TicTok Product Managers Search For Ways To Stay Relevant

TicTok product managers have to deal with new rivals
TicTok product managers have to deal with new rivals
Image Credit: HS You

Is there any app that is hotter than TicTok? I mean go just about anywhere these days and you’ll find kids and adults with their noses buried in their mobile phones watching short videos that have been made for the TicTok platform. This would be a great product manager job to have. However, there is starting to be a problem. Along with TicTok’s success has come a wrath of brand new competitors. The TicTok product managers have to start to consider how they are going to react to a changing market.

TicTok Takes Over

Product managers know that right now the sun is setting on Facebook, then is it possible that TikTok could be coming to an end also? How much longer can its short-form video hold its consumers’ fickle attention? It was just a few years ago that TikTok was an app for kids, with videos of pets or talented children dancing. Cut to today and it seems like everyone is using it, no matter their age. This growth has come at the expense of its competition, such that just about every social-media company is now pouring money into trying to create copycat products.

TikTok’s founding genius was that it capitalized on consumers’ short attention with a seemingly infinite collection of music-backed videos under 60 seconds algorithmically tailored to users’ interests. Those still bored in under a minute have the ability to simply swipe until something else catches their eye. In its latest installment of what is the longest-running survey of digital media consumer behavior in America, it was found that found 82% of polled U.S. adults now use social media, unchanged from last year. What this means for product managers is that, unlike most other sectors in tech like food delivery, ride-hailing or dating, social media apps are competing for the same users, not new ones.

Product managers may choose to view this as being a game that TikTok is currently winning. Back in 2019, a survey showed that 70% of 10-year-old girls with smartphones in the U.S. were using TikTok. Today, a survey shows TikTok is the third-most used social media app across users of all ages, topping Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest and LinkedIn. This means that roughly 36% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 polled is using TikTok as of this year, behind only Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, and up from 11% usage two years ago. Over that period, the percentage of people who are using Snapchat, LinkedIn and Pinterest has declined.

TicTok Starts To Deal With Competition

Product managers at other social media platforms are not standing by. They have started to take steps to deal with the threat posed by TicTok. Both Facebook and Instagram now have the short-form video platform Reels. Last year Pinterest added Watch, where users can scroll through short videos and pictures. Snapchat also launched short-form video product Spotlight in late 2020. Last year, YouTube launched Shorts, offering a platform for videos under 60 seconds. And even Twitter said it was in the process of testing out an updated “Explore” tab that follows a TikTok-like scrolling format that seems to favor short-form video tweets. TikTok’s short-form video concept is even entering into television with Netflix’s Fast Laughs service, a feature launched first on its mobile app last year that serves up short clips from Netflix shows.

TikTok product managers seem to be working to address some of their shortcomings from both an advertiser and user perspective. Earlier this year, the platform worked to enhance its ability to both target and measure its value proposition to advertisers by enabling first and third-party cookies on top of its existing tools. It also recently launched a new 50% revenue share feature with creators on ads next to its most popular videos. The revenue share concept is an idea that has long been used to help incentivize creators on YouTube, and is one Meta has been exploring on its Reels service. The TikTok product managers are also expanding from their short-form underpinnings. Less than a year after they raised the maximum length of a video to three minutes, TikTok said early this year that it is extending that length to 10 minutes. It could be that advertisers will come, wherever the users are. Web data shows that traffic to TikTok’s ads site was up nearly 200% in the first quarter of this year. Users of TikTok’s Android app spent an average of more than an hour and 22 minutes a day on the service in March. This is important for product managers because it is more than for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or YouTube.

Offering an advertising business atop its user-generated content means that TikTok faces a lot of the same controversy that has plagued Meta’s apps. The big question, as it the case with all social media apps, is what it does with its users’ data. TicTok is banned in India over perceived security risks. It has also faced investigations in the U.S. from lawmakers over its algorithms, which can push users down potentially unhealthy paths. Internally, TikTok’s rapid rise has required a grueling grind in its offices. An investigation revealed a U.S. office culture that is described as being both demanding and secretive, with several former employees describing their 85 hours of meetings a week in addition to their regular work. There have also been many instances of culture clash between the U.S. operation and its Beijing-based parent company.

What All Of This Means For You

The world of social media is always changing. There seem to be new players showing up just about every day. One such new player is the TicTok platform. This social media tool that allows its users to both post and view short form videos has grown rapidly over a very short time. This growth is always impressive, but as product managers realize, with growth comes more competition. What this means for TicTok is that not only do they have to come up with ways to manage their growth, but they also have to find ways to deal with all of their new competition.

TicTok has burst on the social media scene. Its arrival has taken traffic away from other social media platforms. TicTok’s design was created to capture user’s interest. Since the use of social media apps is not increasing, TicTok is stealing users away from other apps – TicTok’s growth has come at the expense of other social media apps. Product managers at other social media apps have responded to the arrival of TicTok by creating their own short-form video features. TicTok product managers are making it easier to sell advertising on their platform and they are lengthening the videos that users can post. TicTok is struggling with the same issues that other social media platforms deal with in terms of what they do with user data. Creating a healthy work environment and getting different parts of the company to work together has been a challenge.

There is no question that TicTok is a very popular social media app. Just like the apps that came before it, TicTok has captured the attention of countless users. The TicTok product managers have to make some decisions about how they will go about finding ways to capitalize on the advertising opportunities that their popularity has presented them with. They also have to make sure that their approach to short videos continues to capture user’s attention even as multiple competitors show up. This can be done, but it’s going to take a great deal of work on the part of the TicTok product managers.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Should TicTok allow longer videos or will this take away from why people are tuning in?

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