Unless you’ve been in hibernation since last summer, you’ve probably heard of TikTok.
The short-form video app is taking social media by storm – but not without raising a few eyebrows along the way.
The app was launched in September 2016 by the world’s most valuable startup, a Chinese tech company called ByteDance. In a bid to take TikTok global in 2017, Bytedance purchased Musical.ly, another video sharing app with a large U.S. teen audience. The two were merged soon after to create a global community.
The app has since gained approval from content creators worldwide, and December 2018 alone saw an astonishing 75 million new users sign up – which was a 275 percent growth rate from December 2017.
So let’s take a deeper look at the platform, including the positives (the Tiks) and the not so positives (the Toks), to see if we’re looking at the next big thing or just another flash in the pan.
Anyone who has TikTok on their phone is potentially just 15 seconds away from global fame as an internet star. The app allows users to upload 15-second looping clips of themselves doing pretty much anything (musical challenges and bizarre skits are recurring themes), but unlike Vine (R.I.P.), TikTok gives its users a helping hand with the creative elements.
The app follows an easier route with thousands of pre-existing backing tracks, filters, stickers and editing options available, meaning content inspiration is endless. Videos are enhanced by a range of editing features, similar to the popular augmented reality filters on Snapchat. Collaboration between users has been made possible through replying to videos and the option to make joint videos on a split screen.
Who Are These TikTok-ers?
Don’t be alarmed if you haven’t woken up to the TikTok revolution. You may not be the target demographic – teenagers account for the majority of the app’s fans.
TikTok’s mostly youthful Western audience originally belonged to Musical.ly while its Eastern audience are familiar with the original app Douyin, which was launched in China in September 2016. ByteDance merged the two and pushed the app out globally as TikTok, its rapid growth can be explained by aggressive marketing campaigns across YouTube and other social media platforms, as well as a large-scale out-of-home effort.
Many users quickly recognised the magnitude of TikTok’s reach, setting their sights on becoming a viral content creator, on what could be the fastest growing app of 2019.
The app has also leveraged its growing popularity with big names, boasting celebrity users such as the Kardashians, Cardi B and Jimmy Fallon. Now available in 154 countries, TikTok reached 1 million video views per day in the first year of its launch.
It has most definitely made its mark on young users, becoming a social hub for zany short-form videos, memes, challenges and funny skits.
The Tiks – What We Like
In a world of Instagrammers, where everyone seems to be filtering their lives to appear flawless, TikTok is an escape that provides a place where people can be themselves. If Instagram is checking its hair in the mirror, TikTok is miming to a cheesy pop song, hairbrush in hand.
By purposely limiting the app features, there is a focus that offers real purpose. The app has received praise from users for being ad-free and news free in the past, but the platform is slowly starting to roll out an ad unit.
The app itself is easy to navigate, and the holy grail is the ability to create your own videos easily, and within seconds.
The Toks – Potential Downfalls
Just a couple of clicks on various articles and blog posts show that mainstream internet just hasn’t made up its mind about the app.
It’s clear that some people hate the idea, with many ‘cringe compilations’ appearing on other platforms such as Twitter and YouTube. But with these videos garnering millions of views – even the haters are intrigued.
There have also been some concerns around privacy as all videos are set to public by default. Especially given that the core user base is aged under 18, this has caused worry about safety on the platform.
Is TikTok Here To Stay?
Despite only being a fraction of the size of Facebook (2.27 billion) monthly active users and Instagram (1 billion), as of October 2018, TikTok had 800 million users worldwide. That means it’s already well ahead of the numbers boasted by Twitter (336 million) and Snapchat (186 million).
It seems for any new social platform to become mainstream it must first become ‘cool’ with the younger generations – and TikTok appears to be a hit with Gen Z. Serial copycats Facebook have also released their clone of the app, in the form of Lasso, which can only be a good sign for TikTok.
We’ve seen plenty of social apps rise and fall. Vine, Keek, Yik Yak, Peach and Meerkat have all come and gone in the past few years alone. But TikTok may be the app we’ve been waiting for – the next big thing that could break this mould.
Only time will tell, but right now it’s certainly enjoying a viral boom.