Meta today posted a downbeat earnings result, with lower than expected usage and revenue, and in the subsequent earnings call, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlined his key areas of focus moving forward, as the company looks to navigate a period of economic uncertainty.
One of the key areas of focus, of course, is Reels, which is the company’s fastest-growing element based on user engagement.
So how does Meta plan to keep growing Reels?
Through more recommendations, of course.
As explained by Zuckerberg:
“One of the main transformations in our business right now is that social feeds are going from being driven primarily by the people and accounts you follow to increasingly also being driven by AI recommending content that you’ll find interesting from across Facebook or Instagram, even if you don’t follow those creators. Social content from people you know is going to remain an important part of the experience and some of our most differentiated content, but increasingly we’ll also be able to supplement that with other interesting content from across our networks.”
Which, of course, aligns with the TikTok approach – part of TikTok’s success lies in its ultra-addictive ‘For You’ main feed, which is a curated listing of the most popular content from across the platform, aligned to your interests.
Because TikTok was never built with a social graph in mind (i.e. connecting with friends and family), that provides it with a much broader pool of clips to potentially show to people, which Meta clearly sees as a core element of its allure.
Which it’s now trying to replicate – much to the chagrin of many users.
But more recommendations are indeed coming:
“Right now, about 15% of content in a person’s Facebook feed and a little more than that of their Instagram feed is recommended by our AI from people, groups, or accounts that you don’t follow. We expect these numbers to more than double by the end of next year.”
That’s… a lot. So not only will Meta’s apps not be reducing the amount of random content in your feeds, they’ll actually be doubling it, which will see your new Facebook ‘Home’ feed (as opposed to your ‘Feeds’ stream) increasingly loaded with content from Pages and people that you haven’t chosen to follow, while your Instagram timeline will also keep spacing out updates from your friends more and more, in between recommended posts.
This comes just days after a user petition to ‘Make Instagram Instagram Again’ gained significant traction after Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian shared their support for the initiative, which, among other things, calls on Instagram to ‘stop trying to be TikTok’ and to help users see ‘cute photos’ of their friends once again, as opposed to random, recommended videos.
But Instagram has reiterated that this is the way forward, based on user trends. And now, Zuckerberg has gone a step further, saying that it not only won’t be changing course, but it’s actually going to steer harder in that direction, as it seeks to maximize user engagement.
“As our AI finds additional content that people find interesting, that increases engagement and the quality of our feeds […] Reels engagement is also growing quickly. I shared last quarter that Reels already made up 20% of the time that people spend on Instagram. This quarter we saw a more than 30% increase in the time that people spent engaging with Reels across Facebook and Instagram. AI advances are driving a lot of these improvements, and one example is that after launching a new large AI model for recommendations, we saw a 15% increase in watch time in the Reels video player on Facebook alone.”
You may not like this shift, along with the Kardashians, but the stats don’t lie, and if Meta is getting more people to spend more time in its apps as a result of pumping more recommended content into user feeds, you can bet that it will continue to do so, as Zuckerberg has stated here.
Zuckerberg also notes that people are increasingly sharing content in private, as opposed to commenting and engaging directly on a post. So even if the direct engagement stats on a post are not massive, that doesn’t mean that it’s not being redistributed in messaging channels, which has become a key avenue for content sharing.
That’s a relevant trend for marketers to note, that users are looking to alert friends to more content, particularly Reels clips, via DMs.
Zuckerberg also discussed Reels monetization, noting that Reels ads are now on track to generate more than $1 billion in annual revenue, while it’s also looking to ramp up the Reels ad load, and improve its AI understanding of Reels clips to help advertisers better target their ads.
So more Reels, more recommended content, and more ads being interspersed into your Facebook and IG experiences.
Personally, this doesn’t seem like a recipe for success, long term. But again, the stats tell the tale, and as more users consume more Reels and recommended content, Meta will continue to feed into that however it can.
So it’s not Meta that you should blame if you hate the way things are changing, it’s people in general, as usage habits are, as always, Meta’s compass.
It’s not Mark Zuckerberg and Adam Mosseri who are doing this, it’s your Mom, your sister, those people across the street – it’s all the other Instagram and Facebook users that keep tapping through on recommended posts, and scrolling through random Reels as they look to stave off boredom.
Maybe tell them to just download TikTok instead. That might fix it.