TikTok: An App Worth Watching

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Written by Michael Del Gigante

As a student, you’ve probably heard of TikTok. You may even be a daily user. But have you thought about how TikTok is changing the world of social media? 

At MDG Advertising, we keep our finger on the pulse of the latest social media trends. Whether you’re a TikTok user or have just heard of it in passing, we think it’s important to shed some light on this trending app

As The New York Times said in a recent article, “TikTok will change the way your social media works—even if you’re avoiding it.”

Exactly What Is TikTok?

TikTok is a short-form video-sharing app for creating and sharing 15-second videos. It also lets users enhance their videos with filters and special effects. One of the most popular features, called “Duet,” enables people to film their reactions to another video and post the two side-by-side.

TikTok got its start in China in 2016, where it’s called Douyin. After its merger with the Musica.ly app in 2017, it became big in the U.S. Musica.ly allowed post short-form mobile videos to be posted and let users share trending songs and add unique creative twists. 

A lot of the elements from Musica.ly are what users love about TikTok—sharing music, building a community with others, taking part in challenges, and creating new takes on videos.

Is TikTok Popular?

TikTok is hugely popular. It’s been downloaded over one billion times, as shown by Sensor Tower data mentioned by eMarketer. In 2018, says Sensor Tower, TikTok was downloaded an estimated 663 million times—meaning that last year, it was downloaded more often than Instagram (444 million times). 

People aren’t just downloading TikTok; they’re using it a lot, too. eMarketer also cited data from Apptopia, which showed that TikTok’s active monthly users exceed 250 million. For comparison, Snapchat has about 298 million active users each month.

Who is using TikTok? In the U.S., 60% of active users are 16 to 24 years old, according to Mediakix.

What’s Driving the Rise of TikTok?

TikTok is similar to YouTube because it’s super easy to start using. You don’t need an account—just jump in and start watching. It’s simple and quick to switch from one video to the next, which keeps people engaged.

Another reason for the app’s popularity is how well it ties into current trends. Hashtags make it easy to find and follow the latest content, and competitions keep you checking back for more.

Beyond that, TikTok uses AI and machine learning to personalize the list of recommended videos. Unlike other apps, it doesn’t use your social connections to determine what content to recommend. Instead, it analyzes the content, music, and style of the videos you watch the longest. The more you use the app, the likelier it is to deliver pertinent content.

Plus, TikTok is global. As of 2018, TikTok is available in over 150 markets and in 75 languages. It’s especially popular in India and China.

Is There a Downside to TikTok?

There are some pitfalls to TikTok that could slow its growth. The fact that the app doesn’t require an account makes it easy to get started, but it has led to inappropriate content being posted where young kids can see it.

Some TikTok creators have reported being bullied, and they accuse TikTok of not doing enough to stop it. The Duet feature can be used to create fun collaborations and reactions, but it can also be used to bully or ridicule. Some creators have stopped using the app or made their account private as a result.

Ask TikTok grows, will it be able to keep up with requests to remove objectionable content? The company reportedly is increasing the number of moderators on staff, but if users continue to have negative experiences, the app’s popularity could wane quickly.

For now, TikTok is mainly memes and fun hashtags. It doesn’t feature much advertising—yet. As its investors look for ways to monetize the app, it will be interesting to see how TikTok’s young fans react. Will they keep creating and sharing, or will they move on? Either way, TikTok is worth watching.

About Michael Del Gigante, CEO of MDG Advertising

In 1999, CEO Michael Del Gigante founded MDG Advertising, a full-service advertising agency with offices in Boca Raton, Florida and Brooklyn, New York. With his unique insight and decades of industry experience, he turned what was once a traditional ad agency into an integrated branding firm based on an innovative 360-degree marketing philosophy that provides a full spectrum of traditional and digital advertising services.

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