Your youngest social-minded customers are on TikTok. Here’s what you need to know.
If you’ve recently found yourself asking, “What’s TikTok?” you’re not alone. The Chinese-owned social media app’s profile has been steadily rising since it debuted in the United States last year. Here’s the short answer: TikTok is a smartphone app for making and sharing videos and reportedly has more than 500 million users worldwide. It’s also the buzziest social media network since Snapchat.
What Makes TikTok Different
Like Instagram’s Stories, TikTok allows users to create and post short videos that play vertically. But its tools—all the bells and whistles you can add—are more plentiful, and way more fun. TikTok videos can be souped up with a cool soundtrack (a single tap brings you to a roster of popular songs categorized by music type), a filter that rains gold flecks, or one in a zillion available GIFs and stickers. In TikTok, video editing feels a lot like video gaming.
The all-around feel is super casual. Its home page is a noisy jumble of trending videos—all from people you don’t personally know and maybe don’t even follow. On Facebook and Instagram, we’re siloed into our hand-picked stables of friends and acquaintances. But on TikTok, watching strangers do “hashtag challenges”—videos that respond to a hashtagged theme—and “duets” (singing side by side with a person in an existing video) is half the fun.
Why It Has Potential for Brands
Is TikTok worth the effort for brands? There’s no guarantee with social media, but all signs point to: probably.
Teenear, a young artist whose song “I Like It” is a soundtrack choice on TikTok, says she likes the app because “it’s a platform to market to your audience in an organic way. TikTok allows space for anyone…to make their own mini-video and get their message across.”
Big brands are already scoping it out, securing partnerships with TikTok, and/or running limited-time campaigns. Both Guess and Chipotle have sponsored hashtag challenges. Earlier this year TikTok announced a multiyear partnership with the National Football League that will see third-party brands sponsoring content on the NFL’s TikTok account.
Severine Ferrari, founder and editor of proposal-planning site Engagement 101, was one of the first jewelry industry insiders to jump on the TikTok train. “I do think there’s an opportunity for brands to explore on TikTok, with posts that fit the platform visually…and [also fit] its humorous tone,” she says. Ferrari points to the platform’s relatively egalitarian playing field as a bonus for smaller brands. “Even if you don’t have a large number of fans, the algorithm picks up popular videos.” In other words, if your video’s hot, you could become the coolest thing on TikTok.