Whether You Trust Meta or Not, the Company Sure Knows How to Profit off of You

The rise of competing social apps has impacted engagement far more than revenue

Scott Greer

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Image courtesy of author.

People love TikTok. People love YouTube. People used to love Twitter (before the implosion). People used to love Facebook and Instagram too, but in many ways Meta has become the de facto villain of big tech. Privacy scandals, political misinformation, mass layoffs and widespread distrust have damaged the brand beyond measure. And yet, despite the company’s nonstop turmoil over the past few years, Mark Zuckerberg’s baby still drives revenue like no other social media company in the world.

Across all of its properties, Meta generates 75% of all social ad dollars in the United States. The more surprising stat, however, is the fact that the company represents just 42% of time spent on social media by U.S. adults. TikTok is largely to blame for this trend, but the hottest social app drives a fraction of the profits. In the third quarter of 2023 alone, Meta is expected to generate nearly three times more revenue than TikTok will see over the course of the entire year. And even though TikTok recently surpassed Instagram with an average of 4.43 billion minutes spent on the app each day, the revenue gap is a clear reminder that Meta dominates the social landscape regardless of its struggling reputation.

In short: Meta is the most hated social platform, but also the most profitable. Plateauing engagement metrics don’t matter. Love him or hate him, Zuckerberg turns your eyeballs into money and capitalizes on users more effectively than any other platform on the market. Even Google’s YouTube, with an average daily session time of 45+ minutes per user, doesn’t hold a candle to the social behemoth in terms of revenue.

With its ability to squeeze as much money as possible out of its audience (just shy of $40 per user to be exact), Meta has given people yet another reason to distrust it. And while this clearly impacts public perception, the bottom line remains largely unscathed. If you’re at all offended by these numbers and feel like the company takes advantage of you as a user, you’re probably right. The solution? Stop using Meta products altogether.

But good luck with that. Each app has a remarkable power to lure us and continue maximizing revenue from engagement — as indicated by its eye-popping market cap. There’s a reason why we all keep returning to Instagram, scrolling through Reels and mindlessly following long-lost friends on Facebook: we simply can’t help it.

And that’s the scariest part.

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Scott Greer

Nashville-based marketer + writer + photographer. Father of two. Sharing thoughts on tech, creativity, parenting and life.