“Stop trying to become TikTok, we just want to see cute pictures of our friends“. At the end of July, the very influential Kylie Jenner (370 million subscribers) and Kim Kardashian (330 million subscribers) rebroadcast the discontent of Instagram users. In question: the subsidiary of the Meta group had just change your recommendation algorithmin order to bring its operation (and that of Facebook) closer to that of tik tok, the Chinese short-video app whose irresistible rise worries Mark Zuckerberg. The goal: to reproduce the model of the “For You” tab on TikTok, at the origin of its success: a personalized feed based on the user’s centers of interest, evaluated by an algorithm, which allows new creators to be constantly discovered.
Specifically, the two Meta social networks have begun to show their users content -mainly Reels, its short video format- published by accounts to which they are not subscribed, up to 15% (one publication out of every six), with the ambition to increase this ratio. to 30% by the end of 2023. This is a profound change for Instagram and Facebook, which have historically focused on “friends” and family content.
The method used against Snapchat does not work
Faced with the threat of TikTok, Meta played for the first time The strategy imitation that allowed him to keep Snapchat at bay. In the early 2010s, the ephemeral photo and video app appealed to young people with its “stories” format, content pinned for 24 hours and visible to all of the user’s contacts. Meta copied the feature to Instagram and then to Facebook, and after several failed attempts and a period of user dissatisfaction, managed to force it into use, at the expense of Snapchat, which has lost some of its originality.
When ByteDance bought Musical.ly in 2018 to turn it into TikTok [TikTok est à l’origine une déclinaison de l’app chinoise Douyin, ndlr], the success was immediate. As a result, Instagram began working on a way to clone its newest competitor, later launching it in July 2020 as Reels. Integrated with Instagram and Facebook as a separate tab, it offers a sequence of short videos, in a vertical format, that rotate in a loop. In short, an equivalent to TikTok.
But his method didn’t work this time, as TikTok grew rapidly, much faster than Snapchat. It surpassed 700 million monthly users in 2020, then the 1 billion user mark in September 2021, and plans to end the year with 1.8 billion. All this, without mentioning the Chinese market that has its own version of the application, called Douyin. By comparison, Snapchat has just 334 million monthly users, Instagram 1.44 billion, and Facebook 2.9 billion. In other words, Meta does not fight against smaller than him, but against an equivalent, which already surpasses him. among the young.
Users spend ten times more time on TikTok
Although it unsheathed its clone less than two years after TikTok arrived in the western market, Meta is already behind, and that translates into statistics. According to an internal document released in August that the Wall Street Journal obtained, Instagram users would spend 17.6 million hours a day watching Reels, compared to 197.8 million hours for TikTok. Also, according to this Meta research roundup, most Reels users would not engage (comment, like, share) with videos at all.
Among the causes of this discrepancy, Zuckerberg’s company has identified difficulties in finding content creators. In the United States, for example, only 20.7% of its 11 million creators publish with the short video format each month. Specifically, Reels, like YouTube Shorts, is seen by videographers as a platform to repost content created on TikTok, which has established itself as the go-to platform, to generate additional revenue.
To counteract this phenomenon, YouTube will open in 2023 their system of distributing revenue to creators of short forms, hoping to attract and follow their audience. Meta, for its part, has launched a fund for creators, financed to the tune of a billion dollars during 2022. But it would have spent only 120 million until this summer and, above all, it is not unlike TikTok and YouTube, which have similar initiatives. In addition, this model is criticized by cameramen as it brings low income and in the case of Meta, it is only accessible by invitation. It is therefore a very volatile remuneration method, and not very viable for full-time professionalization.
The reels take up more and more space
But Meta has chosen another strategy to convince the creators. She is giving more and more space to Reels on Instagram and Facebook, to encourage creators to produce them and users to watch them. However, visibility on Instagram allows influencers to form paid partnerships with brands, which can be particularly lucrative. Meta’s reasoning is simple: if creating Reels helps gain subscribers, then the creators will invest.
According to Mark Zuckerberg, this strategic change has increased Reels viewing time by 30% in the second quarter of 2022. And he is convinced with this choice: “eIn theory, we could limit headwinds [financiers, ndlr] of the short term forcing less the growth of Reels. But it would be a less good decision for our products and our business model in the long term.“, he detailed.
Also according to the manager, Reels ads should generate $1 billion in sales in 2022, less than a hundredth of the group’s last annual sales. But this figure could grow rapidly, if Meta succeeds in transforming its billions of Facebook and Instagram users into Reels consumers, because the group excels at monetizing its audience. In fact, the group estimates that Reels already takes up a fifth of the time users spend on Instagram.
But Meta does not have much time to convert its pivot, because in front, TikTok is accelerating: Its revenue is expected to grow to $12 billion in 2022, nearly triple the year before.