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Social Media Close-Up: TikTok

The latest social media platform to grab the world’s attention is TikTok, a video-sharing social networking app. Launched in 2017, TikTok is now estimated to attract 800 million active monthly users. Little wonder that it has become as influential in today’s culture as it has, what with its ease of use and the abundance of impressive creativity on display. Engagement numbers are skyrocketing by the day. Average Joes, celebrities, and brands alike have all taken to the platform. It’s relevant to anyone and everyone.

TikTok’s stated mission is to “inspire creativity and bring joy.” And users are doing just that. You’ve no doubt seen some of its now-familiar 15-second videos on your social feeds, even if you’re not on the TikTok platform. The more popular content is often referred to as “memes-as-videos,” because they feature things like reactions, duets, and mirrors/clones. But you’ll also find various beauty tips and tricks, sports highlights, pet and animal videos, and, of course, trending content like the ever-popular dance challenges.

Where do I start?

It can be hard for many to keep up with the whirlwind of social platforms we’re offered, let alone figure out how to navigate each of them. At this point, if you have kids, they’ve likely already attempted their own TikTok challenges in your living room. Their teachers have likely attempted creations of their own as well.

If you’re new to TikTok, we’d suggest taking a moment to watch the top TikTok videos from 2019. You’ll be in awe of the creativity that this platform brings out of people. Now let’s hop into the interface and discover what to expect when you download the app. 

This video-only platform offers two distinct feeds on the home section:

  • There is the “For You” feed, which includes trending videos and clips that are suggested based on content you’ve previously liked.
  • Then there’s the “Following” feed, which only delivers videos from people you follow.

The makers of TikTok must have considered the fact that we are now a scroll generation. Videos play in a loop until you scroll to the next one. You can watch videos without having to open them and wait for them to load. Get your laughs in quickly and move on. You can pause the video, like, comment, and share. You can add hashtags and songs. A helpful “Discover” section helps you see, in a clear and user-friendly layout, trending hashtags, with a selection of the latest videos for each. In a less well-organized interface, your Inbox provides you with access to your DMs and any other notifications. Note that you can only send DMs if you link your phone number to the platform.

Once you grasp all the features like the various creative effects and music, making videos is fairly easy.  The app is chock full of music and audio clips, or you can even add your own music or sound. If you’re more of a content consumer than a provider, TikTok is actually a great place for you, with seemingly endless hours of entertainment awaiting. And you won’t be alone: TikTok users spend an average of 52 minutes per day using the platform, opening the app a whopping eight times a day on average.

Who’s using TikTok?

TikTok is available in 154 countries and in 75 different languages, according to one repository of TikTok stats. That data roundup also shows that the platform is estimated to have about 60 million active monthly users in the United States, 60% female and 40% male. The platform skews young: 80% of users are age 16–34, and 60% are Gen-Zers. If the latter group is part of your brand’s target audience, you should be on TikTok right now. Generation Z’s influence can’t be underestimated; by next year they will be the largest generation of all.

What should brands know?

Originally developed in China, the app as we know it started out when TikTok’s parent company acquired musical.ly, a lip-syncing music-video platform, in 2018. Users quickly adapted the site to their own purposes, from trending challenges to celebrity participation. Soon enough, companies saw an opportunity to jump in and create brand awareness. Chipotle was at the forefront of this marketing shift with two successful challenges, the #LidFlipChallenge and #GuacDance on National Avocado Day. Today, Chipotle is one of the most-followed brands on TikTok.

With consumers drawn to TikTok’s interactivity and sense of community, many other brands are jumping on the bandwagon, and for good reason:

  • It offers niche targeting to the vital Generation Z.
  • Videos are essential to any social media strategy.
  • TikTok offers options like free filters, songs and even branded AR lenses, filters, and stickers for users to insert into their video content.
  • Ads drive users to your website or app-store page.
  • TikTok offers metrics to content providers (even if they are a bit basic).
  • Brands have the ability to reach a large audience by joining in on challenges or utilizing trending hashtags.
  • Political ads are disallowed, a move that attempts to keep the platform safe from discord.

Here’s what brands should be wary of:

  • Without an option to report a video or comment, there’s no real moderation possible.
  • Security and privacy concerns persist; there’s a level of uncertainty about where and how your data is processed.
  • The algorithm on the For You section is unclear.
  • Monetization should be considered; sponsored hashtags challenges can be expensive.

Brands that lean into the use of influencers should note the prevalence of these social media mavens on TikTok. In fact, the sense of competition between TikTok and Instagram is palpable. Influencers utilize both platforms, but brands targeting millennials see more opportunities with TikTok, which tends to be a cheaper investment than Instagram.

Is it time to join?

TikTok has built its reputation on the fact that its videos promote individuality and uniqueness. The nature of its content seems to promote a more accepting attitude among viewers, as it brings people together for various objectives. While challenges and songs can take off and become viral, it often relies on genuine and authentic content; it’s not just a highlight reel.

The key to success on TikTok is to be authentic and maintain a strong personality, image, and tone. TikTok users expect authenticity more than polished content. We’re looking forward to following the progress of the platform and seeing how brands use it to promote their own integrity and foster stronger connections with their followers.

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