This is a pretty cool announcement in itself, but in terms of timing, it’s also a brilliant example of corporate trolling and applauding a competitor.
Today Disney has announced a new partnership with TikTok that will allow TikTok users to choose from a range of Disney character voices for TikTok’s text-to-speech feature.
So now, instead of that regular, somewhat overjoyed female voice you hear over and over again in TickTok clips (I’m talking about you ‘Jessie’), you can use C-3PO or Rocket instead, which could be a good way to increase engagement, and will no doubt lead to new viral trends related to characters saying things they probably shouldn’t.
But here’s why it’s extra great – Instagram just announced that it’s adding text conversion to Reels, its TikTok replicant, along with its own voice effects tools.
Which, of course, lags significantly behind TikTok, since you were able to add it to your TikTok clips from December last year, and as mentioned, it’s already a very used feature in the app. Given this, it makes sense for Instagram to add the same, but it also means TikTok is leading in another key innovation, and with Instagram constantly lagging behind, it will make it harder for it to regain young users and become a cool place to be one again.
And now that Instagram has finally captured this element, TikTok is immediately increasing them.
It is unlikely that this was planned, as it was announced that this feature would coincide with Disney + Day and could not be timed to match the launch of the Instagram feature. But still, it emphasizes once again that TikTok is the leader in space, and that Instagram is an older, less cool app that catches up with cool new stuff months – almost a year – after it started in trend.
And now TikTok has already progressed to the next phase, so Instagram’s voice-over speech is second-rate, the day after it was released.
It’s an incredibly random time for TikTok and a perfect illustration of why it’s currently the most popular app, especially among younger, technologically better-informed audiences.
If Instagram and the parent company Meta really want to bring back the young, they will have to take the lead in the space once again, and at the moment they don’t even seem close to doing so. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that the company will primarily focus on a younger audience that thrives, as part of a broader strategic shift to maximize long-term sustainability. But in the early stages of this new movement, these efforts seem to be focused only on exchanging messages and trying to regain popularity – somewhat ironically – by partnering with TikTok influencers.
This will help increase exposure, but it’s not that anyone isn’t aware of Facebook or what it’s doing, so it won’t really matter. The question is, will that help Facebook and Meta, more broadly, be cool again?
At the moment, it seems a bit forced, as if Meta is trying too hard to follow the latest trends and be ‘down with the kids’ in her external communications.
The real winner for Meta on this front would be to lead the next wave of innovation, and to become the originator of new trends, based on the latest characteristics and user reactions. The harder way, because you can’t control what is captured and what is not in this regard, but Meta can invest in new tools and can build features that are not available in other applications.
It hasn’t been Meta’s strength for the last 5-10 years – and oh, look, it’s a time frame in which she’s lost touch with younger audiences.
Facebook originally became prominent by beating MySpace because it was better, it was cooler, and people eventually switched to the blue app and its functionality instead. Instagram then grew and became the next cool place, so Facebook bought it, and then Snapchat became a popular app. Facebook also tried to buy Snap, but since then it has essentially lost its place as a leader in creative innovation, with Snapchat Lenses becoming the leading trendsetter in terms of key updates, after which TikTok takes over.
When was the last time Facebook or Instagram had a feature you had to see and had to use that got everyone talking? As noted, Snap Lenses did this at regular intervals, while TikTok was also able to launch new trends with features like Duets, creative AR tools and yes, text-to-speech.
Getting people to talk and sharing these experiences is a key step, and Meta is not a leader at all at the moment.
It is interesting to see this so clearly illustrated in one announcement, which again was probably not so planned. Which could make it even more significant in that regard.
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