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Out of the mouths of babes: a lesson about TikTok

Out of the mouths of babes: a lesson about TikTok

The scenario was familiar, as it was one I had repeated dozens of times during the past two years. I was driving my twin 13-year-old grandchildren to the orthodontist. And both were staring at their iPhones.

This time, though, something was different. When I glanced at my granddaughter’s phone, I didn’t recognize the app she was using. Same thing with my grandson.

I was surprised. And chagrined. After all, social media is part of my job.

So I asked about it. “TikTok,” responded the granddaughter.

“Do you use that a lot?” I enquired. “Sure,” she said.

“And what about your friends?” I continued. “Is it popular with them?” “Yeah, everyone uses it.”

“What about Instagram? Snapchat? Do you and your friends still use those apps?” “Sometimes,” she replied, eyes glued to her phone and the TikTok video on its screen. As I watched, her lips curved into a mischievous smile.

At that moment I decided I had to find out more about this social media site.

Bringing the fun back to social media

So I checked out the numbers. As a video creation site, TikTok has attracted more than 500 million users. It was the fourth most downloaded app worldwide last year. And it ranked #3 in the first quarter of this year, topping the chart for Apple non-game apps.

A glowing 2018 New York Times article about TikTok claimed it had brought the fun back to social media. TikTok, wrote Kevin Roose, “doesn’t sound like much. But, somehow, it adds up to what might well be the only truly pleasant social network in existence.”

He said TikTok made him happy. “It’s a safe haven for people that are seeing the world on fire and being like, ‘I need silliness,’” he explained.

A social media network that spreads happiness? A social media network that provides a safe haven for a world on fire?

More about TikTok

Now I needed to know even more. And magically, links to a number of stories about the “refreshing outlier in the social media universe” began appearing in my inbox, each contributing a bit more information about this popular network.

First, I learned that it was no wonder it was my 13-year-old grandchildren who turned me on to TikTok. It is young people who make up the bulk of its audience. The median TikTok user hovers in the mid-teens, according to a March 2019 story in the New York Times. Which may be why “there’s a lot of bad language and racist language in the videos,” each of my grandchildren confided to me privately.

Second, I learned a bit of TikTok history – namely that Musical.ly rebranded as TikTok one year ago, after being acquired the before by Chinese company ByteDance, which describes itself as an artificial intelligence company.

Third, I read that “TikTok has stirred up a revival of short video clips—only now, it’s even more interactive, collaborative, and downright addictive.”

The company website explains it this way: “TikTok is the world’s leading destination for short-form mobile videos. Our mission is to capture and present the world’s creativity, knowledge, and moments that matter in everyday life. TikTok empowers everyone to be a creator directly from their smartphones, and is committed to building a community by encouraging users to share their passion and creative expression through their videos . . . To help users make the videos they’ve envisioned, TikTok developed a native text editing feature that creators can use inside the app.”

According to the New York Times, TikTok operates on a “simple premise” where “Users create short videos set to music, often lip-syncing along, dancing or acting out short skits. The app includes:

  • templates and visual effects to spice up the videos
  • a live-streaming feature that allows users to send virtual ‘gifts’ to their favorite creators, which can be bought with real money
  • followers, hashtags, likes and comments,
  • filters, as on Snapchat, etc.,
  • the ability to search for sounds to score videos,
  • encouragement to engage with other users through “response” videos or by means of “duets” where users can duplicate videos and add themselves alongside.

Who uses TikTok?

Here are some statistics and demographics regarding the platform:

  • TikTok has 500 million monthly active users.
  • TikTok boasts 26.5 million monthly active users in the U.S. alone, with nearly 40 million downloads since November.
  • The majority of TikTok’s users are young; 66% of those worldwide are under age 30. In the U.S., 60% of the app’s monthly active users are 16- to 24 year-olds, and 52% use iPhones.
  • Users spend an average of 52 minutes a day on the app.
  • TikTok’s engagement rate is 29%.
  • Download figures for July 2019 show TikTok in second place, just behind Facebook.
  • TikTok has offices in Beijing, Berlin, Jakarta, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo.

TikTok and your business

The lessons here are clear. If a target audience for your business is a younger demographic, TikTok may work for you. So think about checking out the platform’s current ad products and find out how to post on TikTok via the HubSpot blog.

Although few brands use TikTok, Google used it successfully to promote its voice assistant, with its #HeyGoogleHelp campaign garnering 150 million views.

Macy’s used it for its “All Brand New Challenge.” The challenge urged mobile users to record videos and inspire others to share their style for the school year. TikTok’s hashtagged video challenges are hugely popular and have the potential to go viral, as users record themselves doing something odd and urge others to respond by adding their own videocreations

However, because TikTok has a high volume of both users and content, videos must be eye catching and super entertaining to stand out. Creativity and authenticity are also key.

Here’s a look at what you could see on TikTok, according to this video from the platform’s YouTube page.

Social media: What’s hot and what’s not?

Social media: What’s hot and what’s not?

Facebook is flat. Instagram is down. Snapchat is on its way back. LinkedIn is seeing more traffic. Tik Tok is a rising star. It can be difficult to know which platform to use to meet our content marketing needs. So let’s take a look at the findings of a few studies that show the rise and fall of social media platforms.

Instagram: up or down?

Engagement rates on Instagram are dropping because of the prevalence of sponsored posts, according to a study that analytics firm InfluencerDB shared with Mobile Marketer.

However, sponsored posts tend to generate higher engagement than those that are not sponsored. InfluencerDB gives two reasons for that. One is that influencers tend to create better quality posts. The other is that Instagram’s algorithms give higher precedence to sponsored posts.

On the other hand, engagement rates for influencer content are declining as Instagram feeds get cluttered with sponsored posts, according to InfluencerDB.

On the upside, since Facebook-owned Instagram launched Instagram Stories in 2016, that function has overtaken Snapchat in overall usage.

Facebook: flat or losing?

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted early this year, Facebook use – as well as that of other platforms — is flat among adults. However, Facebook still has around 2.4 billion users, and that number includes 69% of adults.

“The shares of adults who say they use Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter are each largely the same as in 2016, with only Instagram showing an uptick in use during this time period,” according to the survey.

But just last week, Facebook boasted that it is now up to 2.4 billion monthly actives and its daily active users figures continue to trend upward as well. Its most significant audience growth once again comes in the Asia Pacific region.

Other reports take a different view of Facebook’s numbers. Here are a few:

  • The latest Edison Research ‘Infinite Dial’ report indicated that the platform has lost around 15 million active users in the U.S. since 2017.
  • eMarketer estimates that Facebook lost around 2.1 million users under the age of 25 in 2018.
  • Older studies show that found that 42% of Facebook users had reduced their daily activity and engagement and that Facebook has continued to lose popularity with teens.

What about other platforms?

  • LinkedIn reported in April that it is seeing “record levels of engagement” among its 610 million users.
  • Snapchat may be making a comeback. It is now serving more users than ever, some 203 million people every day.
  • TikTok was the 4th most downloaded app in 2018. It was #3 position in the first quarter of this year, topping the chart for Apple non-game apps.
  • Twitter is the top platform for government leaders, but user growth is predicted at just 1%. However, the number of daily users has increased consistently since 2016, with 9% more people using it each day.

Growth may be slowing

The previously steady growth in the use of social platforms in the United States during the past decade appears to be slowing, says the Pew report cited above.

While Facebook and YouTube have the broadest reach among adults, Instagram and Snapchat have a strong following among young adults. These findings illustrate the age-, gender-, and race-related differences in platform use that the survey documented, information we shared earlier this year.

For more, check out this infographic, “The Demographics of Social Media in 2019.” It comes from Jones PR and highlights some key social platform usage stats and how things currently stand.

We can help move the needle

If you’re wondering which platforms to choose to meet your company’s goals and reach your intended target audience, Triple Canopy Media can help. We can assist you in setting your social media goals and metrics so you can actually move the needle forward for your business.