TikTok is big. In 2019, the video sharing app TikTok, overtook Twitter and Snap to become one of the most popular social media platforms in the world.
With 500 million active users, each spending an average of 52minutes a day on the platform [source], it’s firmly found a place in the lives of its users. The app has managed to combine the interactive nature of Instagram, with the entertainment pull of YouTube.
Facebook saw it coming. They’ve been trying to encourage more videos on Instagram for at least five years, and while they succeeded with stories, video sharing in-feed never really took off. And as for their longer form video service, IGTV… they’re still trying to make it work.
I’ve learnt by now that young people migrate first, so if you want to know where to invest time, look at where 13 year olds are spending their time.
Having been actively on the platform for about a month, the thing that’s struck me the most is the stark difference between what and who is popular on TikTok verses what has historically done well on other social channels; Instagram being the most exaggerated example.
TikTok success is largely about humour; the funniest videos tend to do the best. On a platform where “uncool” is cool, people respond well to creators who are silly, or who find a way to make light of their everyday experiences. This extends into captions, where the most popular are the ones which add humourous context to the already entertaining video. For example, “We got given detention for this!” or “My mum thinks I’m doing homework…”
Although Instagram has changed a fair bit in the past few years (more about that here) and did become a more authentic space, it’s still largely a space for presenting the most enviable aspects of your life. Filters and airbrushing, slow mo hair flicks, champagne clinking boomerangs, and captions reflecting how confident you are; Instagram is full of “You’ll never get better than this 🔥” style bravado.
Tik Tok on the other hand, is all about finding fun in the ordinary.
There are creators who film during their shift at Tesco, bodyguards on their 1am break, regular families in their dressing gowns, police officers having a dance… Normal people, having fun.
In my experience of TikTok, people are much nicer than they are on other platforms. If they like your video, they comment #fyp on it, meaning the video either was seen or should be in the For You Page. This is the main discovery page on TikTok, where people who don’t follow you currently, might find you.
Celebrity Back Seat
If you already have a following or some fame, you will likely get the verifying blue tick, and grow quickly, but in general celebrity presence on the app only works if the celebrities are creating videos which are similar to regular users of the app. Dance videos or comedy skits by someone unfamous, will likely see more engagement than a boring video by someone otherwise better known.
Justin Bieber has done a good job of integrating onto the platform, with his hilariously lo-fi, videos for yummy.
Which brings me on to the other reason TikTok is probably going to stick around longer than its predecessors in the video space. The app makes it really easy to create entertaining videos, and the culture means that you do not need to have any long-developed talent, or endless time, to start creating. You just need a smartphone.
TikTok is not new at all, but the UK and US have been slower to adopt this trend, which took off in Asia (India and China) first. Whilst I’m sure the trolls will arrive and usage will change. At this point, it’s a fun space to be.