Chances are you have heard of this TikTok – either from the buzz it has gotten or from the Gen Z-er’s in your life. But what is it exactly? Should you download it? Is it worth your time to get your business on the app? Let’s break this down and learn a little something #ontrend.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a video-sharing app. Each video is either 15 seconds or up to 60 seconds, and topics are just as varied. It’s meme-culture in video form. While dancing, lip-syncing, and comedy tend to be the most shared types of content; there is content for everyone: cute animals, causes to care about, pop culture, and even motivational and educational videos. The video format leads to this ultimate use of creativity for whatever type of message the user wants to share.
Compared to the curated perfection of Instagram, at times it’s like a breath of fresh air. TikTok boasts over 800 million users worldwide, and a “For You” page comprised of everyone from famous celebrities to videos of people just like us with only a few likes. The videos don’t have to be perfectly curated to be popular or to be enjoyed, and personal lives aren’t necessarily shared. It’s a platform built on creativity, which has lead to a very different way of connection than the other social media apps we know and love.
Using the app is extremely simple. If you download the app, you don’t even need to have a login to enjoy the content. You can scroll to your heart’s content and never have to sign in. However, if you decide you would like to like videos, comment, or make your own, that will require a login. Similar to Instagram’s Explore page, there is a For You page that continually scrolls through new videos according to what you’ve watched and liked.
Why should we pay attention?
This app is definitely perceived as an app for the Gen Z population, but remember Gen Z “kids” can be as old as 24. They are entering the workforce, voting, and are whole members of society. This app may seem silly from the outside, but this is where we can connect and learn from this generation as they come of age. In addition, 1 in 8 adults are on TikTok, it was the 7th most downloaded app from 2010 to 2019 (and it launched in 2016), and TikTok reports having 800 million monthly users worldwide. We’ve been calling TikTok the next big thing, but we can confidently say it’s here.
From a business standpoint, early adopters almost always prosper. Those who learn to use an app to their advantage early on have grown a large following and have been able to profit from social media (either in popularity, impact, or just straight cash flow). Heck, spicy nuggets are back at Wendy’s thanks to Twitter.
That being said, there are few businesses out there who have jumped in whole-heartedly and have amassed a decent following. The NBA, Netflix, and the NFL all have well over one million followers. Chipotle has 278.2k followers and some great videos, and the San Diego Zoo has 80.7k followers for their cute zoo animal videos. The fashion brand, Guess has 42k followers, but don’t let that discourage you. They launched the first TikTok challenge that took off – which meant lots of people wearing Guess clothing took over the TikTok For You page for a while.
Takeaways for your business:
Don’t be afraid to try new things! This is a new-ish platform, no rules and no best practices truly exist yet. (Starbucks doesn’t even have an account.) It is a fun place to show a different side of your company, be relatable, show behind the scenes, and grow your trust with your audience.
Engage with your audience. There is a myriad of different ways to engage on TikTok – likes, comments, duets, challenges, and shares all lead to connecting in different ways with your people. And like any other app, the more you engage, the more your following grows.
Don’t turn a blind eye. Ads started popping up on TikTok in 2019, and the last thing you want to be is behind when TikTok ads are the norm. Learning the platform now (even just enough to be familiar with it) will give you a good heads up on what you need when and if you want to start advertising there.
There’s a lot I didn’t cover here – there is so much to learn about TikTok and so much to explore. I hope you take the time to check it out. (I highly suggest Lizzo, the Rock, and Charlie the Golden Retriever @charliethegolden18 as a starting point.) Enjoy!