The Rise of TikTok: Is it the New Fad Marketers Shouldn’t Miss Out On?

Have you heard of TikTok yet? Chances are, you have. (Unless you’ve been living under a rock or meditating on the hills without your smartphone!) This 15-second video app that has become one of the most popular fads amongst the social media apps of recent times. If you don’t believe us, here are some quick facts:

  • In September 2018, TikTok surpassed Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat to become the most downloadable non-game app. It was downloaded more than a billion times. Phew!
  • In the race to the top spot amongst the social media chartbusters, TikTok, despite its cringe-worthy content, is just behind Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. (Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest, you need to buck up if you want to catch-up!)
  • TikTok has helped ByteDance, its parent company, become the world’s most valuable start-up, surpassing Uber, with a valuation of more than $75 billion.

And if these aren’t startling enough, there’s one more thing, and this is sure to get your eyelids to rocket up! Did you know that TikTok’s surging popularity did give the social media giant Facebook the shivers? Facebook quietly launched Lasso, a rival video-sharing app in November 2018.

Without further ado, let’s talk about TikTok and how marketers can potentially use its surging popularity to tap a growing audience!

So what is TikTok?

TikTok is a video-sharing platform that gives users their 15-second window to fame with each upload. While lip-syncing and acting out comedy sketches from a database of songs, effects, films and sound bites is what TikTok thrives on, you can opt for memes, challenges, collaborative duels for creatives while on TikTok.

Whatever the content may be, TikTok is strictly an amateur’s paradise (so all you experts out there, please make way!). Perfection and professionalism have given in to the demand for self-expression and the willingness to belong to a community that dances, sings, acts and collaborates together.

So, what is it about TikTok that users can’t resist? How did it all start? Why is it so popular? Will it live long to tell the tale or phase-out like its predecessors? Does its bizarrely-humorous and cringe-worthy content give yet another opportunity to trollers? Can TikTok be the next ‘big’ platform in the world of digital marketing? Find the answers to all these questions below. 

How did TikTok start?

TikTok can be called an iteration to Musical.ly, a video-sharing app identical to TikTok that was launched in 2014. TikTok acquired Musical.ly on November 2017 for $1 billion and by August 2018, absorbed all Musical.ly accounts to become the most popular video-sharing app. While critics may whine it to be the successor of Vine (Twitter’s 6-seconds video counterpart that could not see the light-of-the-day and was forced shutdown) and argue of it having a similar fate, its users think otherwise. 

So, what makes it so popular?

Known for its bizarrely humorous and cringe-inducing content, TikTok has created a language of comedy that’s its own. But what makes it different from its counterparts (read: now dead Dubsmash, Vine or even Snapchat) is its algorithm. It makes binge-watching irresistible. What’s more, it comes with an array of features and is loaded with sound and visual effects that give amateur creators far more possibilities than they ever had.

Any social media user with intent for entertainment and fun finds TikTok powerfully liberating. Its ecosystem is what makes it different—it survives on outrageous humour, niche interests and never-seen-before acts, all done by awkward teens and adults with lack of precision, who otherwise wouldn’t stand a chance to barter ‘popularity’ for their ‘talent’ in the professional-looking Instagram and YouTube creations. 

And since the content is straight out from the mundane living and is anything but relatable, the fan and following on the platform is fiercely loyal to. Influencer Drea Knows Best, a comedy creator of TikTok with more than 1.8 million fans, confesses that “the engagement on TikTok is unreal”. The pro-active fans with their unwavering commitment create a point of difference for TikTok against other social media platforms. It is also what makes TikTok stand out from its competitors and predecessors.

What is it that users can’t resist about TikTok?

The answer to that is simple: the TikTok culture. The premise is to make it look ‘authentic’ and ‘real’ and not ‘fancy and dream-like’ (that, of course, comes with exhaustive editing) like the content on Instagram or YouTube. The app has become a goldmine of edgy, subversive and sometimes clichéd content—whether that’s comedians trying their luck with new slapstick humour or a choreographer showing the latest moves, the anime-obsessed user or the normie trying the new filters. There is something that makes it universally welcoming for everyone to digitally ‘hang-out’ in.

If you are bored to death or just want to get a taste of unbridled joy, TikTok is the place to be. After all, who wants to wake up to trolls on Twitter when you have the option for some fun gags on TikTok to give your day a perfect kick-start! However, a word of caution—some belly-hurting laughter and humour that TikTok promises can be, unsurprisingly, cringe-worthy and just downright weird. But if you’re game for it, head on over!

With all the bizarre humour and outrageously weird content, doesn’t it mean more food for trollers (as if they have any less)?

Well, the answer is a definite NO. Not counting the cynical internet users who wouldn’t miss a chance to troll anything and everything under-the-sun, the percentage of trollers or bullies aiming at TikTok are relatively less compared to other social media apps. This is mainly due to the unsettling level of earnestness in the content created by users who take pride in their ‘sloppy’ content that is minus any touch of professionalism. After all, you know you have signed up for goofy, slapstick humour when you are on TikTok!

On the other hand, it would be wrong to admit that trolling doesn’t exist on TikTok. With its cringe-inducing content that many don’t have the heart for, the probability of being a point of ridicule is extremely high. But again, it is a platform of self-expression. If you are looking for professionally curated content, try Instagram or YouTube. TikTok has built a reputation for itself to be the potboiler of ‘imperfect’ content that is ‘real and authentic’. 

Should TikTok be the next point of focus for digital marketers?

Going by the current trend, that’s a definite yes! TikTok is slowly picking up as ‘the’ platform for most brands, thanks to its extraordinary engagement, high relatability and distinct content. But before making it part of the strategy, here are some rules of the platform:

  • The content on TikTok demands a certain acute level of creativity that stirs people to get up and do something! If you think you can do that, what are you waiting for? Get going!
  • TikTok primarily caters to a young audience (the age bracket being 16 to 24). Though, as we write, more and more adults are signing up to be a part of the TikTok community. So, if that is what your target demographic is, you need to be there! 
  • Geographically speaking, TikTok’s biggest share of the market lies in Asia, with India and China (where it is known as Douyin) leading from the front, though the platform is slowly invading the American households.
  • Writing off TikTok to have the same fate as Vine would be a big blunder. The platform is currently in an aggressive growth phase, with a booming user base that is strengthening with each passing day. Being an early adopter of the platform would be a wise decision to build a loyal community and fan base.

Take cues from Guess’s #InMyDenim Challenge or Google’s #HeyGoogleHelp and you would know TikTok is surely the place to be. So, whether it is the Challenges, Hashtags or Duet campaigns, get started and build a community that thrives on real, authentic content. Make your creativity shine and you could be the reaping the benefits before you even know it!

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