TikTok VS Instagram: The battle is on

Anyone else scared of checking their weekly screen time for TikTok? You wouldn’t be alone, as the average TikTok user spends 52 minutes per day on the app. That’s a lot, but almost on par with Instagram’s average of 53 minutes per day.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on just how addictive these apps are. Every element, design choice, and sound, is put there to satisfy, and keep you in the app for as long as possible. The longer you’re there, the more ad revenue they get.

It’s a strategy other businesses adopted long ago. Casinos for example, increase their revenue and the time spent gambling by patrons, by pumping in pure oxygen into their rooms. Social media platforms work in exactly the same way, as they desperately try to get you to spend just 1 more second on the app. 1 more Insta story, 1 more video to watch.

There’s a fairly scientific explanation to their addictiveness, and it comes down to how they take advantage of the dopamine receptors in your brain. Consuming content, and receiving notifications from Instagram and TikTok, cause your brain to send a chemical messenger called dopamine along a reward pathway, which put simply, makes you feel good. This in turn rewires your brain to desire and seek out these rewards more often.

Kind of scary, right? Perhaps Black Mirror’s warnings on social media and Big Tech were accurate.

Content, content, content.

On both social media platforms, there’s an abundance of photos, vidoes, and live streams to consume. You could scroll forever, and still have more content to view. In our previous article, we went over what TikTok is, but let’s do a quick refresh. Remember Vine? The viral app that focused on 7 second videos. Well it was bought out by Twitter, for a cool $30 million, and was then subsequently shut down, for a lack of direction, and profitability. Well TikTok filled that short-video-app void that Vine left, and with 800 million active users, it was more than a success. Similar to Vine, the main content that TikTok produces is based around humour, sketches, and… a lot of weird dancing videos.

Brands have quickly jumped onto the opportunity to advertise on TikTok, and a lot of them have done so with surprising grace, blending in well with the unique TikTok ecosystem.

This TikTok by Chipotle is just a video of a quesadilla with a funny song playing in the background. On what other platform would that receive 255,000 organic likes?

Instagram content on the other hand, is an arms race for the most aesthetic, muted-tones-colour-palette, satisfying feed. Both Instagram ads and paid promotions on ‘influencer’ accounts are effective channels for brand promotion, however there is less room for content to go ‘viral’, and have an account that has 2 followers, get a post to 1 million likes overnight.

Instagram however has evolved alongside Twitter as the public face of a brand. If you want to learn more about a restaurant, cafe, or shop, you’ll likely check their insta first. No one checks a brand’s TikTok before visiting.

Privacy? Don’t Know Her

Another key difference between these two social media platforms, is only one of them is currently being investigated by the US as a national security risk. This makes a lot of sense, as TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a chinese company that has links to the authoritarian dictatorship of the CCP (Communist party of China).

Instagram however is a much different beast. It was acquired in 2012 by Facebook for $1 billion, which was a lot of money for a company that only had 12 employees. TikTok isn’t the only social media giant that loves privacy issues though; Facebook (and Instagram) face a $5 Billion fine over privacy violations.

Regardless of these controversies, both platforms have recently clashed in terms of competition. As Instagram focuses on Insta TV and stories, they’re fighting directly alongside the classic portrait videos of TikTok. And while Instagram is popular with a younger demographic, more and more young adults and kids are spending most of their time on TikTok, which has not gone unnoticed by Zuckerberg.

In the end, these platforms will continue to fight for your attention, and it’s impossible to predict if any single one will prevail. There has been a recent emphasis on democracy, privacy, and censorship in terms of social media, with somewhat of a divide between whether or not they’re inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Regardless of this, it’ll be an interesting next couple of years for Instagram, TikTok, and the future of social media as a whole.

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