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The Lowdown On Tiktok’ Basics, Stats, And Is It Worth It?

David Law

Mon, 9 Dec, 2019

  • Reading Time:
    ~ 4 minutes

Ever thought you’d see a bunch of tortilla chips singing ‘Someone Like You’ back to a Guacamole stand-in of Adele— especially as a fully branded video meant to draw in customers?  It’s fair to say no one saw that coming. But that quirky surprise factor is one of the strongest points of booming social media platform TikTok. And brands can learn how to use it to their advantage— if they’re quick on their feet.


But before jumping into dreams of TikTok fame and greatness, let’s start with the basics. What is this innovative app? Where did it come from and why is it garnering so much attention?



The TikTok basics.


TikTok first came to life in late 2017, as the result of a merger with another app, Musical.ly, that let its teenage users share lip-syncing videos and the meme-like (defunct) Vine.


The result: a winning social media platform that leverages a huge Gen Z user base (few adults even know about it) and got downloaded over 1.5 billion times by November 2019.


But what does TikTok do?


Every phone-wielding user can create and post videos, overlaid with popular music and custom effects. Results: collaborative lip-syncing, laughs, and wacky public hijinks you can scroll through for hours.



What you need to know for 2020 TikTok.


First— as a recent (though wildly successful) startup, TikTok’s company (ByteDance) has been playing its stats and metrics close to their chest. This is fairly common as startups go but, as time goes on and more possibilities for brand advertisement come up, we’re bound to see clearer information.


That doesn’t mean we have no information now. We do. In fact, we can access very interesting metrics that promise growth and innovative ways of reaching out to a new audience.


Let’s get into them.



What about the demographics?


At the moment, the active users of the platform add up to about 800 million worldwide (680 million in November 2018). The majority of them are Gen Z— a trend that is clearest in the US market— but millennials are avidly jumping on the bandwagon.

According to MarketingCharts, 50% of all users are under 34 years old and 56% are male. Over a quarter of the total is younger than 24 (and 60% between 16 and 24).


The majority of TikTok enthusiasts (500 million) are located in China. In the US, there are 26.5 million users active a month and a company spokesperson has reportedly stated Australia is a key market for near future expansion.



On TikTok userbase and growth.




  • This is an app that’s only been around for two years (as opposed to, for example, Instagram’s 9-year accumulation of 1 billion active users). The potential for growth is insane.


  • From the 100 million active users Musical.ly brought into the 2017 merger, by late 2019 the app has risen to 800 million. A gain of 700 million in under two years.
  • In 2019, TikTok was the most downloaded app in the world in the App Store, as well as reaching third place in Google Play.



Key TikTok influencers and trends to follow.


What to keep an eye on as 2019 trickles into a new decade:


  • While TikTok is characteristically community-focused, it’s also rich in opportunities for new creators to rise, just like they’ve done in other platforms like Instagram and YouTube. Comedians, meme crafters (yeah, it sounds a bit silly but it’s a thing), and influencers (including brands).
  • Take, for example, Loren Gray— With 35.4 million followers, this comedic creator is the most followed on TikTok. She has even been presented with Teen Choice Awards and People's Choice Awards and has incredible reach in a very coveted new demographic. Imagine that brand collab.
  • Heard of ‘Old Town Road’? Well, now-famous rapper Lil Nas X got his song to spectacular fame via TikTok. How so? Check out the #CowboyChallenge, where TikTok users dressed up as (you guessed it) cowboys and sang along to the rapper’s single.
  • Also on hashtags: there have already been several viral campaigns, with one of the pioneers being the challenge #InMyDenim by Guess. That’s creativity— the brand asked the community to upload a vid of themselves dancing to a song by Bebe Rexha’s in their newest Guess threads. Community engagement, organic exposure, and fun.


This all goes to show this is fertile ground for new ideas and multichannel approaches. Is your brand going to be the next viral thing?



The average user’s behaviour.


Fast is the name of the game. Get into TikTok, and you might find yourself getting lost in a never-ending stream of funny videos and delirious song duets. Users will typically scroll through quickly, as each video is pretty short (15 seconds to 1 minute).


The algorithm makes it so that you see the posts you’re most interested in at the top of your feed, every time with the chance to interact (like, comment, follow the creator) right there.


  • A typical user scrolls somewhat mindlessly, on their commute or free time between tasks. That means not too much attention— to be successful, your content needs to be truly eye-catching.
  • The average daily time a user spends on the app is 52 minutes. The average session, 5 minutes.
  • On average, a user will open the app about 8 times, and 90% will do so at least more than once.


What about competition & business figures?


All well and good, but how can you leverage these admittedly impressive social media stats to benefit your brand and business? The thing is, as we said, the relevant metrics on TikTok aren’t all that clear yet— but what we know looks promising.


  • The in-app purchase revenue of TikTok tripled in 2017-2018, reaching the $3.5 million mark. This far, it comes mostly from users in the US and China.
  • The world’s highest-valued startup: Bytedance (no doubt thanks to this odd app).
  • Big brand advertisement: TikTok offers tiers especially for big brands right now. If you want a branded hashtag challenge (like that Guess move we were talking about), it’ll cost you $150,000 a day.



2020— The future of Tiktok.


Of course, the brands that can pay for that sort of campaign aren’t that abundant. But it seems TikTok is upping the ante— they plan on opening new advertisement tiers and possibilities. We’ll just have to keep our eyes open!


That means we’re likely to see more transparency in metrics about daily usage and demographics. This far, it seems TikTok might be a new opening to reach out to a coveted young audience in a more organic, community-driven way. What are your thoughts?

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