Generative AI Comes to Social Media: The Good, the Bad, and the Uncertain

Edition #54

Good morning and happy first Friday of the month! Next week, I'll be taking a quick break from the newsletter. However, I'll be sharing breakdowns of a few trends on LinkedIn and Twitter throughout the week.

Also, if you're free today (3/3) at 12PM EST, I’d love for you to join my live session for The Future of Content Marketing interview series, where I’ll be talking about the creator economy and influencer marketing. If you're not available, you can still get a copy of the recording afterward by signing up.

Enjoy today’s read and have a great weekend!

If you were forwarded this email or are reading from a browser, please take a few seconds to subscribe here to get future editions delivered straight to your inbox.

Today’s Edition:

  • Snapchat, Meta, and YouTube explore generative AI

  • TikTok launches Sounds for Business to help brands with their music needs

  • VSCO shows its commitment to its community with upcoming features

Snapchat, Meta, and YouTube Explore Generative AI

Snapchat made headlines earlier this week by announcing the launch of My AI, a new ChatGPT-powered chatbox, which comes through ChatGPT’s newly announced API.

Part of Snapchat+, the platform’s growing subscription service, My AI serves as a sidekick that users can name, customize, and of course, interact with. My AI is similar to the native ChatGPT platform, but with more restrictions to comply with safety and trust guidelines.

Snapchat Isn’t Alone

Around the same time, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Meta was in the process of constructing a team dedicated to building generative AI across its experiences. It plans to start with creative and expressive tools and eventually move to “AI personas.”

Just a few days later, Neal Mohan, YouTube’s new lead, penned a letter to creators about YouTube’s priorities for 2023. He revealed that the platform too would invest in generative AI. He mentioned the platform would build features that will reinvent video and help creators to story-tell and increase their video production value. Potential features allow creators to virtually switch outfits in videos and create unique film settings.

It’s also reported that Elon Musk is looking to build an AI lab in order to build his own ChatGPT rival, which likely would be integrated into Twitter. Plus, earlier this month, Reddit said that it's exploring AI chatbot technologies as well.

Why Social Media Platforms Are Investing in Generative AI

Social media platforms bringing generative AI to their apps is much more than checking the box. Generative AI has real potential to help them drive business in a number of ways:

  • User Engagement: By providing creators with AI-powered tools, social media platforms can make content creation easier. Not only can this help its creators to create and share content, but it also can lower the barrier to entry for everyday social media users to become creators. Both of these scenarios can help drive user engagement, a key metric for many platforms.

  • First-Party Data: Social media platforms can gather a wealth of first-party data from generative AI like chatbots. As users interact with these conversational messaging tools over time, platforms obtain a lot of information about them, which can be used for advertising purposes. This includes displaying relevant ads within chatbot experiences and serving ads across other experiences and formats. Apple's privacy changes have made it challenging for social media platforms to offer precise targeting for advertisers, and many advertisers are reducing their spending due to this. First-party data can help platforms provide advertisers with more accurate targeting, which could lead to increased ad budgets.

  • Subscription Revenue: As Snapchat has shown, adding generative AI features can be a way for social platforms to get dollars directly from app users. Snapchat's subscription offering was already strong, with over 2.5 million subscribers. The addition of My AI should convince more to sign up for it. With platforms diving deeper into paid features, putting in-app generative AI tools behind a subscription could make it easier for users to pay for their social media usage.

With the good comes the bad. Social media platforms getting into generative AI raises some concerns:

  • Copyright Infringement: By using preexisting content to create new images, videos, texts, or other formats, generative AI may infringe on the intellectual property rights of creators. Recently, social platforms have made efforts to help creators get proper credit and attribution for their work through new tools and initiatives. If this is still a priority for them, they will need to consider how to think about this in the context of generative AI, which to date often doesn’t credit the source(s) of work being used to create something “new.” Another thing that could be an issue is if creators use generative AI for branded content. For the most part, creators and brands are restricted from using creative effects, commercial music, and more unless they have permission. This likely will be the same case for content that is built using generative AI. If creators become too reliant on using these tools to produce content, brands put themselves at risk when working with these creators.

  • Mental-Wellbeing & Misinformation: Another concern is chatbots, such as Snapchat's My AI, being positioned as digital friends. If people engage with chatbots more than real people, it can create a false sense of connection and make people feel more isolated. Social media was created to help people connect more, but with the advance of technology, it has resulted in the opposite. Platforms are leveraging technologies to maximize time spent in-app. There is also potential for misinformation, which is already a big issue across social media with human-generated content.

  • Data Privacy: Data privacy is also a significant concern with the use of generative AI. Users already provide vast amounts of personal and professional data in exchange for platform access. The addition of generative AI would only increase the amount of data controlled by social media platforms, further eroding users' control over their personal information. Given the desire for greater control over personal data, the incorporation of generative AI may be counterproductive.

Ever since generative AI got on my radar in October, I've had a similar thought about what it means not just for the creator economy but for everything going forward. Generative AI will follow a similar journey as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), where creators, brands, and VCs see it as the next growth hack and cash grab, but it comes with equal opportunities and controversy.

Overall, I believe the emergence of generative AI is a positive development that will significantly impact our lives going forward. However, it is crucial for platforms, companies, and everyone in between to consider how to use and integrate it responsibly.

TikTok Launches Sounds for Business to Help Brands with Their Music Needs

TikTok has announced the launch of TikTok Sounds for Business, a new collection of custom sounds designed as templates to help businesses with content creation. The collection is available in the Commercial Music Library and features music, voiceovers, sound cues, and more. Businesses can use it in both organic and paid content.

Why It Matters

Sounds for Business is a notable launch because music is one of the driving factors for engaging videos on TikTok. According to TikTok, 68% of users say they remember a brand better, and 62% say they are curious to learn about a brand when a brand's TikTok video features a preferred song. However, brands are limited to royalty-free music unless they secure licensing. Because of this, most brands are limited to the generic audio available on the Commercial Music Library.

With Sounds for Business, brands, especially small businesses, get a set of audio that is designed specifically for their use case, such as highlighting their products in videos. Most importantly, the music can be used in organic and paid content, giving brands the ability to use it however they see fit without having to spend money on licenses or worry about using it legally.

Many brands complain about not being able to use commercial music like creators, especially considering the impact that a popular or trending song in a video can have on performance. Sounds for Business doesn't solve this issue, but it does provide an alternative.

What Could Come in the Future

However, on the moves made by other platforms in securing more flexible licenses from major labels, I believe that TikTok will eventually roll out an initiative or partnership with labels that will make it easier for brands to license select popular and trending songs.

Brands would have a more streamlined way of obtaining licenses for popular and trending music, which can boost their organic and paid content performance. TikTok can add another revenue stream by selling licenses on behalf of label partners, and major labels and their artists can generate more money by licensing out their music to brands with ad dollars.

TikTok could charge brands in different ways. They could have a marketplace where brands could license music in just a few clicks, similar to YouTube Creator Music, and charge a flat fee rate for a certain period of time. Or, they could charge based on the performance of content that uses licensed music.

The intersection of music and social media continues to be fascinating. As someone who got their start in content creation around the music industry, it's exciting to see these developments.

Increased Support for Small Businesses

Beyond music, Sounds for Business is also TikTok's latest move to cater to small businesses. Previously, it rolled out new features for Promote, its in-app advertising tool, that makes it easier for small businesses with limited resources to take advantage of its advertising solutions to reach bigger audiences.

VSCO Shows Its Commitment to Its Core Community with Upcoming Features

VSCO plans to release a set of new features this month, primarily focused on Spaces, the app's digital co-working space feature.

What’s Coming Soon

For the first time, creators will be able to send text-based posts in Spaces. They will also be able to easily share content from Spaces through auto-generated 9:16 images for vertical, mobile-friendly formats like Instagram Stories. Creators will also be able to message each other regardless of their follow status. Subscribers to VSCO's paid service will have unlimited messaging capabilities, while creators on the free plan will be limited to three new conversations per day with people who don't follow them. Other forthcoming updates include batch uploads for Spaces, drafts for Collage and Montage, and new filters for videos.

Commitment to Its Core Community of Photographers

While other platforms are focused on short-form videos, VSCO remains committed to its core community of photographers of all sizes. The app's new features enable creators to connect, communicate, and collaborate with each other directly within the app. VSCO is an appealing alternative to Instagram for creators who focus on photos and want to build a community without relying on algorithms or being inundated with ads. In January, the app announced that it is exploring ways to help creators monetize their content. One option is to connect creators with brands for paid opportunities, which would make the app even more attractive for creators.

Blueprint for Subscription-Based Social Platforms

Thanks to its strong subscription business, VSCO has achieved a position that many social media platforms aspire to with their subscription offerings. They serve as a blueprint for what a subscription-based social platform can look like.

More News

YouTube Announces New Features for Shorts

YouTube has introduced recognition messages for creators who reach certain milestones for views, likes, and subscribers for Shorts. These messages appear as in-app pop-ups on the "Your Videos" page, highlighting the milestone reached (e.g., "You hit 500 views"). Creators can click through and see their analytics by using the "View Analytics" button.

These recognition messages can have a positive impact on creators' mental well-being by acknowledging their small wins for Shorts. As creators work to grow their viewership and subscriber count on YouTube, these quick messages can provide motivation and encouragement to keep going.

YouTube also announced that creators will soon be able to record a short in a side-by-side layout with Shorts and long-form videos. This feature will allow creators to respond, give their take, or put their own twist on a trend. This is the equivalent of TikTok’s Duets and Instagram’s Reels Remix features, which all promote co-creation.

These come as Shorts is now averaging over 50 billion daily views and the number of channels that are uploaded to Shorts daily grew over 80%. Creator or brand, if you’re not already creating Shorts, you’re missing out.

Pinterest Expands Shuffles to More Countries

Pinterest has expanded the availability of its standalone app, Shuffles, to more countries. The creative and expressive collage app is now accessible to users in nine new countries, including Germany, France, and Denmark. Shuffles was already available to users in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

The expansion comes with several new features for Shuffles, including a personalized home feed that displays content sorted into tabs such as "For You," "Following," "Popular," and "Recent." The messaging experience has also been updated, and users can now find friends who are also using the app by connecting their contacts. There is also support for PNG images and new export options.

A product of the TwoTwenty innovation incubator, Shuffles was a viral hit this past fall, shooting up the App Store charts and becoming a hit on TikTok. Though a standalone app, Shuffles serves as a feeder to Pinterest. Creators can source content from Pinterest to use in their collages, which then link back to the app. In addition, they can auto-post their Shuffles to their Pinterest profiles and save Shuffles from others to Pinterest boards. This helps generate more content on Pinterest, especially from Gen Z, who are gravitating towards collage apps. As the fastest-growing demographic on Pinterest, Shuffles should continue to help accelerate that growth, adding to its loyal community of legacy Pinners.

BeReal Says Working With Brands Isn’t a Priority

BeReal recently responded to conversations about its reported user decline and future through a press release on its website. The anti-Instagram app clarified that it does not disclose its download numbers, and that reports of its current numbers should be taken as estimates. The company also stated that working with brands and running ads is not a priority, and that it will share more information about its future plans when it is ready.

Reports suggest that BeReal's usage has significantly declined, with up to a 48% drop from October, going from 20 million daily active users to 10.4 million, according to Apptopia. While BeReal has disputed these numbers, it’s clear the app has lost momentum in recent months. The lack of new releases, competition from copycats, and a limited appeal to marketers are the main reasons for this. Additionally, the "authentic" content shared on BeReal can become repetitive over time, despite initial interest in unfiltered and raw content. There are only so many photos of a computer screen or gym floor that one can see before daily notifications to post become more of a distraction than a value add. While there is a niche audience for this type of content, it’s not enough to sustain long-term growth.

BeReal recently secured a $60 million round of funding, giving the company time to determine its next move. However, the longer it waits, the more challenging it will be to attract users to the platform. To keep users engaged and eventually monetize its services, BeReal could consider adding gamification and paid-only features.

Reddit Adds the Ability to Search Comments Within Posts

Reddit now lets users search comments within a post on desktop, iOS, and Android. This feature makes it easier and faster for users to find what they're looking for without having to scroll through comment threads. They can simply type in their query to search for all comments within a single Reddit post instead of using "CTRL-F" or "CMD-F" to find specific keywords. This is useful for everyday users who want to find conversations on specific topics and interests, but also for creators and brands who can use it for research.

Creators can search for things related to their niche to identify potential ideas for their content. For instance, a finance creator could search for keywords related to beginner investors, scroll through the comments, and use what is being said as talking points for a video. Brands can also use this feature for social listening. They can search for themselves, products, or services to understand what type of conversations are being held about them and adjust their marketing strategy accordingly.

Enhancing search capabilities has been a priority for Reddit. Last year, the platform introduced the Comments tab in the search bar. More recently, it added support for text search within images, enabling users to search for memes and other images with text. Additionally, it improved the search experience to display more relevant subreddits and more.

What I’m Reading

  • ‘An extension of me’: The rise of the founder-influencer (Modern Retail)

  • Red carpet influencers: Behind a lucrative (and growing) niche for creators (Hollywood Reporter)

  • As influencer marketing continues to mature, here’s why brands are hiring creators as ‘creative directors’ (Digiday)