Digital Publishing Platforms
7 mins read

Facebook’s downfall, TikTok’s unstoppable rise, and Musk’s Twitter chaos: The year 2022 in social media

Social media old guard faced some reckoning with new entrants gaining more and more traction

The standout event in social media in 2022 has for sure been Elon Musk’s rocky journey to acquire Twitter and the chaos that it unleashed on the users and the news cycle.

At some point in December, tech commentators gave up on covering the day to day flood of news coming out of Twitter headquarters.

Another big story of 2022 has been Facebook’s struggle to juggle the multibillion-dollar investments into the far away metaverse reality and massive losses caused by Apple’s App Transparency Tracking that cost the company $10 billion in lost revenue.

The winner of the year has been vertical short-form video, especially TikTok which has continued to be the fastest-growing social media platform. Even BBC News, which had said explicitly that it doesn’t want to be there, created an account and started sharing news videos.

Based on the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism report from December, around half (49%) of top news publishers across over 40 countries are now regularly publishing content on TikTok.

January 2022

LinkedIn launched a test of Audio Rooms, its version of Clubhouse, and announced new formats for live events. 

Twitter Spaces recording feature became available for all users.

Instagram began testing creator subscriptions at eight price points to choose from, starting at $0.99 per month to as much as $99.99 per month.

Twitter rolled out its Communities feature to all Android users.

February 2022

Facebook user numbers fell for the first time in its history.

Creators started growth hacking Instagram with static videos as the platform began prioritizing video content. Instead of just publishing a typical photo, such as a screenshot of a tweet or an image overlaid with some words, the creators take a video of that same image that lasts about a second. To the user, the experience is akin to looking at a static image. But the app counted it as video, The Information reported.

Facebook changed the name of News Feed to Feed. No press release, just this Tweet. Almost as if they didn’t even care about the change. 

Donald Trump’s Truth Social app was launched to a bad start. A waiting list of nearly 1.5 million were unable to use the app.

March 2022

Big tech companies including social media responded to Russia’s attack on Ukraine by suspending operations in Russia. TikTok struggled to combat war-related misinformation on its platform

BBC News launched a TikTok account, despite previously saying that it had no plans to create content for the platform.

Instagram killed its Boomerang and Hyperlapse apps. Instagram also launched an official, verified TikTok account under its creator umbrella. Facebook also launched its official TikTok account.

A chronological feed became available once again on Instagram, more than five years after the company first switched to an algorithmically-ranked feed. 

The EU unveiled its biggest ever legislative effort to balance competition in the tech world – the new Digital Markets Act, or DMA.

April 2022

Elon Musk became Twitter’s largest shareholder, later offered to buy the social media company for $43 billion, that is $54.20 per share in cash, and entered into a definitive agreement to acquire it. Twitter also announced an edit button was coming. 

Bloomberg covered the rise of BeReal, the “new” social media app that was trending at colleges as “casual Instagram”. BeReal asks all of its users randomly once a day globally at the same time to post a picture without a filter and snap it with both front and back cameras at the same time, creating a real moment. The users have only a couple of minutes to take a picture and if they miss the window, there will be a time stamp next to the photo. The app’s downloads continued to skyrocket.

A large study in Britain found that heavy use of social media spurred lower ratings of “life satisfaction”: first around puberty – ages 11 to 13 for girls, and 14 to 15 for boys – and then again for both sexes around age 19.

Meta and Spotify shifted resources away from their Clubhouse competitors. Spotify has shuttered the Creator Fund for its Greenroom platform, and Meta is moving its resources away from the Clubhouse competitor known as Live Audio Rooms, Tubefilter reported.

Snap revealed a selfie drone called Pixy. The small yellow puck takes off from your hand, follows you around, and captures video that can be sent back to Snapchat.

YouTube revealed in its first-quarter earnings that Shorts, its TikTok clone, was generating 30 billion views per day.

May 2022

Elon Musk tried to back off the Twitter deal, saying it was “on hold” (though legally it was proceeding).

WhatsApp launched Cloud API to all businesses worldwide. The developer tool is a cloud-based version of the WhatsApp Business API – WhatsApp’s first revenue-generating enterprise product – but hosted on parent company Meta’s infrastructure, TechCrunch reported. Businesses pay WhatsApp on a per-message basis.

WhatsApp also launched WhatsApp Premium, a new subscription plan for businesses. It lets businesses use additional features such as the ability to link up to 10 devices to the same WhatsApp account thanks to multi-device.

June 2022

Sheryl Sandberg, Meta’s chief operating officer, announced she was leaving the company after 14 years.

Elon Musk continued communicating that the Twitter acquisition deal was “on hold” as he was trying to get more information from the company regarding spam activity.

The Financial Times reported on a culture clash between TikTok’s Chinese owners and some of its London employees that had triggered a staff exodus and complaints about an aggressive corporate ethos that runs counter to typical working practices in the country. The UK was the first market outside China where ByteDance tested its live shopping feature TikTok Shop, and the results were not good.

A leaked memo from Facebook revealed the social network is preparing an algorithm change to better compete with TikTok: rather than prioritize posts from accounts people follow, Facebook’s main feed was, like TikTok, to start heavily recommending posts regardless of where they come from

Twitter launched Notes, its long-form blogging option. Note titles are limited to 100 characters, and the body of a Note can be up to 2,500 words.

The 2022 Digital News Report found that around half of respondents or more in most countries feel that journalists should stick to reporting the news, but a sizable minority believed they should be allowed to express their personal opinions on social media at the same time.

July 2022

Facebook introduced a redesign to Groups heavily inspired by Discord design with channels and a very similar menu. News tab and Bulletin newsletter platform were put “on the back burner” in a shift to reallocate resources elsewhere.

TikTok abandoned ecommerce expansion plans in Europe and the US after struggles in the UK.

Elon Musk officially tried to walk away from the Twitter deal. The company sued Musk to enforce the deal. Delaware Court of Chancery Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick ruled in favor of an expedited five-day trial, to take place in October. Musk wanted a trial to commence next year. 

Google’s Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan, who runs the company’s Knowledge & Information organization, generated many headlines thanks to his remarks on how the search giant is unpopular among Gen Z. “In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search,” he said . “They go to TikTok or Instagram.”

August 2022

Meta’s prototype chatbot, called BlenderBot3, told a BBC reporter that Mark Zuckerberg exploits its users for money. Facebook announced it was shutting down its live shopping feature on October 1 to shift its focus to Reels.

Snap announced it would not be developing any future versions of Pixy, its selfie drone introduced in April.

The Cyberspace Administration of China released a list of 30 algorithms used by companies including ByteDance and Alibaba, along with a brief description of each algorithm’s purpose.

Meta confirmed that it was internally prototyping a new Instagram feature suspiciously similar to BeReal, the social media app that had recently exploded in popularity.

September 2022

TikTok introduced TikTok Now, its BeReal clone to “to share your most authentic moments”.

YouTube said it would launch ads in YouTube Shorts with a revenue share for creators. The video platform will pay creators 45% of YouTube Shorts ad money. The current YouTube Partner Program deal pays out 55% revenue share from YouTube ads in regular videos. The existing Partner Program for long-form video requires YouTubers to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours. The Shorts-specific threshold announced requires creators to have 1,000 subscribers and 10 million Shorts views over 90 days.

October 2022

Elon Musk changed his mind and agreed to buy Twitter ahead of the court hearing.

Facebook announced it would shut down Bulletin, its newsletter platform started in 2021.

Meta’s VR social network Horizon Worlds – the company’s flagship “metaverse” app – is suffering from too many quality issues, and even the team building it isn’t using it very much, according to internal memos obtained by The Verge.

Facebook owner Meta was ordered to sell GIF library Giphy by UK competition regulator, the CMA. The UK watchdog found that the takeover could harm social media users and UK advertisers.

LinkedIn Audio events became available for everyone.

November 2022

Elon Musk laid off top executives and later more than half of the employees at Twitter. It was reported that Revue, the newsletter platform Twitter acquired in 2021, will shut down by the end of the year. Some companies halted advertising spending on the platform in the wake of Musk’s takeover. The new verification system turned out to be a mess and was paused until December.

Meta laid off more than 11,000 employees. The parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp reduced its work force by 13 percent and extended a hiring freeze through the first quarter of next year. 

Musk reinstated Donald Trump’s Twitter account after holding a poll (Trump hasn’t made use of the reinstatement as of now, supposedly because of his contractual commitment to Truth Social). Twitter’s new owner also announced he will grant “amnesty” for suspended Twitter accounts – prompting experts to predict a rise in harassment, hate speech and misinformation.

December 2022

Elon Musk suspended accounts of journalists covering him or his companies overnight without giving a valid reason. Their access was later reinstated.

Twitter relaunched a new verification badge.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism published a report called “How publishers are learning to create and distribute news on TikTok”.

David Tvrdon

This piece was originally published in The Fix and is re-published with permission.