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When TikTok reached the milestone of one billion monthly active users in September 2021, it was the latest sign of the very real challenge it’s presenting for the biggest social media and video services alike. And by biggest, clearly we’re thinking mainly of Facebook/Instagram and YouTube. So how are their responses to this competitive threat going?

Pretty well in YouTube’s case. The company announced yesterday that more than 1.5 billion monthly logged-in users are watching YouTube Shorts videos, which is now generating 30bn daily views of this content, and more than 5tn (trillion) views to date.

YouTube’s official figure for its overall service remains two billion monthly logged-in users, although that number dates from November 2020, so has surely grown. Even so, a 75% penetration rate for Shorts just 15 months after its global rollout shows YouTube’s efforts in getting its TikTok rival under the noses of viewers.

The 1.5bn figure was published in a blog post by chief business officer Robert Kyncl, in which he interviewed influencer Sydney Morgan. The piece talks up the idea of “multi-format creators on YouTube” who put out a mix of Shorts, regular videos and livestreams.

(Remember, though, that TikTok recently upped its maximum video length to 10 minutes, and already has a livestreaming option for its creators. ‘Multi-format creators’ is not a YouTube-only trend, even if that company’s desire to brand it as such is an understandable pitch.)

What about Meta? The increased focus on its own TikTok-style format, Reels, across Instagram and Facebook has been clear for a while. Now The Verge has a leaked internal memo from Facebook revealing plans to (in its paraphrasing) “make the app’s feed more like TikTok”.

That includes recommending lots more posts in people’s newsfeeds even if they’re not following the creator; bringing messaging back as a core feature of Facebook itself; and doubling down again on the Reels format.

“Here’s how the future Facebook app will work in practice: the main tab will become a mix of Stories and Reels at the top, followed by posts its discovery engine recommends from across both Facebook and Instagram,” is how The Verge described the plans. “It’ll be a more visual, video-heavy experience with clearer prompts to direct message friends a post.”

Will making Facebook a lot more like TikTok bring teenagers flocking to the social network, rather than simply alienating existing (older) users? It’s a risky bet, but one that shows just how much TikTok has rattled the biggest social-media giant of all.

In the light of some reports on YouTube’s announcement suggesting Shorts is now ‘bigger than TikTok’, if ByteDance’s app wants to rattle those giants some more, perhaps an update on its own monthly active user total would be in order…

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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