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TikTok exec: We’re not a social network like Facebook, we’re an entertainment platform

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Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, October 23, 2019.
Erin Scott | Reuters

TikTok is fully aware that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is retooling the Facebook and Instagram apps to be more like its own popular short video service. But TikTok has no interest in mimicking Facebook.

“Facebook is a social platform,” Blake Chandlee, TikTok’s president of global business solutions, told CNBC in an interview on Thursday. “They’ve built all their algorithms based on the social graph. That is their core competency. Ours is not.”

Chandlee, who spent 12 years at Facebook before joining TikTok in 2019, said his former employer will likely run into trouble if it tries to copy TikTok, and will end up offering an inferior experience to users and brands.

Facebook launched Instagram Reels in 2020 as its first real foray into the short-form video market. Last year, it brought the service over to its core Facebook app.

“We are an entertainment platform,” Chandlee said. “The difference is significant. It’s a massive difference.”

Facebook app chief Tom Alison told The Verge this week he sees TikTok increasingly stealing share from the world’s largest social network. Facebook plans to modify its primary feed to look more like TikTok by recommending more content regardless of whether it’s shared by friends.

“I think the thing we probably didn’t fully embrace or see is how social this format could be,” Alison told The Verge.

Facebook’s recent performance backs that up. Meta’s stock price is down 52% this year, underperforming the Nasdaq, which has dropped 32%. In April, the company said revenue in the second quarter could drop from a year earlier for the first time ever.

Earlier in the year, Zuckerberg acknowledged the increased competitive pressure from TikTok and said, “This is why our focus on Reels is so important over the long term.”

TikTok is owned by China’s ByteDance, which is privately held.

Chandlee said history is not on Zuckerberg’s side, and compares its current problem to the challenge that Google faced when it was trying to take on Facebook at its own game.

“You remember when Google was creating Google+,” Chandlee said. At Facebook, “We had war rooms at the time. It was a big deal. Everyone was worried about it,” he said.

But no matter how much money Google poured into its social-networking efforts, it couldn’t compete with Facebook, which had become the default place for people to connect with friends and share photos and updates.

“It became clear Google’s value was search and Facebook was really good at social,” Chandlee said.

“I see the same thing now,” he added. “We’re really good at what we do. We bring out these cultural trends and this unique experience people have on TikTok. They’re just not going to have that on Facebook unless Facebook entirely walks away from its social values, which I just don’t think it will do.”

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chandlee added that he has deep respect for Zuckerberg and views both Facebook and Google as strong competition. However, he noted that TikTok has an array of competitors across the world, including businesses in e-commerce and live streaming.

Chandlee said he hasn’t seen a slowdown in ad spending on TikTok, despite what’s being reported by companies like Snap, which told investors that ad revenue is being hurt by inflation and the threat of recession. Snap’s stock has lost almost three-quarters of its value this year.

“I’ve heard there’s going to be a slowdown in the ad market, anywhere from 2% to 6%, but we have not seen it,” Chandlee said. “We’re not seeing the headwinds that some others are seeing.”

WATCH: Snap has a TikTok problem, says Lead Edge Capital’s Mitchell Green

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