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Inspired by the popularity of TikTok, Google is working to find new ways to include short-form videos in search results. 

Google Product Manager Danielle Marshak revealed this during a recent episode of the Search Off the Record podcast with hosts Gary Illyes and Lizzi Sassman from Google’s Search Relations team. 

Why Google Is Interest In Short-Form Videos

Though the entire episode is more broadly focused on discussing how Google handles video content in search results, the conversation eventually turns to the most popular video format of the moment – short vertical videos less than 5 minutes in length. 

Beyond their popularity, the Google employees agree there is a lot of interest in short videos because they are easily digestible and can contain a lot of information in a compact package.

As Marshak says:

“And this format, it’s really cool because as I mentioned, it is very concise. You can get a lot of information in a short period of time, and you can also get a loot of different views and perspectives…

“So we think this kind of content could be useful for a lot of different types of search queries, and we’ve been experimenting with how to show it to users more often.”

Could TikTok Videos Appear In Search Results?

Since TikTok is practically synonymous with this specific type of short video, it was only a matter of time before the social video app was brought up. 

Interestingly, Gary Illyes explained that the unique way TikTok works makes its content much easier for the search engine to crawl and index compared to others like Snapchat or Instagram.

Since every TikTok video has a unique URL and can be opened directly in a web browser, Illyes says there is a chance the videos could be directly indexed and shown in search results:

“You can actually open it on the laptop and you will end up on a web page and you can actually watch it on the web page. You don’t have to have the TikTok app for watching the video.

“So I imagine that if they allow crawling – I haven’t checked – then we can probably index those videos as well.”

Other Ways Google Is Integrating Short Videos Into Search

When asked about other types of short video content that Google might include in search results pages, Marshak mostly focused on educational or informational content, such as recipes:

“So let’s say, again, you’re searching for some new ideas to make banana bread. And right now, you might see traditional recipes, you might see longer videos, but you could also see short videos, which could just give you a different style or perspective.

“And people’s preferences are different. Some people might prefer to read; some people might prefer a longer video; some people might prefer short videos.

“And so we want to offer a lot of different options to get that type of information, in the format that is most useful for you. So that’s one example.”

From what was said, it seems the ideas are still in their early stages but the episode makes it clear that Google is taking TikTok and its popular video format very seriously. You can expect to see much more of it in search results sooner, rather than later.

Listen to the full episode of the Search Off the Record podcast here.

After suffering a massive drop in stock values earlier this week, Facebook is planning to pivot more towards being a short-form video platform. 

The shift in focus was announced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a company-wide virtual meeting with Facebook employees shortly after the stock crash, which was triggered by a devastating quarterly earnings report from the platform’s parent company – Meta Platforms. 

In its latest earnings report, Meta disclosed that it had lost money throughout the quarter as well as seeing the first-ever decline in daily active users. By the end of the quarter, the company says more than half a million users had stopped using the platform on a daily basis. 

All of this then caused investors to panic, leading to the company’s stock price dropping by over 200 billion dollars in a single day – the largest single-day stock drop in history.

Why Is Facebook Losing Users and Money?

As Zuckerberg laid out to employees, he sees three major contributing factors to the unflattering quarterly earnings report. These are a recent wave of investments from Meta to establish Metaverse, difficulties with advertising after the of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature and Android’s take on this information sharing feature, and TikTok.

The first issue is easy to believe. After the company’s hugely publicized rebrand to Meta, it has been spending a lot of money to establish its Metaverse platform – which has yet to pay off. Given the mixed-to-negative reception the Metaverse has received, it is also possible investors are nervous about the potential for eventual revenue from the platform.

Facebook is also seeing a notable loss in money from advertising, largely because the largest mobile operating systems have both implemented new features which give users more information and control over how their information is being used. 

On one hand, this is a benefit for users because they can now easily opt-out of being tracked online. On the other, it makes it much more difficult – and even potentially impossible in some cases – to target relevant ads for users. This leads to less interest in ads from users, which translates to less engagement, and thus less revenue, 

What About TikTok?

After surviving challenges from Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, Facebook may have finally met a competitor it can’t afford to ignore.

Mark Zuckerberg told employees that part of the company’s poor quarterly performance was an “unprecedented level of competition” from TikTok.

As such, Zuckerberg plans to directly focus on promoting its short-video-related content and features across both Instagram and Facebook.

As he told meeting attendees:

“People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time, and apps like TikTok are growing very quickly. And this is why our focus on Reels is so important over the long term.”

While both of Meta’s social networks have increasingly prioritized video in recent years, this underscores a renewed emphasis on video content – especially short, easy-to-share clips like those found on TikTok. As such, brands hoping to reach their audiences on these platforms should be prepared to similarly focus on creating video content that connects with their potential customers.

Step aside Google, there’s a new top domain around the world according to the annual rankings of most popular domains globally from Cloudflare. For 2021, TikTok is the top site based on internet traffic.

The full list of the most popular domains in 2021 is:

  1. TikTok.com
  2. Google.com
  3. Facebook.com
  4. Microsoft.com
  5. Apple.com
  6. Amazon.com
  7. Netflix.com
  8. YouTube.com
  9. Twitter.com
  10. WhatsApp.com

This is a big jump from 2020, when the newly popular social network ranked in just 7th place overall, while Google (which includes the variety of services under the Google umbrella, such as Maps and News) seemed safely in the top position. 

Cloudflare’s Year in Review report details TikTok’s rise to dominance over the course of the year:

“It was on February 17, 2021, that TikTok got the top spot for a day. Back in March, TikTok got a few more days and also in May, but it was after August 10, 2021, that TikTok took the lead on most days. There were some days when Google was #1, but October and November were mostly TikTok’s days, including on Thanksgiving (November 25) and Black Friday (November 26).”

What Does This Mean?

To be clear, this is only based on traffic. This does not necessarily mean that TikTok is now the biggest social media platform around the world, let alone the site with the most users.

When looking at the number of distinct users on each platform, most estimates still place the upstart platform behind both Facebook and Instagram – let alone Google.

It is quite clear, though, that TikTok is quickly growing into a force to be reckoned with online. If it isn’t already on your map for your marketing plans in 2022, perhaps this report will cause you to reconsider.

Read the full Cloudflare Year in Review report, which includes stats on the top social networks, e-commerce sites, and streaming sites from the past year, here.

TikTok is introducing new ways for pages to monetize their presence on the platform via digital “gifts” and tips.

Notably, these tools are exclusive to individual creators or entrepreneurs through the Creator Next monetization suite, which is not available to brands on the platform.

In a way, this makes sense as the new monetization features are designed to be direct ways for other users to reward creators for sharing great content. Let’s talk about exactly what these new features are.

TikTok Tips

TikTok now allows users to send money directly to creators as a “tip”.

The feature is managed through Swipe and requires an account with that service to be eligible to receive tips. 

Although creators will receive 100% of the value of the initial tip, TikTok will apply a service fee to generate revenue from this feature.

Signed-up profiles will include a new icon on their profile, which will allow users to send $5, $10, $15, or custom tips up to $100.

By default, others will be able to see when you send or receive a tip, unless you specifically choose to make your tip anonymous.

To prevent misuse, TikTok limits users to $500 total or up to 100 transactions per day.

TikTok Video Gifts

TikTok’s new Video Gifts blur the line between Reddit awards and its tipping system. It allows users to pay to reward content they love with specific gifts, which are shown to other viewers.

The big difference between this and something like “Reddit Gold” is that recipients can then exchange their rewards for actual money via a virtual currency called “diamonds”.

Interestingly, gifts come with some very unique benefits, including a boost in the platform’s algorithm:

As the announcement says:

“… a key metric that TikTok uses to assess the popularity of a video is the number of Gifts sent to a creator’s content.”

Are You Eligible?

Users interested in utilizing these monetization features must:

  • Be 18+ years old
  • Have at least 1,000 video views in the past 30 days
  • Have at least 3 posts in the past 30 days
  • Be in good standing regarding TikTok’s community guidelines
  • Reside in the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, or Spain

If your account meets these requirements, you will be able to opt-in to the Creator Next suite.

For more, read the announcement here.

TikTok announced this week that it is extending the maximum length of videos on its platform, tripling the limit from sixty seconds to three minutes.

The update began rolling out to users over the past few days. As users get access, they will be notified with a notification in the app, as shown below:

As the company says in the announcement:

“There’s so much that can happen in a TikTok minute, from crowdsourced musicals and sea shanty singalongs to feta pasta recipes, roller skating revivals, and more. Now we’re introducing the option for our global community to create longer videos – paving the way for even richer storytelling and entertainment on TikTok.”

Keeping with how videos have always been handled in the app, users can record, edit, and share their videos entirely within TikTok, or choose to upload pre-edited videos.

Is TikTok Challenging YouTube?

For the most part, videos on social media have tended towards short-form clips. From Vines to Snapchat Stories and YouTube Shorts, most platforms have prioritized keeping videos easily consumable while on the go. 

Until now, TikTok has worked within these limits to establish itself as the platform for bite-sized videos. 

This marks the app’s first foray into longer videos, which can demand more attention and focus from users.

The question is whether users will be willing to invest this energy in longer content, though the announcement is optimistic:

“With all the ways our community has redefined expression in under 60 seconds, we’re excited to see how people continue to entertain and inspire with a few more seconds – and a world of creative possibilities.”

For the longest time, the conventional wisdom has held that Facebook is where people spend the majority of their screen time while using apps. According to a new report from App Annie, however, that has shifted over the past year.

For the first time ever, TikTok has taken the lead as the social app with the longest time spent per user.

Year-over-year, TikTok has leapt 325% in time spent, officially knocking Facebook out of the top spot.

Notably, this does not necessarily mean people are spending less time on Facebook. In fact, nearly every app in every market included in the report has seen increases in the time spent on their platform – likely due to the Coronavirus and social distancing measures.

Still, TikTok’s growth over the past year far outpaced any other platform, allowing it to take the lead compared to any other social app.

With this in mind, it is not a surprise to see that TikTok also took the top spot as the #1 breakout app of 2020 based on monthly active user growth.

Another key finding is that TikTok has risen to the #2 non-gaming apps when it comes to consumer spending. In addition to the traditional advertising services TikTok offers, it brings in additional revenue with purchasable digital goods. Surprisingly, this appears to have been a hit with users, contributing to a swell of revenue.

While this may be one of the most important takeaways from the report for brands trying to keep up with shifting audiences, the report also includes a few other interesting findings:

Mobile Adoption Leaps Forward

Based on App Annie’s data, mobile adoption has leapt forward by 2-3 years over the past year. Nearly every metric related to mobile use spiked.

This includes a 7% year-over-year increase in mobile app downloads, an 8%, which translates to 218 billion app downloads. 

This year also marks the first time Americans have spent more time on their mobile devices than they have spent watching TV. People spent 8% more time on their mobile devices compared to TVs (4 hours a day on mobile vs 3.7 hours watching TV).

People Watch 4x More YouTube Than Netflix

Based on app usage, YouTube is the unquestioned leader in video streaming. The app received more than 4x the time spent on the app per user compared to any other platform. Even Netflix was miles behind Google’s video platform.

Every month, the average user watches 23 hours of content on YouTube, compared to just 5.7 hours of Netflix shows or movies. This makes it clear that YouTube is the platform to focus on if you want to get video content in front of your target audience, whether it takes the form of advertisements or regular content.

*UPDATE* – The roller coaster continues. Late Saturday, President Trump told reporters he approved of a deal which would see TikTok’s US operations taken over by Oracle and Walmart.

“I have given the deal my blessing,” said Trump as he left Washington for a North Carolina rally. “I approve the deal in concept.”

Following the news, the US Department of Commerce said it is delaying the upcoming removal of TikTok from American app stores in “light of recent developments.”

Now, the department says TikTok will remain available on US iOS and Android stores until September 27th, unless a deal is finalized and approved.

*Original Article*
It is official. TikTok will be formally banned from Android and iOS within the United States starting Sunday, September 20, 2020.

This means that people within the US will be unable to download the app from trusted app stores.

Those who have the app already downloaded can continue to use the app, however, they will be unable to download any updates released in the future.

Following this, an effective ban of the platform will go into effect starting November 12, at which time the app will be completely unreachable in the US.

The announcement from the US Department of Commerce also stated that any workarounds to access TikTok will also be banned.

The announcement came as somewhat of a shock, as TikTok had made visible efforts to sell its US operations which would satisfy the conditions issued by the Department of Commerce.

As the department said in the announcement of the effective ban:

“The President has provided until November 12 for the national security concerns posed by TikTok to be resolved. If they are, the prohibitions in this order may be lifted.”

According to President Trump, who signed the ban into effect via Executive Order on August 6, 2020, TikTok and WeChat – owned by the same company – pose a threat to national security.

The Department of Commerce elaborated on this:

“Today’s announced prohibitions, when combined, protect users in the U.S. by eliminating access to these applications and significantly reducing their functionality…

Each collects vast swaths of data from users, including network activity, location data, and browsing and search histories…

This combination results in the use of WeChat and TikTok creating unacceptable risks to our national security.”

TikTok spokesperson responded to the news in a statement which called the move “unprecedented”:

“In our proposal to the U.S. Administration, we’ve already committed to unprecedented levels of additional transparency and accountability well beyond what other apps are willing to do, including third-party audits, verification of code security, and US government oversight of US data security.”

It should be noted that the United States is not the only country to express concerns about TikTok or even to ban it from their country. India banned the app starting in July of this year, while others including Japan have openly considered banning the service.

Google is testing the waters of short-form videos with a new platform similar to the popular but controversial TikTok.

The company announced it is be launching a new service called YouTube Shorts which will focus on short, catchy videos like those found on TikTok or Instagram Reels. 

The announcement describes the new service as:

“Shorts is a new short-form video experience for creators and artists who want to shoot short, catchy videos using nothing but their mobile phones.“

For now, YouTube Shorts is limited to India as Google tests its features and public reception. 

Though features will be limited at launch, Google says YouTube Shorts will eventually include a variety of features, including:

  • Create and upload videos of 15-seconds or less.
  • Edit videos with a number of creative tools.
  • Stitch shorter clips together with a multi-segment camera.
  • Add music to videos from YouTube’s library.
  • Speed up or slow down videos.
  • Timers and countdowns.

Early Version

The version launching to users in India this week is reportedly a very limited version of the tool including only a portion of the features that will be implemented in the final release. 

The purpose of the early test is to get feedback from early users so the company can better prioritize their efforts before releasing the service to a wider audience. 

Of course, this is likely not the only reason the company decided to test the service in India. 

India banned TikTok from operating within its country on June 29 of this year, similar to the actions taken by President Trump to eventually force the company out of the U.S. 

With this in mind, there is a clear opportunity to those who launch their own take on the tool in the country sooner rather than later. Still, YouTube has already confirmed it will be bringing YouTube Shorts to more countries in the near future.

As part of an ongoing legal battle with the United States government, TikTok has revealed its total number of active users for the first time ever. 

The hugely popular social app has been dominating the top charts of app stores for months, though it was never clear exactly how many people were using the app regularly. 

In a new court filing as part of the company’s lawsuit against the US government, however, TikTok shared data about its daily active and monthly users.

Active US Users

TikTok receives as many as 100 million active users in the United States every month, with 50 million users returning to the site every day. 

According to the company’s filing, that number represents an 800% increase since January of 2018.

Here are some major milestones in TikTok’s growth over the past few years:

  • 11 million monthly US users in 2018
  • 27 million monthly US users in 2019
  • 91 million monthly US users in June 2020

Since June, the app says it has increased to finally reach 100 million active monthly users from the US.

Active Global Users

In addition to revealing the company’s active US users, TikTok disclosed its total number of downloads and active users around the world. 

In total, TikTok’s app has been downloaded more than 2 billion times. 

As of July 2020, the company is seeing 700 million active users around the world each month. 

These highlights help show the overall growth of the app around the world:

  • 54 million monthly active users in January 2018
  • 271 million monthly active users in December 2018
  • 507 million monthly active users in December 2019

While these numbers are certainly impressive compared to most social networks, TikTok still lags far behind Facebook’s 2.7 billion global active users each month. 

Why TikTok Is Revealing This Now

While TikTok has steadily become one of the biggest online platforms around – especially when it comes to younger internet users – the app is in danger of being banned from the United States next month. 

The Trump Administration has filed an executive order which would ban TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance,  from operating in the United States. This came following concerns the Chinese-owned app was being used to collect personal data on Americans. 

TikTok has denied these claims and is fighting the executive order in court saying the company has been denied due process. 

If the company loses in court, it is also possible TikTok’s US operations could be sold to an American company like Microsoft.

It was only a matter of time. Following TikTok’s meteoric rise to popularity, Instagram is taking the social network on head-on with its own short videos called Instagram Reels. 

While the Facebook-owned platform has supported video content for years, Reels shares several key features that made TikTok a hit, including the ability to include licensed or original music.

Specifically Instagram Reels features:

  • Users can create and share 15-second videos.
  • Can include audio including songs from a catalog of licensed music.
  • Users can upload their own audio or grab audio from other videos to use in their own videos. 
  • Instagram will also be creating a dedicated section in the Explore tab of the app, where users can find “Featured Reels”.

How To Create Reels

Creating a Reel is similar to taking a photo or creating any video on Instagram. Just open the in-app camera and slide the menu at the bottom to “Reels”.

Once selected, you’ll find a number of tools including a few specific to Reels:

  • Audio: Find a song in the Instagram music library or record your own audio.
  • AR Effects: Include visual effects from Instagram’s gallery.
  • Align: Line up objects from your previous clip before starting your latest video.
  • Speed: Speed up the audio or video you’ve selected.

Once you’ve gotten your song selected and set up any effects you want to use, just press and hold the capture button. 

You can also combine a series of short clips into a single Reel.

Once you’ve finished recording and editing, you’ll be taken to a sharing screen. By default, Reels will be added to a dedicated tab on your profile. You can also choose to share the clip to your Feed ensuring all your friends will see it. 

Why This Matters

Over the past couple years, TikTok has gone from an up-and-coming platform for kids to be goofy on to a bonafide part of online culture. 

Still, many are hesitant to add another social network to their life by signing up for TikTok. With Instagram Reels, they can get in on some of the fun without creating a new account for another platform.

There is also the issue of TikTok’s recent place in world news. The Chinese-owned social network has been accused of gathering immense amounts of user data and sharing it with the Chinese government. 

Over the weekend, these accusations escalated when President Trump threatened to ban the platform from the U.S. unless parent company ByteDance sells TikTok’s US operation to Microsoft. In an unprecedented move, the President also demanded the U.S. government receive a cut for approving any such sale.

It is unclear how banning the platform would work and the Chinese government has strongly condemned the threats from President Trump. 

With all this in mind, though, there is plenty of reason to keep an eye on Instagram Reels as a potential successor.