It can be tough for oldsters like us to keep up with Internet trends. Most platforms gain popularity when they’re embraced by teenagers, and those teenagers have a tendency to move away from those platforms whenever adults decide to jump in.
That doesn’t mean brands can’t take advantage of Internet trends and really connect with their audience in an authentic way. Like TikTok — it’s new, it’s exceptionally popular, and it can be mystifying for users who aren’t already immersed in mobile culture. We’re here to demystify the platform as you decide whether it’s something that could be beneficial for your brand.
What is Tick Tock?
It’s “TikTok,” actually.
OK, what is TikTok?
TikTok bills itself as “the leading destination for short-form mobile video.” And they are short — generally on the shorter end of five to 60 seconds long. They’re also mobile, frequently shot in a vertical format, using a phone and edited right there in the app. The app offers filters, text, green screens, transitions and other surprisingly sophisticated capabilities for producing videos of an up-and-coming musician doing tricks on Heelys.
Or extremely short music videos, or viral challenges, or political statements, or lip syncs or, in the grand tradition of the Internet, funny things with cats. If it’s out there, there’s probably a very short video about it on TikTok, and it was probably made (skillfully) by a 16-year-old.
Currently, TikTok has 800 million active users across the world. It’s kind of a big thing.
So it’s a new social media platform.
Kind of. It shares a lot of features with other platforms, like sharing and commenting. But TikTok has more of an emphasis on the videos themselves and on expressing users’ creativity. Communities do arise centered around common interests, but in general, think about it more as a tiny little YouTube, rather than a video-centric Twitter.
Do I need to be on TickTick?
Again, “TikTok.” But do you need to be on it? That’s a good question, and the answer depends largely on your audience and your objectives as a brand. According to TikTok, 60 percent of its users are between 16 and 24, and 80 percent are between 16 and 34 (although the non-teenager user base is growing). They open the app an average of eight times a day for 52 minutes of usage. So if your audience already spends a lot of time looking at their phone, taking on TikTok yourself might be worth the effort. Otherwise, you might want to focus your energy on other platforms.
It’s also important to remember that TikTok videos are, by their nature, creative and, for the most part, funny. If those things are on-brand for you, TikTok videos might be in your future. Crocs, NASCAR, the NBA and Chipotle (bio: “Less Tok, More Guac”) have all found success on the app. If you (and, more importantly, your audience) can find a lighter side of your industry, you can probably find something on-brand to make a video about. The important thing to remember is that this is a unique platform, and repurposing content you made for Facebook or Twitter isn’t going to get the job done.
Can I advertise on TikTok?
Again, it’s — Oh, sorry. Yes, brands are able to advertise on TikTok. Brands can buy their way into consumers’ feed with in-feed video, like any other form of native advertising. Brands can also do brand takeovers, where an ad fills the user’s entire screen when they open the app, branded content like filters and stickers users can add to their videos and hashtag challenges that encourage users to take a theme and run with it, creating their own videos to fit the branded hashtag.
And, as with any other platform, influencer marketing has taken hold on TikTok, allowing popular users to partner with suitable brands to produce short but influential videos. If you’ve found success with influencer marketing in the past, TikTok could be a way to expand on that.
What is this ban I keep hearing about? Should I be worried about it?
TikTok is owned by a Beijing-based tech company called ByteDance. Some governments and other entities have become concerned about security, questioning whether the Chinese government might have untoward influence over the app and even spy on users. It’s already been banned in India, U.S. service members aren’t allowed to use it on government-issued phones, Wells Fargo has banned it from corporate-owned phones, and the U.S. government is considering an overall TikTok ban.
That’s the background. However, it’s probably not something you need to worry about yet. TikTok says user data is stored in the U.S. and backed up in Singapore, so the Chinese government doesn’t touch it. The U.S. government would have a hard time banning it, because that would rely on tech companies to remove the app from their stores, to which they’ve been openly resistant. But with TikTok claiming a space as the second most downloaded app (or fourth most, depending on who you talk to) of 2019, it’s safe to say your audience isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
One last question: What does “FYP” mean on TikTok?
It’s an acronym for “For You page.” The For You page on the TikTok app is a page where the algorithm collects videos it thinks you might enjoy. Sometimes, users will leave #fyp as a comment to tell the video creator it landed on their For You page.
Why would they do that?
To be nice? It can be encouraging to know your work is appreciated by a wide audience. There’s also a theory that #fyp can help the video go viral by landing on other users’ For You page, but unfortunately, the algorithm doesn’t actually care. Ultimately, there’s no telling — youngsters are a mystery.
Kids these days, right?