Facebook Adjusts Algorithms, Messenger, to Take on TikTok

Facebook is trying to make its feed operate more like TikTok’s, according to recent reports that indicate the company recently directed employees to adjust the platform’s algorithms to prioritize popular posts, regardless of their source, over its traditional approach of serving posts from friends or accounts followed. Parent company Meta Platforms is also said to be reuniting Facebook with the Messenger app in order to align its message functionality with that of TikTok. Combined with an increased emphasis on short-form video with Reels on Facebook and Instagram, the changes reflect TikTok’s threat to Meta’s social media dominance.

Meta “executives were closely tracking TikTok’s moves and had grown worried that they weren’t doing enough to compete,” The Verge writes, sourcing news of the changes to “an internal memo from late April” written by Tom Alison, the longtime engineering exec put in charge of Facebook in August 2021.

“While Instagram has already morphed to look more like TikTok with its focus on Reels, executives hope that a similar treatment to Facebook will reverse the app’s stagnant growth and potentially lure back young people,” The Verge says.

“The moment is similar to when Facebook copied Snapchat as it was growing quickly, but this time, the stakes are arguably higher. Investors are doubting Meta’s ability to navigate challenges to its ads business. And with its stock price already battered, the company needs to show that it can grow if [Meta CEO Mark] Zuckerberg wants to keep funding his metaverse vision.”

Alison tells The Verge “the new goal for Facebook is to build the ‘discovery engine.’” Alison acknowledged Meta was “slow to see the competitive threat of TikTok, even as it initially grew by blanketing Facebook and Instagram with ads.”

The Verge describes “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. It’ll be a more visual, video-heavy experience with clearer prompts to direct message friends a post.”

Meanwhile, YouTube “says it is gaining on TikTok” in the short-form video race, according to The Wall Street Journal, which quotes the platform’s owner, Alphabet’s Google, as disclosing this week that “more than 1.5 billion people watch YouTube Shorts every month,” engagement comparable to TikTok.

The figure provides “a window into the hotly contested battle for supremacy in the short-video format, which is now central to how most people use social media,” WSJ writes.

“YouTube is a pillar of Google’s business, generating more than $28 billion in advertising revenue last year,” but of late has been “threatened by TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd., and competing services such as Meta Platform Inc.’s Instagram Reels. Those rival services in particular have proved popular among advertisers hoping to reach younger audiences.”