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TikTok Continues to Gain Momentum, But Challenges Remain in Maximizing the App’s Growth

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Despite various content moderation och data privacy concerns, TikTok continues to gain momentum, with the latest data from app analytics firm SensorTower showing that February 2020 was TikTok’s best performing month, in terms of total app downloads, to date.

SensorTower TikTok chart

As per SensorTower:

“TikTok was downloaded by close to 113 million App Store and Google Play users worldwide in February, making it the app’s best month ever for both installs and revenue according to Sensor Tower Store Intelligence estimates.”

SensorTower further notes that TikTok was the most downloaded non-game app worldwide last month, outperforming both WhatsApp och Facebook. TikTok installs are up 96% year-over-year, with the COVID-19 outbreak seemingly fueling increased adoption as people look to keep themselves entertained while reducing their time spent in public.

In total, TikTok is now closing in on 2 billion lifetime installs, which is a huge number, and should represent significant opportunity for brand outreach and engagement. But there is a little more to the upfront data than it may seem – so before you latch onto that 2 billion installs count and pit TikTok against Facebook, it’s worth breaking the figures down to understand exactly what they represent.

First off, app installs are not active users. Various reports on TikTok have seemingly equated the two, but having 2 billion people download and install your app is not the equivalent of getting 2 billion users active and engaged on your platform on a regular basis. If TikTok had 2 billion active users, it would be the second-biggest social platform in the world, and closing fast on Facebook. But it doesn’t.   

The only official number we have on TikTok’s global user base is that the app reached 500 million active users back in 2018, with the majority of them using the Chinese version of the app, called ‘Douyin’. Since then, TikTok has not been forthcoming about its actual user count.

Which makes sense – much of the narrative around TikTok has been pumped up by download counts, which, as noted, are close to reaching 2 billion. If TikTok were to come out and say that it actually has, say, 700 million monthly active users, that would only work to water down those download stats – but realistically, this is probably closer to the truth, while the audience geographic split is also important to understand.

Breaking down the data, based on the estimates and figures that have been made available, TikTok seems to have:

Other nations follow in lower user counts from there, but as you can see, the regional splits are relevant in TikTok’s overall download and usage counts. Yes, TikTok is very popular, but from an advertising and marketing perspective, it may not be comparable, at least in Western markets, to most other platforms in terms of relevant audience reach.

Indeed, in SensorTower’s extended breakdown of TikTok’s revenue information, it notes that:  

“TikTok also saw its highest-ever monthly user spending in February, with the $50.4 million it generated equalling a 784.2% YoY increase. This made it the third highest-grossing non-game app worldwide for the month behind Tinder and YouTube.”

Which is an amazing result, but again, the regional split here is significant. 

“China – where TikTok is known as Douyin – was responsible for the majority of this spending with nearly $46 million, or 91% of all revenue for the month. The U.S. ranked No. 2 with $3 million, while Great Britain came in third, with $216,000.”

So, again, TikTok is driving user interest and action, but possibly not as much as you would expect in your local market, based on the hype and top-line download counts.

That’s not to say that TikTok isn’t growing its audience base in all regions, and becoming a more relevant consideration for marketers. But it is worth noting that, by comparison, the app is not on the same level as even Snapchat (86m North American DAUs) in terms of reach to the US market at this stage, putting it well behind Twitter Facebook, Instagram, and others.

This is the key question for TikTok. Yes, it has momentum and hype, and yes, the download figures are encouraging. But can TikTok make short-form video into a relevant, viable and engaging option? 

Vine, the first short-form video app of this type, eventually buckled because it wasn’t able to monetize effectively – with Vine’s main content offering being only six-seconds in length, at most, that made it increasingly difficult for Vine to implement ads, as users would either skip by them or ignore them in-stream. Eventually, Vine’s inability to monetize effectively left it unable to create a viable revenue funnel for its top creators, who subsequently migrated to YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, where they could post longer-form content, and make real money from ads.

Vine did try to counter this, adding longer-form videos och pre-roll ads in its dying months, but with its top creators moving on, their fans shifted with them.

While Twitter often gets the blame for Vine’s failure, really, it was the inability for the company to effectively monetize that lead to its demise – and Twitter couldn’t do a lot about that.  

Which then leads to TikTok. 

Sure, TikTok has people’s attention, it has users tuning in, and it is growing. But Vine had 200 million active users at peak, and it couldn’t map out a revenue-generation framework. Will TikTok eventually fare any better?

As noted, it’s still not generating significant revenue in the US, and it’s still spending big on promotion. At some stage, it will need to establish a means for its top creators to monetize.

In China, Douyin has moved into eCommerce as a means to add in revenue options, which is how it’s seen such significant revenue growth in that region.

Douyin eCommerce

Will the same work in the US market? 

TikTok is already testing eCommerce tools och external links, in order to provide more revenue generation options for creators, while it’s also got its own influencer marketing marketplace, which it recently opened up to more businesses.  

TikTok Creator Marketplace

Basically, TikTok knows that it needs to move fast and build a real revenue generation pipeline for these popular users – because if it doesn’t, they’ll take their talents elsewhere, and their established audiences with them. Then TikTok will go the same way as Vine.

So while it seems like all the momentum is with TikTok, and massive numbers like ‘a billion downloads’ are regularly thrown around, there’s more to it than the surface figures. And that’s critical to note in terms of brand use, and the future viability of the platform more broadly.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Snapchat Adds 12 Million Users in Q4, Posts Lower Than Expected Revenue Result

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Snapchat Adds 12 Million Users in Q4, Posts Lower Than Expected Revenue Result

Snapchat added 12 million more active users in Q4 2022, and Snapchat+ subscriptions continue to rise, but company revenue missed market estimates, in another mixed result for the private social app.

First off, on users – as noted, Snap added 12 million more actives, taking it to 375 million DAU.

As you can see, North American user growth is still flat, while European users saw a slight uptick. But it’s the ‘Rest of the World’, specifically India, which is driving Snap growth.

Which is helping to boost the overall usage numbers, and expand opportunity. But on the revenue side, it’s not pushing things forward in a significant way.

Snap Q4 2022

As you can see in this chart, Snapchat’s revenue has increased, but a key problem here is that it’s still reliant on the US and Canada for the majority of that spend, with other markets trailing well behind on the revenue front.

Snap Q4 2022

In this chart, you can see that Snap’s Revenue Per User has actually declined year-on-year – so while it is growing, it’s not bringing in revenue at equivalent scale, and it’s even going backwards in some respects.

Which is why its stagnant growth in North America is a problem – though Snap has also seen take-up of its Snapchat+ subscription service increase.

“In Q4, our subscription service Snapchat+ reached over 2.0 million paying subscribers. Snapchat+ offers exclusive, experimental, and pre-release features, and in Q4 we launched new features such as Custom Story Expiration and Custom Notification Sounds, providing subscribers with over 12 exclusive features.”

That’s a handy additional revenue stream, but as with all social media subscription services (including Twitter Blue), take-up is generally limited, and at 2 million subscribers, that’s still only 0.5% of Snapchat’s active user base that’s been willing to pay extra for these add-on elements.

Snap has also faced challenges in rebuilding its ad business, in the wake of Apple’s iOS 14 update, which has impacted data collection, and Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says they still have some way to go on this yet:

“We continue to face significant headwinds as we look to accelerate revenue growth, and we are making progress driving improved return on investment for advertisers and innovating to deepen the engagement of our community.”

Snap has seen improvement in its commerce integrations, which includes digital items for Bitmoji avatars which Snap is eventually looking to translate into real-world item sales as well. Snap also says that it’s facilitated over than 161 million product trials by over 35 million Snapchatters for Walmart, leveraging its Catalog-Powered Shopping Lenses at-scale.

Snapchat AR shopping

Those point to bigger opportunities, but right now, amid the broader economic downturn, and restrictions on data collection and targeting, Snapchat is in a tough spot, and will be for some time yet.

Essentially, then, you’re banking on Snap’s future, and its advanced tools that could help it better align with expanded AR and VR use. And Snap is seemingly in a good position on this front – though again, the impacts of the last year, which also forced Snap into lay-offs, will also have some effect.

Really, then, the results here are relative to your perspective.

For advertisers, more Snap users means more potential reach – but most of Snap’s growth is coming from outside the US. More advanced AR activations could become a bigger deal in future, but it depends on how you’re looking to connect, and product fit.

Investors won’t be overly happy with the numbers, but there are positive signs on the horizon. It’s just that the horizon, in this respect, remains well in the distance at this stage.

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Climate disinfo surges in denial, conspiracy comeback

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Climate disinfo surges in denial, conspiracy comeback

Activists of Extinction Rebellion hold a ‘die-in’ for climate action in Boston in July 2022 – Copyright AFP/File Joseph Prezioso

Roland LLOYD PARRY

False information about climate change flourished online over the past year, researchers say, with denialist social media posts and conspiracy theories surging after US environmental reforms and Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.

“What really surprised us this year was to see a resurgence in language that is reminiscent of the 1980s: phrases like ‘climate hoax’ and ‘climate scam’ that deny the phenomenon of climate change,” said Jennie King, head of civic action at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based digital research group.

Popular topics included the false claims that CO2 does not cause climate change or that global warming is not caused by human activity, said Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD), a coalition of campaigners, in a report.

“Let me expose what the climate scam is actually all about,” read one of the most-shared tweets, cited in another survey by US non-profit Advance Democracy, Inc (ADI).

“It is a wealth transfer from you — to the global elite.”

– Twitter disinfo surge –

An analysis of Twitter messages — carried out for AFP by two computational social scientists at City, University of London — counted 1.1 million tweets or retweets using strong climate-sceptic terms in 2022.

Watchdogs are urging social media platforms to tackle climate disinformation – Copyright AFP Robyn Beck

That was nearly twice the figure for 2021, said researchers Max Falkenberg and Andrea Baronchelli. They found climate denial posts peaked in December, the month after Tesla billionaire Musk took over the platform.

Use of the denialist hashtag #ClimateScam surged on Twitter from July, according to analyses by CAAD and the US-based campaign group Center For Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).

For weeks it was the top suggested search term on the site for users typing “climate”.

CAAD said the reason for that was “unclear”, though one major user of the term appeared to be an automated account, possibly indicating that a malignant bot was churning it out.

ADI noted that July saw US President Joe Biden secure support for a major climate spending bill — subject of numerous “climate scam” tweets — plus a heatwave in the United States and Europe.

Climate denial posts also peaked during the COP27 climate summit in November.

– Blue-tick deniers –

A quarter of all the strongly climate-sceptic tweets came from just 10 accounts, including Canadian right-wing populist party leader Maxime Bernier and Paul Joseph Watson, editor of conspiracy-theory website InfoWars, the City research showed.

CCDH pointed the finger at Musk, who reinstated numerous banned Twitter accounts and allowed users to pay for a blue tick — a mark previously reserved for accredited “verified” users in the public eye.

“Elon Musk’s decision to open up his platform for hate and disinformation has led to an explosion in climate disinformation on the platform,” said Callum Hood, CCDH’s head of research.

Musk himself tweeted in August 2022: “I do think global warming is a major risk.”

Musk has also created a $100 million dollar prize for technology innovations shown to be effective in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

But prolific climate change contrarians -– such as blogger Tony Heller and former coal executive Steve Milloy — have hailed him in their tweets.

– Conspiracy theories –

An analysis by Advance Democracy seen by AFP found the number of Twitter posts “using climate change denialism terms” more than tripled from 2021 to 2022, reaching over 900,000.

On TikTok, views of videos using hashtags associated with climate change denialism increased by 4.9 million, it said.

On YouTube, climate change denial videos got hundreds of thousands of views, with searches for them bringing up adverts for climate-denial products.

YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez told AFP that in response to the claim, certain climate-denial ads had been taken down.

TikTok and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.

On Facebook, meanwhile, ADI found the number of such posts decreased compared to 2021, in line with overall climate change claims.

– Culture wars –

The CAAD report said climate content regularly features alongside other misleading claims on “electoral fraud, vaccinations, the COVID-19 pandemic, migration, and child trafficking rings run by so-called ‘elites’.”

Jennie King of ISD said: “We are definitely seeing a rise of out-and-out conspiracism. Climate is the latest vector in the culture wars.”

Given the reports by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showing that human carbon emissions are heating the planet, raising the risk of floods, droughts and heatwaves, CCDH’s Hood emphasised the urgency of restricting the reach of misinformation.

“We would encourage platforms to think about the real harm that is caused by climate change,” Hood said, “so people who repeatedly spread demonstrably false information about climate are not granted the sort of reach that we see them getting.”

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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

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Snap making changes to direct response advertising business

The company posted a net loss of $288.5 million, or 18 cents a share, including $34 million in charges from its workforce restructuring. That compared to a profit of $23 million, or one cent, a year earlier.

Snap ended the fourth quarter with 375 million daily users, a 17% increase. In the first three months of the year, the company estimates 382 million to 384 million people will use its platform daily.

Snap has become a bellwether for other digital advertising companies. Last year, it was the first to raise concerns about the slowdown in marketer spending online and to fire a significant number of employees—20% of its workforce—to cut costs in the face of falling revenue.

The company has spent the last two quarters refocusing the organization, cutting projects that don’t contribute to user and revenue growth.

In the first quarter, Snap expects the environment to “remain challenging as we expect the headwinds we have faced over the past year to persist.”

Investors will get additional information about the state of the digital ad market when Meta and Alphabet report earnings later this week.

—Bloomberg News

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