TikTok has become a global phenomenon and taken the world by storm in the past few years. It has been subject to blanket bans in certain countries like India and under investigation by federal authorities in the USA. Nevertheless, it has endured and is now one of the most popular forms of social media on the planet. But what is TikTok, and why has it become the sensation that it is in 2021?
What Is TikTok?
TikTok (known as Douyin in China) is a video-based social media app released in 2016 by ByteDance, a Chinese technology company, and is available for iOS and Android. TikTok is a video-based social media app with over 1 billion active users as of February 2021.
It lets users create and share videos and TikTok Songs with other users for entertainment. It provides users with the ability to engage their creative sides by creating short videos. Perhaps the most appealing feature is that users can create relatively sophisticated videos and upload them for the world to see without needing any special editing skills.
Why Is It So Popular?
Various reasons have enabled TikTok to reach the heady heights it occupies today, not least because it is fun. ByteDance seems to have come up with a winning formula that appeals to most younger smartphone users.
It Has A Sophisticated Algorithm
All social media platforms apply intelligent algorithms to entice their users to stay, and TikTok is no different in this regard. The most exciting part is that Tik Tok’s algorithm is constantly being updated and frequently changes to keep the app fresh and exciting. ByteDance has become an expert at tweaking the formula just enough to remain relevant and leave what is already working alone.
It works much like other platforms work, by utilizing hashtags, location data, and search queries to provide an individualized experience for its users. With TikTok’s algorithm, the system uses machine learning to learn from users what content they enjoy most and serves them more by locating videos relevant to their interests or liked by other users who share those interests.
It Enables Creativity
One of the critical reasons it can retain existing users and continue to pull in new ones is that it is creativity-focused. By allowing its users to express themselves however they want (within their terms and conditions), users have found a platform that lets them express themselves.
You can argue that other platforms allow this, but not to the same extent as TikTok. For example, Instagram allows users to take, edit and post images, and Twitter lets people post their thoughts. However, nothing comes close to the creativity involved with making a short video, which has made it so intoxicating.
It Is Active Rather Than Passive
Elaborating further on the previous point, TikTok is an active social media platform rather than a passive one. What does this mean? When you compare it with something like Facebook, you can see the difference. Facebook allows users to consume information and post further information to gain become consumers.
However, that is where it ends. Although Facebook has been attempting to add more active features such as Facebook live streaming, it falls short of what younger users desire. TikTok has created an app where people must use their imagination to create performances that will engage other users. Furthermore, it includes a raft of editing options that allow its users to create the perfect video that expresses their personality.
Compounding Growth From Its Users
As a result of its active use, it has benefited enormously from compounding growth. This is when other users see a video they enjoy and build upon it. One example of this is a recently popular song based on an old sea shanty. A random user uploaded a video of them singing it, and once it gained enough traction, other users began to build upon it to create numerous other videos.
Once it reached critical mass, it became a meme and was reported on by media outlets worldwide. This developed a further interest and resulted in more users signing up. This is crucial because when was the last time the mainstream media reported something positive about Facebook or Twitter? This ability to capture the world’s imagination has steamrolled it to the success it is today.
Utilization Of Popular Music And Trends
How many times have you heard a song on TikTok, gone directly to YouTube to listen to it, and then read the comments? If you have never done this, have a go. You will often see people commenting that they are watching this video because they heard the song from TikTok!
Why is this important?
The fact that this happens shows that TikTok has moved from trend follower to trendsetter. As soon as a social platform can set the trend, they become part of the zeitgeist. Now that they are firmly established as the place to discover what’s new, their growth will continue to grow, further increasing the compounding effect mentioned earlier.
They Have Become Masters Of Marketing
In their initial years, they spent heavily on advertising, looking to build on their existing Chinese product (Douyin). This allowed them to create a global audience rapidly, based on what was already working.
Additionally, interference from foreign governments such as the USA and India only boosted their appeal further. When people see governments becoming involved in something they enjoy, they push back hard against it. As they say, no press is bad press. This is what happened in India and despite that country outright banning the app, its Indian user base has continued to increase!
It Is Popular With Younger Audience
As with many things in life, there is a particular “cool factor” at play. While many other social platforms have seen their younger users decline, only staying for convenience, TikTok is extremely popular with younger generations, with around 50% of their users 34 and under. Perhaps a newer generation will move onto another platform as it appears, but TikTok owns this market segment for now.
TikTok has become a cultural phenomenon not seen since Facebook. Its creativity-enabling app, coupled with the dynamic nature of the platform, has allowed it to rocket into the minds of the young and tech-savvy.