Facebook recently quietly opened an account on TikTok, its biggest competitor. In just a few days, it has gained 49,000 fans without promotion.
What is Facebook doing? Many people are puzzled over this. To monitor competitors? For advertising? Or to catch young users?
There is literally nothing on the Facebook TikTok account home page, no content posted, no accounts followed, just a growing number of followers and a link to the Facebook app on Google play. If it were not for the real big V authentication with a blue checkmark on the username, it would be really suspicious. The biggest point of information and the most intriguing post is its account profile – We believe people can do more together, than alone.
Soon after the account was discovered, a spokesperson for Facebook’s parent company Meta vaguely responded, “Brands leverage a variety of channels, including some of our social media platforms, to reach and engage with the people using their products and services every day. Our intent with establishing a brand presence and cultivating community on platforms like TikTok or others is no different.”
As for specific plans for the TikTok account, such as what kind of content will be published and whether it will run ads, no information has been made public. So many days have passed and there is no movement on the Facebook account. Many people will be paying attention to see what Facebook plans to do. After all, everyone knows that Zuckerberg sees TikTok as the biggest threat.
Moreover, Facebook is not the only Meta account on TikTok. Previously, Instagram had just introduced an Instagram Creators account.
Facebook is losing its appeal to users. Facebook was founded in 2004 and was initially the world’s leading photo-sharing website. In 2012, it acquired Instagram, and in 2014, it also picked up WhatsApp and became a social giant. Although Facebook has considerable market resources, the growth of its user base in recent years has been largely concentrated in middle-aged and elderly groups, and it is powerless in the market for young people. Data from its latest quarterly report showed that the number of monthly active users stopped growing and the number of daily active users dropped for the first time. In a conference call, Zuckerberg again pointed to TikTok’s influence, saying, “TikTok is a formidable competitor, and it is growing at a fairly rapid rate”.
So is Facebook making this move to leverage TikTok to grow its Generation Z user base?
ByteDance knocked on the door of the U.S. market in 2017, and acquired popular short video apps Musically and Flipagram in North America, one after the other. As soon as TikTok entered the market, it attracted audiences at all levels.
When TikTok first entered the social market, no one cared, and even Zuckerberg despised it. In a leaked recording a few years ago, Zuckerberg compared TikTok to Instagram’s Explorer label and said TikTok would not be a threat to any of his platforms.
It’s safe to say now that TikTok is very popular in the United States, in particular among the young, and it’s impossible for Facebook to ignore that. Consequently, Facebook resorted to its usual trick of launching competing products, which in short means imitation. In this way, the company has managed to cope with the rise of Snapchat.
In November 2018, Facebook launched a short video app called Lasso, which is very similar to TikTok in design and content, and was even called a “copycat of TikTok” by the U.S. media, but its download volume in the same period was far lower than TikTok’s. It was hastily terminated in public opinion. Shortly after, Facebook launched the short video app Instagram Reels in more than 50 countries around the world, challenging TikTok again, but the response was lukewarm.
TikTok’s voice is getting louder, while Facebook has suffered setbacks in short video development. COO Sheryl Sandberg has publicly said that TikTok is the biggest threat to Facebook. Since it does not imitate, Facebook has begun to frequently discredit TikTok in public, claiming that it threatens national data security. The US government has been pondering strict controls on Tiktok, and Tiktok might eventually be forced to withdraw from the U.S. market.
Just as TikTok was about to be banned in the U.S., Meta (then Facebook) decided to spend huge sums of money to attract TikTok users to its social platform. According to sources, Facebook paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the most popular TikTok creators. But in the end, ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, sued the U.S. government, and TikTok stubbornly survived and continued to lead the trend of American social media. According to official figures, as of September 2021, TikTok has 1 billion monthly active users worldwide and is the most downloaded mobile app in the world.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Meta has stepped up its pursuit of TikTok. On Feb. 22, 2022, Facebook launched Reels, a short-video product for all users around the world, and introduced many new features for advertisers. Zuckerberg announced on an earlier earnings call that more and more users are spending their time with Reels, which has become Meta’s fastest-growing content format to date.
Is Facebook losing the competition with TikTok?
All sorts of data prove that Meta is losing its dominant position in the competition with TikTok. Meta’s fourth-quarter 2021 earnings report showed that Facebook’s number of daily active users dropped for the first time in 18 years. The number of Facebook daily active users worldwide was 1.93 billion in the quarter, down 500,000 from the previous quarter. Meta’s stock price plunged 20% after the earnings report, sending the company’s market value down $200 billion, as the number of active users declined and ad revenue growth slowed. Instagram, has continued to grow in users but is also showing signs of decline in its competition with TikTok, which seems more attractive, especially to younger users.
According to a Forrester survey, 63 percent of Americans ages 12 to 17 will use TikTok weekly in 2021, up from 50 percent a year ago. At the same time, Instagram’s share of users will drop from 61% in 2020 to 57% in 2021. Zuckerberg’s only commendable possibility now is that Meta’s commercial revenues are much higher than TikTok’s. The financial report released in February showed that Meta’s advertising revenue was $114.93 billion in 2021, while TikTok’s revenue in 2021 will reach only $4 billion.