Sign of the Times: Why you may want to pay more attention to TikTok

Sign of the Times: Why you may want to pay more attention to TikTok

TikTok is taking over.

Last week I saw an odd and fascinating ‘street performance’. Two teenagers were using their phones to take snapshots of a fizzy drinks bottle (I won’t reveal the brand) at regular points along the pavement. One teen then took the bottle, held it triumphantly in the air, and did a strange little dance.

I realised that I was witnessing for the very first time, and at an acceptable social distance, the creation of a TikTok.

Make My Day

Many of us have relied on our mobile apps for social interactions at a time when physical connection has, by necessity, been restricted. In quarantine the #StayAtHomeNation has also discovered new ways to keep ourselves, and our friends and family, virtually entertained (yes, we are still using this hashtag for now, but it will be retired soon).

In times of crisis, there’s a need for moments of positivity, humour and comfort. Perhaps that’s why, in addition to Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, many more of us are now joining in with the TikTok craze.

TikTok is a social networking app launched by Beijing-based company ByteDance in 2016. It’s a platform used by millions of people around the world, to create and share short-form mobile videos. Much like YouTube and Instagram, it’s used to entertain, educate and express opinion, and has found popularity with younger audiences with its mission to inspire creativity and bring joy.

The Tik-Tok Advantage

Whether its creating or, simply watching, TikTok’s addictive stream of easily digestible mini-videos has helped people across Europe relieve the pressure of housebound quarantine. From January to June this year, the app has shown significant growth in usage, notably in Ireland (14%), Spain (11%) and the UK (10%).

It would appear that when the pandemic hit, TikTok was perfectly placed to take advantage as our uncertainty and fears in isolation faded to quarantine apathy.

Open to all ages

Social media is not a young person’s game anymore. Social distancing has forced everybody to embrace virtual communication. Since the start of this pandemic social media channels have become popular with people of all ages.

While GenZ remains the largest daily consumer of social media, there is now a broad range of users. We’ve all looked for ways to entertain ourselves, relieve the boredom and remain connected with loved ones. Across almost every demographic in the last 6 months, there’s been an increase in usage of social media sites or mobile apps. 

Tiktok is taking off

Although its popularity is slowing, TikTok is still showing a consistent increase in daily users over the last six months. The number of daily users doubled between January and February, and there’s been a steady rise since then. In comparison, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have remained stable. With a captive audience of lockdown users, why should this be?  It would appear that when the pandemic hit, TikTok was perfectly placed to take advantage as our uncertainty and fears in isolation faded to quarantine apathy.

Perhaps it’s the playfulness of users’ engagement with TikTok, which builds on the concept of Memes through participation. People are replicating the same scene over and over, copy dances, or even create fun films about fizzy drinks bottles coming to life set to a soundtrack of their favourite music.

TikTok not only allows users to share their videos, but it offers a sense of community by becoming part of something bigger. The interactive nature of TikTok fills a gap that other platforms simply haven’t been able to match.

TikTok is already snapping at Snapchat’s heels. If this trend continues, there’s a good chance the upstart platform could soon surpass the more established app in terms of daily users.

Fifteen seconds of fame?

The rise in TikTok in recent months is impressive, particularly for youth oriented brands. But it’s difficult to predict the popularity and longevity of social media platforms (Oh, Vine. Like your videos, your time with us was far too brief). Has lockdown created a bubble of interest that could pop at any time?

There’s also the added scrutiny over user data and even national security facing the app. Can ByteDance successfully navigates these concerns, and can TikTok continue to grow its user base? 

With so many users, it will probably weather the storm (at least until the next new platform grabs our attention). If that’s the case, then the question for marketers might be how do we find ways to tap into the power of collective and connected play?

TikTok is worth watching, to see if cements its position as a major platform for social interaction, or it outstays its welcome once we return to other in-real-life activities.

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