Image credit: Anatoliy Sizov, Getty Images
Last updated November 1st, 2021.
Keep hearing about TikTok but not convinced it’s for you? With over one billion active users TikTok is turning heads, but one billion is one of those numbers that’s way too big to grasp. Let’s put it in perspective.
Instagram Stories has 500 million users every day, while Snapchat has 238 million. What’s even more impressive is that TikTok launched to a worldwide audience in 2018, making it way younger than these platforms, which were released in 2016 and 2011. TikTok has now been downloaded more than 2 billion times worldwide. In Q1 2020 alone, the app had 315 million downloads – the most downloads in a quarter by any app, ever!
When we say the app is turning heads, we don’t just mean for brands and advertisers – social media giants are too! Facebook is testing a new feature called Instagram Reels that could create competition for TikTok, like Stories did for Snapchat, but they’ve tried this before. Facebook’s Lasso, a TikTok clone that was quietly released in 2018 and tested in selected countries, just shut down. With 80,000 active users after two years, it was no rival for TikTok.
Not just for teens
If your brand’s target audience is anyone between 13 and 30, you should absolutely be on TikTok. There’s no doubt that a large portion of its users are within this demographic, but to overlook this growing platform thinking that the app is only for this age group is a missed opportunity. Remember when Facebook and Instagram were also seen as just apps for teens and young adults? It didn’t take long for these platforms to become integral to our lives and businesses.
- 60% of U.S. users are between the ages of 16 and 24, while 26% are between the ages of 25 and 44.
- On Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, it’s the senior citizens who are going viral!
- Influencers, celebrities, publishers and well known brands are jumping on the platform to reach new audiences and meaningfully connect with followers, including The Rock, Selena Gomez, Washington Post, Netflix and Pringles.
- Family Pairing is a new feature that will likely bring older demographics to the platform. This feature increases safety for younger users by allowing parents and guardians to link their TikTok account to their teen’s account to customise settings.
TikTok – a brief history of a global app
ByteDance first launched Douyin in China in 2016 and within a year already had 100 million users. The app was released in selected countries under the name TikTok, while ByteDance bought popular lip sync video app Musical.ly – operating Douyin in China, Musical.ly in the US and TikTok everywhere else. A year later, Musical.ly merged with TikTok and it became the most downloaded app in the US in October 2018 – the first Chinese app to achieve this. TikTok is now available in 155 countries and 75 languages, and has headquarters in major cities all over the world.
3 opportunities for your brand on TikTok
It doesn’t look like TikTok’s popularity will be slowing down anytime soon, and there is huge brand awareness potential if you’re willing to get creative. Now that you’re set on creating a brand profile on TikTok, let’s talk about how your brand can make the most of it.
While other platforms focus on connection between followers, discovery is central to TikTok. When a user opens the app, they land on the #ForYou feed and there’s a stream of auto-play videos curated to their interests.
To kick things off, new users see an initial feed of popular videos based on categories they choose, such as animals, beauty or travel. But from their first use, TikTok’s algorithm starts curating their feed based on interactions with these videos.
This works in a similar way to platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Likes, shares, follows, comments, search terms and watchtime all influence how a user’s feed is shaped. The difference is that on other platforms a user may need to tap on ‘Explore’ to venture outside of these preferences, whereas TikTok has built diverse discovery into its recommendations.
TikTok puts it this way: ‘This is an important and intentional component of our approach to recommendation: bringing a diversity of videos into your For You feed gives you additional opportunities to stumble upon new content categories, discover new creators, and experience new perspectives and ideas as you scroll through your feed.’
(A huge advantage you have on TikTok compared to other social media platforms is that it isn’t secretive about its algorithm. You can read all about how TikTok recommends videos in a user’s #ForYou feed and then use those insights for your own TikTok strategy.
This means that your brand has the opportunity to be discovered by millions on #ForYou feeds, even if users haven’t opted in to follow your content yet. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, accounts with zero followers have been known to get millions of views on new videos. It’s been said for years, but content really is king on TikTok. Make a thumb-stopping video that plays on a popular hashtag or TikTok Challenge and you could trend quickly.
Users can make reaction videos where they record themselves reacting to your video as it plays, so connecting with followers goes way beyond likes and comments. It’s part of TikTok’s drive for authenticity, and a way to meaningfully connect with followers. Netflix teamed up with actor Chase Stokes from Outer Banks who created reaction videos for fans of the show.
TikTok says ‘anytime is prime time’. Most users open the app multiple times daily – both day and night – so there are heaps of opportunities to connect and you don’t have to be restricted to posting at certain times to get seen. TikTok is known as a platform where you can see a resurgence in likes and views weeks – or even months! – after your content was first posted. A song, sound or hashtag that you used may be trending, which pushes your content front and centre in #ForYou feeds. Or, because you’ve created a video that people are watching all the way through, the algorithm sees that it’s popular and puts it in front of more people.
TikTok’s integration with Apple Music and extensive music library is one of the defining features that sets it apart from other platforms. A top trending song on TikTok is usually a top trending song on Spotify, which shows the huge influence of the platform. Have fun with it! Some brands are creating sounds or making jingles cool again as a creative way to get noticed and shared.
e.l.f cosmetics asked rapper iLL Wayno to write a 15-second tune called ‘Eyes Lips Face’ (the brand name’s acronym) and partnered with TikTok influencers to launch the #EyesLipsFace challenge. The hashtag now has 6 billion views!
Although TikTok has taken off with users, brands that are trying out the platform are still considered early adopters. Getting on TikTok now and tapping into the more light-hearted side of your brand can prove your relevance with new audiences – just take it from The Washington Post. By the time other brands eventually jump on, you would have already built a strong audience and positioned your brand as an authentic industry leader – driving innovation, rather than following behind.
Ready to get started? Read on: 3 Ways to Make Your Brand Stand Out on TikTok.