What is TikTok?
TikTok is a viral video sharing app that lets users create a 15-second video of themselves singing, dancing and lip-synching to music.
It originated in China, where its owners, ByteDance launched an app called Douyin in Sept 2016. They rebranded it as TikTok one year later for its launch into the international market. ByteDance went on to purchase musical.ly in November 2017 and then merged the two apps in August 2018, bringing musical.ly’s 100 million monthly active users to TikTok.
How popular is it (and who’s it popular with)?
The app reached 80 million US downloads in November 2018 and includes celebrity users like Jimmy Fallon. As of July 2018 it had around 500 million monthly active users in total (which is much more than Twitter and Snapchat).
With the average user between the ages of 13 and 24, there’s been some concern from parents that their children could be exposed to adult-themed content. It’s easy to see why this would be a worry: the main demographic of app users covers both young teens and young adults, and there’s no way to split out content between younger and older users.
Where TikTok excels
TikTok thrives on viral videos, with users taking on hashtag challenges (where users film themselves dancing, singing or lip-syncing to songs) and spending considerable time and effort on creating the perfect video to share. Several influencers dominate the service (such as Baby Ariel with 29 million fans).
Is there a future for brands on TikTok?
TikTok’s creators remain focused on how the app can best serve its community of users, but just because they aren’t going out of their way to attract advertisers, it doesn’t mean brands aren’t already taking notice of the app.
Guess created its own hashtag challenge in September 2018, it posted a video with the hashtag #InMyDenim and watched as the app’s users took on the challenge for themselves, helping the brand appear in more people’s feeds and keeping it in people’s minds. Universal Pictures has also used the app to promote its films.
While TikTok could be set to become a haven for brands looking to market to the teen and young adult audiences, its continued success is far from guaranteed. Facebook launched its own answer to the viral video app in November 2018, and Lasso has already tempted some TikTok influencers over to its platform.
Brands might want to experiment with hashtag challenges, but – as with every app that targets young people – they should be aware of the potential for controversy as well. It can be hard to create engaging content for an audience that includes both younger teens and adults; and as the platform isn’t focusing on advertisers yet, it doesn’t have an easy way to track the success of campaigns. So for now, it may be a case of wait and see for brands that want to see trackable results from their campaigns.