On the one hand, social media are a reflection of technological and social changes, and on the other hand, they create them in a way. New websites gain popularity and eventually lose it – sometimes as a result of ill-considered updates and a bad strategy, sometimes as a result of the outflow of users to stronger competition, which better understand the needs of a given group. In recent years, TikTok has been the most dynamically developing, and at the same time relatively little known, social platform.
TikTok is still considered a new and fresh medium, although it was founded in 2016 – less than 5 years is a very long time in this world. However, this does not change the fact that for years TT has remained a bit disregarded in the western world, mainly due to the initial product targeting mainly on the Asian market. Whatever the reasons, 2020 definitely belonged to TikTok. In the first quarter of this year, it was the most downloaded application in the world.
TikTok – what is it about?
TikTok is a mobile application for Android and iOS, thanks to which we can publish short films in various forms. In 2017, the company managing TT, ByteDance, acquired the competitive Musical.ly application for nearly a billion dollars, which also allowed for the publication of short videos, and the available tools allowed for their simple editing – including synchronizing the character’s mouth movement on the video with the lyrics (the platform offered a large database of available songs thanks to an agreement with Warner Music Group and Apple Music). A few months later, Musical.ly was officially merged with TikTok.
The convenient and fast mechanism of editing and sharing films made the platform extremely popular, mainly among the youngest users of the Web, i.e. Generation Z. As a generation from an early age familiar with the use of computers and smartphones, they consume content slightly differently than the previous generations, which had to slowly learn the internet world. The average age of Facebook users is growing, so it seems natural that the youngest generation of internet users is looking for a field of expression elsewhere – in mid-2020, according to Statista, nearly one third of TikTok users in the US were under 20 years old, and over 60% were under 30. It should be noted, however, that TikTok itself does not officially confirm the data on the structure of its community and such data should be treated as an estimate.
As a platform based mainly on mobile solutions (it is possible to use the web interface on computers, but the vast majority of users “tick” on smartphones), TikTok is with users almost anywhere and at any time. It can be considered that TikTok and its mechanics are to some extent a catalyst for the implementation of the Stories format in subsequent social networks – after all, relations were introduced not only a few years ago by Instagram and Facebook, but – quite recently – also by LinkedIn and Twitter. TikTok movies are, in a sense, an extension of this form of communication – fast, dynamic and fleeting.
Pre-publication video on TikTok can be freely edited and processed thanks to built-in tools and filters. The short form of the films (up to a minute, if we use films created directly in the app; films uploaded from external sources may be longer) means that post-production does not require much effort, and watching the video itself is not time-consuming. It is on TikTok that challenges, i.e. various types of challenges, are experiencing their second Internet youth – sometimes sensible, sometimes less of course. We can also find here millions of home music videos, dance routines, charity actions, but also films with painful accidents or vulgar quarrels. Great opportunities to interact with videos posted by other users make the online life on TikTok very dynamic and engaging. According to a study by Businessofapps, in 2019 the average TT user spent nearly an hour a day on the application.
TikTok’s advertising and marketing potential
Due to the large community and the implemented advertising system, TikTok is an application that allows you to promote your own content and display it to a wide audience. As a “new” medium, based on slightly different solutions, it is a field with huge promotional potential, not yet fully exploited by marketers. The number of brands using ads on TikTok, however, is steadily increasing. With Shopify integration, advertisers can also easily promote their products in the app.
The individual TikTok ad formats and their specifications are described in an article on our blog: dimensions of graphics in social media.
TikTok allows brands to collaborate in two ways. The first is the traditional auction model using TikTok Ads Manager, based on very similar principles as, for example, Facebook’s advertising manager. Another solution is the reservation model, under which all activities are planned and agreed with one of the partnership managers cooperating with the platform – this is a solution dedicated to larger campaigns.
Like Twitter, TikTok promotes the most popular hashtags, which are called Trends on this platform. It is an excellent tool for using real-time marketing and “hooking” to the most dynamically growing topics – in short, TikTok seems to be a good place for the brand to always be there where something is going on.
TikTok and controversy
As is usual in the world of social media, several technological and ethical questions arose. TikTok has received heavy financial penalties from the US and South Korea for collecting personal data, separate proceedings are underway in other countries. The platform also struggles to some extent with the difficulty of verifying certain content, especially considering the fact that teenagers are a large proportion of users. In social media, great responsibility comes with great marketing power.