Social media is becoming less “social” and more “media”

What’s the difference between social media and entertainment, and which side of the fence do the big platforms sit on?

Is Instagram a social app or an entertainment platform? What about Snapchat or TikTok?

It’s increasingly algorithms that define what we see in each app, and in that regard, it’s more about pure entertainment than keeping up with your friends. But what does this mean for the broader social media industry, and how are marketers doing to refocus their approach within this shift?

“We’re at a tipping point where it’s less about the connections we make with people and more about the content we create,” he says Nick Cicero, Vice President of Strategy at Conviva. “With the heavy shift to video, it’s less about the social graph and more about the conversation you create.”

Does that mean you have to look at the content you create and post differently? And if so, how should you now look at your broader digital marketing plan?

This is entertainment

Recent research found by Omida TikTok has overtaken Netflix as the second most popular app among those under 35 years of age. The platform is also poised to become the top social media destination for video viewing this year, while last year it trailed behind Facebook by less than a minute in average viewing time.

Its impact is being felt across the industry, especially as both social media companies and entertainment brands seek to replicate its style and format.

As explained by Maria Rua A goodness, Omdias Senior Director:

“For commercial or other broadcasters looking to reach younger viewers, the increasing importance of TikTok to reach and grow new audiences should not be underestimated.”

TikTok’s surge in both video views and users – the platform has approximately 80 million monthly users in the US, 80% of whom are between the ages of 16 and 34 – Causes marketers to prioritize the channel as part of their social strategies.

But the question arises, is TikTok a social channel, an entertainment channel, or both?

As explained by Leroyson FigueiraSenior Creative Director at London marketing agency 160over90:

It seems that any new digital platform that is neither a website nor a utility app is immediately branded as a social platform. Without a second thought, TikTok has also been branded “social” by our industry when it is anything but “social.”

Figueira further states that:

“TikTok has film publishers and a film audience. It’s not at all like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. It’s more like a TV station or Netflix than a social platform. But the most democratic channel in history.”

For what it’s worth, TikTok considers itself an entertainment app.

Earlier this year, Blake Chandlee, TikTok’s President of Global Business Solutions, made this distinction clear:

“They developed their algorithms based on the Social Graph. That is their core competency. We are an entertainment platform. The difference is significant.”

This different perspective is also changing the way marketers need to look at the app, and as more platforms seek to replicate this approach, it extends to your overall strategy as well.

Another era

The way TikTok has approached its model is unique in that it looks more like a media company that distributes content, as opposed to a social channel that facilitates person-to-person interaction.

Due to the success of TikTok, other platforms are now trying to follow suit. Instagram has Reels, of course, while Snapchat’s Spotlight is its own version of vertically scrolling, full-screen video, driven less by who you know and more by what’s driving overall engagement.

Even entertainment platforms are adopting some of TikTok’s features. The NBA, for example, has included elements such as vertical videos and “For You” recommendations in its latest app version.


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