Andrew joined the State of Digital Publishing team in 2021, bringing with him more than a decade and a half of editorial experience in B2B...Read more
I talked last week about the dangers of investing heavily in social media platforms with a high signal-to-noise ratio.
Yet despite my caution, it’s hard to argue against the numbers showing audiences in general switching over to social media networks for their news and entertainment, with younger generations in particular heading to TikTok in their droves.
If you’re looking for an interesting read on why Instagram is losing out to TikTok, I’d highly recommend Chris Stokel-Walker’s recent piece for Business Insider.
Stokel-Walker’s analysis boils down to the fact that while Instagram’s algorithm is geared in favor of successful influencers, helping them to expand their followings, TikTok’s algorithm leans towards the meritocratic.
Stay up to date on the latest news, trends, and best practices in digital publishing.
Essentially, according to one researcher, every TikTok video has an equal chance of going viral, with the algorithm favoring interesting content over influencers with established audiences.
What does this then mean for publishers, given their rising levels of investment in short-form video in general and TikTok in particular?
In short, it means content is and remains king. Publishers are going to have to think long and hard about the type of content they post to the platform.
For example, it seems somewhat self-evident that using a platform that prides itself on viral content to provide consistent coverage of breaking news is self-defeating. Not only does the medium constrain the messaging, but frankly TikTok’s endless scroll format rewards the part of our brains many of us are too embarrassed to acknowledge.
Do you like videos of cute puppies doing crazy things? Regardless of what you tell yourself, TikTok seems to know the truth.
Unlike some other social media platforms, which require users to actively engage with their content, TikTok removes any awkwardness by simply serving them videos and seeing what sticks. As users hover on videos they wouldn’t consciously seek out, TikTok begins building a picture of what we like while ignoring our unreliable narrators.
With this in mind, evergreen content will be key for publishers, with explainers and entertainment videos likely to be the most successful. Videos with proven “hooks”, either one liners known to stop the scroll or simply an attractive smiling face, will drive traffic.
Remember the five Ws and one H or writing? Publishers, editors and journalists will need to change up how they think on this front. One important thing to remember is that, in the end, grabbing an audience’s attention is generally a fairly formulaic process.