Everything You Need To Know About TikTok

Written by Mariana Magalhães
26 June 20 | read

Everything You Need To Know About TikTok

Word in the street is that there’s a new sheriff in town, his name? TikTok…By now, I’m sure you’ve heard something about the new social media platform that is causing a bit of a stir. Whether you’ve heard about it on a billboard poster in London or you’ve seen your niece doing one of those choreographed TikTok dances ( I’m a Savage… dance anyone??), here’s all you need to know about TikTok, so you can decide if this is something you or your brand should have a presence on and/or a strategic marketing plan for it.

Here’s what we’re addressing! Feel free to click and jump to the part you’re most interested in:

  • What’s TikTok? 
  • TikTok Demographics
  • How does TikTok work?
  • TikTok Algorithm
  • How to Play the TikTok Game – TikTok Algorithm Tips
  • Instagram’s Decline in Popularity & TikTok’s
  • TikTok Traits
  • Is TikTok for my Business?

What’s TikTok?

If you haven’t heard of TikTok, allow me to formally introduce you. TikTok is the most trendy and latest social media platform of the moment. The concept of TikTok it’s mainly surrounded around the usage of video, and a very large part of it is based on lip sync. If this reminds you of  Musical.ly, well that’s because TikTok is Musical.ly. The brand TikTok purchased Musical.ly in August 2018, and migrated all the accounts of the app to TikTok.  TikTok is the first Chinese social media platform. It’s rapid growing success is taking slow but steady steps into overtaking Instagram, just like Instagram overtook Facebook as the prefered social media channel with the Millennial generation moving to predominantly using Instagram on a daily basis.

TikTok currently has 500 million active users and higher organic reach than other social media apps on the App Store. Despite the criticism and apprehension (particularly from older generations) labelling the new platform as cringe and awkward, the app has received great reviews and the highest startup evaluation. The New York Times has praised TikTok as “the only truly pleasant social network in existence” for its ad-free, news-free interface. Whilst the Verge has defended it from critics as the “joyful, spiritual successor to Vine.”

In case you don’t remember Vine (RIP!) it was a social media platform competitive to Instagram that featured short videos mostly with comedic purposes.

A quick, mobile, video platform has been the topic of many visions for the future of mobile content. The success of Snapchat and integration of Instagram Stories onto the social media platform hinted that video would be the next big trend for socials. With that being said, TikTok’s innovation lies not just in showcasing video but also in offering video recommendations based on the algorithmic user’s interests, something Snapchat and Instagram fail to provide. TikTok manages to offer engagement between users and said videos, motivating this way the social, human aspect of social media and retaining users on the platform, and increasing an average time per page (currently 10 minutes average, 3x times higher than Instagram!).

The Platform’s Demographics

Let’s start with the basics. Before knowing if you want you or your company to jump on the latest social media platform, we need to understand who’s the predominant audience.

TikTok is mainly composed of gen z/ zoomers and young millennials. 

We’ve witnessed a shift in habits that migrated the millennial generation from predominantly using Facebook to using Instagram and at the same time, boomers and older generations became the major users of Facebook. Currently, we’re experiencing that same shift from Instagram to TikTok. Whilst Gen Z isn’t necessarily deleting their Instagram profiles, it seems now the majority of Zoomers spend more time scrolling through TikTok than engaging with Instagram. 

“A strange shift has occurred. Rather than gen Z following in the footsteps of millennials and adopting Facebook and Instagram as their platform of choice, zoomers found their own place on TikTok”

With that being said, stats do show older users joining as months goes by. It could be that the adhesion of more mature users has a direct correlation with the quarantine period across the world.

How does TikTok Work?

If you’re anything like me, and you’re just starting out with TikTok for the first time, the platform in itself can seem quite confusing and overwhelming. The app has, however, a similar layout to Snapchat, except without the ads. 

TikTok’s are 15 or 60-second videos that anyone with a TikTok can make. You’ll instantly recognise a TikTok as the logo and the creator’s user name is embedded in the video. Every TikTok video also features a final backsplash that features the creator’s profile picture and its username for when TikTok videos are downloaded and uploaded onto other platforms.

As you log in as a user you’re immediately located in the “Home” page, this features two options at the top of the main page, these two options redirect to two different tabs: “Following” and “For You”.  “Following” and “For You” are navigational pages that allow you to scroll through the content. On the “Following” page, you’ll be able to scroll through content whose creators you’ve subscribed to. On the “Following” page, the app will provide you with recommendations of possible videos of topics of interest with the help of a clever algorithm that monitors what you are currently spending the most time watching. At the bottom of the page, the fixed, bottom, navigational menu bar, features different icons that redirect to 4 different pages: “Home”, “Discover”, “Inbox” and the “Me” page.

The “Discover” page is organised by different categories, trending hashtags, and trending sounds and allows the user to navigate through the different categories and scroll the different types of content. The “Inbox” tab features all the app notifications including comments, likes and follows. Your own profile page, the “Me” page borrows a layout from Instagram, meaning that it follows a traditional grid page just like Instagram and that’s where your uploaded videos sit.

Screengrab Tiktok profile

TikTok Algorithm

That’s all great and good but how does the TikTok algorithm work? How comes there are users that achieve viral proportions and other content users that have just as engaging content but aren’t as recognised in the “For You” page? Whilst the algorithm is known mostly internally by the company who built it, some experts have noticed a couple of patterns that form a theory behind how the TikTok algorithm works. With that being said, it’s not difficult to put these theories up to the test to gain a better understanding of how the TikTok algorithm functions. Here are the most prevalent features Forty8Creates witnessed when testing the TikTok algorithm.

Watch Time

On TikTok, your video is pushed to more and more users according to the watch time. TikTok constantly tests the quality of each video according to each user’s watch time. For instance, if the average of watch time in a 15s video is 10s, then the video is more likely to end up in the FYP (The “For You” Page). TikTok first showcases that video to a small, testing audience and depending on those impressions and watch time, TikTok introduces that video to a larger or smaller audience and consistently keeps testing the waters.

Let’s say TikTok is testing a video of viral proportions, initially, the platform introduces the video to 5 users. These 5 users watch this video for an average of 12’, the algorithm will then double the number of users that come across that video, introducing it to 10 new users. Let’s suppose the video’s watch time is still high, and impressions are rising too, TikTok will then introduce it to 20 more users and consequently until it has enough following to reach the FYP. 

In a scenario that a video average watch page is below 10’, the platform will no longer introduce to other users.

This algorithm majorly dependent on the user’s actions is named the user-dependent algorithm According to Veed, TikTok is the first social media platform that uses this type of ever-changing, user-dependent algorithm.

First Post

In order to make users engaged with the platform, TikTok strategically developed an algorithm system to promote first time users. When a user first publishes a video, that video is pushed to a lot of users, besides the just initial 5 users that traditionally the algorithm would promote. This is to incentivise users to post more and get them “addicted” to the platform itself.

Artificial Intelligence

Bytedance’s company resources an artificial intelligence to understand the content people are interested in order to recommend other posts that are incredibly accurate to each user’s preferences.

TikTok’s artificial intelligence reads the meta-data (the text user types in description and captions of the video), the NLP (the audio soundtrack transcript of each video), and finally computer vision (an image identifier of video objects that translates it into keywords. For instance, if a video features a girl eating an apple, computer vision will register the keywords girl and apple).

Needless to say, all of this information is relevant and fundamental to offer video recommendations to other users and a big part of TikTok’s algorithm.

“Rewards” System

We’ve mentioned how videos will reach out to more users depending on their watch time. The algorithm also categorises their videos in regards to other metrics, rewarding the videos with more exposure depending on the aforementioned metrics. For example, for every user that finishes watching your video, until the end of your video, you’re attributed a certain amount of points, once you have ‘x’ amount of points, TikTok rewards you by showcasing your video to other users.

This means your video might randomly have a boost of viewership depending on the point system. TikTok is always testing content and users with this system and re-categorising content.

How to Play the TikTok Game – TikTok Algorithm Tips & Recommendations

If you want to use TikTok strategically, and as part of your business social media tools, you might want to do what you can in order to optimise your chances of getting your content featured in the FYP. Here are some tips you can use to promote your TikTok channel.

Your First Post

Try and put a little bit of effort on your first post. Remember impressions are higher in the first post, and your impressions will spike so try and take as much advantage of this as possible.

Metadata

Before posting, do a little research on the posts currently trending and try to include some of those keywords and hashtags so your content is associated with it and recommended to users who share the same interest.

Apple

TikTok is better formatted for Apple users,  so if you can get away with it, film your content on IOS software (sorry Android users!).

Keep It Real

Whilst it’s important to shoot with good quality (use the back camera whenever possible!), using HD professional content can be less than ideal. High-quality content won’t come across as authentic or genuine, making your brand look phoney and sales oriented.

Trend Hopping

If you see a trending forming…JUMP ON IT! Not today, not tomorrow NOW! Jumping on trends that everyone is being entertained by is a fast way to get on the FYP. Just make sure your content is engaging and interesting otherwise it could be detrimental for your business.

CTAs

Surprisingly, calls to attention, work really well on TikTok. As you’re scrolling on TikTok, more likely than not, you’ll see captions such as “worked too hard for this, don’t let it flop”, or “make sure you’ll like it for part 2”. Unlike others, shameless self-promotion is well received on this platform and reminds the users to engage with you/your brand.

Instagram Decline Of Popularity And TikTok Means For Success

This can, of course, be questioned and debated, however, this is a critical and observational commentary on what I’ve been witnessing as a social media marketer. Leave us a comment or email us if you have an opposing view!  We would love to talk about it!  

As Michelle Obama iconically said: “When they go down, we go up”.  In order to understand how and why TikTok has gained popularity now, it’s important to understand the current landscape and its competitive positioning in regards to other social media platforms.

If you’re familiarised with Instagram and its culture, the algorithm and the platform as a business you might be aware of the algorithm changes made in the most recent years. Within the social media platform, there’s been a general discontent with the algorithm changes ever since Instagram was purchased by Facebook. 

Commercialization of Instagram

Creators and the Instagram community made their voices heard in regards to the idea that the platform was moving towards a much more commercialised form. 

One of the most prevalent, controversial and talked about algorithmic changes was the change from a chronological feed to most liked/engaged and advertised posts to feature first in people’s feeds. 

This demotivated users without a large following to post as their posts weren’t being featured at the top of user’s feeds without paid promotion. In addition, users scrolling the newsfeed kept seeing the same type of content, by the same content creators which declined the motivation and willingness to keep producing content for a platform who doesn’t recognise the communities efforts. 

The “Social” of Social Media

In addition the removal of the activities tab: a tab in which the user could see what other users like and engaged with was removed. Whilst this could arguably be done due to privacy concerns, this also removed a big part of the social aspect of the platform as this window incentivised in app engagement and arguably retaining a higher average time per page rate. 

Finally, the integration with Facebook and the introduction of Instagram stories with Facebook stories, allowed a further introduction of the boomer generation to Instagram which didn’t exactly leave the zoomer generation feeling like Instagram wasn’t a space they could explore their creative potential.

An Opportunity For TikTok

The current pandemic and quarantine situation allowed for bored teenagers (and other age groups like me!) to join the social media platform contributing to its overall success. According to Thinknum Alternative Data, TikTok users grew as people self quarantined began in late March 2020. The article mentions in just a month, TikTok’s ratings count on the Apple App Store has jumped from 492 million to 577 million, a 17% increase.

TikTok Traits 

As a TikTok user and through the critical analysis eye of a strategic marketing professional, there are some prominent traits of TikTok that really make the platform enticing and a platform that truly lures users in. Here are some of the traits that could be said to have added to some of the growing success of the platform.

2020 Speediness of Video 

The idea of “on the go” filming, production and editing appeals to this audience accustomed to using Snapchat. This is a fresh take on the whole pre-production, film and post-production method previous generations have traditionally resourced in the past. 

Meme Content

A big part of the content on TikTok is “memable”, comedic scenarios and the use of trendy songs/dances that are widely recognised. This is a great trait to propagate the success of a platform as it promotes the idea of social community and users feel like they’re within an exclusive club. 

Additionally, this provides escapism to a boring every day, incentivising the repeat usage of the app. The ease in which this comedic format can be replicated, allows every user to feel capable of producing the same kind of content, motivating the user to be both the creator as well as spectator. 

Organic Reach

Contrasting with the current Instagram algorithm, TikTok makes it easier for users to find new content organically. Whether that is through the “Discover” page or through the FYP, similar interest content finds users without users feeling the need to search for it.

Is TikTok For My Business?

If you’re wondering whether TikTok should be one of your social media platforms for your company do consider…

The Demographics

If your business target audience is Generation Z and young Millenials, you’re likely to succeed on this platform.

Small Businesses

In particular cosmetic, creative or jewellery industries are also prone to have success on this platform. This is because there is a very big market for users interested in these categories. There are different trends to promote content around these subjects even further, as for instance, the “small business check” videos, or the slow-motion videos that showcase the consistency of products, makeup, cosmetic or paint.

Resources

Whilst TikTok videos are easier to make when compared with a full-fledge production team to make a video is still very heavy on resources. Not only do you need time to make a TikTok, you also need to have the right people to optimise the content for you and if you opt to be in front of the camera you need to have find someone that is charismatic and fits ‘the TikTok look’.

When you’re considering if TikTok is for you, this is a very strong aspect you need to have in consideration. If your business already takes the majority of your time, perhaps there are other social media platforms and even other platforms you can advertise on that might be more efficient?

Revenue Generating

TikTok is monetizable, so if you think of it as an investment and you’re willing to spend time and money on it, then this platform might be for you and your business.

And here we are, in-depth insights on TikTok, the latest IT platform. Let us know what you think of TikTok and if you have any other questions you would like us to address.

If you’re about to venture in the world of TikTok, Good luck!

 Let us know how it goes! We’re rooting for ya!

Got a project you’d like to talk to us about?

Send us a quick email or give our friendly team a call

Email us 0207 101 3348