Currently valued at $75 billion by Pitchbook, TikTok has recently surpassed Uber as the world’s highest-valued startup. If, like me, you’re still wrapping your head around how this gigantic digital and cultural force has seemingly snuck up on us - here’s the situation.
This article addresses two key factors: Why has TikTok gained popularity so fast and how it is different from other platforms.
1) TikTok Keeps Its Users Entertained for Longer
TikTok has been developed for content creators - with the emphasis being on creators creating. Currently, the average (non-influencer) is posting on their Instagram galleries less than ever before. That is not to say Instagram is necessarily losing core engagement. Instead, the way in which we are using the platform has simply evolved.
Of Instagram’s 1 billion monthly users, 63% of those continue to log at least once a day (Hootsuite). However, the rise of Stories and other forms of ephemeral content has reduced our tendency to post on our feeds. Whilst stories document day-to-day lives, our feeds have become more curated; our own personal magazine we distribute to our followers and friends. Influencers echo this principle, however, they do so more intensely and on a larger scale.
With TikTok, although still significantly smaller with 500 million active users, over 90% of their total users access the app every single day (orberlo). Additionally, of that 90%, the average time each user is spending on the app is 52 minutes per day. In comparison, Instagram’s average consumption from daily users is 28 mins (Hootsuite).
The platform is made for creators via their user-friendly in-app features, such as interactive gesture filters and built-in music capabilities. This encourages experimentation with content - which fuels hyper publishing from younger demographics who yearn to express themselves through their online presence.
Specifically, the app’s features consistently have a low-to-mid barrier of creative entry. Its accessibility has been key to TikTok’s popularity. Creators of all abilities can quickly produce interesting content that is perhaps less about perfection and more about entertainment.
According to influencer marketing hub, over 53% of users uploaded a video in the past month.
2) The Kids Love It
Generation Z is a hot topic in the press. Whether it’s regarding their high levels of political engagement, love of Depop or short attention spans - our (yes, at 23, I’m also a ‘gen-Z’) identity as a generation has been brandished around online publishers more aggressively than the advertising of a house plant sale in east London, and we’re going to sow some of our Gen Z stats right here, right now.
Incidentally, 42% of all TikTok users are between 16-24. Simply put, the app has connected with a younger generation in a way that their competitors haven’t. Specifically, the platform connects with Gen Zs interests and, crucially, their digital habits. By focusing on comedy and fun, it offers a creative outlet and an escape from an increasingly scary world to grow up in. The swipe feature on the homepage acts as a hybrid of Instagram’s ‘explore’, constantly adapting to your interests and serving you an endless stream of content that is undeniably addictive.
Outside of the gaming market, TikTok is the only app in the Top 5 download that is not part of the Facebook group. It is currently sitting third behind Whatsapp and Messenger. Currently, TikTok has reached over 1.5 billion global downloads. Reaching 1 billion in February 2019, then taking just 8 months to gain half a billion more (SensorTower).
3) Marketers Marketing and Jimmy Fallon’s Influence
According to Influencer Marketing Hub, 42% of TikTok’s revenue is coming out of the US. In relation, one of TikTok’s many teething problems is the lack of spending power that huge portions of their demographics possess - this is an issue marketers are also having when operating influencer campaigns within this space. There is consistent popularity and engagement with branded content, however with a lack of product interest or conversion.
However, in the US, TikTok’s adult audience is accelerating. In less than 18 months, the number of adult users has grown by 5.5% (oberlo). The significant growth is down to multiple factors - a significant one being Jimmy Fallon’s partnership with the platform.
Fallon’s ‘TikTok’ challenge, which was born out of organic interest before evolving into a partnership, was centred around the #TumbleWeedChallenge and took place in late 2018. According to Tubefilter, his on-air endorsement of the platform generated over 8,000 submissions and 10.5 million impressions. At the time, it was the app’s largest spike since it was launched in 2016 and bumped TikTok’s overall number of downloads up to almost 80 million in the U.S.
Since November 2018, TikTok has announced key partnerships in the States, including the recent deal with the NFL. The deal, centred around more ‘challenges’ was described by CNBC as “The NFL hoping TikTok will help it score with young viewers.”
4) Insane Growth Meets Market Weariness
For all the American interest, the majority of marketers have remained relatively skeptical of the platform. According to Digiday, only 4% of US marketers admit to TikTok being part of their campaign strategy. In the same study, Facebook remained in the plans of 89% of strategies.
Either the rapid rise of TikTok, or the possibility of engaging with an audience that lacks spending power may be factors marketers are facing when incorporating TikTok. Whilst up and coming creators may be more focused on rattling out content than securing brand deals, from a marketing perspective, it remains very early days.
However, few could deny the cultural relevance and TikTok has gathered in the past 12 months alone. The sheer volume of users, regardless of age, simply cannot be ignored. To close out, the Top 50 Creators on the platform have more followers than the combined population of Mexico, Canada, UK, Australia and US. Although many users will be repeated followers, it hardly diminishes the representation of the growing influence of TikTok.
If you haven’t heard much about it yet, you will do soon.
TikTok is a valued partner of Whalar and we have already executed multiple campaigns with leading TikTok creators for progressive brands. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Banner Content, featuring our collaboration with Impulse, from Whalar’s Head of Design, @fybe.one.