Imitation isn’t flattery in tech circles.
For those who remember the PC versus Mac battle from many years ago, the real paradigm shift for Apple occurred when they stopped being a “personal computer” and became a status symbol instead. The Mac was faster, more powerful and much more costly than its predecessors.
Tesla does not lead the charge in electric vehicles, but they are copying lesser brands. Anyone who has enabled “ludicrous” mode to accelerate quickly knows this is an unusual company.
The key to success is innovation and attention-grabbing elements, as well as doing something that’s so useful and new everyone notices.
TikTok has been gaining all the attention in social media. This is because TikTok appeals to a younger audience, who have grown up on Netflix and are bored of Google search results. For Gen-Z, it’s now used routinely as a search tool, for finding a job, and learning how to change the oil in your car.
Instagram announced a significant change in their interface, which would have videos more visible and make them the main focus. The Kardashians weren’t happy with their changes, so they have since reversed those plans.
Both apps are my favorites. I find it easy to find features that interest me most. I’m a photo enthusiast, and I’m always amazed at the wondrous feeds I discover on Instagram. There’s a photographer I used to know when I did some mentoring at a local college; scanning through some of her more experimental photos is mesmerizing. TikTok has many instructional videos. These are the best because they explain complicated subjects.
It’s a worrisome trend, though, when one app starts to imitate another. Instagram already enjoys a large following so it seems like the best way to fail is to start using TikTok’s video feed feature and make short clips stand out in the interface.
TikTok is a social network that has found the most effective way to keep users hooked. This algorithm monitors everything that we do. It is possible to pause and view an instructional video a little longer than another clip. This means that you have fed the beast and the monster now knows what to feed. You don’t even have to like or share anything. Recent research has shown that it’s the most widely used app this year.
Doing a “copy-paste” of the TikTok algorithm won’t work. Instagram needs to find ways to improve the image-centric feed and appeal to a younger audience that is more open to trying new features.
While many of us use Google to search, Gen Z might prefer new features to help find products, connect with others, and discover new travel options. Instagram does this already well. Now the company must figure out ways to improve the user experience to make it more profitable.
TokTok already has that area. Video may be one of the options.
Imitation won’t work. Tesla and Apple didn’t become the defining brands of our age because they copied what other firms were doing. They didn’t make minor improvements to the products we already use.
Innovation is the only way to get their attention.
Instagram, hear that?