Report after report has given us data that both Facebook and Instagram have a user retention problem, and it’s all because of the rise of TikTok. The problem is that most reports just give you the results and don’t really dig into the reasons behind the numbers. But here’s a secret that no one is talking about – it may be an online social universe for now, but TikTok is really an entertainment platform.
Entertainment Is Not Social
Everyone lumps TikTok into the same category of social platform as Facebook and Instagram, but it’s really apples and oranges. You go to Facebook and Instagram to keep up with your family, reconnect with friends, or even make new ones. TikTok is a different animal though. It’s all about keeping you entertained and has little to do with your social universe.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Meta (which owns Facebook and IG) doesn’t seem to get the difference. As a result there’s a mad rush to make both platforms more like TikTok, tweaking their algorithms to provide your feed with more of what it thinks you’ll like. By all accounts that isn’t working though, and as a result users that really want the social interaction are turned off, and those that want to be entertained go to TikTok because it simply does it better.
To IG Or Not
Recently I had my Instagram account hacked and completely lost control over it. All the remedies that IG has in place to get your account back didn’t work because, since I couldn’t log into my account, I really didn’t officially have one any more.
Whoever hacked it began adding posts that were so obviously not me that there were enough complaints that the account was shut down (No, “The Beatles used autotune” has never even crossed my mind). I thought about creating a new one but stopped. What’s the point? IG may not be over, but it peaked a few years back, so it’s time to move on rather than go through the slog of starting again from scratch.
I’m just a minuscule spoke in the IG wheel in that I was far from a power-user, but apparently there are a lot of people like me who are looking for something to take their mind off the world instead of engaging with not-really-friends who you haven’t heard from since high school.
Meta Runs A Feint
Meta sees the data and knows it’s in trouble. As this great article points out, the last time that Facebook provided hard performance numbers was 2016. At that time it stated in an earnings call that people were spending about 50 minutes a day on the platform. That was the last time they’ve reported the official stats, which is telling. Instead it provides daily and monthly user numbers, but those don’t tell how much each user consumes. It could be 1 minute or 30, but for sure it’s not what it once was.
There are a lot of choices out there besides Facebook, and increasingly, TikTok is cutting into the platform’s attention market share. It’s already seen as an also-ran with most young people, as they either shun it completely or spend very little time there, and IG is now following that trend.
All online platforms have a lifespan, some (Vine) shorter than others (MySpace). Trying to change Facebook and Instagram into something they’re not will only hasten their demise. The online social universe of interaction may be behind us. We’re in the world of entertainment now.