Social Media is Becoming Less ‘Social’ and More ‘Media’

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

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

Increasingly, it’s algorithms that are defining what we see in each app, and in that respect, it’s more about straight-up entertainment than it is about staying up to date with your friends. But what does that mean for the broader social media industry, and how marketers go about re-aligning their approach within this shift?

“We’re at an inflection point where it’s less about the connections we’re making with people, and more about the content we’re creating,” 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 entertainment you’re creating.”

Does that mean that you need to look at the content you create and post in a different way? And if so, how should you now be viewing your broader digital marketing plan?

That’s entertainment

Recent research from Omida found TikTok has surpassed Netflix as the second-most popular app among the under-35 set. The platform’s also poised to become the most popular social media destination for video viewing this year, while last year, it trailed Facebook by less than a minute in average viewing time.

Its impact is being felt throughout the industry, particularly as both social media companies and entertainment brands look to replicate its style and format. 

As explained by Maria Rua Aguete, Omdia’s senior director:

“For broadcasters, commercial or otherwise, keen to engage younger viewers, the increasing importance of TikTok to reach and grow new audiences should not be understated.” 

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

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

As explained by Leroyson Figueira, a senior creative director at London-based marketing agency 160over90:

It seems that every new digital platform that is not a website nor a utility app is immediately branded a social platform. Without pausing to think, TikTok has also been branded ‘social’ by our industry when it is anything but.”

Figueira further notes 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 channel or Netflix than a social platform. But the most democratic channel in history.”

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

Earlier this year, Blake Chandlee, TikTok’s president of global business solutions, made this distinction clear:

“They’ve built their algorithms based on the social graph. That is their core competency. We’re an entertainment platform. The difference is significant.”

That variance in perspective also shifts the way that marketers need to consider the app, and as more platforms look to replicate this approach, that also extends to your overall strategy.

A different era

The way that 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. 

As a result of TikTok’s success, other platforms are now looking to follow its lead. Instagram, of course, has Reels, while Snapchat’s Spotlight is its own take on the full-screen, vertical-scrolling video, less driven 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 like vertical video and “For You” recommendations in its latest app release.  

Source:, originally published on 2022-11-23 05:00:00