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What is Tik Tok? The New #1 App in China

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What is Tik Tok? The New #1 App in China


Tik Tok, or 抖音 (Douyin), became the most downloaded iPhone app in the 1st quarter of 2018. By earning the nickname of “China’s Snapchat” and often compared to the now defunct “Vine,” Tik Tok has achieved tremendous success in 2018.



The app initially started out as Musical.ly, where users could film 15 second videos of them lipsyncing over music. In 2016 the app was revamped into the Tik Tok we know today. When ByteDance launched Tik Tok in September 2016, no one considered it as anything but another copy of a Western app for the Chinese market, but it’s one of the few Chinese social media platforms to gain popularity outside its home country.



Tik Tok saw its daily active users (DAU) more than double between December  2017 and March 2018, increasing from 17.4 million to 45.6 million. As of June 2018, recent reports show that the platform has over 500 million users. Tik Tok videos have become all the rage among China’s youth and others around the world.





Short videos and live streaming have become an more important focus for marketing and social media agencies in the last 12 months.  According to a survey by AdMaster last year, only 22% of respondents said short videos and live streaming were one of the leading social media marketing tactics they used.



Fast forward one year later, and 62% of respondents said they use it. It seems to be more obvious that short video is becoming popular now. However, how could this change help businesses to expand their reach in China? Keep on reading!



Want to enter the China market with creative short videos?  Want to connect with 500 million people through Tik Tok?



Table of Contents


What is Tik Tok? How does it succeed? Read Now


What is Tik Tok: Tik Tok’s Unique Features Read Now


Case Study: Wu Jiayu Read Now


What is Tik Tok & How Can I Use it for Business? Read Now


4 Steps to  Expand Your Business in China Using Tik Tok Read Now



What is Tik Tok? How did it succeed?



In September 2016, ByteDance, the parent company of Tik Tok, sensed an opportunity that short video and live streaming would be a new favorite in the internet media market.



They launched their own platform for short videos, Tik Tok (Douyin). In the beginning, Tik Tok was considered by both consumers and the market as “China’s Snapchat”. Tik Tok saw the success of similar platforms in the West and strove to emulate their business models for the China market. Little did they know it would end up a success both abroad and at home.



However, there are three unique reasons that make Tik Tok more interesting and addictive than other similar apps in China. Besides its power and interesting functions, Tik Tok was also very smart with its marketing campaigns. It put a strong focus on user acquisition and channeled nearly all of its resources into this area.



For example, in the Spring Festival of 2018, Tik Tok launched a series of challenges with celebrities and their fans to imitate the Spring Festival Gala of CCTV(China Central Television). It also spent approximately 50 million RMB in giveaways for its users. All of Tik Tok’s marketing campaigns in the Spring Festival brought an increase of 70 million monthly active users (MAU). All in all, the surprising increase of Tik Tok’s MAU is the result of its interesting functions and smart marketing campaigns.



You can select background music and different video filters in this page



What is Tik Tok: Tik Tok’s Unique Features



A Massive Number of Songs



As the successor to Musical.ly, Tik Tok continues to make a massive amount of music available to its users. As a short-video-sharing platform, Tik Tok offers its users not only lots of popular music with copyrights but also hundreds of original music pieces made by independent producers and reproducers.



Tik Tok also invites famous singers to create songs for their exclusive albums. As of now, there are about 40 singers cooperating directly with Tik Tok.



Tik Tok’s CEO, Zhang Yiming(张一鸣), said recently that Tik Tok is considering to invite some famous foreign singers, like Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, etc., for further cooperation.



Unique Special Effects



Tik Tok provides a series of simple but awesome special effects for shooting videos, including slow motion, reversing, combining videos, etc. These special effects allow ordinary users to shoot videos just like a professional visual effects artist very easily.



Tik Tok also provides specific instructions for users to manage these special effects. In fact, with the help of these instructions and other user-friendly designs, Tik Tok provides a very easy to understand interface for beginners.



These special effects and daily challenge system keeps users of Tik Tok heavily addicted



Daily Challenge System



Tik Tok recognized that they needed to keep their audiences engaged. However, they recognized that the average user often doesn’t have enough ideas or materials for shooting videos. Tik Tok solved this difficult problem with a brilliant idea, the daily challenge system.



This system recommends users challenges on searching pages with special hashtags. These challenges are either organised by Tik Tok’s operation team or are popular with users.



Most of the challenges are very interesting, like the face changing challenge, the dancing in public area challenge, wall squat challenge, etc. In summary, Tik Tok created a decentralized and user-friendly platform to attract everyone to present themselves freely and equally on Tik Tok.


The famous “face changing challenge” on Tik Tok



Advanced Algorithm



A promotional picture of Tik Tok



As a short video sharing platform, Tik Tok has an extraordinary algorithm for recommending categories and short videos. Unlike other platforms, Tik Tok chooses to use a decentralized algorithm, which basically allows all videos from all users to be watched by others.



Tik Tok’s algorithm will also decide whether to recommend a video to others or not by dividing different users into different groups. This design provides an equal chance for normal users. In a word, Tik Tok’s recommendation system is based on the quality of content rather than the popularity of the uploaders.



Last but not least, it is highly recommended to download a Tik Tok app or visit Tik Tok’s website to see the functions of Tik Tok for yourself.




Case Study: Wu Jiayu


One of the Top 3 KOLs on Tik Tok,



Wu Jiayu(吴佳煜), a 21-year-old KOL on Tik Tok, just downloaded the Tik Tok app and created account an in August 2017. Nowadays, she has 72.2 million followers and 330 million likes for all of her short videos. And her most popular short video received nearly 400,000 likes. She signed a contract with Haier in March of 270,000 RMB/a short video for Haier’s promotion.



It is true that Wu’s success wouldn’t have happened if not for Tik Tok’s development. But she has her own way of shooting short videos to attract millions of followers in a short time.



In her short videos, there are different types of performances like dancing, singing, stand-up, imitation and so on. She is also good at using her surroundings as shooting materials. The diversity of her short videos make them easy to understand and interesting to watch.



Wu Jiayu is also an important daily-challenge creator on Tik Tok. She likes to choose some less-popular challenges and make short videos to start a new trend in the community.



One of the Wu Jiayu’s short videos




What is Tik Tok & How Can I Use it for Business?



The popularity of Tik Tok has already been proven by a bunch of statistics and papers but is it worthy for investors to focus their marketing dollars on China’s short video industry? Here is some analysis about China’s short video industry:



The ratio of the short video has a rise of 44% from 2017 to 2018-A survey by AdMaster



First of all, as of 2016, short video apps, especially those that feature videos that last for about 15 seconds to a minute, have become the fastest-growing apps in China. Consumers prefer short videos because they are suitable for today’ s fast and fragmented lifestyle.



Therefore it is normal that marketers are focusing their attention on short videos as the ideal storytelling medium to convey their information, whether it is through endorsements from key opinion leaders or advertising.



In terms of ads that might be most effective on short video platforms, a March 2018 Tencent survey found that both male and female short video app users are most tolerant toward those that feature creative and interesting content, while they are least interested in ads that feature “traditional” celebrities.



On the other hand, the business landscape of China’s short video industry is becoming more and more clear now. Last year, the big three internet company in China, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, decided to enter the short video industry and develop their own special short video platforms and contents.



With the moves of the big three, it is highly possible that China’s short video industry will be standardized and upgraded. More and more content with higher quality will be found on different short video platforms.



4 Steps to  Expand Your Business in China Using Tik Tok



So far, it is clear that marketing on Tik Tok will be very popular and effective for future business development. But how can businesses use Tik Tok in a smart and effective way?


Here are some tips for you:



Find Your Targets



According to a survey by iResearch, nearly 67% of Tik Tok’s users are under 30 and 56% of them are students. So, before a marketer wants to expand his business through Tik Tok, the very first thing they need to consider is that whether their products/services are a fit for this demographic. For those selling hearing aids, this probably isn’t the right platform for you.



Tik Tok’s probably not the best place to advertise this.



Follow Trends



As we introduced before, Tik Tok’s daily challenging system will tell users what is trending now and what is the next trend. Catching up with daily challenges, especially those with millions of people are participating in, is the best way to follow the trend.



Moreover, keeping an eye on festivals and major issues in China can also helpful for marketers looking to seize opportunities. Certainly, the easiest way to catch these trend is to download atheTik Tok app on your own to find out what’s suitable for you!



Tell a Story



Tik Tok’s short videos are literally very “short”, just about 15 seconds to a minute. So, how can you promote your business with such a limited time is the most important questions for all marketers to consider. It is suitable and wise to tell a story through short videos rather than other traditional methods like repetitive and long commercials.



Furthermore, to promote through short videos, using Tik Tok’s special effects makes it much easier for marketers to interact with audiences and stand out.



Cooperate with KOLs



Like other social media platforms, there are also a lot of active KOLs on Tik Tok. These KOLs are closer to users sometimes, and they are also play a key role in starting new trends. Besides, the way that KOLs promote is more low-profile and indirect, audiences are more open to this way.



For example, one of the most popular KOLs on Tik Tok, Zhang Xinrao(张欣尧), created a dance in order to promote OPPO’s new smartphone series. He managed to use OPPO’s smartphone as an element of her dance instead of just talking to people how good it is.






Although there are many difficulties for marketers to realize and seize the value of short videos, but success is reserved for those who are prepared. Dragon Social understands that it is not easy to find the right way to market on these short-video platforms, and we’re here to help!



Dragon Social stays are up-to-date with any trends in China social media marketing.  Contact us or read more to know how to be successful with short videos in China. To learn more you can check out some of our other blogs here.



Top 10 China Influencers (KOL) – Beauty and Fashion


Useful Tips for Short Video Clips in China (TRENDING!)



Dragon Social is a China Digital Marketing Agency dedicated to providing expert solutions to businesses around the world! Our team of professionals will take a deep dive into your business and determine the optimal channels and strategies for promoting your business in China, so be sure to Contact us for a free consultation!



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Wilson Li
Wilson Li

Acquired Master of Arts degree at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. A native of Mainland China with a strong passion for marketing and the high-tech industry in China. Currently working for the Dragon Social as a content marketer.

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