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TikTok: Facebook wants to connect you, we just want to entertain you

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As titans of the social media world, Facebook and TikTok often invite comparison. But while Facebook is currently rebuilding its app to look more like its new rival, TikTok says it has no plans to become more like Big Blue.

Speak with CNBCBlake Chandlee, TikTok’s president of global business solutions, made clear the differences between the two companies: “Facebook is a social platform. They have built all their algorithms based on the social graph. That is their core competence. Ours isn’t.” He added: “We’re an entertainment platform… The difference is significant. It’s a huge difference.”

(By “social graph,” Chandlee refers to the data that tracks connections between individuals that companies like Facebook generate to map our relationships.)

And Chandlee would know. Before moving to TikTok in 2019, he was an executive at Facebook for 12 years and led the company’s global partnerships. Chandlee told CNBC that his experience at Facebook — specifically navigating the potential threat of Google’s failed social network, Google+ — taught him that TikTok will win in its current battle.

“You remember when Google was making Google+,” Chandlee said. On Facebook, he says, “we had war rooms back then. It was a big problem. Everyone was worried about it.” Over time, however, it became clear that Google+ would fail, because “Google’s value was search and Facebook was very good at social.”

Said Chandlee: “I see the same thing now […] We are really good at what we do. We bring out these cultural trends and this unique experience people have on TikTok. They just won’t have that on Facebook unless Facebook completely distances itself from its social values, which I just don’t think it will.

These comments should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt. It is the job of business leaders to talk about their product, and that includes distinguishing what they do from powerful rivals. And while TikTok certainly isn’t focused on social connections, it doesn’t ignore their perks either. (In my experience, TikTok is very eager to access your contact book and use that network to keep you more on the app.)

But by describing TikTok as an entertainment app rather than a social one, the company may be hoping it can avoid some of the problems plaguing Facebook. Or, more likely, it will just find entirely new problems of its own.

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