What is TikTok and does it work as a social media platform for businesses?

If like me you have a teenager, you are likely to know what TikTok is. It often sounds like a dozen teenagers in your house; singing, shouting and making irritating videos, but is this a channel for business communications?


It’s not so long ago that YouTube was the ‘go to’ channel for cat videos and random videos by teenagers, but these days it forms an important digital media channel for many companies. Likewise, in the past SnapChat provided cute face altering filters, but is now used as an effective channel for brand awareness.


If you don’t know what TikTok is, it’s a video-sharing app that allows users to create and share 15-second videos on any topic.

It was launched in 2017 for both iOS and Android devices and has grown in popularity. TikTok was the most downloaded app in the US in October 2018 and reportedly has over 500 million active users. The app has paid partnerships with several celebrities, in various regions, who promote the app to local audiences, a strategy which seems to have driven the rapid uptake of TikTok.


TikTok is available in over 150 markets and in 75 languages. There is also a specific China-only version of the app called Douyin which is run separately, in order to comply with Chinese censorship restrictions. There are no such restrictions on TikTok.


The TikTok mobile app allows users to create a short video of themselves, which often features background music, and can be sped up, slowed down or edited with a filter. TikTok has a “react” feature, which allows users to film their reaction to a specific video. The videoed “reaction” is then placed in a small window, on screen.


TikTok utilises artificial intelligence to analyse user’s preferences and interests through their interactions with content. The app then feeds more relevant content to each user and can be tagged to define the audience further. The platform offers memes, challenges and entertainment content as the key priority of TikTok is to encourage users to have fun.


Given the popularity of TikTok, businesses are beginning to think about how to use the platform to reach out to target audiences, much like the evolution of YouTube and SnapChat. TikTok offers an interesting opportunity to target a very specific demographic – Generation Z. The bulk of the app’s users are 24 years old and younger. Users typically spend 52 minutes per day on the app and 29% of monthly users open TikTok every day.


Undoubtedly there is an opportunity for businesses to engage with TikTok as a new way to promote themselves, and chances are your competitors aren’t using it yet.


This isn’t an appropriate platform for many companies, but I am interested in hearing if your company or brand has harnessed the technology to reach this specific target market. Please let me know in the comments below.

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