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Zuckerberg misunderstands the huge threat of TikTok

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“It’s almost like the Explore Tab that we have on Instagram,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in leaked audio of him describing TikTok during an all-hands meeting. But it’s not. TikTok represents a new form of social entertainment that’s vastly different from the lifelogging of Instagram where you can just take a selfie, show something pretty or pan around what you’re up to. TikToks are premeditated, storyboarded and vastly different than the haphazard Stories on Insta.

That’s why Zuckerberg’s comments cast a dark shadow over the future of the Facebook family of apps. How can it beat what it doesn’t understand? He certainly can’t ignore it. Facebook’s copycat Lasso has been installed just 425,000 times since it launched in November, while TikTok has 640 million installs in the same period outside of China. Oh, and TikTok has 1.4 billion total installs beyond China to date.

TikTok Screenshots

Casey Newton of The Verge today published two hours of audio and transcripts from two internal-only all-hands Q&As held by Zuckerberg at Facebook in July. His comments touch on the company’s plan to fight being broken up by regulators, especially if Elizabeth Warren becomes president. He thinks Facebook would win, but on resorting to suing the government, he says “does that still suck for us? Yeah.” Zuckerberg also describes how Facebook is working to launch a payments product in Mexico and elsewhere by year’s end as Libra deals with regulatory scrutiny.

But beyond his comments on regulation, it’s his pigeonholing of TikTok that’s most alarming. It foreshadows Facebook failing to win one of the core social feeds that its business depends on. Perhaps his perspective on the competitor is evolving, but the leak portrays him as thinking TikTok is just the next Snapchat Stories to destroy.

Zuckeberg’s thoughts on TikTok

Here’s what Zuckerberg said about TikTok during the internal Q&A sessions, (emphasis mine):

So yeah. I mean, TikTok is doing well. One of the things that’s especially notable about TikTok is, for a while, the internet landscape was kind of a bunch of internet companies that were primarily American companies. And then there was this parallel universe of Chinese companies that pretty much only were offering their services in China. And we had Tencent who was trying to spread some of their services into Southeast Asia. Alibaba has spread a bunch of their payment services to Southeast Asia. Broadly, in terms of global expansion, that had been pretty limited, and TikTok, which is built by this company Beijing ByteDance, is really the first consumer internet product built by one of the Chinese tech giants that is doing quite well around the world. It’s starting to do well in the US, especially with young folks. It’s growing really quickly in India. I think it’s past Instagram now in India in terms of scale. So yeah, it’s a very interesting phenomenon.

And the way that we kind of think about it is: it’s married short-form, immersive video with browse. So it’s almost like the Explore Tab that we have on Instagram, which is today primarily about feed posts and highlighting different feed posts. I kind of think about TikTok as if it were Explore for stories, and that were the whole app. And then you had creators who were specifically working on making that stuff. So we have a number of approaches that we’re going to take towards this, and we have a product called Lasso that’s a standalone app that we’re working on, trying to get product-market fit in countries like Mexico, is I think one of the first initial ones. We’re trying to first see if we can get it to work in countries where TikTok is not already big before we go and compete with TikTok in countries where they are big.

We’re taking a number of approaches with Instagram, including making it so that Explore is more focused on stories, which is increasingly becoming the primary way that people consume content on Instagram, as well as a couple of other things there. But yeah, I think that it’s not only one of the more interesting new phenomena and products that are growing. But in terms of the geopolitical implications of what they’re doing, I think it is quite interesting. I think we have time to learn and understand and get ahead of the trend. It is growing, but they’re spending a huge amount of money promoting it. What we’ve found is that their retention is actually not that strong after they stop advertising. So the space is still fairly nascent, and there’s time for us to kind of figure out what we want to do here. But I think this is a real thing. It’s good.

To Zuckerberg’s credit, he’s not dismissing the threat. He knows TikTok is popular. He knows it’s growing in key international markets Facebook and Instagram depend on to keep user counts rising. And he knows his company needs to respond via its standalone clone Lasso and more.

Facebook Lasso Screenshots

Lasso

But while TikToks might look like Stories because they’re vertical videos, and TikTok might algorithmically recommend them to people like Instagram Explore, it’s a whole ‘nother beast of a product and one that may be harder than it seems to copy.

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To crystallize why, let’s rewind to Snapchat. With the launch of Stories, it started to blow up with U.S. teens. Facebook’s attempts to clone it in standalone apps like Poke and Slingshot never gained traction. In fact, none of Facebook’s standalone apps have succeeded unless they splintered off an already popular piece of Facebook, like chat and users were forced to download them like Messenger. It wasn’t until Zuckerberg stuck his clone of Stories front-and-center atop Instagram and Facebook that Snapchat’s user count went from growing 18% per quarter to shrinking. There, Facebook used the same strategy laid out in Zuckerberg’s comments — push its good-enough clone in countries where the original isn’t popular yet.

But Facebook was fortunate because Stories really wasn’t that dissimilar to the content users were already sharing on Instagram — tiny biographical snippets of their lives. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel had originally invented Stories as a vision of Facebook’s News Feed through the lens of an ephemeral camera. All users had to know was “I take the same videos, but shorter and sillier, posted more often and then they disappear.” The concept of Instagram and Facebook didn’t have to change. They were still about telling friends what you were up to. Choking off TikTok’s growth will be much more complicated.

The rise of social entertainment…not media

TikTok isn’t about you or what you’re doing. It’s about entertaining your audience. It’s not spontaneous chronicling of your real life. It’s about inventing characters, dressing up as someone else and acting out jokes. It’s not about privacy and friends, but strutting on the world stage. And it’s not about originality — the heart of Instagram. TikTok is about remixing culture — taking the audio from someone else’s clip and reimagining the gag in a new context by layering it atop a video you record.

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TikTok Remixes

That makes TikTok distinct enough that it will be very difficult to shoehorn into Instagram or Facebook, even if they add the remixing functionality. Most videos on those apps aren’t designed to be templates for memes like TikToks are. Insta and Facebook’s social graphs are rooted in friendship and augmented by the beautiful and famous, but don’t encompass the new wave of amateur performers TikTok elevates. And since each post to the app becomes fodder for someone else’s creativity, a competitor starting from scratch doesn’t offer much to remix.

That means a TikTok clone would have to be somewhat buried in Instagram or Facebook, rebuild a new social graph and retrain users’ understanding of these apps’ purpose…at the risk of distracting from their core use cases. This leaves Facebook hoping to grow its standalone TikTok clone Lasso, which TechCrunch scooped a year ago before it launched last November. But as we’ve seen, Facebook struggles growing brand new apps, and that effort is further hindered by its increasingly toxic brand and sheen of uncoolness. Nor does it help that Facebook must divert development resources to comply with all the new privacy and transparency obligations as part of its $5 billion FTC fine and settlement.

The next feed

Facebook’s best bet is to assess the future value of the ads it could run on a successful TikTok clone and apply some greater fraction of that grand sum to competing directly. It’s already made some smart additions to Lasso, like tutorials for how to remix and the option to add GIFs as sections of your video. But it’s still failing to gain serious traction in the U.S. While typical videos on the TikTok homepage where I’m spending a few hours a week have hundreds of thousands of Likes, the top ones I saw in my Lasso feed today received 70 or fewer.

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TikTok trounces Facebook’s Lasso in the U.S. iOS App Store charts

I had Sensor Tower run some analysis comparing TikTok with Lasso since its launch last November, and found that Lasso gets six downloads for every 1,000 for TikTok in the US. Some more stats:

  • U.S. Total Downloads Since November: Lasso – 250,000 // TikTok – 41.3 million
  • U.S. Downloads Per Day Since November: Lasso – 760 // TikTok – 126,000
  • Average U.S. Google Play Social App Chart Ranking: Lasso – #155 // TikTok – #2
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Beyond the U.S., Lasso has only launched in one other market, Mexico in April, where it’s been faring better but could hardly even be considered a competitor to TikTok. Facebook needs to lean harder into Lasso:

  • Mexico Total Downloads Since April: Lasso – 175,000 // TikTok – 3.3 million
  • Mexico Downloads Per Day Since November: Lasso – 1,000 // TikTok – 19,000

Facebook Lasso Logo

Zuckerberg may need to find a coherent place for TikTok-style features inside Instagram and potentially Facebook. That could be another horizontal row of previews like with Stories and/or a header on the Explore page dedicated to premeditated content. Certainly something more prominent than a single button like IGTV that still no one is requesting. One opportunity to best TikTok would be building a dedicated remix source browser into the Stories camera to help users find content to put their own spin on.

Facebook will also need to buy out top TikTok creators to make videos for it instead, and even quasi-hire some of the most prolific video meme or challenge inventors to give users trends to jump on rather than just one-off clips to watch. Its failure to offer IGTV stars monetization has led many to ignore that platform, and it can’t afford that again.

If Zuckerberg approaches TikTok as merely an algorithmic video recommender like Explore, Facebook will miss out on owning the social entertainment feed. If he doesn’t decisively move to challenge TikTok soon, its catalog of content to remix will grow insurmountable and it will own the whole concept of short-form performative video. Snapchat’s insistence on ephemerality makes it incompatible with remixing, and YouTube isn’t nimble enough to reinvent itself.

If no American company can step up, we could see our interest data, faces and attention forfeited to an app that while delightful to use, heralds Chinese political values at odds with our own. If only Twitter hadn’t killed Vine.

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5 Trends that will Dominate Influencer Marketing in 2022 [Infographic]

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5 Trends that will Dominate Influencer Marketing in 2022 [Infographic]


Is influencer marketing part of your digital marketing strategy for 2022?

With the rise of more creative, more native-aligned platforms and spaces, brands are increasingly relying on influencers to connect with new audiences, while the growing use of AR and other new technologies also necessitates a familiarity with platforms that takes time and knowledge to maximize.

Influencers can be a great avenue in streamlining such process, but you have to know your audience, and what kinds of influencers they’re tuning into, in order to get the most out of your influencer marketing efforts.

To provide some more context on this, the team from SocialPubli has put together this overview of five key influencer marketing trends of note for 2022. And while these notes won’t address all of the info you need, they could help you formulate a better outreach strategy, based on the latest trends and shifts within the creator space.

Check out the full infographic listing below.



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Twitter Publishes New Industry Trend Reports Based on Rising Areas of Tweet Engagement

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Twitter Publishes New Industry Trend Reports Based on Rising Areas of Tweet Engagement


Twitter has published a new range of industry reports, based on rising trends, in order to provide more context as to the key elements of focus among its userbase in each sector.

The new trend reports, which Twitter’s collectively calling its ‘Birdseye Report’, were compiled by Twitter data partners, including Hootsuite, Meltwater, Sprinklr and more. Each partner took on a specific element of expanded Twitter conversation, giving each discussion and industry dedicated focus, providing in-depth insight into the latest key shifts in the app.

You can download all the Birdseye Reports here, but in this post, we’ll look at some of the key highlights.

First off, the reports are based on a range of key tweet trends over the past year.

Those trends include:

  • Digital First – Digital Ethics, Cyber Individuality and Metaverse dominated the technology conversation on Twitter
  • The Crypto Craze – “Crypto” mentions on Twitter increased 549% in 2021
  • Future of Sports – Tweets around the metaverse + sports rose 6,024%
  • Bring the Sweets Back – Conversations around nostalgia for sweets, chocolate and candy grew 55% between January and October 2021
  • Mental Health Matters – Monthly “mental health” mentions from 2019 to 2021 on Twitter grew 44.7%

As you can see here, you can select the specific sector report you want to read, all of which are available via email sign-up – though you can select not to have Twitter or the providing company contact you as a result of your interest.

Each report covers the top trends in each sector, based on tweet discussion, which points to rising areas of opportunity and focus for your tweet marketing.

Twitter Birdseye Report

As you can see here, the reports include both broad trend results, like these, highlighting bigger shifts in each sector, as well as more specific tweet engagement shifts, relative to key focus elements.

Twitter Birdseye Report

Those insights could help to shape your marketing approach, while each report also includes a range of more in-depth pointers and data points to help guide your understanding of what the Twitter audiences is most interested in. 

Twitter Birdseye Report

There are also demographic insights: 

Twitter Birdseye Report

As well as summary points for each, helping to ensure marketers can make the most of each report:

Twitter Birdseye Report

There’s a heap of great insight here, and if you’re working in any of the highlighted sectors, and are looking to improve your Twitter approach, it’s definitely worth downloading the data and checking out the findings.

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Even if you’re not looking to improve your Twitter strategy, it’s likely worth getting access to the insights and seeing what people are most interested in for each segment.

You can download all the Twitter Birdseye reports here.





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92-year-old Malawian music legend finds fame on TikTok

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92-year-old Malawian music legend finds fame on TikTok


Fame at 92: Malawian music legend Giddes Chalamanda has notched up millions of views on TikTok – Copyright AFP Bertha WANG

Jack McBrams

At 92, Giddes Chalamanda has no idea what TikTok is. He doesn’t even own a smartphone.

And yet the Malawian music legend has become a social media star, with his song “Linny Hoo” garnering over 80 million views on the video-sharing platform and spawning mashups and remixes from South Africa to the Philippines.

“They come and show me the videos on their phones, but I have no idea how it works,” Chalamanda told AFP at his home on the edge of a macadamia plantation, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Malawi’s main city Blantyre.

“But I love the fact that people are enjoying themselves and that my talent is getting the right attention,” he said, speaking in Chewa.

Despite his grey hair and slight stoop, the nonagenarian singer and guitarist, who has been a constant presence on the Malawian music scene for seven decades, displays a youthful exuberance as he sits chatting with a group of young fans.

He first recorded “Linny”, an ode to one of his daughters, in 2000.

But global acclaim only came two decades later when Patience Namadingo, a young gospel artist, teamed up with Chalamanda to record a reggae remix of “Linny” titled “Linny Hoo”.

The black-and-white video of the recording shows a smiling, gap-toothed Chalamanda, nattily dressed in a white shirt and V-neck sweater, jamming with Namadingo under a tree outside his home, with a group of neighbours looking on.

The video went viral after it was posted on YouTube, where it racked up more than 6.9 million views. Then late last year, it landed on TikTok and toured the globe.

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Chalamanda only learned of the song’s sensational social media popularity from his children and their friends.

Since then he and Namadingo have recorded remixes of several others of his best-known tracks.

His daughter Linny’s 16-year-old son Stepson Austin told AFP that he was proud of his grandfather’s longevity.

“It is good that he has lived long enough to see this day,” said the youngster, who himself aspires to become a hip-hop artist.

Born in Chiradzulu, a small town in southern Malawi, Chalamanda won fame in his homeland with lilting songs such as “Buffalo Soldier” in which he dreams of visiting America and “Napolo”.

Over the past decade, he has collaborated with several younger musicians and still performs across the country.

– ‘Dance around the world’ –

On TikTok, DJs and ordinary fans have created their own remixes as part of a #LinnyHooChallenge.

“When his music starts playing in a club or at a festival, everyone gets the urge to dance. That is how appealing it is,” musician and long-time collaborator Davis Njobvu told AFP.

“The fact that he has been there long enough to work with the young ones is special.”

South Africa-based music producer Joe Machingura attributed the global appeal of a song recorded in Chewa, one of Malawi’s most widely-spoken languages, to the sentiments underlying it.

“The old man sang with so much passion, it connects with whoever listens to it,” he said, adding: “It speaks to your soul.”

Chalamanda, a twice-married father of 14 children, only seven of whom, including Linny, are still alive, said he has no idea how to secure royalties for the TikTok plays.

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Chalamanda and his wife hope to benefit financially from his new-found stardom.

“I am just surprised that despite the popularity of the song, there is nothing for me,” he said. “While I am excited that I have made people dance all around the world, there should be some gain for me. I need the money.”

His manager Pemphero Mphande told AFP that he was looking into the issue and the Copyright Society of Malawi said it was ready to assist.

Arts curator Tammy Mbendera of the Festival Institute in Malawi credited platforms like TikTok with creating new opportunities for African talent.

“With songs from our past especially, they were written with such profoundness that they still can resonate today,” she said.

“All one has to do really, is get the chance to experience it, to acknowledge its significance. I think that’s what happened here.”



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