Antisocial Media: TikTok, Meta, and Algorithmic Content Distribution

Kevin LaBuz
8 min readAug 21, 2022

TikTok’s meteoric rise is forcing other social media platforms to respond. As a result, social media is getting less social. Below, a look at recommendation media and Meta’s response to TikTok. Thanks for reading.

Cigars, Emus, and Porta Potties

Social media is becoming less social. TikTok popularized algorithmic content distribution. Now other social media platforms are scrambling to respond.

With traditional media, targeting is more of a sledge hammer than a scalpel. For example, magazines play to specific interests — cigar aficionados, emu farmers, portable restroom operators — and advertisers looking to market cigar cutters, porta johns, or emu feed tag along. Here, advertisers operate on inference: lots of guys watch football; lots of guys like beer and pickup trucks; ergo, football games have ads for Bud Light and Ford F-150s.

Source: Emu Today & Tomorrow.

The internet provided a more refined — though still imperfect — targeting toolkit. Eliminating geographic constraints enabled new connections and deep niches to thrive online. Interests could be parsed thinner and thinner. As Kevin Kelly notes in 1,000 True Fans:

If you lived in any of the two million small towns on Earth you might be the only one in your town to crave death metal music, or get turned on by whispering, or want a left-handed fishing reel. Before the web you’d never be able to satisfy that desire. You’d be alone in your fascination. But now satisfaction is only one click away…As far as I can tell there is nothing — no product, no idea, no desire — without a fan base on the internet.

Additionally, search provides more signal around intent. Emu feed providers surmised that subscribers to Emu Today & Tomorrow were interested in emu feed. The Google search bar eliminates the guesswork.

Like search, social media expanded the targeting toolkit for advertisers and content creators. Historically, Meta — the company formerly known as Facebook — Twitter and other social media platforms relied on social graphs to signal interest. A social graph maps the connections between everyone in a network and their interactions. On Facebook, the social graph is your friends, your friend’s friends, the groups you’re…

--

--

Kevin LaBuz

Head of IR & Corporate Development at 1stDibs. Previously finance at Etsy, Indeed, and internet equity research at Deutsche Bank. Find me on Twitter @kjlabuz.