Has TikTok kicked off a new era in the world of video or will it burn bright and fade away? One thing’s for sure, at present it appears there’s nothing that can stop its spiralling growth trajectory. 

When it comes to video sharing, mobile app TikTok is one of the hottest properties in the market today. In download terms it is the new dominant force in the social media space, thanks to its easy-to-use and thoroughly addictive short-form video functionality. It is especially enjoyed by the younger Gen Z’s of the world, who are its most enthusiastic adopters. 

TikTok has its roots in Musical.ly, the lip-syncing app that has now merged with the TikTok platform under Chinese parent company ByteDance. It boasts an impressive 1.2 billion global installs and 500 million monthly active users, dwarfing competitors like Twitter, LinkedIn and Snapchat. Even Instagram is looking vulnerable in the face of TikTok’s social superiority, with the video app’s downloads nearly double that of Instagram’s in 2018

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, no less, has felt moved to speak on TikTok’s rise. He summarised the app by comparing it to Instagram in a recent all-hands Q&A session. 

“It’s married short-form, immersive video with browse. So it’s almost like the Explore Tab that we have on Instagram, which is today primarily about feed posts and highlighting different feed posts. I kind of think about TikTok as if it were Explore for Stories, and that were the whole app,” Zuckerberg said.

In short, TikTok is a platform for sharing brief content that is comedic, entertaining and on-trend. The app limits creativity to 15-second vertical videos, encouraging users to create ‘snackable’ content. 

TikTok appears to place more value on social entertainment and remixing culture rather than styled profile feeds and polished aesthetics – a popular approach on Instagram. It can be considered much more ‘democratised’ than its competitor YouTube, making it more accessible and enjoyable for the ordinary person. 

On TikTok, content creation is simplified and easy to publish compared to the editing skills and hardware commonly required on YouTube. What TikTok does differently is that it truly embraces the #nofilter approach, with playful originality and intuitive self-expression at the forefront of the video platform. 

Scrolling through the app you can see how easy it is to get hooked and fall down the rabbit hole of endless watching. The viral nature of TikTok makes it easy to gain explosive growth, with new trends appearing weekly and users building up large audiences and subscribers. 

TikTok has fostered its own ecosystem of stars dubbed the ‘Musers’, who are comparable to Instagram influencers and YouTube creators. Big name Musers include South Korean heart-throb An Eun-eu, YouTube turned-TikTok sensation Wengie and frizzy-haired Shanghai-based Jin Jun

But what makes a generic ‘TikToker’ unique is that they are not just passive consumers, rather they are active participants. Users form ‘tribes’ based on shared interests and passions, follow friends and trends, like and respond to videos and recreate their own user-generated content. 

As this emerging social force permeates the digital landscape, it begs the question, is TikTok here to change social media for good? For brands and agencies, meanwhile, it’s a question of whether it is worth utilising as a marketing tool. 

There are already stories of success highlighting TikTok’s powerful marketing potential. Emphasising the platform’s reach is cosmetic powerhouse Mac, which promptly amassed more than one billion views. It shared videos during New York Fashion Week featuring the physical transformations of make-up that proved a huge hit, boasting more views than any other brand on the platform.

The longevity of TikTok however, relies heavily on its ability to evolve with the ever-changing demands and desires of the consumer. Video is big right now, with short-form video leading the way. Currently 80% of all consumer internet traffic is video traffic, and viewers retain 95% of a message when in video format, compared to 10% when reading it in text. 

From an audience-building perspective, it’s indicative of just how important video is in the current digital landscape. Therefore, turning to video-based social media platforms as a growth strategy is certainly worth the consideration.

And it’s not just individuals who are making it big on TikTok. In the US, Chipotle has jumped on the bandwagon with a successful #ChipotleLidFlip campaign, generating 250,000 submissions and 430 million views. Global soccer powerhouse Liverpool FC has also been making moves in the Asia market with its effective TikTok strategy, growing a following of 853,000 fans since its launch in May. 

As online video consumption increases in popularity, TikTok will undoubtedly become an important tool for creators looking to connect with a new generation of online fans. The challenge: communicating a story within the weird and wonderful realm of TikTok. 

Despite its rapid growth, TikTok is bound to attract imitators eager to cash in on its runaway success. Its future will depend on its ability to continually adapt its offering and remain a genuinely unique player in the video landscape. 

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