TikTok, also known as Douyin in China (translating to “shaking music”), is a media app owned by Bytedance designed to enable users to create and share short videos. It can be downloaded for free on iOS, Android and Google Play. It was the most-downloaded app on iOS in the first half of 2018.
The platform hosts an entire community of creators, where anyone and everyone can be a filmmaker, and stardom is more accessible than you think. Having your video “go viral” could be the key.
The app has very quickly become a social media phenomenon. With an acquisition of 100 million users in the space of a single year, Snap (previously Snapchat) has officially added TikTok to its list of competitors, with Facebook also launching its own competitor app called Lasso (currently only available in the USA).
Millennials may consider TikTok to be a successor to Vine, filling the void it left at the beginning of 2017 when it was officially closed down. TikTok is now reportedly up to 800 million monthly active users, but can they find a sustainable way to make money where Vine failed while relying on user-generated content?
Does it pay to be a meme?
“As viral cringe compilations continue to spread, more people are becoming aware of the app and downloading it.” – Taylor Lorenz, writer for The Atlantic. October 2018.
TikTok has previously been labelled the “unlikely meme-generator you’re about to see everywhere”, gripping the attention of a meme-worshiping generation. Allegedly, part of its popularity was initially borne out of people mocking it. But as we all know, it’s better to be talked about than not talked about at all.
TikTok continues to be a meme-generating platform for many people. It is notorious for its cringe-worthy lip-sync videos, to the point of inspiring many YouTube “cringe-compilations”.
Is TikTok ahead of other ad products?
The creators of TikTok promise a video-sharing community that is “real, raw and without boundaries”, but what does that really mean? Where Facebook may be about sharing news, photos or personal content, TikTok is more about creating a moment that is perhaps considered more authentic. Advertisers are always looking to capitalise on current trends in the digital sphere, and TikTok allows for a more creative space where jumping on a video trend or challenge within the platform is as simple as writing a Facebook status.
Playbooks have recently been released to brands, agencies and influencers, which is exciting news for those who are looking to jump on the bandwagon and play around in this ever-expanding ad space. They are also currently testing four ad units: brand takeovers, in-feed native videos, branded hashtag challenges and branded Snap-style lenses.
There is also a strong influencer presence on TikTok, with a number of key Instagram influencers already making the move over, enticed by the app’s huge potential.
Vine and Musical.ly were fun while they lasted, but their respective stars are still relying on YouTube monetisation, Instagram sponsorships, and brand deals when it comes to really making a living. We know that ads weren’t enough to save Vine, and TikTok doesn’t seem to have a lot of ad space yet. However, TikTok has a lot of capital behind it being owned by Bytedance – a company reportedly the most highly-valued tech start-up in the world. As the platform is progressively turning on monetisation features, you could surmise that they have learned from Vine’s demise and are looking to build a more sustainable business with what they have, meaning savvy social media agencies are keeping a close eye on them.
Playing in the wrong space
One of TikTok’s biggest challenges with advertising will be the sensitivities around the younger end of its audience: “avoiding falling foul of strict regulations on marketing to children and data privacy alike will be paramount”, so said Stuart Dredge, writer for Musically last month.
TikTok is looking to enable advertisers to tap into its youth appeal, which has already seen budget diverted from other sources – most notably Snap. However, TikTok was recently hit with a $5.7m dollar fine by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) for violating child privacy laws, leaving the company with no choice but to make significant changes to the platform.
This scrutiny has only increased following a BBC report alleging the platform had failed to remove known sexual predators.
The app now prompts all users to verify their birthdays to ensure that they are 13 and over.
Despite its success, the demographics are a concern beyond safeguarding. These platforms rely heavily on building an audience with disposable income, but with the majority of users being younger and relying on their parents’ income, this will no-doubt prove to be difficult.
What’s next for TikTok?
It’s not yet widely known what TikTok is doing to guarantee brand safety, so any brand adopting these new ad units (especially while TikTok is still in the early stages of its advertising potential) would be doing so at their own risk. However, as an audio-focused app, music marketers should be among the earliest adopters of TikTok’s new ad units, even if they’re using experimental budgets to investigate and understand the effectiveness of advertising with TikTok.