Here’s why you should be paying attention to TikTok

You’ve probably heard of it. You may even have an account. You might lose hours of your life scrolling through TikTok watching videos (yes, that is me) or you might be creating and sharing on TikTok already. Regardless of what you already know, here’s an overview of what the fuss is about and why you should be paying more attention to the app that is taking over social.

TikTok is a short-form video platform which is available in Western markets and also has a version in China called Douyin. If we’re likening TikTok to another app, it would be to Vine (R.I.P). Users can upload short videos (15 seconds or 60 seconds) which they can edit through the app by adding effects, filters and sounds. The app merged with music.ly back in 2018 so lip-sync videos are also popular on TikTok.

TikTok has experienced explosive growth since 2016 and now has over 500 million monthly active users on the platform. The only social platforms that have more monthly users are Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. So, for context: TikTok is used more than Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitch or LinkedIn.

Creativity is at the heart of TikTok’s success. The platform allows its users to get creative and is well- known for its fun, unique, quirky, entertaining and sometimes straight up weird video content. The videos are snackable and super addictive. Videos range from lipsyncs, duets, cooking videos, comedy sketches, pranks, magic, dance videos, the latest trending genre: POV (point-of-view) videos, fail videos and a multitude of challenge videos just to name a few.

One of the latest challenges, the #famousrelativecheck, asks users to prove that they are related to someone famous. While some users successfully complete the challenge and show they are related to someone famous, other users have taken the challenge and turned it into a meme. This often happens on TikTok. It is the source of so many of the memes and viral content we see on other social platforms. Remember that video of a ginger cat “dancing” along to Mr Sandman you probably saw on Facebook or Instagram? Yeah, that was originally a TikTok video.

While there isn’t a lot of data released about demographics of its users, some stats show that almost two-thirds of TikTok users are under the age of 30.

Unfortunately, there are no stats available relating specifically to New Zealand. Videos hashtagged with #NewZealand or similar have generated over 40 million views on the platform. This indicates that TikTok is being used by New Zealanders in a big way.

Older TikTokers are getting among it now too. In the US, a Texan priest has taken to TikTok and hit celeb status while in the UK The Harfin Family have gathered over a million followers by sharing hilarious prank videos.

Marketers globally are already low-key getting on board by working with TikTok influencers, creating challenges (Samsung are currently running their #SubtlySponsoredPost challenge which has generated over 2 million views) and by running advertising (US and Europe only). TikTok Ads don’t appear to be available in New Zealand yet.

TikTok is changing the social media landscape and marketers and brands need to pay attention. It is changing how people create and share content, how people consume content and participate on social media, and it is perhaps even shifting consumer expectations in terms of what type of content people want to engage with.

This isn’t just an app for kids – TikTok is already making a big impact on culture. Many videos created on TikTok have gone viral on other social media platforms too. Further, TikTok has given rise to a huge number of influencers and even celebrities. TikTok can be credited for giving Lil Nas X’s song ‘Old Town Road’ the platform to go mainstream and top all of the music charts.

The addictive nature of the refreshingly authentic content on the platform means that users are flocking to TikTok not only to create videos but also to consume hours of content (users typically spend around 52 minutes per day on the app).

You can’t argue with the impact TikTok has already has made. Marketers and brands should definitely keep an eye on it to see how it might impact their marketing strategies.

  • Bhavika Rambhai is head of social strategy at VMLY&R.

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