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10 Things Digital Marketers should know about TikTok

by on 15th April 2020

Seemingly overnight, TikTok leapt onto the social media scene with its highly addictive feed of short looping videos and viral challenges. If this newcomer has passed you by or you’re struggling to get onboard, here’s the lowdown on the platform and what it might mean for digital marketers.

10. The origin

Rising from the ashes of Vine and evolving from the platform that once was Musical.ly (the lip-syncing platform), TikTok was first released in 2014 but only expanded outside of China in 2017. Its Chinese creators wanted to combine short videos with easily accessible music allowing users to quickly and easily create unique content. Summarised in the brand’s own words:

TikTok enables everyone to be a creator and encourages users to share their passion and creative expression through their videos.

Their goal is to become the number 1 destination for short-form mobile video, and their mission to inspire creativity and bring joy.

With the growth of TikTok only set to get bigger in the coming months, now is the time for digital marketers to jump on the opportunity and think of creative ways to integrate TikTok into your brand or your agency’s brands strategy.

Musically logo

9. The transformation

In November 2017, TikTok’s parent company Byte Dance bought Musical.ly for almost $1 billion and combined the two platforms to rapidly expand in the US market. By 2018, TikTok was available in 150 international markets and by November 2019, TikTok had hit 1.5 billiion downloads worldwide across both iOS and Android devices.

As part of this boom, many famous names moved from Vine to YouTube over to TikTok, bringing their vast audiences with them. In 2019, TikTok was declared the 7th most downloaded mobile app of the decade, from 2010 to 2019.

8. The AI

TikTok relies heavily on AI to help users maximise engagement on their content. The platform tracks the “likes” and the comments of users as well as recording the duration for which they watch each video. Given the short duration of each video and the huge user base, TikTok’s algorithms quickly build vast datasets.

This AI supports content creators in devising viral videos by simplifying video editing and suggesting enhancements like music, hashtags, and filters that are trending or have proved to be popular based on the category.

With a friendly user interface for creators, it’s not too difficult to understand what music, dances and general trends are popular, giving marketers who are new to the platform an easy way in to start creating.

Tik Tok feed

7. The addictiveness

In a world full of low attention spans, the 15-60 second videos are perfect for a quick browse or an extended binge. TikTok’s advanced AI allows it to create a particularly addictive feed and – when coupled with the promotion of creator’s content and potential for anything to blow up overnight – there’s plenty to keep creators interested and posting new content.

U.S. users open the app 8 times a day and on average users across the globe spend 52 minutes on the platform daily.

A captivated audience is the dream for any marketer, and with the stats highlighting how addictive this platform is for its users, your brand could benefit from this.

6. The virality

TikTok has spawned many a viral sensation including challenges that have swept the globe as well as videos that have been shared across competitor platforms and propelled users to celebrity status overnight. Lip-syncing videos remain popular on the app but are joined by a host of comedic videos as well as those showcasing physical prowess in the form of dance crazes, gymnastics and parkour.

The platform is even thought to have played a pivotal role in Lil Naz X winning a Grammy and worldwide number 1s with his song “Old Town Road”. After uploading the song to the platform and creating memes around it, the star saw the tune explode!

“I promoted the song as a meme for months until it caught on to TikTok and it became way bigger.”

Cutting through the noise can often be tricky on social media, but with a big focus on virality and promoting content from new, creative users, it does seem easier to get the recognition creativity deserves.

5. The audience – it’s not just for kids!

The platform shot to fame thanks to its popularity with a younger audience and now 41% of its users are between the ages of 16 and 24. But, in less than 18 months, the number of US adults using the platform has grown by 5.5 times, up to around 15 million.

A partnership with Jimmy Fallon back in 2018 helped to create the apps biggest spike in adult engagement since its launch. Other celebrities such as Arnie and Will Smith are also active on TikTok, as well as old viral stars like the kids from ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’, who have even forged new careers on the platform. If you don’t take yourself too seriously and understand the way the platform works, people of any age can forge their own niche on TikTok.

Many new social platforms see their inception popular among a younger audience, such as with Facebook and Instagram. But as they become popular and content is shared across other more traditional platforms, the audience develops and expands. This is what we are seeing with TikTok now; TikTok videos benefiting from successful, organic cross-channel promotion doing wonders for their own user base.

4. The originality

The platform is open about the fact that its focus is less about being original and more about jumping on trends and adding your own creative spin on it. Memes are often used again and again until a new one replaces it.

“It’s not about originality — the heart of Instagram. TikTok is about remixing culture — taking the audio from someone else’s clip and reimagining the gag in a new context by layering it atop a video you record.” Josh Constine, Tech Crunch Editor

Trends can be hard to start, but TikTok makes them easy to spot. Jumping on trending videos and creating your own version that will resonate with your brand is an easy way to pick up traction on the platform.

Tik Tok viral

3. The ease of use for consumers and creators

Just as Instagram made photo editing quick and easy, TikTok has democratised video editing for everyone. Users can seamlessly edit, filter, add music and even change the speed of a video on the fly.

You don’t need to be a videographer or editing pro to put together clips with a range of engaging effects.

2. The competitors/future

Facebook saw the rising thread of TikTok and tried to create their own version called Lasso, while Instagram are now also trialing “Reels” – an addition to the Instagram story, which replicates the features of TikTok. Neither look set to dethrone TikTok any time soon!

Unfortunately, however, TikTok is facing issues over accusations of privacy issues and censorship in certain countries such as China. With growing popularity also comes increased threat of trolls and harmful content, something they will need to tackle quickly, especially with such a young user base.

1. It’s relevance for us as marketers

Despite its huge user base, just 4% of U.S. social media marketers use the platform compared to 89% who use Facebook.

Early adopters are however having a great impact, with brands often creating campaigns with influencers or starting a brand-related challenge. NFL just launched a multi-year partnership with TikTok and the likes of Apple Music, Chipotle, Cavin Klein are all highly active on the platform.


Hopefully this has sparked your interest in TikTok at least as an entertaining way to pass the time, if not a potential marketing channel for your brand. If we’ve convinced you to take the plunge, why not let us know?

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