TikTok: A Look at China’s #1 Up And Coming Social Media
TikTok, is the global version of a social media app released in September 2016 named Douyin. This music and video platform was created by the now famous Chinese internet technology company, ByteDance, an AI media company that has recently beaten Uber to become the most valuable startup worldwide.
TikTok describes itself as a “Global Video Community,” with users sharing and creating videos on nearly any topic you can imagine. The app includes a wide array of tools, filters, and music to make user-created videos appear incredibly professional, encouraging users to create content themselves and further engage with the platform.
TikTok was able to reach a major milestone last year with it becoming the most downloaded app on both The Google Play and Apple App Store, placing it above even Facebook and Instagram! So, what’s the secret behind this creative filming app rise over the past two years? Will it be able to keep up its growth with the platform now seeing over 250 million daily users in 2019?
And finally is it a good fit for marketing my business? We’ll answer all this and more below!
Table of Contents
#1. What is TikTok? Read Now
#2. Why Is TikTok So Popular? Read Now
#3. Too Popular, Too Fast: TikTok’s Fumbles in the US and India Read Now
#4. 3 Examples Of Brands Using TikTok Marketing Read Now
#5. How to Use TikTok For Business Read Now
#1. What is TikTok?
Before talking about TikTok, we’ll need to cover the Chinese version of the app called “Douyin”. Although TikTok and Douyin were developed by the same parent company, ByteDance, they’re actually two completely different apps with different systems.
Depending on which app store you have access to you will only have access to one version of the app, Douyin (in Chinese app stores) and TikTok (in overseas app stores). The two apps host completely different content, and content is not shared between the platforms. Users are also unable to interact with one another across these two apps.
Here’s an example where we searched the same keywords “lisaandlena” (an overseas account with millions of fans that is registered on TikTok) on both TikTok and Douyin:
On the left side, we can see Douyin and Tik Tok on the right. It’s easy to see the differences between the two, including the languages used, the colors of the UI, and the results obtained (only one unofficial account showing on Douyin versus the official account of “lisaandlena” and other related accounts on TikTok).
Douyin was launched in September 2016, and within one year of its release on the internet, it has gained more than 100 million users and reached the second most downloaded app in the Chinese Apple Store. After one year of Douyin releasing, ByteDance launched TikTok for the overseas market in September 2017 and acquired Mucial.ly (a short video app that was founded in 2014) in November in the same year.
The strong performance of TikTok had made it the 6th most downloaded non-game app with the combined data of the Apple Store and Google Play Store in the first quarter of 2018. It also beat Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram on the Apple Store to become the most downloaded app. In August 2018, TikTok absorbed Musical.ly and moved the users from Musical.ly over to new TikTok accounts.
There have not been any social media apps that functioning in full screen to surprise the visual stimulus of the users to make them feel like part of the videos and shorten the distance between audiences and performers. Also, with its various types of music and special effect filters that can easily make any unprofessional one to seem like an expert on making videos and to turn a nobody magically into somebody.
The overwhelming videos that show up in “for you” feed only on your first page when you open the app after different algorithm calculations on TikTok bring surprise and unpredicting feelings to users to not stop using it. These four key features make TikTok a stronger and more unique social media app than other apps to get to the mainstream on the internet.
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What TikTok Has Accomplished Since its Release
App Store Rankings & Downloads
TikTok has had an incredible performance in terms of total downloads for an up and c0ming social media platform. One of the largest issues new social media platforms face is getting users to actually download and try the app. User acquisition is considered to be one of the most expensive forms of marketing, with many companies spending millions of dollars on marketing to acquire users.
TikTok and Douyin were no different, and it is well known that they spent an incredible sum of money marketing both TikTok and Douyin. However, their success has paid off with TikTok receiving the following achievements in 2018:
The most downloaded app in the Apple Store Q1 2018
No.6 of the most downloaded app globally Q1 2018
The most downloaded app on Google Play by November 2018
User Engagement On TikTok
Both TikTok and Douyin have managed to retain and engage their users effectively. While TikTok is still growing, Douyin has already achieved tremendous growth and has seen its daily active users skyrocket.
Within six months the DAU of Douyin grew 493.1% from 17.4 million in December 2017 to 103.2 million in June 2018. In June 2019 TikTok hit its next milestone with the Chinese version of the app seeing its DAU shoot up to over 250 million!
People also aren’t just watching videos, there is a ton of new content being uploaded to the platform. In its first year, Tik Tok saw over 1 million videos added to the platform per day!
So Who are TikTok’s Users?
The main users of TikTok and Douyin skew on the younger side with most users in their teens and mid-twenties. Geographically speaking, four-fifths of the total users are from mainland China, with the remaining fifth made up of users from around the world. Let’s take a look at a few statistics and what they tell us about TikTok and Douyin’s user base.
41% of users are aged 16 to 24
TikTok has a similar user base like Musical.ly due to the huge numbers of users brought over when the companies merged in August 2018. Musical.ly also had a very young user base so so this was likely a significant contributing factor.
66% of users are females on Douyin
66.4% of users on Douyin are females, presenting a good opportunity for brands looking to target younger female users for advertising. There’s a wide range of content specifically catered toward female users on the platform. Many of the more popular KOLs on TikTok are also female.
The Daily Usage Of TikTok Among Users 14-22 Years Old Is Over 1.5 Hours/Day
This is a bit of a scary statistic, but it shows how engaged younger users have become on the TikTok platform. Few social media platforms are able to match these kinds of numbers. With this much time spent on the platform, it’s likely these users have very little time for other apps and social media channels, meaning that if this is your target audience it might be your best option.
For more statistics on TikTok check out this article from Konstruct Digital!
What are TikTok’s Unique Features?
A Full-Screen Vertical Viewing Experience
TikTok’s entire user interface is built around the vertical screen, with users never needing to flip their phones into a horizontal position. From a psychological standpoint, the full-screen video experience allows users to connect with the creator and feel as if they are a part of the video themselves.
A Massive Music Library At Your Disposal
Users creating videos on the platform have access not only to filters and editing tools but also the ability to add music to their videos. On the”discover” page, TikTok provides users with a diverse choice of music that you can use as background music in your videos.
This is one feature that makes TikTok truly unique as compared to Western social media apps like Snapchat, Facebook, or Instagram. None of these platforms allow users to add music to their videos, giving TikTok a serious advantage for short video creati0n.
Special Effects and Filters Let You Create Like a Professional
It might seem like every app has its own set of special effects and filters nowadays. However, the variety of special effects that you can use in your videos on TikTok is amazing. There are way more than you can find on other apps like Snapchat or Instagram, and more are being added all the time!
All of these options give users the ability to create unique and interesting content without investing massive amounts of time or requiring a high degree of skill. While it isn’t a professional photo/video editing app, it gives everyday users the power to create unique, creative, and engaging content!
TikTok’s Recommendation Algorithm
Automatic recommendations and newsfeeds are essential parts of social media apps, both in China and abroad. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Weibo, and WeChat, all have developed algorithms to serve users with content based on their interests and internet activity.
However, the algorithm on TikTok works differently in that it gives you a playlist based on your past behavior, but it also includes popular and trending videos that you might not see to ensure you know what’s going on throughout the platform.
TikTok’s Daily Challenge System
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TikTok 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. TikTok solved this difficult problem with a brilliant idea, the daily challenge system.
Most of the challenges are very interesting, like the face-changing challenge, the dancing in public area challenge, wall squat challenge, etc. Below you can see the “Karmas a Bitch” challenge. TikTok’s algorithm also gives more reach to users participating in challenges increasing the likelihood that users can go viral.
There is usually a wide variety of challenges going on at any one time on the platform, giving users both a choice and ideas for what to create in their videos.
If a user achieves the top rank on one of these challenges it’s likely they’ll receive thousands of likes and comments from other users. However, it isn’t easy to achieve the top rank with so many participants. Creating a video to meet the challenge requires a significant investment of time, energy, and creativity to film and edit your own 15-second video.
The difficulty and the chance of reward for challenges on TikTok is one reason users keep coming back for more!
#2 Why is TikTok So Popular?
Let’s take a few psychological factors into account to understand how TikTok attracts and retains its users. There are five primary reasons TikTok’s users can’t seem to stay away from the app!
1. Unpredictable & Unique Content
The unpredictable videos hosted on TikTok are designed to surprise you and make you keep watching without thinking about how much time has passed. The unpredictable videos on its curated playlists give users a feeling of a reward when they discover something new and unique. This keeps users hunting for good videos and encourages them to keep swiping and stay within the app.
Even when the videos don’t match the user’s expectations they only last 15 seconds, making users more willing to continue the search for better content rather than giving up. This minimizes the negative feelings associated with seeing poor content while still providing positive feelings when users find content that matches their interests.
2. Automatic Play
A unique feature of TikTok is that videos continue playing without any interaction from the user. As long as the app is open videos will continue playing. The design of TikTok is it can automatically play videos by itself as long as you open the app.
With videos being only 15 seconds, it’s very easy for users to simply keep watching. With videos starting and ending so quickly it’s very easy to watch video after video with users having little to no concept of how long they’ve been watching.
Before you can even find out what you want to do next, another video has already started encouraging you to just keep watching rather than take some other action.
3. The Zeigarnik Effect
The Zeigarnik effect is a psychological term that describes how people tend to remember incomplete or interrupted tasks with greater detail and how incomplete actions create a form of tension that can only be relieved upon the task’s completion. Since the length of every TikTok videos is only 15 seconds users get the feeling that their video watching experience was not complete.
The Zeigarnik Effect encourages the user to keep watching to complete their experience in the app and remember each short video in greater detail. Users will also often repeat videos until they are fully able to comprehend what they just watched.
While The Zeigarnik Effect can have a positive influence by causing people to feel nervous due to their inability to finish a task and motivate them to complete it, it can also turn put people into a state of near-unlimited procrastination, encouraging people to sideline more important life tasks to keep watching videos on TikTok.
4. Craving for likes
Likes and engagement from other users on TikTok grant a sense of accomplishment to not only the receivers but also the givers. Getting likes from other users can increase a user’s satisfaction and bring about a sense of approval for their actions. The design of the like button on TikTok is right below the profile picture of the user, giving the users the illusion that they are directly rewarding the user for their content.
Hitting the like button also triggers a dancing heart animation on the screen which triggers a positive emotion for the givers and encourages them to like other user’s content and communicate with other users on the platform.
The adorable design of a dancing heart showing on the screen promotes the positive emotion to the like givers to be more willing to giving like giving a compliment and a way of communication to other people on this social platform.
#3. Too Popular, Too Fast: TikTok’s Fumbles in the US and India
Along with all the excitement and entertainment TikTok has brought to their users, and the attention and profits it has gained all over the world, TikTok has also faced some negative pushback from governments and parents alike. Social media apps have long been plagued with problems of cyber-bullying, privacy, and confidentiality.
TikTok faced one major challenge in the U.S. when the US Federal Trade Commission found that the app was illegally collecting underaged children’s private information (names, email addresses, and geographic locations.) In truth, most of the violations were perpetrated by Musical.ly, but since its merger with Bytedance, the blame was shifted to TikTok. Bytedance was fined USD $5.7 million by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which was the highest fine ever recorded for illegally collecting personal information on children in the U.S.
For more detailed information about its issues in the United States, check out this article from CNN: TikTok Hit With Record Fine For Collecting Data On Children.
Given its popularity with younger demographics, the Indian government saw this as a major issue. A High Court in Madras requested the app to be banned for “encouraging pornography.” The court ordered the app removed from both the Google Play and Apple App stores. However, the ban was short-lived with TikTok being reinstated to the app stores one month after the ban.
For more on why the app was removed check out Timeline of TikTok Controversy: Major Events That Led To Removal Of TikTok App From Play Store, App Store and for its reinstatement and reaction to the situation read this article from Techcrunch: Indian court lifts ban on TikTok in India
However, all these controversies have not been able to stop TikTok and it has continued to grow into 2019. Now that you’ve gotten a complete picture, let’s take a look at how to use TikTok for Business!
#4. 3 Examples Of Brands Using TikTok Marketing
If you know your customers well enough and have an awesome creative marketing team behind you it should be easy for you to adapt to TikTok. A huge number of brands are jumping on the TikTok hype train and beginning to use it for marketing.
F&B companies, like Haidilao and CoCo Milk Tea, Sports Companies, like Adidas Neo, and even luxury brands are beginning to use TikTok for marketing. Before stressing out on where to start, let’s take a look at some real examples of marketing on TikTok to give you some ideas.
1. Adidas Neo
A subsidiary of Adidas started marketing on TikTok to catch young people’s attention. Within a month, Adidas Neo has gained millions of followers on TikTok. The total views of its videos are over 1.5 billion and it earned over 2.8 million likes, subscriptions, and comments within this short period of time. So, what strategies did they use for marketing on TikTok?
->Collaboration with Celebrities and KOLs
->Promoting interaction between users and the brand
If you go to the TikTok page of Adidas Neo, you will see some very recognizable and popular celebrities in Mainland China in its videos advertising the products. The influence of these celebrities was powerful enough to bring millions of business opportunities to Adidas Neo.
However, the cost of paying for this advertisement was certainly not cheap! Moreover, besides the smart usage of celebrities, the styles of the videos were incredibly important. Some KOLs in China charge over RMB 300,000/video, and given that these were some top tier celebrities this campaign was certainly pretty expensive. Adidas Neo was criticized by some users for essentially just creating a standard advertising campaign and not fully making use of the functions available on TikTok.
Many users complained that these videos could have been posted on any social media platform and were not specifically created for TikTok’s audience. There are a ton of special effects, filters, and styles in TikTok to use when filming, and using them encourages other users to try and replicate the videos and further engage with the campaign.
@adidasneo on Douyin
Haidilao is an incredibly popular restaurant in China known for its Sichuan flavored hotpot and top-tier service. The viral video that went on fire on TikTok of Haidilao showed innovative ways to eat Hot Pot in Haidilao.
Users started mimicking and creating their own new ways of eating Haidilao, which resulted in more customers going to Haidilao in order to participate in the campaign. Here are the three strengths of Haidilao used for marketing on TikTok:
->Inspired user curiosity and encouraged participation
->Easy to imitate and get attention
->More natural than a standard advertisement
Bringing entertainment into meals can be extremely beneficial for businesses in the food and beverage industry. Ultimately, Haidilao got pretty quite lucky with this campaign going so viral, but their recognition of the trend helped propel it to greater heights.
3. Michael Kors
The worldwide boutique company, Michael Kors, is a great example of how to use TikTok to access the Chinese market and increase its brand awareness among younger consumers. Michael Kors created a challenge on TikTok and within just a week the challenge attracted 30 thousand users on TikTok to participate, gaining over 200 million views and 8.5 million likes on TikTok. Here are the three strategies Michael Kors to craft its successful campaign.
->Create challenges to increase interaction with users
->Use the influence of KOL on generating its popularity
->Cooperate with TikTok official to create its own Michael Kors stickers
Never underestimate the influence KOLs have on Chinese social media. KOLs on TikTok helped the Michael Kors campaign reach millions of users’ attention on TikTok. Moreover, with the customized stickers that could be used as special effects filters when making their videos, it increased the likelihood that users would recognize the Michael Kors brand and its products.
However, KOLs can be expensive so this might not be the right strategy for every kind of business. Do your research before working with KOLs! For more information on KOL Marketing check out this post:
KOL @吴佳煜 on Douyin took Michael Kors hashtag challenge
#5. How To Use TikTok For Business
7 Key Methods for Marketing on TikTok
Every kind of business has its own methods for selling their products and promoting them effectively. However, businesses should always be open to experimenting with new strategies to see what delivers the highest ROI. Below we’ll cover seven methods you can use for marketing on TikTok, how to create a great short video, and how TikTok has linked up with popular e-commerce platforms Taobao and T-Mall to help drive e-commerce sales.
1. Showcase Your Products Through Short Video
If your products are cutting-edge and visually appealing using TikTok can be quite an easy experience. Short videos give brands a chance to show off their products without being overly pushy, spammy, or annoying. A well-crafted short video that clearly outlines the benefits of a given product and stands out from other advertisements can have an incredibly strong effect. This has been a common practice among brands and influencers on the Chinese version of TikTok, Douyin.
2. Add a Little Pizazz
Making sure that users understand what you are selling is essential. However, a little flashiness and differentiation is also incredibly important in helping you stand out from a crowd. Below we see a video of a user bragging about the capacity of their car by showing how many people can be seated within the car. While not an advertisement this video shows how a little exaggeration and flashiness can bring attention to the useful features of the product. With only 15 seconds to market your products, exaggerating a bit can help highlight the benefits and features of your products.
Douyin ID: 62458113
3. Inspire Curiosity and Drive Engagement
One of the best methods for getting noticed on TikTok is to provide unique, interesting, and engaging content. Lifehacks particularly tend to do very well on the platform, as you’ll see in our case study of how Haidilao encouraged users to show how they eat hot pot on TikTok.
This campaign went viral and encouraged other users to participate and try some of the methods other users shared, resulting in tons of customers flocking to Haidilao restaurants across China. Businesses should always strive to engage their audiences as this increases the chances of a campaign going viral and dramatically expanding its reach on the platform.
4. Product Placement
This is an old marketing tactic that is still effective today. Since movies first became popular brands have always wanted to place their products throughout the production to increase brand awareness and drive sales. Just like its previous use, brands can place products throughout videos on TikTok. This method is less direct than the traditional advertorials done by KOLs in China, where they directly encourage users to buy a product.
This is less intrusive and has a little negative impact on the user experience, making it one of the safer advertising methods. However, simply placing your product in the background or somewhere not noticeable, there is a chance users might not even notice it at all. If this is the strategy you plan to use, make sure your product is somewhere noticeable at the very least since users only have 15 seconds to fully take in the surroundings of the video.
Douyin ID: 193720797
5. Word of mouth Marketing, FOMO, & Social Proof
Filming people lined up in front of your store to buy your products, reviews from people who have been using your products, or showing the excitement of people who just bought your products after an hour waiting in a queue can all be the effective word of mouth marketing strategies. An example of a company using this strategy on TikTok is “Answer Tea.”
In this video, you can see how long the queue is just to get a drink from Answer Tea. This makes users who see the video believe that the drinks from this shop must be particularly good and gives them the impression that they are missing out on something popular. This fear of missing out sticks in the user’s mind and encourages them to try the drinks from Answer Tea the next time they see it.
Douyin ID: 77459029
If you have already started marketing your products on other social media platforms or have developed your reputation in other markets, it could be a good strategy to try promoting your products again on TikTok. Given that the audience on TikTok is quite different from other social media platforms you’ll have the potential to open your brand up to a completely new market.
Every platform has its own main users, with TikTok’s being teenagers and those in their mid-twenties. If there’s any chance this demographic could convert into customers for your business marketing on TikTok is certainly worth a try! Brands can even repurpose content from other channels and convert them into short videos for use on TikTok.
7. Be Human!
With the market getting more and more competitive, consumers nowadays not only care about the quality of your products or the services you provide but also your company values. Showcasing your values or company culture makes a brand seem more human which can have a big impact on building trust among Chinese consumers.
You can start by sharing how your products are made, some funny and interesting conversations around the office, company events, or what the day-to-day is like in the brand offices.
Douyin ID: 184020411
TikTok E-Commerce: Driving Sales Through Short Video
In March 2018, TikTok’s parent company Bytedance signed a partnership agreement with China’s largest E-Commerce Provider Alibaba. After the partnership, a shopping cart logo was added to the profile of TikTok certain high-profile user’s profiles allowing them to sell products directly on the platform. The feature was originally only made available to users with more than 1 million followers on the platform.
Through clicking the shopping cart users can purchase goods on Taobao and Tmall without leaving the app! This provides a seamless experience for brands and KOLs to promote and sell products on TikTok!
In December of 2018, TikTok significantly lowered the barrier to entry for the shopping cart function by allowing users with over 8,000 followers and 10 stores to link their Taobao/T-Mall accounts and start selling on the platform. It lowered the barrier again in April to only 3,000 fans! This has been wildly successful to the point that there are now over 1 million users on TikTok that have activated the shopping cart function according to China Internet Watch!
However, selling on TikTok isn’t all easy. TikTok is first an foremost an entertainment app, so purchase intention is not incredibly high on the platform. Live-Streaming apps, in theory, should be much more effective for driving sales as the host has the ability to actually sell the product. Short videos need to be created with the goal of entertaining the user rather than promoting a product, which can make it a bit more difficult to drive product sales.
To see what the purchasing experience is like check the video below to see how a user can purchase on TikTok (ignoring the weird domestic violence). After watching the video the user can click further into the account, click the shopping cart and go directly to the creator’s Taobao store.
Selling on TikTok requires significant investment in the creation of good and entertaining content to attract a large audience given it’s theorized lower conversion rates. TikTok is also mostly used for those selling products that are suited towards impulse purchases rather than high-end products, so be sure to note that before investing in the platform. It will be interesting to see how brands make use of TikTok for the Double 11 shopping holiday in 2019!
Lu Zhenwang, CEO of Wangquing Consultancy, a consulting firm focusing on e-commerce and digital companies, stated that “Short video has become a powerful force in China’s social scene by providing 15-second entertainment to grab mobile users’ attention. It can be a strong weapon for e-commerce, especially for Alibaba and Tencent, which want to reach to younger consumers and those living in smaller cities.”
How to Create a High-Quality Short Video on TikTok
While the seven methods above are all great strategies for promoting your products the most important factor is creating high-quality videos that can truly captivate your audience.
Being unique is incredibly important on TikTok, with users watching 15-second video after 15-second video it can be hard to stand out from other competitors. Being creative and unique encourages users to want to give a challenge, product, or service a try despite potential consequences. TikTok users come to the app to have fun, and being unique is one sure-fire way to entertain your viewers.
For example, when was the last time you saw someone playing piano underwater? The video below is very unique which is why it was able to go viral. While it wasn’t promoting a specific brand or working with a company the video captured user attention effectively. To promote on TikTok you need to keep in mind why users are on the platform and how to stand out from the competition.
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Don’t Get Too Complicated
One of the strengths and differences of TikTok comparing to other social media platforms is the ability for users to mimic o produce more videos on TikTok. There are many videos on TikTok that utilize fancy and professional film editing, special effects, and filters. While these videos are amazing, the time and effort needed to make videos like this are way too difficult for the majority of TikTok’s users. Therefore, many of the most popular videos are relatively simple, allowing other users to replicate the videos and increase campaign participation!
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Being expandable means once you have your original idea to show on TikTok, users are able to expand on your idea to generate more and more videos about the original idea. Expandable campaigns can easily go viral if they get enough traction and allow users to truly engage with your brand.
For example, Jimmy Fallon created the #TumbleweedChallenge with his original idea he made in the video. After posting hundreds or thousands of his fans did the same challenge and included the hashtag, causing it to go viral on the global version of TikTok.
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There are still many different ways to market your products on TikTok and there are new features constantly being added to the platform! TikTok marketing is still incredibly new and is a field that will continue to ev0lve as businesses continue to explore the platform. We hope this article provided you with the insights necessary to understand what Tik
Tok is and how to use it for marketing!
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