Changes on Facebook and Instagram. How TikTok affects social media?

16 September 2022, Mateusz Pałka

TikTok dominates the social media world – teenagers absolutely love it (so it reaches the generations that will soon be the main audience for many industries). It also works well as a source of opinions about products and services, and above all, it beats other platforms in terms of the amount of content consumed per user. No wonder that other applications do not want to lose their position and are looking for new solutions.

How are Facebook and Instagram changing? Is there still room for diversity of solutions? What awaits us in the near future?

Using proven algorithms

Internet platforms, and most of all entertainment and shopping platforms, use algorithms based on artificial intelligence to match content and products to our interests and tastes. The goal, of course, is to make the recipient stay on the website as long as possible, use the services or purchase specific products. We all know it from experience – featured videos on YouTube, recommended videos on Netflix, featured products and articles on Amazon or a matched playlist on Spotify. These platforms, among others, use solutions based on machine learning or artificial intelligence.

TikTok is the biggest inspiration

TikTok is distinguished by achieving high engagement rates by brands and users, as well as the recommendation system used. Entries tailored to the user’s taste attract their attention for longer. As a result, Internet users want to spend more time on TikTok, and the platform is gaining more and more popularity. Identifying the Internet user’s preferences and anticipating what they may be interested in brings results. No wonder that Meta also makes changes to its algorithms.

As Snapchat gained popularity, the „stories” feature made its way to Instagram, and soon after, it also appeared on Facebook. Since then, more Snapchat-inspired options have been appearing on the platforms. And the latest trends of change were set by TikTok.

On Facebook, greater user engagement is visible in private groups. That’s nothing new. The trend was predicted earlier and also indicated by the creators of the platform. There was a noticeable problem – sponsored and recommended content was interspersed with entries from private groups and publications of friends. The number of posts published directly on your own and friends’ profiles has decreased. Users have become discouraged from publishing entries on profiles, since they are not displayed to friends on an ongoing basis, and even only after a few days. It turns out to be more advantageous to send a direct message or use the Facebook Stories. Facebook Messenger does not lose its popularity, especially when it is a separate app.

Activity on private groups is additionally intensified by the effect of a selected group of recipients. They are united by common interests or a similar goal. What’s more, posts reach fewer people, so their authors are more open to expressing their opinion.

A new tab

Facebook responds to changes in the web. On July 21, 2022, an entry about news appeared on Mark Zuckerberg’s profile. The Feeds tab is introduced, which collects friends’ publications, new posts on groups and pages. Additionally, they are displayed in chronological order. The possibility of selecting these entries has also been made available, i.e. displaying only entries from selected categories, e.g. liked fanpages or only publications of friends. The Home tab shows publications that may potentially interest us, based on the created algorithm, as well as posts by friends or followed accounts, but in a much smaller number. Changes are introduced gradually. You can definitely notice a strong inspiration with the solutions used by TikTok.

It might seem that matching content based on the user’s previous online activity can lead to being locked in an information bubble. Interest in a given topic causes related products, services and entertainment from the same category to appear on subsequent platforms. It works differently on TikTok. The algorithms that are used select seemingly unsuitable content for the user, but with the assumption of arousing interest. What’s more, the code has been adjusted in such a way that too many of the displayed recommendations do not concern the same topic. Thanks to the mechanism, various entries reach the recipient. Personalization of content ceases to be excessively used, primarily because it leads to limiting the type of content, and thus creating information bubbles. It will still affect recommended content, so user activity will be an indicator for further content matches, but to a much lesser extent. What additional information will the algorithms use? These will be location and demographic data as well as current trends and the most popular user entries.

Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels are short videos of users of the platform. Reels on Instagram can be used from 2020, while in Poland from October 2021. Of course, the functionality is constantly being developed. Producers give their best so that Internet users do not give up “being on Insta”. What can you use to create a clip? Of course, audio recordings, changes in playback speed or visual effects. Gaining popularity, Reels were quickly expanded with new features, including the ability to use a series of photos, new templates, more overlays and effects or a split image. Another creative feature was the option of direct recording from the phone’s front and rear cameras simultaneously. A new channel – Instagram Collabs enabled the so-called. crossing, i.e. creating reels (but also entries) together with other users. The functionality definitely refers to the tiktok Duet (Dual).

Sharing reels is a more interesting form of entries, and additionally it can be a way for their creators to earn additional income, e.g. through the use of advertising overlays. In the near future, all short videos on Instagram will automatically be shared as reels. What’s more, reels are promoted more on the site, which means that more of them are displayed than other entries.

With VEED.IO, a video editing tool, creating reels on Instagram has become even easier. This online video editor offers many tools such as background remover, audio converter, and even Instagram reels downloader.

Facebook Reels

It could not be otherwise – reels were also introduced on Facebook. In addition, you can download them directly from your Instagram profile. Reels options remain the same on both platforms. We can add a recording, music, various effects, and the recipients have the ability to interact directly, e.g. adding comments and reactions while watching. Without a doubt, these short videos refer to the solutions used by TikTok. It is the fastest growing content format to date. At the beginning of 2022, videos accounted for 17% of all content available on Facebook.

Changing the format on Instagram

Originally, Instagram was associated with a square format of photos. Those times are over. The introduction of video somehow forced the emergence of the popular vertical format. Reels are published in 9:16 format, and soon this will also apply to photos. Ultimately, the format will probably replace the ones available so far: 1:1 and 4:5, to which we are already accustomed.

There is also a different layout. The new layout was supposed to be more adapted and transparent. Entries began to appear in frames of the same dimensions as the photo, and the background color was adjusted to match the main colors of the photo. The text of the entry has been moved from the space under the photo – to the photo. The text covered the image, so the longer the entry was, the less transparent the reception. In order to make the text visible, Instagram has made the photos darker in the lower part. The news did not work in practice. The appearance of the platform quickly returned to the previous layout.

The possibility of enlarging a part of an already published photo or recording has also been introduced. The functionality is currently only available on iOS, but will soon be available on Android as well.

Similar…but different…or the same?

The changes are an expression of the willingness to develop platforms, but on the other hand, they seem to be secondary to TikTok’s solutions. Do Internet users want this? On July 23, 2022, photographer Tati Bruening created a meme on Instagram commenting on the changes introduced by the creators of the platform. The entry gained great popularity and started a series of subsequent publications indicating literally: “stop trying to be TikTok.” Users demand that their opinions be taken into account, i.e. the standard version of the platform based on the publication of photos, but completely different trends are visible on the market and it is the financial benefits that will speak for further features and options in the world of social media. Mark Zuckerberg denies rumors that Facebook and Instagram will follow the path of TikTok, citing general changes in trends, including a greater share of artificial intelligence in generating higher user activity or the popularity of video content. Apparently, the two social networks are about to take a different direction.

TikTok is an entertainment platform. Facebook and Instagram, as social platforms, primarily enabled communication with loved ones, tracking activities and private photos of friends. There is a visible tendency for both services to resemble TikTok. Will these platforms soon also be primarily entertainment platforms, and interactions between friends on Facebook or Instagram will pass with the wind?

Changes are and will be inevitable. Despite the dissatisfaction of Instagramers, you can expect that the introduced video format will stay with us. Facebook will also not back down from decisions already made. Will there be more options straight from TikTok? Do the platforms follow the global trend or do they lack ideas for development? Will the idea of social media as primarily interaction with friends and fans no longer be valid? Often development is the result of trial and error, and only the time lapse shows the accuracy of the decisions made.

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