a good sign for Pinterest, which actually lost users in early 2021, after the COVID-induced boom in eCommerce activity of the previous year, which saw the platform post record high usage numbers.

Many analysts and businesses seemed convinced that the COVID boost to online shopping would hold, even after the pandemic ended. That lead to companies like Meta, Google, Amazon and Twitter investing big into commerce solutions – but many of the staff they put on were eventually culled in the most recent round of lay-offs, because once physical stores re-opened, people actually did go back to shopping as normal, as opposed to continuing to rely on online options.

Pinterest felt that the most, but now, it’s steadily building back up again, as it continues to refine its solutions around evolving shopping behaviors. Which includes video content.

Pinterest’s big winner on this front has been Idea Pins, its Stories-like option which presents uploaded video in a swipeable, full-screen display.

Pinterest Ideas Festival updates

The emphasis on this format has helped boost the platform’s appeal with younger audiences, with Pinterest reporting that Gen Z was the fastest-growing demographic on the platform, increasing double digits year over year.

“Gen Z sessions grew much faster year over year than sessions from older demographics, while nearly half of all new videos pinned in Q4 were from Gen Z users.”

Pinterest also says that sessions continued to grow faster than MAUs, an indicator that it’s driving better engagement overall, while it also increased its overall video supply by 30%, another marker of the popularity of Idea Pins.

Because you can’t post video as a native pin anymore, only in Idea Pins (or paid ads), underlining the focus on the format, and Pinterest’s evolving usage.  

On the revenue front, Pinterest posted a 4% year-over-year increase, after bringing in $877 million Q4.

Pinterest Q4 2022

As you can see in this chart, Pinterest’s revenue is climbing steadily, though its revenue splits remain concerning:

Pinterest Q4 2022

Or maybe you see this as an opportunity, with Pinterest still able to potentially eek out a lot more revenue from regions outside of the North American market. Definitely, it’s got some work to do in that ‘Rest of World’ bracket.

But Pinterest is still developing, and is still expanding its ad and business offerings into new regions. So there is, indeed, potential there – yet the size of the gap here is a concern.

Still, there is growth, slowly but surely, and maybe, if you’re a believer, you can see more ways for Pinterest to generate much bigger revenues moving forward.

Pinterest remains focused on shopping, and highlighting relevant products to users, with its ever-evolving recommendation engine providing better content matches to more users every day. It’s also investing in live-stream shopping, a trend that all platforms hope will catch on in western markets, while it’s developing more presentation tools for Idea Pins to capitalize on that engagement.

In combination, these approaches are working – but at the same time, usage growth in your local market may have stalled, going on these charts.

And of course, while overall growth is interesting, what marketers want to know is whether their customers are there.

For this, you can use Pinterest Trends, which enables you to search for the most popular Pin trends by region.

Pinterest Trends

Tap into these with Idea Pins and you’ll likely be on the right path, based on these latest insights from the app.

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These Guys Are Stupid, And I'm Being Charitable

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These Guys Are Stupid, And I'm Being Charitable

Why do some organizations still solicit funds the way they did in the 1960s? You need to take a smarter marketing approach, or you’ll waste money like they do. I’m still getting about two bucks a month in cash from stupid, misguided charities that insist on sending me actual money in the mail. I get …

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