As titans of the social media world, Facebook and TikTok often invite comparison. But while Facebook is currently retooling its app to be more like its new rival, TikTok says it has no plans to become more like big blue.
Speaking to CNBC, TikTok’s president of global business solutions Blake Chandlee made the differences between the two companies clear: “Facebook is a social platform. They’ve built all their algorithms based on the social graph. That is their core competency. Ours is not.” He added: “We are an entertainment platform ... The difference is significant. It’s a massive difference.”
(By “social graph,” Chandlee is referring to the data that tracks connections between individuals that companies like Facebook generate to map our relationships.)
And Chandlee would know. Before moving to TikTok in 2019, he was an executive at Facebook for 12 years, leading the company’s global partnerships. Chandlee told CNBC that his experience at Facebook — particularly navigating the potential threat from Google’s failed social network, Google+ — taught him TikTok will win out in its current battle.
“You remember when Google was creating Google+,” said Chandlee. At Facebook, he says, “we had war rooms at the time. It was a big deal. Everyone was worried about it.” Over time, though, it became clear that Google+ would fail, as “Google’s value was search and Facebook was really good at social.”
“They’re just not going to have that on Facebook unless Facebook entirely walks away from its social values”
Said Chandlee: “I see the same thing now [...] We’re really good at what we do. We bring out these cultural trends and this unique experience people have on TikTok. They’re just not going to have that on Facebook unless Facebook entirely walks away from its social values, which I just don’t think it will do.”
These comments should be taken with a pinch of salt, of course. It’s the job of company executives to talk up their product, and that includes differentiating what they do from powerful rivals. And while TikTok is certainly not laser-focused on social connections, it also doesn’t ignore their benefits. (In my experience, TikTok is extremely keen to gain access to your contact book and leverage that network to keep you on the app more.)
Still, by describing TikTok as an entertainment app rather than a social one, perhaps the company is hopeful it can avoid some of the problems that have plagued Facebook. Or, more likely, it will just find entirely new problems of its own.