TikTok/Instagram rivalry moves into photo-sharing

TikTok/Instagram rivalry moves into photo-sharing

TikTok is reportedly developing a photo-sharing app as it looks to compete more directly with Meta’s Instagram.

This week, TikTok users began receiving pop-up notifications alerting them about the app’s development. According to screenshots posted by users online, the new offering is being referred to as “TikTok Notes“.

“Your photo posts will be shown on TikTok Notes,” the notification reads. “TikTok Notes, a new app for photo posts, is coming soon! Your existing and future public TikTok photo posts will be shown on TikTok Notes.”

It then prompts users to opt out if they are not interested in photos being cross-posted on the new app.

It is not yet clear when the app will launch and details on its features are currently scant. A spokesperson for TikTok did not immediately respond to The Media Leader‘s request for comment.

Analysis: Competition intensifies

TikTok’s foray into photo-sharing puts it toe to toe with Instagram, the most popular app in this area. By allowing users to easily opt in to populate the new app with still photos previously posted on TikTok, it can more immediately develop a user base.

The potential roll-out of TikTok Notes is yet another example of social media companies cribbing features off one another.

Instagram had itself sought to better compete with TikTok’s then-ascendant short-form video features by launching Reels in August 2020. Now, it appears, TikTok is looking to undercut Instagram’s core function by offering photo-sharing to users in a dedicated app.

The news comes as Instagram reportedly overtook TikTok in terms of downloads in 2023. While Instagram’s total app downloads last year grew 20% to 768m, TikTok’s downloads grew only 4% to 733m, according to data from digital intelligence company Sensor Tower.

Sensor Tower’s report estimated that Instagram has around 1.5bn monthly active users compared with TikTok’s 1.1bn, although time spent on TikTok is considerably higher.

Social media companies don’t want to be ‘social media’ any more

Increasing sameness

Social media companies have made a habit of undermining competitors’ unique selling points by copying features. Meta’s Instagram and Facebook released their own versions of Snapchat’s Stories; TikTok and Instagram both released BeReal clones (although the former discontinued it last summer); Reddit, Twitter, LinkedIn, Spotify and Facebook all developed Clubhouse copies when it was a hot thing amid Covid-19 lockdowns; Instagram launched Threads to directly compete with Twitter; and TikTok’s short-form video feature, itself an idea from Vine, has been copied by not just Instagram but also YouTube (Shorts) and Snapchat (Spotlight).

The tactic of copycatting has led to a sameness that many social media companies are also faced with. Most major platforms have ways to share short-form (and increasingly long-form) video, photos and posts, as well as direct messaging.

For some advertisers, such uniformity has shifted value judgements. Given Meta’s platforms have the biggest scale in terms of users, as well as some of the most mature advertising tools, they offer a benchmark by which to compare other social media against.

As Jellyfish vice-president of paid social and strategic partnerships Eb Adeyeri recently told The Media Leader: “‘What’s the overlap with Meta’ is really what it comes down to” with regard to agencies’ desire to push for large spending on other platforms.

In other words, if the user base or ad formats on offer are distinctive, then brands may be more interested in shuffling spend in that direction to complement spend with Meta. Reddit and Pinterest, for example, stood out to Adeyeri as alternatives that “offer a slightly different reach” compared with traditional forms of social media.

For now, though, TikTok remains a core consideration for planners and buyers alongside Meta because of its continued popularity with younger audiences and the high degree of time they spend on the app.

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