TikTok has become incredibly popular over the last couple of years, almost exclusively among Generation Z – if you didn’t know, that’s those born after the year 2000.
Because it’s mostly popular among younger people, though, it has gone under the radar of a lot of older folk including business owners looking for social media marketing opportunities.
If you’re reading this post, it may be the first time you’ve heard of TikTok, (barring, of course, the 2009 Kesha song). Even if you have heard of the app, maybe you’ve only seen passing reference to it and still have no idea what it is.
Our goal with this article is to explain what TikTok is and tell you how businesses can take advantage of its explosive growth to drive sales.
What is TikTok?
The answer to this question is actually quite simple: it’s an mobile app that allows users to upload 6 to 15-second long videos in the hope of entertaining their friends or going viral. If you remember the app Vine, TikTok is somewhat similar to that; however, Vine videos were capped out at 6-seconds long.
The site’s slogan is – Make Your Day, Real People. Read Videos https://www.tiktok.com/en/
TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance and had its genesis in 2017 when Chinese app Douyin was merged with another Chinese app, Musical.ly.
What exactly do people use TikTok for?
Originally, TikTok users mostly lip-synced songs, but today it’s expanded to comic routines or demonstrations of talent. You could think of it as a huge, international talent show for young people.
As mentioned above, TikTok is incredibly popular with the Generation Z demographic – around 41 % of users are between ages 16 and 24. The oldest of these are stepping into the job market, meaning they have an income to use and things they’ll want to buy.
With 500 million active users, TikTok is the 9th most popular social media app. It’s the most popular app on the Apple App Store, and is used mostly in India, China, and the US. The average TikTok user spends about an hour per day using it.
The Growth of TikTok
TikTok’s growth can definitely be described as “explosive”: it only originated (as Douyin in China) in 2016 and, after a mere 3 years, it has stepped up to challenge the likes of Facebook or Instagram.
TikTok has grown greatly outside of China thanks in large part to ByteDance’s 2017 purchase of Musical.ly, most likely for around $1 billion. Musical.ly was already popular in the United States, and user’s accounts were converted to TikTok accounts overnight. This strategic move gave TikTok a large foothold in the US app market which would only continue to grow.
Between 2017 and 2018, TikTok downloads increased by 419 %, probably owing to ByteDance’s acquisition of Musical.ly. In the first quarter of 2018, TikTok was the most downloaded iOS app in the world, and by the first half of 2018, TikTok had become more downloaded than long-established apps like WhatsApp, YouTube, and Instagram. In November 2018, it became the first Chinese app to be the most downloaded app in the United States.
Its performance in 2019 was even better, with around a 6 % increase in the number of downloads. In September of 2019, according to SensorTower, TikTok was the most downloaded app on both iOS and Android. For 2019, TikTok came in at number 4 for the most downloaded apps on the Apple App Store. As of November 2019, TikTok has had more than 1.5 billion downloads.
App analytics company Apptopia announced at the beginning of 2020 that TikTok had finished its “best quarter ever” This is mostly due to the increase of in-app purchases: users can buy effects or filters using coins, the app’s currency, and with more and more popularity, TikTok has been pushing these microtransactions.
TikTok in the News
Unfortunately, TikTok has not been a stranger to controversy. US commentators worry about a potential connection of the company to the Chinese government, whereas TikTok itself denies any connections to the country’s leadership in Beijing. It is possible, for example, that TikTok censored material related to the protests in Hong Kong, Recently, members of the US Army were proscribed from using TikTok due to security concerns.
The same concerns over possible affiliation with the Chinese government have been raised in India, where the app was actually banned for a short period. This ban was rescinded but, since a lot of the app’s growth has been occurring in India, raises some concerns over its future prospects there.
Future of TikTok
The immediate future of TikTok will most likely involve it going public which will bring in more investors and stimulate growth. This will be a huge step for the app.
The CEO of Mammoth Media, Benoit Vatere, predicts that TikTok will grow to become the #1 app for teens in 2020, bypassing Snapchat and Instagram. Given the numbers you’ve seen above, and a growing awareness of TikTok, this seems like a pretty good prediction. Tom Jarvis of the Wilderness Agency predicts that it will become more of a leader, with more established services such as Facebook beginning to take cures from it.
It seems that most of the growth of TikTok Will be taking place in India. In the SensorTower report on September 2019 mentioned earlier, a large percentage of these downloads took place in India, an up-and-coming, hugely populous nation which could serve as a large future market for the continued growth of the app. TikTok is aware of this and has been taking steps to encourage growth there, for example supporting 15 Indian languages.
The one threat to the future growth of TikTok, barring a newer, highly-competitive app, are governments. As mentioned above, the governments of both India and the United States have been eying the app with suspicion.
In spite of these concerns, It is certainly worth looking into for 2020 and beyond when it comes to marketing your brand, which we will look at next
How Businesses Can Use TikTok
As we’ve seen, TikTok is an app that has grown exponentially – currently, it has around 1 billion users. What does this mean for your business? Can your brand piggyback off the unprecedented success of TikTok and drive sales? The answer is a resounding “yes.”
It may seem hard to convey your brand in a 15-second video, but these kinds of videos are exactly what TikTok users want. Let’s face it: people are becoming skeptical of traditional advertising techniques. An unrefined, fun video on TikTok is much better than a polished, 60-second commercial that can’t hold the attention of someone from the generation that grew up on social media
If your brand is relatively unknown, it might be a good idea to make contact with popular TikTok users within your niche, known as “influencers.” These people, who sometimes have millions of followers can help your brand get off to a running start
More traditional forms of advertisement are available too, such as in-feed video ads which are shown between videos, ideally those related to your brand. These can be targeted according to age, gender, location, and more.
Another method of advertising is by using a hashtag challenge. Chipotle used this to great effect back in the summer of the 2019 with the so-called “#guacdancechallenge.” Restaurants, especially fast food chains have launched successful TikTok campaigns.
If you are a more established brand, these challenges are a great way to connect with users. A TikTok representative will partner with you for 6 days during the challenge
It seems that TikTok is here to stay, and that growth will continue, albeit perhaps at a slower rate than in the past 3 years. Now, however, would be the time to take advantage of it for your business, as advertisements there have the potential to be seen by hundreds of millions of young people looking for the next big thing, or what their favorite TikTok star is doing.
Author –Marsha Kelly
Marsha Kelly is a serial entrepreneur and consultant for small business owners and those seeking fulfillment through self-employment. Her experiences in marketing for a large corporation empowered her with business savvy and taught her how limiting that sort of professional life can be. She departed the corporate grind with an arsenal of business strategies and the resolve to create her own opportunity. As it happened, she started, grew and sold her first small business for more than $1,000,000.
Now with several successful businesses under her belt, she focuses on sharing her business acumen. As a private consultant and blogger, she helps eager entrepreneurs through her blog: Best4Businesses.com. Marsha’s personal philosophy is that, when properly motivated and informed, a small business owner is the most secure, positive and potentially profitable kind of business person.
Infographic courtesy of Oberlo – https://www.oberlo.com/blog/tiktok-statistics