The Rise of TikTok: Understanding the Popular New Social Network
Written by Michael Del Gigante
Much like everyday life, the only constant in social media is change. As soon as marketers get used to the existing platforms, a new network disrupts the scene.
TikTok has emerged as a dynamic, community-focused platform that’s changing the way social media works, according to The New York Times. What is TikTok? How does it work? Most importantly, how can brands engage their audiences with this fresh and powerful tool?
According to the social media experts at MDG Advertising, here’s what marketers need to know about the rise of TikTok:
What Exactly Is TikTok?
The self-proclaimed “world’s leading destination for short-form mobile videos,” TikTok allows users to not only create, but also interact with, videos that are 15 seconds long or less. Videos can be threaded together, or users can upload longer videos into the app.
TikTok originated in China under the name “Douyin” in 2016 and has many of the same elements users see on other popular platforms. The stories are vertically oriented and conform with visual layers and AR elements. Additionally, pieces don’t vanish automatically—much like a traditional Instagram or Facebook account.
TikTok is also closely connected with Musica.ly, which showcased community members tackling trending songs. This community feeling is still present in the app, which showcases collaborations, trending challenges, and humor in its videos.
How Many People Use TikTok?
Determining TikTok’s user base can be challenging because numbers for Douyin (the original app) are unavailable. However, even without Douyin’s numbers, users have downloaded TikTok more than 1 billion times, according to Sensor Tower. The firm also calculated that there were 663 million downloads in 2018, compared to 444 million downloads for Instagram.
Also, Apptopia revealed that TikTok has over 250 million active users. On the other hand, Snapchat now has around 298 million active users.
How Did TikTok Become So Popular?
With its user-friendly structure and no requirements to join, TikTok is very similar to YouTube. Users can dive right in, swiping from a video to another without creating an account.
TikTok is music- and challenge-centric, making its content targeted and widely popular. Hashtags appear around a wide range of topics, and the videos are fun and quick to view, which appeals to large audiences. However, the platform features high-powered machine learning, which delivers effective “For You” recommendations. The more someone uses TikTok, the more relevant the content becomes.
This format clearly garners results. In the United Kingdom, users are spending more time on TikTok every month than any other platform (excluding Facebook).
Are Brands Advertising on TikTok?
Despite its massive popularity, TikTok’s tools for advertising haven’t quite matched its user base. While it has ads—they usually appear after the app’s launch—the pre-roll approach is still under development. Most ads are focused on promoting downloads.
So, how can brands engage TikTok users? Creating challenges is one approach, using hashtags and connecting with key influencers. One example is Guess’ #InMyDenim campaign last fall, which involved TikTok users creating videos showcasing products.
Is TikTok Just a New Trend?
Will TikTok have lasting success, or will it go the way of Friendster? Right now, the answer is unclear. While TikTok is growing by all measures—downloads, influencer engagement, advertiser interest—it’s still facing challenges as its user base expands. Its open nature and virtually nonexistent vetting process has led to concerns over exposing young users to inappropriate content.
Plus, established networks such as YouTube and Instagram are seeing what works for TikTok and are adding comparable features to their platforms. This occurred when Snapchat first launched, and then Facebook and Instagram added their own Stories feature to compete with the popular app.
TikTok’s future is yet to be seen—it’s feasible that the network will overcome these challenges and expand its user base. It’s clear that users demand mobile-friendly, short-form video; on short-form video marketing spend in China is expected to increase by 134% this year.
Ultimately, while TikTok might not enjoy long-term success, the appetite for short, easy-to-view video content isn’t likely to decrease anytime soon. Marketers should continue to explore creative ways to engage audiences with short-form video throughout 2019 and beyond.
About Michael Del Gigante, CEO of MDG Advertising
In 1999, CEO Michael Del Gigante founded MDG Advertising, a full-service advertising agency with offices in Boca Raton, Florida and Brooklyn, New York. With his unique insight and decades of industry experience, he turned what was once a traditional ad agency into an integrated branding firm based on an innovative 360-degree marketing philosophy that provides a full spectrum of traditional and digital advertising services.
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