What is TikTok?

by Kedet | December 28, 2020

Hey social media, have you heard about that new kid on the block, TikTok?
It’s the most downloaded app in 2020.

How did it become so popular? Why did the U.S. president want to ban it?

Let us take you on a deep dive into this insanely popular app!

Here are the topics we will cover:

Photo by Franck on Unsplash

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a video-based social media app that allows people to create, discover, and share short videos. It is available on iOS and Android.

The app’s niche in its earlier stages on music-related video content (like karaoke), but it has evolved to a wide variety of video content, such as:

  • Dance
  • Challenges
  • Tips
  • Magic tricks
  • Comedy and more

The company mission of the video platform is:

To inspire creativity and bring joy and we’re working on this mission by enabling our users to connect and express themselves authentically. The platform offers a home for creative expression where users can enjoy an eclectic range of immersive, genuine, and entertaining videos – from dance challenges to lip-syncing to DIY tutorials to historical parodies to internet memes.

The layout is user-friendly and designed for seamless browsing. It focuses on making video creation, viewing, and sharing easy for the public, which is why it’s become such a hit.

When you open the app, videos automatically start playing one by one, which is fun and entertaining to browse through. Because each video is typically 15 to 60 seconds, aka “bite-sized,” it’s easy to consume, and sometimes users end up watching random videos for hours — a prime example of how social media is addicting!

The current top genres of video content on TikTok are:

  • Performance (dancing, singing, musical instrument, etc.)
  • Entertainment (comedy, challenges, sketches, etc.)
  • Sports & Outdoors (fitness, workouts etc)
  • Learning (educational content, tutorials, how-tos, etc.)
  • Travel & Leisure
  • Beauty & Style (make-up or hair tutorials, outfits, hauls, etc.)
  • Food (cooking tutorial, recipe, etc.)

How Does TikTok Work?

TikTok videos can be created directly in the app or uploaded from a different program. If created natively on TikTok, each clip is 4 to 15 seconds long and can be strung into a more extended clip of 60 seconds in total. The time restraint does not apply to videos made elsewhere then uploaded onto TikTok.

Like other social media platforms, you can follow other users, like, and comment on videos. The “Discover” newsfeed will have new content for you to browse through. You can also use the search bar or hashtags to find other videos.

The app offers an abundance of functions for creating videos, such as:

  • Slow-motion
  • Time-lapse
  • Fast forward
  • Filters
  • V.R. effects
  • Green screen background
  • Songs…etc
Once a video is uploaded, users will have the option to share it on other networks like Messenger or WhatsApp. Many users like to crosspost videos on their Instagram accounts to maximize views and the opportunity to gain more followers.

How TikTok Started & How It’s Going

Now that we know more about what TikTok is and how it works, let’s look at how it came about.

It originally started in North America as “musically.ly” and over the past few years evolved to the app we know it as today.

When it was musical.ly, it was a karaoke app geared towards teens. In 2017, the Chinese company, ByteDance acquired it and migrated its users and existing content to TikTok. ByteDance also owns Douyin, which is the Chinese equivalent of TikTok.

In 2019, it was already the third most-downloaded app around the world, gaining 500 million followers in its first year.

Let’s say that 2020 has been an eventful year for TikTok!

President Donald Trump wanted to ban the app over the concern that because a Chinese company owned it would threaten U.S’s data privacy, foreign policy, and national security. However, TikTok’s spokesperson had clarified by saying:

TikTok is led by an American CEO, with hundreds of employees and key leaders across safety, security, product, and public policy here in the U.S. We have never provided user data to the Chinese government nor would we do so if asked.

Many people were even looking for the “new” TikTok replacement if it happened during this uncertainty. We even wrote a blog on it!

TikTok ended up persevering and is actually the most downloaded app in 2020. You can definitely say it is here to stay…for now!

Video has consistently been the preferred type of media for content consumption. Snapchat, Instagram stories, and now TikTok, the trend is leaning towards bite-sized videos typically under 30 seconds.

COVID-19 has made 2020 a strange and uncertain year, with stay-at-home orders, so TikTok was able to fill people’s need for exploration, creation, and connection.

How TikTok Started & How It’s Going

TikTok For Business

Because Tiktok is completely video-based, it cannot feature advertising formats like static images, carousels etc, like Facebook or Instagram in the newsfeed. However, because the app is incredibly popular with millions of active monthly users, many business brands consider TikTok as a marketing channel to engage with their audience base. On the TikTok For Business’ website, their homepage slogan is:

Don’t Make Ads. Make it interesting. Make a connection. Make a new trend. Make TikToks.

The app currently offers different ways businesses can advertise on their platform:
  • Brand Takeover Ads
  • Hashtag challenges
  • Advertising Campaigns
  • Influencer sponsorships
  • Self-Serve ads

One of the earliest examples of brands leveraging Tiktok for advertising was the fashion brand Guess and their campaign, #InMyDenim in 2018.

Guess invited all American users to partake in the “#InMyDenim” challenge, where participants were invited to create original TikTok videos wearing denim and using the hashtag #InMyDenim. As a result, Guess saw a 12,000 increase in followers to their TikTok brand account. Since then, many brands and celebrities have also jumped on board with the app.

Talk show host Jimmy Fallon was interested in the app in 2018 and introduced the #TumbleWeedChallenge to the public, and TikTok’s already booming growth of followers exploded.

It has since become a recurring feature on The Tonight Show with his celebrity guests, which was perfect especially for staying-at-home amidst the pandemic.

Content like this is lighthearted and invites the viewer to participate, quickly gaining traction and even potentially going viral!

In 2020, the eCommerce platform Shopify partnered up with TikTok. They identified that TikTok is an excellent channel for online merchants to reach new and highly engaging audiences. Functions such as in-feed shopping video ads are synced directly to their online stores, making social eCommerce accessible and seamless.

Brands should be creating video content that is upbeat and lighthearted to resonate with the public. It’s more about creating content rather than creating ads. People want to see relevant and relatable content that blends in TikTok video newsfeed and feel authentic.

TikTok has set a whole new landscape for brand advertising, and it’s quite exciting. You can create original challenges and hashtags and invite the world to participate in it, or jump on the bandwagon of a trending meme or challenge — it’s all about having fun and connecting. Audiences are no longer passively consuming advertisements but can actively participate in them and help spread brand exposure!

The bottom line for businesses and TikTok: less selling, more vibing!

What Have We Learned?

  • TikTok has evolved from a karaoke app for teens to a full-fledged video-based social media app for all ages.
  • The app is designed to make video creation and editing easy, fun, and accessible to all. The videos are bite-sized, averaging 15 seconds per clip.
  • ByteDance, a Chinese company owns Tiktok. Because of this, in 2020, President Donald Trump wanted to ban it because it was potentially a threat to data privacy and national security. TikTok clarifies that their company is operated and managed by Americans on U.S soil and that they have and never will pass on user data to China. The app is here to stay in North America.
  • eCommerce platform giant Shopify recently partnered up with TikTok, which will connect online merchants to market their products to a wide range of audiences.
  • TikTok for business will require brands to think outside the box and create ad content that is authentic and engaging with the app users. Examples would be creating original challenges and inviting the public to participate, which is fun and interactive!
  • Video is the most popular type of content media by far, and TikTok fits the bill as a platform where people can be entertained and create original content.
  • By 2021, it is estimated that active monthly users on TikTok will exceed 1.2 billion worldwide!
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