TikTok is not social media. In fact, it marks the end of the social era
The most disruptive element of TikTok is not its meteoric rise, argues 160over90’s Leroyson Figueira, but the fact that it’s challenging what the word ‘social’ means in 2022 – signaling, in the process, the end of the social media era.
Is TikTok social media - or, instead, a platform for a new kind of filmmaking? / Solen Feyissa via Unsplash
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.
That’s what makes it so good.
What is social?
We use Facebook to share content with our friends. We use the ‘like’ button to show the world who we are and what we care about: our political views; our humor (cats!); our favorite new music artists. We create communities around everything from our local high street to surfing and fashion. On Facebook, we’re being social. The goal is to inject elements of our personal lives into the feeds and timelines of others.
On YouTube, we scan viewer numbers to gauge how popular the film is while it loads. We scroll the comments section to read what people are saying, even before we watch the content (the comments are often more engaging than the video itself). After watching, we engage with comments by replying or liking.
On TikTok, we don’t want this type of social interaction. We don’t want to engage in communal activity.
We watch films. Hundreds of them, back to back, and fast. Swipe, swipe, swipe. I use the word ‘films’ deliberately: TikTok is not a social channel. It is a broadcast channel.
TikTok has film publishers and a film audience. It’s not at all like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. It is more like a TV channel or Netflix than a social platform. But the most democratic channel in history.
Anyone can publish a film on TikTok, and anyone can watch it. It’s a filmic channel with unlimited commissioners, actors, directors, sound technicians and artists. Unlimited creators. Creators with no governmental mandate, no corporate charter, and no investor relations. TikTok publishers make films of whatever they want, whenever they want.
There’s nothing social about it. We don’t read the comments on TikTok to see what people think. We don’t care about the number of likes, as long as we find it immediately entertaining (and that can be pretty niche). Nobody sees what we’re watching. We don’t ‘share’ our top films. We don’t let our friends and family know what we’re watching, because our entertainment choices are personal. My humor is not your humor. TikTok is intimate and ours.
We don’t ‘like’ content to share with friends or to show off. We ‘like’ content to improve the algorithm, because we know that the more we train the algorithm, the better it is going to be for us. Just us. Doing so means we’ll get more filmic content of what we love, not more of what our oversharing brother-in-law on Facebook loves.
Entertainment for one
Advertising and marketing professionals are always keen to find the next social platform. As a knee-jerk reaction, TikTok has incorrectly been called a social platform, something to include in our social strategy. But it’s not social. Its filmic broadcast probably belongs in our advertising strategy.
If algorithm-driven short filmic content is where the world is moving to, and it sure looks like it, then it’s an individual world, not a ‘social’ one. TikTok is entertainment for one.
So good bye and so long social media. TikTok is all about me.
And that’s what makes it so good.
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