The rise of TikTok has caused a shift in terms of how the next generation of social media users will approach “social” media… and it might no longer be as “social” as we know it to be.
In the last decade (2010 – 2020), social media was all built around the social graph – friends, colleagues and family – because the big platforms and algorithms of the decade assumed that was what people wanted – to be kept abreast of the latest happenings in the lives of the people who mattered to them.
Over the latest few years, TikTok’s explosive growth (currently standing at 309M monthly active users in APAC excluding China, which is a +45% YoY growth) has shifted the focus of audiences from a pure social graph to a socio-interest graph, indicating that consumers want to be entertained and educated at the same time as keeping abreast of what’s happening with their friends and family. While I’m not here to promote TikTok over any other platform, the latest numbers from a recent presentation have convinced me that their approach is working. TikTok’s daily average time spent is the highest across APAC (100 mins daily vs 91 mins for YouTube, 60 mins for Facebook, 29 mins for Instagram), showing that the socio-interest graph is playing to its favour.
What I mean by a socio-interest graph is that content and connections hold equal weight. On platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram which are driven by the social graph, you see more content from your connections as compared to people who are not connected to you. If you did, it was likely because someone connected to you interacted with that content, which prompted the algorithm to show you the content, assuming that you’d be interested in something that your friends were also interested in. While that isn’t necessarily the case, this model misses out on not showing what you (and your connections) don’t necessarily interact with but could potentially be of interest based on what you’ve viewed in the past. It reduces the opportunity for lateral content discovery. In contrast to that, on a socio-interest graph, the content that you are interested in carries as much importance as the people you are connected to, and in fact, the content you are interested in forms the basis for connecting you to new people who may share that same passion or interest.
That being said, we can already see the social platforms of the 2010s incorporating this new graph into their algorithms with new platform features designed to cater to surfacing content. Facebook and Instagram have a “Reels” section that highlights content from people who we don’t know but might be interesting to us, instead of just reels from friends. YouTube is also rolling out its own version of the interest graph called “Shorts” that functions in the same way as Reels and TikToks.
So what does this mean for brands? It’s first and foremost trying to figure out your audience’s interest graphs. If you’re not already on a platform that can provide you with interest graph data, you have first-party data sources available within your organisation. These could be like your website, your user surveys. If you have access to a Customer Data Platform (CDP) within your organization, even better. Dive into that treasure trove of data to see if you can build an interest graph of the audiences whom you are currently engaging with.
With that data, you can then accelerate connection by creating content – regardless of platform – around their interest graph. Use that content to entertain and educate your audience while helping them build connections to new communities that they may not be aware of. That is truly adding value to their social experience and positions you as a trusted brand in their eyes.
All in all, the evolution of the social graph to the socio-interest graph is beneficial for brands, as it is a golden opportunity to build a community that doesn’t just need to be about direct followers alone. The shift to the socio-interest graph means that good content will always allow brands to reach people even if they are not following. The restrictions from the social algorithms of the past – such as 1% organic reach to followers without any paid promotion – can be overcome thanks to the socio-interest graph, making the social experience a win-win for both brands and users.