TikTok, by continuing to hire, stands out from rival tech companies, especially from competing social media firms like Twitter and Meta. This is not so surprising; it is clear, and has been for a couple of years now, that the social media ball is in TikTok’s court. As user presence and engagement on other platforms have declined, the wind has remained faithfully in TikTok’s sails for at least three years now.

Many technology companies have announced intentions to downsize their workforces or at least institute hiring freezes in the coming years. These announcements come in response to the expected and, to some extent, in-progress recession. Hardware manufacturer HP was the latest: on Tuesday it revealed plans to shrink its workforce by 6,000 (more than 10%) in the next three years. Microsoft, Netflix, Coinbase, Tesla, Salesforce, Stripe, Spotify, Oracle, Meta, Amazon, and many more have already cut staff in 2022.

TikTok is bucking the trend

TikTok intends to keep hiring. It reaffirmed its plan to hire 1,000 new engineers at its Mountain View office to CNN on Monday. Doing so casts it in sharp contrast to rival companies. Let us briefly examine the extent of TikTok’s success.

The platform has had 2.6 billion total downloads and had the most successful quarter for an app ever in Q1 2020, where it received a staggering 315 million downloads. TikTok users spend, on average, over an hour and a half on the app each day, and almost half the US population—138 million—are active users. This success is a large part of the reason why the company is continuing to hire. It is still growing. It is taking social media users away from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and taking video-consuming users away from YouTube.

The rapid introduction of copycat products – Reels on Facebook, YouTube Shorts, and so on—reflects the concern these companies have about TikTok. Companies that are recording falling, or at least slowing, engagement cannot hire as aggressively as one recording accelerating engagement. There is probably, however, also a regulatory motive for TikTok’s hiring.

All other social media popular in the West are owned by Western companies. In fact, excluding French BeReal, almost all are American. TikTok, being Chinese, is exposed to far more regulatory risk than any of its competitors. It is speculated that its Mountain View hirings are motivated by a need to have all US data processed within the US, rather than China, to soothe the risk of shutdown. It may be the case that TikTok would like to downsize its workforce too but cannot afford to do so.

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