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    TikTok’s got its competitors pressed. What happens next?

    Back in 2020, then-president Donald Trump was among the first to suggest a ban for rising juggernaut TikTok. US-Chinese tensions continue, and competitors would still like to see the app taken down a peg or two. Favoured’s George Gossland investigates what comes next.

    TikTok is currently dominating the social media space: it’s the fastest-growing social media app, with no signs of slowing down. With Facebook and Instagram being pushed to the background, parent company Meta is doing everything it can to win back users. Will any of it work?

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    TikTok’s growth – and Meta’s problem

    Originally known as musical.ly, TikTok is owned by Chinese developers Bytedance, one of the largest privately-owned companies in the world: worth a reported $400bn as of October last year. It became a global phenomenon post-rebrand during the pandemic: in 2020, 850 million people downloaded the app.

    Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and (arguably) Snapchat held the throne as the ‘top dogs’ for so long, but TikTok has led the way in social’s move to bite-sized video content. By now, both Meta and YouTube are looking pretty pressed about TikTok’s rise.

    Instagram is fighting back 

    As far as those big players are concerned, the social media throne is under a full-scale invasion. Instagram is pushing its own short-form video content Reels – and YouTube is taking a stab with Shorts. Both platforms seem to be forgetting what they once were in an attempt to stay relevant. 

    In recent weeks Instagram has been slammed for trying to be something it’s not. Instagram user Illumitati has even started a campaign to bring back the old Instagram; 2m likes so far. People have had enough.

    Instagram has gone back to the drawing board, trying to figure out another way of getting back on top.

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    Politicizing social media

    Meta must have been excited in 2020, when Trump proposed to ban TikTok in the US for safety issues around its privacy policy. This isn’t something to be taken lightly, with tensions between the US and China rising.

    It’s not surprising that the US is concerned; TikTok has 73.7 million monthly American users. White House officials have even suggested for staff to not download TikTok, citing how it handles data.

    Banning TikTok in the US would have a huge impact on the marketing industry. Only recently have brands been harnessing the power of TikTok’s huge audience, telling their stories; selling products; and establishing strong connections with audiences. As much as Instagram tries to keep up with TikTok, it just doesn’t seem able. 

    Instagram was at one point a heavily filtered app, riddled with face tuning and manipulated body edits, prompting younger users to show fake versions of themselves, flexing a lifestyle they don’t live. TikTok is more down-to-earth, with ordinary people making authentic real-life content that just about anyone can relate to.

    Taking privacy concerns seriously

    TikTok isn’t all fun and games though. Its privacy policy is a little scary. The app allegedly has policies including browser checks on your device (so it can continue to feed you an algorithm you want to see) and a new policy where it now collects biometric data (including faceprints and voiceprints).

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    TikTok will seek consent first, but who actually reads terms and conditions? So, will Instagram (and other social media platforms) continue to just copy everyone else? From there, all users have to do is move over to Meta and boom: Meta is back in business. After all, Instagram’s Reels are already increasing in popularity. For example, we posted a TikTok the other day that got 200 views, but when we posted the same video on Reels it got 30k views.

    Issues such as fake news continue to exist behind all of these platforms: fake news on TikTok could change the narrative, prompting the reignited calls to ban TikTok. If the US does ban TikTok, how will this affect content creators who rely on TikTok for growth – and brands that rely on TikTok to get creators for promotion? Well, Meta will have to get strapped up to take on the storm that will come its way. 

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