Social Media

TikTok is Rising – But Will it Be a Relevant Platform for Brands?

There’s always some new social media app on the market, some
rising platform or tool which is destined to become ‘the next
big thing’. 

Most end up falling short. Remember ‘Peach’?
‘Ello’?
What about ‘Vero’
or ‘Meerkat’?
Some of these platforms are still going, but they’ve not gone
on to become the Facebook challenging players they were once
touted as.

But TikTok feels
different. Backed by Chinese corporation ByteDance, TikTok is growing
fast, despite being similar in style to the various Stories
tools already on the market. Filling a void left by the demise
of Vine, TikTok is not only providing an alternative outlet for
creative expression, but its also rolling out features in
western markets that it’s been able to try out among its large
Chinese userbase first,
giving it a solid testing ground.

TikTok screenshots

And it may well become the next big social platform – but will
it also develop into a relevant consideration for brands?

Rapid Growth

Seemingly overnight, TikTok became the social app of the
moment late last year.

Everywhere you looked, people were posting clips from TikTok,
mentions of the app were rising online. Just as Snapchat had
done previously, TikTok became the app that you had to see,
that people had to share with their friends.

That momentum is reflected in the download stats – according to
Sensor
Tower, TikTok has now been downloaded
over a billion times, with 663 million of those downloads
coming in 2018. By comparison, Instagram, currently
the
fastest growing social app, saw 444 million new downloads
in 2018 – so TikTok is now actually growing with greater
momentum than the Facebook-owned image platform. 

More than that, Sensor Tower’s figures don’t include installs
from China, so the total download figures for TikTok are
actually likely far higher than this. 

After replacing the Muscal.ly brand in
August last year (ByteDance purchased Musical.ly in 2017),
TikTok has gone from strength to strength, particularly in the
US market, where it now has more than 26 million monthly active
users, who are spending, on average, 46 minutes per day in the
app. For comparison, data from SimilarWeb released
last year showed that U.S. Instagram users were spending nearly
53 minutes per day in the Android version of the app, while
Snapchat users were active for 49.5 minutes per day. TikTok is
still a long way off both in terms of overall users, but those
engagement figures are relatively close. You can see why social
analysts are paying attention to TikTok’s rise.

And beyond this, TikTok is already looking to monetize,
using its experience in the Chinese market to launch its

first ad offerings. And brands are no doubt paying
attention – but are there really opportunities to reach younger
markets through TikTok, or will ads slow the app’s momentum,
and turn people away?

TikTok for Brands? 

As Digiday reported
recently, TikTok has already started testing ads in the US,
with GrubHub being among the first to try out the platform’s
launch screen ad units.

TikTok GrubHub ad

As you can see, the ads dominate the full-screen of the
app, and open within the initial app launch flow, not within
the regular usage process. TikTok is still experimenting with
the best ad options, but as noted, it already has some
experience on this front, considering that its Chinese version
– called ‘Douyin’ – has more than

300 million monthly active users. 

Douyin
launched in China in 2016, and brands have been
experimenting with ad approaches on the platform ever since.
Douyin even offers agency certification for those looking to
provide
assistance with Douyin marketing, and
advertising packages for increased promotion. Given this,
TikTok isn’t starting from the same base as other new players
in the social landscape, it already has an ad infrastructure
and plan. That is based on the Chinese market, which is, of
course, very different, but the app’s starting from an advanced
position, which could see it capitalize on its revenue
opportunities faster.

The question, then, is how users will respond to TikTok ads –
as recently highlighted by this tweet:

It was Gary Vaynerchuk himself who noted that ‘marketers
ruin everything’, and the rapid influx of social media
‘gurus’ and ads could kill off the cool factor that TikTok now
sees.

And that being the case, it may not end up being a viable ad
platform for your brand. It depends on your target audience, of
course, and on how you approach the platform, how creative you
can be. But it’s difficult to tell, at this stage, what the
benefits will be for general marketers.

Smart Growth

But where TikTok’s experience, through Douyin, is most evident
thus far is through the development of its platform, including
the introduction of tools designed to keep users safe from
harassment and misuse.

TikTok has already launched an option to filter out
comments
by
keyword, and offers a range of controls over profile and
content privacy, including the ability to define who can
comment on your videos, who can ‘duet’ with your content and a
setting to enable/disable downloads.

In addition to this, TikTok has also recently launched
a new video series to help educate users on how to ensure
safety within the app.

Most platforms have only implemented such tools as an
afterthought, after hitting critical momentum, but TikTok has
learned from both its own past experiences and broader social
trends, and is developing its tool in line with such
requirements. Part of that push, it’s worth noting, has been
exacerbated by an
FTC investigation in the US, which has forced to company to
re-work its processes in relation to younger users, but TikTok
has made such tools a focus all along, and is constantly
evolving its systems on this front.

It’s another indicator that TikTok is different, that it’s more
advanced than others have been. Of course, it may well be
recency bias, it may feel like TikTok has more capacity for
expansion because it’s the platform of the moment. But
it may well be worth watching TikTok’s growth.

As noted, it remains to be seen whether users will welcome ads
within the app, or if TikTok can maintain it’s growth momentum
and reach levels achieved by, say, Snapchat. But indications,
at this stage, are positive – and if TikTok can grow, and
expand its market appeal, it could become a more relevant
consideration, and attract ad spend for those looking to
connect with younger markets. 

Freeman Addico

Techmaker and Entrepreneur with an extensive experience in Cloud Computing and e-commerce. I build Solutions for Equity and revenue sharing basis. Think of me as an Investor who invests Technology instead of money. Want to explore a collaboration? Drop me a message or schedule a call

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