There’s a new kid on the block.
Just when we started to think that Facebook and Google have almost completely taken over with their social media weaponry—Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube (Twitter and LinkedIn sold separately)—something new springs forth, grabbing the collective attention of the next generation. We were getting bored of the old guard anyway… Facebook is so passé.
TikTok is the shiny new thing, and for good reason. Here are the key facts you need to know:
What is TikTok?
- A short-form video-sharing app, available in over 150 markets and in 75 languages, driven by an increasingly global community of young, eclectic, and creative users (think GenZ—teens to mid-twenties).
- Over 500 million monthly active users. (For reference, that’s about half of Instagram’s user count.)
- The app was launched for markets outside of China by ByteDance in 2017. ByteDance previously launched Douyin, which uses the same software as TikTok, for the Chinese market in 2016.
Is TikTok the new Vine?
If you’re thinking, “Hey, this thing sounds like Vine!”, the US-based short-form video app that had a loud debut and a quiet death, you’re not far off. Vine, acquired by Twitter in 2012 prior to its official launch, was also popular with younger audiences who used it to create music shorts and comedy clips. The platform grew to 200 million active users at one point, with brands scrambling to get in on the action, only to be shut down by Twitter four years later, partially due to growing competition from Instagram and Snapchat.
However, there are three notable differences between the two platforms as it stands:
- TikTok’s monthly active users are more than double Vine’s at its peak, and still growing.
- ByteDance has deep pockets—reports have listed it as one of the world’s most valuable startups.
- Perhaps most critical is timing. Video as a content type is not only now well-established, it is hugely popular. Business is booming.
Who is on TikTok?
- GenZ. Over 40% of users are between the age of 16-24. Around a third of users are aged 20-24, and the rest mostly fall into the 25-29 bracket.
- Around two thirds of current users are female.
- The app is most popular in India, and growing fastest in the United States—42% of revenue now comes from the US.
- TikTok’s users are creators—an extremely engaged base with a high ratio of creators to passive browsers.
What is on TikTok?
What type of content are we talking about here—what performs best?
- 15-second videos, that can also be strung together to create 60-second “stories”. Anything short and entertaining—music, lip-syncing, dancing, comedy, skits, animals.
- TikTok’s differentiator is its range of video tools, effects, and filters, as well as audio to video syncing.
- Creation is kept within its own walls (unlike Facebook or YouTube, who rely on third-party apps).
- Self-expression comes above all else on this platform, unlike other social channels, where “staying in touch with friends” is the key factor.
What does TikTok mean for brands?
Of course, online marketers want in. There is already a growing chorus online providing their POV on what to do with it all (here, here, and here). TikTok doesn’t have the ad offerings of platforms like Instagram, but it is moving towards monetization, measurement, and targeting options and has started testing native ads. So far, it has run a number of test campaigns—most notably with Guess in a #InMyDenim challenge, which also featured influencers. Brands like Pepsi and Snapdeal have also signed on to advertise.
For brands that want to reap the benefits of being early adopters before the space becomes saturated and costs inevitably rise, TikTok accounts can be easily set up and partnerships built with influencers directly—the same way they do on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. The most important things to consider? Audience alignment (consider this demographic and your message), creative treatment (be creative to cut through), and have a clear content strategy tied to business objectives. As always, an audience-first approach is recommended.
Will TikTok stick around?
It’s easy to suggest TikTok will be another passing fad that won’t last. However, a few aspects set it apart from others before it. TikTok has seen 1.2 billion installs so far, up from a billion at the end of 2018—and while it is only now making news in western countries, it already has a solid foundation in Asia. It currently ranks higher than Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Pinterest for active monthly users. With a company recently valued at $75 billion steering the ship, TikTok has some serious capital behind it. And perhaps more telling: Facebook—ever fearful of losing market share—has also quietly taken aim with the launch of a similar standalone app called Lasso.
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