Don’t Sleep on TikTok

Don’t you hate that “when did I get so old feeling” you have when you hear someone younger reference a phrase that you have no idea what it is? Before 2020, that was likely your reaction when you heard the term TikTok. Maybe you knew it was an app but didn’t understand what it was. Maybe you’ve uttered the phrase “We had Vine, not TikTok.” Regardless of what your reaction was last year, 2020 has arrived and is changing everything. Including, you are likely more familiar with the growing tech sensation now than you were in January.

Over two years, TikTok has proven to be a worthy competitor to companies such as NetflixYouTubeSnapchatFacebook, Instagram, and more with more than one billion downloads in 150 markets worldwide. Just in case you still don’t know what we’re talking about, TikTok, formally musical.ly, is a digital app that showcases homemade videos of everything from comedy to lip-syncs and viral dances to practical tips that users can share across multiple platforms. This endless stream of content has captivated and hooked young audiences around the world.

TikTok rose to popularity with the help of celebrity endorsements, localized content, and being easy for users to navigate and create. We can also thank Quarantine for the rapid expansion of the app’s user demographic. At least something good came out of the pandemic, right?

Celebrity partnerships were a key tactic in TikTok’s global expansion strategy as the platform partnered with several popular personalities and influencers to promote the app to local and loyal audiences. In November 2018, Jimmy Fallon accepted a partnership with the app and launched the #TumbleweedChallenge in which fans were asked to submit videos via TikTok of themselves rolling like a – you guessed it – tumbleweed. Again, the app was met with success. The challenge went viral and within a week gathered over 8,000 entries and had 10.4 million engagements.

Another factor in TikTok’s domination of the market comes from how the app has been able to pull off localization on a global level. The platform often runs local contests and challenges and capitalizes on local trends through the use of localized hashtags. Lastly, you can’t discredit the simplicity of the app. Due to the short format, neither the video creation nor the watch process takes much time or effort, allowing anyone the chance for viral stardom.

Combine these factors with a global pandemic, where people have way too much time on their hands and little to no face-to-face interactive opportunities, and it’s no wonder that TikTok broke out of its limited audience. Every day, more and more users who find themselves outside of the Gen Z age group are logging onto the platform to both create and escape the dooming news headlines.

Unlike other popular social media channels, TikTok does not have a space for traditional display ads and isn’t commonly thought of as being a marketing channel. However, with the platform’s rapid growth and rising popularity, all bets are off. Many brands are waking up and deciding to use the app to its full potential. Companies don’t even have to get creative to see success with TikTok. All they have to do is apply the same techniques that the app used for its growth and success. The best marketing technique is to utilize the popularity of challenges and contests to help generate brand-related content, making sure to tie it all together with a unique, local hashtag.

Another effective way brands can market with TikTok is by collaborating with popular TikTok creators to help promote their challenges, or simply their product/company. This will be similar to any other influencer partnership, but rather posting the usual staged photo, changing the format to be a 15-second video.

Despite the app’s current popularity, the platform may lose dominance once life resumes as normal. It’s not uncommon for apps to appear, race to the top of the charts, then go on to become obsolete. Just look at Vine. For TikTok to maintain its current status, the creators need to keep innovating and finding new ways to entertain their user base. Also, they need to continue to adapt their platform to be a more marketing-friendly space.

But for now, TikTok is a fun, entertaining, and addictive app that has, no doubt, surged in popularity rather quickly. We know that there is potential for TikTok to become the next big marketing and social networking platform and is on the right track as more brands look to the platform for marketing reach expansion. What do you see in store for the future of TikTok?