About a month ago I was off work sick spending the day in bed scrolling through social media when I came across a compilation of funny videos with the source listed as ‘TikTok’. At this point I’d never heard of this app but having exhausted all of my social media already and needing more of a distraction from my illness, I decided to download it and see what it was all about.
At first I was apprehensive and it seemed like the whole app was just a bunch of pre teens lip syncing or dancing to random songs and the odd funny dog video. But the more I scrolled through the app the more I realised there was actually a wide range of content on it from all ages and I found myself enjoying the short funny videos. In fact it was quite refreshing compared to the usual scrolling through pictures on Instagram or watching long YouTube videos. Now here I am a month or so later and I’m officially addicted, and I’ve got loads of my friends hooked on it as well.
I’m so addicted to it that its now my most used app on my phone with the screen time tracker telling me I now spend an average of one hour per day on it compared to just 20 minutes on Instagram and fifteen minutes on twitter. Then recently I watched a TikTok that said the app recently passed 1 billion users worldwide and it got me wondering, where did this app come from and how has it got so popular so quickly?
I did some research and found out that TikTok came about due to a merger between the Chinese app Douyin (branded TikTok for the western world) and the app Music.ly which became popular in 2016 and was an app where users could create short 1 minute lip syncing music videos. Then when Bytedance, the owners of Douyin, bought Music.ly in November 2017, they realised they could easily expand into the US teen market which was already dominated by Music.ly.
The ‘new’ TikTok however, is a lot more than just music videos with users uploading a wide range of content including prank videos, storytimes, cooking videos, life hacks and comedy re-enactments – all under one minute each.
The growing popularity of this app, not just among a teenage audience but expanding into young adults and beyond, shows the shift in how we like to engage in social media content as a society. We like short, to the point, varied content that we don’t have to read. That’s the beauty of TikTok, its very easy to consume, the app automatically sends you a feed of videos on your ‘For You’ page that are popular on that day in your area and it also learns what type of content you enjoy based on the videos you like and the accounts you chose to follow.
According to the Influencer Marketing Hub, TikTok ranked third in the world in November 2018 for the amount of downloads and the app was downloaded more than 104 million times on Apple’s App store during the full first half of 2018.
Celebrities are getting involved now and there are even some users considered ‘TikTok’ famous with millions of followers now organising meet and greets and doing paid sponsored posts. I’ve now started to see it all over LinkedIn where everyone is saying that ‘TikTok must be a part of your marketing strategy’ and I’m starting to think we may have another Vine on our hands and TikTok could just be another social media app with a very short lifespan.
I think that if suddenly TikTok is just saturated with paid content and sponsored posts, people will lose interest and trust in the people they’re following. I mean I’ve only been on it a month and even in the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed an influx of ads in between the videos! The ads are easy to scroll past but it is frustrating especially because the complete lack of ads and sponsored videos is what made it so easy appealing when I first joined the app. But I suppose with such growing popularity, its not surprising that brands are taking advantage of the app but I am very intrigued to see how the app grows in the coming months and whether or not it will last.
Source: The Incredible Rise of TikTok – [TikTok Growth Visualization] – influencermarketinghub.com
Emily Spackman McKee is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter @_spackman and LinkedIn Emily Spackman McKee