Can you believe TikTok has only been around for a few years? The video-sharing app now rivals Snapchat among the younger crowd, with no end of bizarre lip-syncing montages, comedic shorts, and challenge videos uploaded every day.
@jade13trI’m so dead ##fyp ##foryou ##cat ♬ Mr. Sandman – The Chordettes
So how did this odd little niche app reach an incredible 1 billion downloads in its first year? Who’s using it, and why? And how does it compare to its main competitor, Snapchat? Let’s take a look!
Originally released in China, TikTok launched in September 2016 – and Twitter killed Vine barely a month later. Coincidence? It’s definitely interesting timing!
The Rise of TikTok
All kidding aside, TikTok has exploded in popularity since it launched internationally in 2017. And it’s definitely a sort of successor to Vine, with a similar concept: short looping videos that tend to be heavy on music and visual effects, or pranks and skits garnering millions of views.
You might know it as the musical duet app, where users lip-sync to songs side by side on video, but it’s grown to be much more than that. Famous musicians, A-list celebrities, major companies, and institutions like the Washington Post, World Health Organization, and United Nations are all on TikTok now. That’s where the youngsters hang out, after all.
TikTok’s user base definitely skews young. At least 40% of users are under age 19, and another 26% are between 20 and 29 years old.
In fact, when investment bank Piper Sandler conducted its 39th semi-annual Gen Z survey this year, it found that TikTok is teens’ third most frequented social media platform – in the app’s debut appearance on the list. According to the study, 62% of U.S. teenagers use TikTok on a daily basis, behind Snapchat at 82% and Instagram at 85%.
So it’s true that Snapchat still outperforms TikTok on a daily basis. It had 218 million daily active users globally in Q4 2019, whereas TikTok had 41 million daily active users as of January 2020. But Snapchat is old hat now. It’s been around since 2011 and TikTok is the new kid on the block – still continuing its meteoric rise with no signs of stopping.
But what’s so special about TikTok? The concept isn’t exactly groundbreaking. As a creative outlet for young adults, though, it’s the place to be…
A Tale of Two Apps
Rather than focusing on friend-to-friend content and short-lived video stories like Snapchat does, TikTok algorithmically places users’ videos on the feeds of other users with similar interests or demographics – and content doesn’t expire. So while Snapchat is still primarily used for connecting with friends, the ideal outcome on TikTok is to go viral. And it happens. A lot.
@goldenretrieverlifeIt doesn’t get better than this… 🤣 ##fliptheswitch ##fyp ##quarantine ##dogsoftiktok ♬ Nonstop – Drake
The user experience is different on TikTok, too. Unlike Snapchat, as soon as you open TikTok, your curated video feed starts playing – and the app’s sophisticated AI-based algorithm pushes an addictive never-ending lineup of clips to watch.
That’s pretty appealing from a marketing perspective… but when it comes to advertising, TikTik is still finding its bearings. The app doesn’t yet have premium paid content, an e-commerce component with shoppable ads, or a native checkout feature like Snapchat does. However, advertisers on TikTok can release in-feed videos as well as brand takeover ads that completely take over the user’s screen for a few seconds, launch branded AR content (like stickers and lenses), or sponsor ads via a TikTok influencer.
So for advertising on TikTok, brand awareness – especially via hashtagged challenges – is where it’s at. The reach can be massive, especially among the coveted Gen Z and millennial demographics. For instance, Chipotle got 230 million views for their #ChipotleLidFlip challenge last year.
@gilmhercroesI Love @chipotle 🤩 I challenge you to try the ##chipotlelidflip , can you do it?🤣 ##ad ♬ Flip – Future
On the other hand, Snapchat advertising is far more versatile and measurable. Sony Pictures was able to drive 1 million incremental movie ticket sales for Venom from directly within the app. TikTok publishers can currently only dream of power like that!
Not to mention it’s difficult to break into TikTok successfully – as a marketer, celebrity, or boomer. Why? The app is all about being weird, quirky, funny, cool. Imposters aren’t welcome.
Still, it can be done. Will Smith, Terry Crews, Selena Gomez, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson have been successful… but no mainstream celebrity has yet unseated the reigning royalty of TikTok: users like fifteen-year-old dancer Charli D’Amelio and Vine star Zach King, who shot to the top with tens of millions of followers each.
The appeal? Instant and effortless content discovery. That’s what gives TikTok such cultural clout as a viral video platform and meme machine. But the meteoric rise of the app is viral in itself. Does TikTok have the staying power of Snapchat? That remains to be seen…
In the meantime, enjoy a few of our favorite TikToks!
@marleymalinMarley’s TikTok debut!! ##foryou ##foryoupage ##cats ##catsoftiktok ♬ Inside Their Head – TT remix
@heybergFOLLOW FOR THE SERIES! Trump and Obama play hide and seek..##fyp ##foryou ##hideandseek ##comedyskit ##sketchcomedy ##politicalsatire ##getsillychallenge ♬ original sound – heyberg
@jloWait for it…😂♥️ @arod13 ♬ Nonstop – Drake
@mmmjoemeleDAD ABSOLUTELY NAILED IT😂 ##foryou ♬ original sound – mmmjoemele
@beingbirchThis is my best work ##thisismyfamily ##foryoupage ##dog ##dogsoftiktok ♬ This is my family – steeerling