ICYMI: Social Media in August 2020

Welcome to the August 2020 social media recap — and you should buckle in because it was a pretty crazy month. 

  • TikTok took it on the chin but kept on fighting (well, except for the CEO)
  • Facebook-owned Instagram launched TikTok copycat Reels (not to mention a bevy of other updates), and
  • Twitter made a big change to its conversation settings

But there were also some nice things that bubbled up on social — like watching these twin YouTubers react to “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, as well as sweet student-teacher reunions on Twitter. And hats off to BTS for a record-breaking YouTube video release

Let’s all keep these fun things in mind as we look back at what was a pretty crazy month.


TikTok trouble

Executive orders, rumoured buyouts, a lawsuit and a resignation made for an eventful August for the short-looping video app. It started on Aug. 6th when U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order against TikTok, saying it would ban U.S. operations within 45 days. A week later, Trump issued another executive order giving TikTok 90 days to divest itself of its U.S. operations. The orders follow months of accusations by the U.S. administration TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, put U.S. users information at risk — something TikTok vehemently denies.

In response, TikTok filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, saying it was deprived of due process and unfairly treated as a security threat. It also launched a new information hub to counter rumours and misinformation about the company, and created a new Twitter account to share information in real time.

 But it wasn’t enough to stop the new CEO of global operations, Kevin Mayer from stepping down after a little bit more than 100 days on the job. The former Disney executive said in an email to staff: “as the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for.” Guess this wasn’t it (but we know that new interim head of global operations Vanessa Pappas can do this!)

Tweet from Vanessa Pappas about interim role at TikTok
Meanwhile, several companies worked on plans to make a bid for TikTok’s operations in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Bloomberg is reporting that TikTok rival Triller and a London-based global investment firm (Centricus) could make a bid
  • Walmart announced it’s joining Microsoft’s bid for TikTok
  • Oracle is working with current U.S. ByteDance investors (like General Electric) on a potential deal
  • Twitter is also reportedly interested in buying TikTok’s U.S. operations
Stay tuned for what will likely be an even more eventful September!

Let’s get real

Facebook’s competitive strategy seems to be one of three options: buy, copy, or crush. So when it comes to TikTok, it looks like they went with copy, releasing Reels on Instagram on Aug. 5th. The new feature allows you to create 15-second videos set to music or an audio clip of your choosing (just like TikTok). Unlike Instagram Stories (stolen from Snapchat), users who create TikTok video clips are used to much more dynamic editing tools, such as being able to use timed captions to have text appear in certain sections of a video. Instagram is apparently working on including those editing options. But whether Instagram users will want to invest the time in using these new features is a big question mark.

Also, TikTok is powered by AI that continually learns what you enjoy watching, and serves up more of the same. Traditionally, Instagram has been about what’s the most popular. Those two are not the same thing. Either way, Facebook is likely hoping Reels doesn’t go the way of TikTok copycat, Lasso, which was shut down in July after failing to gain momentum.



If you thought the global rollout of Reels was enough to keep Instagram busy for a while, you’d be wrong. Throughout August, the Facebook-owned social media platform kept the updates coming, including:

Checkout: There are less than four months until Christmas, and Facebook’s elves are busy trying to roll out features to get businesses (and consumers) ready for a COVID-style holiday season. Facebook-owned Instagram is rolling out an in-app checkout feature to businesses and Creators in the U.S. who have created a Shop.

Suggested Posts: Soon, you’ll start to see content from people you don’t follow, via suggested content. Once you go through your feed and come to the end of new content, a message will pop up that says “you’re all caught up.” And then Instagram will post suggestions (based on accounts you do follow). 

Private Posts: If you’ve ever accidentally shared private posts – you can stop worrying. Instagram has put new controls in place so “you can tell who can or can’t see a private post or story before you hit send,” according to Vishal Shah, VP of Product at Instagram. (Phew.)

QR Codes: “Nametags” have been replaced by “QR codes” that can be scanned by any third-party camera app. Just go to your Instagram profile, click on the three horizontal lines in the top right-hand corner of the screen (aka a 🍔). Click on “QR code”, take a screenshot and save it to your photos. 

Controlling the conversation

Twitter launched new conversation settings that control who can reply to tweets. So before posting, we can choose to: let everyone reply (the default), just followers, or only people mentioned in the tweet (this is definitely going to annoy a few people 😈). Based on testing, Twitter said the new settings made people feel more comfortable tweeting, and that DMs from problematic repliers didn’t increase. Below is an example of the new conversation settings in action. Goodyear, which found itself in a PR tumble with Trump, chose not to have anyone reply when posting its statement on the issue.

Goodyear tweet without replies option


In other news

If you’re looking for a new job, consider applying for Bud Lights new CGO role (that’s right, Chief Gif Officer). We’re honestly waiting for a CMO role (Chief Meme Officer).

And DOMO released its latest “Data Never Sleeps 8.0” and it’s hard not to be shocked that this is what happens on the Internet every minute.

Data never sleeps 8.0