Meta Shrinks Experimental Product Group, Pushes Short-Form Video – JCK

Many jewelers have taken to Instagram lately to air their grievances about their posts not being seen by followers on the app (and in some cases, some apparently are having issues with their paid promotions too).

It’s unclear what’s to blame for the glitches with business users’ dashboards, but the lack of eyeballs on some users’ posts could be due to Instagram’s continuing push for more video content.

And now, there’s even more evidence that the app is going full steam ahead in an effort to blow TikTok away.

On Sept. 15, Platformer reported that Meta has dramatically scaled back its New Product Experimentation (NPE) department. This division is responsible for developing new products and experiences on a smaller scale. Back in February 2020, for example, JCK reported on a new app developed by NPE called Hobbi, which was similar to Pinterest. Given that the app was being tested right around the time we entered a global pandemic—basically the era of discovering personal hobbies—and none of us are using the app, well, you can probably guess how that went.

In any case, NPE has reportedly been given a new primary mission: innovation on short-form video.

Currently, Meta’s Reels, the short-form video aspect of Instagram, is said to be failing to keep pace with TikTok. Users are still uploading videos to the app, but they’re using TikTok to make them, as opposed to the suite of tools offered by Reels, it was reported by The Wall Street Journal on Sept. 12. The same report also said that user engagement with Reels had fallen over the past four weeks in August.

This specific tunneled focus on short-form video for Meta could work in its favor—or it could mark a series of missed opportunities. A company so desperate to keep up with TikTok and even YouTube might find the key to capturing users’ interest and loyalty through more focus and dedication.

Plus, at a time when TikTok seems at least a little vulnerable—the app’s ties to China were the subject of scrutiny at a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill on Sept. 14—now might be and ideal time for making bold moves. (It was also recently reported that YouTube plans to offer monetization options for its short-form videos, posing a challenge to TikTok and its users seeking to make a living through their content on the app.)

All this to say, if Instagram has been ticking you off lately, it doesn’t appear that’ll let up anytime soon. This insistence on striving to beat (or more accurately, to be exactly like) TikTok is leading people away from what they loved about it in the first place.

The aforementioned report from The Wall Street Journal shows an exhausted user base jumping off the platform for the newer TikTok not necessarily because TikTok does short-form video better (though that may be true), but because Instagram keeps taking away all the things that made it fun and engaging in the first place.

Those posts from jewelers that aren’t being seen are being replaced with suggested posts from people they don’t even follow. Do we need algorithms telling us what we want to see on the app, or do we want to see content from the people we’ve chosen to follow, whether friends, family, or businesses? One would expect it’s the latter.

Perhaps Meta is betting on being the last app standing—on satiating users’ thirst for short-form video when TikTok, somehow, dissolves. It’s not impossible, though unlikely, and this somewhat long-term plan is driving users away now.

But if you’re a business owner who has established a steady following on the app and want results, you’re going to have to give in to video. And probably get on TikTok. But here’s a time-saving tip: Why not do what others are doing and create your video content on TikTok and also upload it to Instagram? It should be noted that Instagram allegedly has an algorithm that makes TikTok videos harder to find on its app, but that doesn’t seem to stop them from showing up across everyone’s feeds.

No one knows precisely what will happen in the battle of the apps going forward, but the contest itself is proving the power and popularity of short-form video.

Photo courtesy of Meta

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Brittany Siminitz

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