• Georgia Hatton

TikTok: a lockdown craze or here to stay?

Emily Wilford, Marketing Manager, Grabyo

TikTok has taken the world by storm. Initially touted as “the new Vine”, the platform now has over 800 million active monthly users at just three years old. Understandably, marketers across the world are beginning to wonder if TikTok is just having its moment, or if the platform is growing into one of the heavyweights. 

The concept of TikTok isn’t new. You may remember Vine, the short-form video-sharing platform owned by Twitter. Vine launched in 2013, only to be archived in 2016. There are several factors behind the growing popularity of TikTok and the video-led format, but lessons to be learned from the demise of Vine.

TikTok provides a community for creating light-hearted interactions between friends, with a user-base that skews to teenagers and young 20-year-olds. The easy-to-use platform means anyone can upload and manipulate high-quality videos, seek out new content, and engage with other posts. 

A factor that can’t be ignored when looking at the growth of the platform is COVID-19. Countries across the world have gone into different forms of lockdown and social isolation leaving people with more time on their hands. No traveling, no going out and no seeing friends has led people to discover other forms of entertainment. The foundation of TikTok is user-generated content. People have had more time to create content as well as seek it out on the platform. 

Another bifactor of the current situation is the increased need for a sense of community. There are other social platforms that provide something similar but the difference with TikTok is genuine authenticity allowing people to connect with the content as they can relate to it. #Hashtag challenges are a huge success on the platform, with dancing, cooking, and trick shots all popular content types. The concept of trending news and seeking content via a hashtag is second nature to the digitally native user-base of TikTok, something that has undoubtedly contributed to the fast-growing success of the platform. 

Marketers and brands are keeping a close eye on TikTok, what works, and what doesn’t when it comes to paid campaigns and organic content. It is easy to initiate a campaign on TikTok with a simple #Hastag challenge, but it has to be relevant. Trends that have worked well involve UGC that is fun and entertaining such as dances and at-home challenges. Food and drink brands are doing well with using their products as part of the dance. Late last year Pepsi’s campaign in India, the #SwagStepChallenge, saw over 1 million UGC videos created in four days. If marketers and brands can get it right it’s an extremely effective way to gain awareness and affinity. 

The TikTok algorithm and push notification system is advanced, allowing people to upload multiple videos and only surfacing them to their followers based on engagements and their interests. This allows audience sizes to grow exponentially as you can continue to engage with different parts of the user base with different videos. This becomes increasingly important as TikTok trends move at pace. One of the biggest stories to come of TikTok in 2020 is Drake’s dance challenge, Toosie Slide. The challenge went viral and the song hit the Billboard 100. This advanced algorithm enhances the user experience, serving people what they want to see, and making it easy to find. Discoverability is a challenge Vine had and TikTok has seemingly overcome that hurdle. Any marketer looking at this example will be wondering how to take advantage of virality of TikTok but as we’ve seen it’s hard to just ‘go viral’. You can target people based on their interests and behavior so it’s achievable to become popular within a certain demographic, but to take over the entire channel is something the biggest budgets can’t achieve overnight. 

There are significant commercial opportunities to be taken if brands used TikTok correctly but one of the learnings from Vine is to keep the users at the heart of the content. Younger audiences aren’t as loyal and will switch off the content if it isn’t exactly what they want to see. One thing to watch out for over the next few months is the commercialisation of the platform, with the new CEO Kevin Mayer taking the regions after the successful launch of Disney +. Can TikTok increase their brand activation capabilities without damaging the user experience? 

It is hard to predict whether or not TikTok is a lockdown ‘fad’, keeping people busy during their spare time, but one thing we do know is how volatile the industry is. Kylie Jenner almost shut down Snapchat with one tweet, how will TikTok avoid the same fate? As live events come back and people are allowed more freedom in their daily lives it would be easy to say that TikTok will slip back to the sidelines. But TikTok has righted the wrongs of Vine, and if it can stay authentic and keep pace with its audience, I think it will be here for the future.

See Emily's article on 'Staying Relevant With Video During a Crisis'.

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