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Here’s How Social Media Is Competing with TikTok in 2021

TikTok’s short-form video format has taken over young users’ social feeds—here’s how other platforms are trying to win them over with competing features…


According to YPulse’s most recent social media monitor survey, 58% of Gen Z and 33% of Millennials are now using TikTok. Growth of young users on the platform in the last year has been enormous (among both groups), and brands have been flocking to the app as well, with both paid and organic marketing proving profitable. So it’s no wonder that other social media platforms are racing to compete.

In 2020, the TikTok copycats began to emerge, both in the form of competing startup apps and new features on long-established platforms. Just one example: in the second half of last year, Instagram put a lot of power behind their TikTok-esque feature Reels, rolling it out in what felt like record time and even redesigning their app layout to bring more attention to it. Now, they’re officially launching shopping in Reels as competition with TikTok heats up, allowing users to purchase the items they’re interested in by clicking on the “View Products” button. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri has called TikTok “the most formidable competitor [they’ve] ever seen,” and said the platform is focusing on making “meaningful ways for creators to make a living on Instagram, because otherwise they’re going to go to the competition.”

Reels is just one example of the ways social media players are evolving their products to keep up with TikTok. In 2021, it seems that even more are launching features to compete with the short-form video platform—here are some of the biggest bets:


In November of 2020, Snapchat introduced a “TikTok rival” that features users’ videos in a public feed. The new “Spotlight” section of the app showcases user-created videos prominently on the platform for the first time—and is clearly inspired by their competition’s design. Like TikTok and Instagram Reels, the videos are served up in a vertical feed that users can swipe through, with an algorithm deciding what will appear. Snap famously, offered to pay $1 million per day through the end of the year to users who share the most popular clips, incentivizing young people to upload their best content. In fact, TikTok’s star Casey Cam reported making nearly $3 million for his content on Spotlight. It’s possible that the ploy worked, because according to The Verge, Spotlight reached 100 million users two months after it launched—and according to Snap’s CEO Evan Spiegel, users are now uploading an average of 175K videos per day. Snapchat saw their own massive growth in 2020, and they will likely continue their focus on Spotlight as a way to shine in 2021.


YouTube has long been the short video platform that has ruled young consumers’ entertainment consumption, and likely helped prime Gen Z to be attracted to TikTok—so you know they’re not going to sit out the action when it comes to competiting with the newbie. In September 2020, YouTube officially launched its Shorts feature to rival TikTok, making their debut in India where TikTok has officially been banned. Like its competitor, Shorts allows users to upload 15-second short-form videos using tools, including a multi-segment camera, speed controls, a timer, and countdown tool. The videos can also be set to music, and YouTube is introducing a watch experience that lets users swipe through the Shorts clips vertically. Now, they’ve announced that Shorts is coming to the U.S. this month. The company reported that since December, the number of Indian channels using its creation tools on Shorts have “more than tripled” while the Shorts player received 3.5 billion daily views.


We called Triller an app to watch this year, as they’ve been doing everything in their power to compete and attract talent to their platform. In 2020, they “pull[ed] out all stops,” shelling out money on lavish gifts to grab influencers from TikTok. This year, the app—which is remarkably similar to TikTok in format and design—is debuting TrillerTV, and taking a chance on “linear programming.” They’re launching 40 half-hour shows led by celebrities and influencers, with planned series including Jennifer Lopez in the Morning where J.Lo will “walk viewers through a morning beauty routine using items from her cosmetics brand” and The D’Amelio Family Must Have’s [sic] where the TikTok-famous family will review their favorite new products, showcasing small and innovating brands. There will also reportedly be a workout series from rapper 2 Chainz as well as a Perez Hilton-led talk show that is purporting to be “a new and exclusive destination for Gen Z, reality TV show stars, and celeb gossip.” Triller needs a stand-out moment to distinguish themselves from TikTok (as they were recently accused of inflating user numbers) and TrillerTV seems to be their biggest bet yet.


It’s not just social platforms that are competing with TikTok. In an attention economy, everyone is vying for young consumers’ eyes, and time watching videos on social platforms likely means less time watching streaming services. Which is likely why Netflix is experimenting with a “TikTok-like” feed full of funny videos. Netflix integrated a “Stories”-like feature into their Previews two years ago, but now they’re launching a fullscreen vertical video feed, a concept made popular by TikTok. In November 2020, the streamer started testing “Fast Laughs,” a feed of short-form comedy clips taken from their original and licensed content and snippets from their social channel “Netflix Is A Joke,” which runs longer videos and content across YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The feed lives within the Netflix app, but unlike TikTok the goal isn’t to suck users into a never-ending feed of short videos, but help them discover a new show to watch.