- Facebook announced on Thursday that it was rebranding as “Meta.”
- It enlisted TikTok stars like Khaby Lame to promote its rebrand.
- The decision to court TikTok stars highlights the kinds of influencers that Meta doesn’t have.
Facebook announced Thursday that it was changing its name to Meta as part of an effort to rebrand the company. As a part of the change, it enlisted stars with millions of followers on TikTok, rather than creators best-known for their work on Meta’s platforms such as Instagram, to hype up CEO Mark Zuckerburg’s announcement.
The move speaks to a dearth of easily recognizable personalities known for their work on its own platforms and the company’s apparent inability to recreate TikTok’s success with Gen Z.
The company launched Reels, a TikTok clone for Instagram, in August 2020. At the time, The New York Times called it a “dud.” While some creators have said the feature helped them grow on the platform, Instagram still hasn’t captured one of TikTok’s biggest selling points: the viral success that has singlehandedly built massive careers. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said in May that he was aware that the platform was better at “creating value” for “established” creators, but that it was shifting its focus towards emerging creators going forward.
Zuckerberg has been heralding the company’s pivot into the “metaverse,” a virtual universe in which people could use VR technology to interact with one another, for several months. The name change to “Meta” is meant to better encapsulate that mission. It also comes in the wake of the company’s most recent PR scandal, spurred by whistleblower Frances Haugen leaking documents purporting to show that Facebook knew it was harming people, specifically teens, to the Wall Street Journal.
The company rolled out Meta-sponsored content from three TikTokers on its primary Twitter account, @Meta, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday: Emily Zugay (@emilyzugay), Oneya Johnson (@angryreactions), and Khabane “Khaby” Lame (@khaby.lame), respectively. They show Lame, Johnson, and Zugay zipping around the metaverse, reacting to Zuckerberg’s announcement, and turning Meta’s logo into a meme.
While each creator has a sizable presence on Instagram, which is owned by Meta, they built their followings and reputations on TikTok. Zugay built a following of 1.8 million on the platform by redesigning company logos. Johnson’s audience of 24 million loves to watch him react to, and hype up, content on his account @angryreactions, a style that he applied to his Meta-sponsored video.
-Meta (@Meta) October 29, 2021
Lame is the highest-profile star involved in the campaign. With 118.2 million followers on TikTok, he’s TikTok’s second-most followed star and may eventually outpace Charli D’Amelio, who currently occupies the number one spot with 127.8 million followers.
-Meta (@Meta) October 30, 2021
Meta’s partnership with young, popular influencers isn’t particularly shocking. Zuckerberg said in a Q3 earnings call on October 25 that the company is working towards making “serving young adults the North Star, rather than optimizing for the larger number of older people” on Facebook. Per Zuckerberg, that means courting users who fall in the 18 to 29 age bracket.
A Meta spokesperson said the company partners with creators and makes content for various social media platforms in order to promote its brand, including TikTok.
As journalist Ryan Broderick noted in his newsletter Garbage Day, seeing creators who blew up on a competitor’s platform through native features like TikTok’s “duet” function promote Facebook’s rebrand is deeply ironic. It also highlights that these major influencers – particularly ones with young audiences in the demographics the company is trying to reach – don’t really exist in the same way on Meta’s own platforms.
While the company tries to shift its brand and court younger audiences for platforms like Facebook, it seems likely that Meta will continue to partner with online stars who primarily make content for other platforms. Still, bringing in a face like Lame’s also serves to remind audiences of where he came from – and what Meta still doesn’t have.