Everything You Need to Know About TikTok
Think you know everything about TikTok?
Well, think again. From being a platform where youngsters can lip sync to songs, dance, and create comedy sketches in 15-60 second videos to being a place where new emerging trends are set online, TikTok has grown to become one of the most popular social media sites. Gone are the days when one needed expensive equipment or connections in the entertainment world to strike it big.
Today the app offers ordinary people like you and me the chance to become “viral” celebrities online provided we just have the right amount of talent. Let’s delve deep into this exciting and revolutionary video-sharing and social networking app that has taken the world by storm!
Beginnings & Rise
In 2012, a 28-year-old software engineer by the name of Zhang Yiming founded the company ByteDance in China. Think of it as the Chinese Facebook as it owns several social media apps like its American counterpart. In 2016, ByteDance which is headquartered in Beijing launched an app called Douyin.
This allowed users to create short-form videos. Within a year of its release, the app had 100 million users along with 1 billion views recorded each day. After attaining so much success in such little time, Douyin rebranded itself as TikTok and aggressively marketed itself abroad. It soon became one of the most downloaded apps in Asian markets such as Japan and Thailand. However, it had a competitor in the form of Musical.ly which was a short video form app that allowed users to release 15-second lip sync videos.
At the time, Musical.ly was one of the most popular apps especially among Generation Z in America, and even had an office in Santa Monica, California despite being headquartered in Shanghai. After protracted negotiations, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance acquired Musical.ly for one billion dollars on 9th November 2017.
Finally, in August 2018, Musical.ly was merged into TikTok with all accounts of the former automatically being transferred to the latter. Many people who had become celebrities and influencers on Musical.ly and Vine (which had shut down in 2016) were absorbed into TikTok’s user base. The founder of Musical.ly Alex Zhu stated that “Combining Musical.ly and TikTok is a natural fit given the shared mission of both experiences – to create a community where everyone can be a creator.”
Indeed, the great strength of the app that has set it apart from other social media apps is its democratization of the creator space. People from all walks of life armed with only a smartphone can create content that is enjoyed by billions around the world. The short amount of time in which the video is supposed to be made has led to innovative ways of creating entertainment that has kept up with the fast-paced consumption and attention time spans of people in the modern world where everywhere you go there is content that is vying for your eyeballs.
TikTok is currently available in 150 nations and in 39 languages. Approximately 57% of the users of the app are from China itself. Outside of China, however, the app has been downloaded the most in India with 190.6 million downloads as of November 1st, 2019. It is far ahead of the United States which has 41 million downloads as of November 1st, 2019. In fact, in that year, the greatest growth in downloads of the app was from India and Canada.
This growth in user downloads around the world has been greatly enhanced through TikTok’s aggressive marketing. According to the WallStreet Journal, as of June 2019, TikTok had run an app-install campaign/advertisement on Snapchat worth 1 billion dollars.
In the United States alone, the app is expected to grow even more. As of October 2019, a meagre 9% of internet users in America had used the app with an even meagre 5% declaring their intent on making use of it. This could only mean that the app hasn’t reached its saturation point in the market yet as 37% of respondents claimed that they had never heard of the app, to begin with. The company has witnessed its greatest growth and penetration in Asia however. Over one-third of users between the ages of 16 to 64 had downloaded the app.
As of May 2019, South East Asia had 190 million downloads with Indonesia having the greatest amount in that category. In the United States, 60% of users were between the ages of 16-24. Over 50% of users in the United States are between the age bracket of 25-34 and approximately 25% of users between the ages of 45-64 which means that the app need not only have an appeal among Gen Z. Even if the content is mainly being created by youngsters, the middle-aged are also watching to a certain extent.
In America, the gender ratio between females to males is 2:1 on the app and it is most pronounced in favour of teenage girls so companies which are trying to reach that segment of the demographic can do well to use TikTok to advertise as they have been doing.
We have already discussed how TikTok allows users to upload 15-60 second videos. Unlike Musical.ly, TikTok videos need not only be of lip-syncing although that feature is available.
The video can have background music and can just as well be about anything that the user chooses to do in that time frame. The video can even be sped up or slowed down. Filters for editing the video are also available as is the case with Snapchat or Instagram Stories. The background music however comes from a pre-established list of songs that are on the app’s roster. However, they are quite extensive and straddle many genres.
One of the innovations that have been carried on from Musical.ly is the “duet” feature. In this feature, the user is able to film and upload his/her own video alongside another video. The “react” button allows the user to film their reaction to the video. In order to provide privacy, the app has also allowed the “Private” feature. The content that is uploaded by a “Private” profile can only be viewed and reacted to by people whom that particular content creator has authorized.
TikTok requires users to be 13 years of age to create an account. Therefore certain protections are taken. In 2019 in the United States, a section was created on the app that consists of clean and curated content exclusively for children in that age group. Moreover, users can report accounts if they are spam.
Based on a user’s activity, the “For You” section of the app recommends a feed of videos to users. This depends on what the user searched for or liked. This is an example of the app’s use of Artificial Intelligence. Content from users is only shown if they are above 16 years of age. Akin to other apps, users can “follow” whomever they choose to. Direct messaging service is also provided between “friends” on the app. To make the job of creators easier, they are given the ability to save videos, sounds, hashtags, and filters under a “Saved” section that’s only visible to them.
Moreover, videos can also be created based on comments. TikTok, like Instagram, has its own celebrities or “influencers” as the term is more commonly used. Any user above the age of 16 years old and with at least 1000 followers can utilize the “live” feature wherein followers can send virtual gifts to the creator that can be then exchanged for money.
The “small gestures” feature that was introduced during lockdown allows users to send three gifts to three other users that free but promotional in nature for eg. a 90-day trial subscription for Pandora. This is part of the company’s brand engagement and a possible foray into e-commerce. In February 2020 a “family safety mode” was also announced that allows parents to manage the screen time and limit direct messaging to the accounts of their children.
Brands and TikTok
TikTok draws brands not only due to the high number of active users that it
has but also the celebrities who draw crowds to it. There are those who
went “viral” and henceforth became celebrities through the app itself such
as Loren Gray, Baby Ariel, Zach King, Jacob Sartorius, Charli D’Amelio,
etc. And then there are celebrities who made a name for themselves
outside the app such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ariana Grande who
reach out to their fans.
TikTok has also served as a conduit for songs to become famous in mainstream society such as Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road which became the longest-running number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100. The NBA has more than 10 million followers while the Washington Post has about half a million followers. However, what they both share are comical videos that are uploaded so as to resonate with the youth.
Gymshark is another brand that focuses on fitness which has amassed 1.5
million followers while Calvin Klein shows videos featuring popular models
such as Kendall Jenner, Shawn Mendes, etc. BMW launched a hashtag
called #the1challenge whereby users are encouraged to post videos of
themselves dancing next to the BMW Series 1.
Brands such as Burberry, Crocs, and Mercedes Benz have taken a leaf out of BMW’s playbook by also capitalizing on the hashtag to create brand awareness on the social media platform. What is common across the board here is that companies are directly reaching out to the viewer through very short advertisements that are not merely to be viewed as advertisements but as entertaining content that is to be consumed.
TikTok is also testing sponsored videos that will allow users to directly go to the website of the company that’s advertising. In order to open up further to advertisers, a biddable advertising option is also in the process of being rolled out.
TikTok & India
In 2016, Reliance JIO launched the world’s cheapest data tariff at a mere Rs. 15 or 21 cents per GB. Mobile internet which was previously available only in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities has now reached the heartland and villages of the county.
As a result, with the average consumer in the hinterland having access to more choice than ever before, the popularity of TikTok has only skyrocketed. India accounted for the largest growth in downloads.
This is no surprise given that access to smartphones also increased during
this time period. In fact demand has been so much that Indian companies
have started assembling parts to build phones within the country itself.
From 2015 to 2019 approximately 650 million smartphones were shipped into the country as the total number of smartphone users climbed to 400 million people. This was only 70 million short of the total number of mobile internet users. No doubt a good many of these 70 million are looking forward to a shift to smartphone use that would allow them greater accessibility of features. TikTok has undoubtedly gained from this.
The average Indian user much like his/her counterpart in the rest of the world is increasingly consuming online content. The television set has been ubiquitous for quite some time now and the average person in India still spends about 2.93 hours a day glued to it.
However to be connected to the world online has emerged as being far more popular as compared to watching TV. The average Indian spends an average of 3.35 hours a day online as compared to 2.93 hours a day watching TV. With increasing internet access and penetration in the country, this difference between the two is only bound to grow. Of these 3.35 hours a day, over 2 hours a day are spent consuming video content. This is the lion’s share of time that is spent online.
Within India there has been a 100 times growth in consumption of content that’s short. Within a month itself, 530 minutes of short videos are watched. In fact, 68% of users end up watching a complete video that’s only 60 seconds long as opposed to 24% of users who will end up watching a video that is 20 minutes long. This clearly gives TikTok an advantage over other streaming services as the maximum length of a video is 60 seconds long (provided multiple clips are connected).
In India itself there were 615 million downloads of the app and 19 million videos used to be uploaded onto TikTok India everyday. The app racked up 200 billion views a month from India as users would spend an average of 54 minutes each day that was distributed into 7-8 sessions per day. 35% of TikTok users weren’t there on Facebook and 57% of them did not use Instagram. This meant that the Chinese company had indeed hit into a previously unexplored section of the population or untapped slice of the demographic.
One of the specialities of the brand is the manner in which it is viewed. There are three options that are given, namely “Canvas”, “Window”, and “Bridge.”All of them are in the vertical format. This is important as this type of format increases user engagement with the video. About 92% of all content on the mobile is used in the vertical format. In fact, 50% of IPL was viewed in that format in 2019.
It is no wonder then that brands in India have sought to capitalize on this.
An e-commerce fashion site by the name of Voonik first explored TikTok in
India for its marketing potential. Since then many brands have got on board
such as Myntra, Zara, ShopClues, Snapdeal, Hungama Music, Dharma
Productions, Viu, Voot, etc. Pepsi has had a rather successful time on
TikTok India. The cola company launched a “challenge driven” campaign
with a #SwagStepChallenge hashtag for six days which invited users to
create videos of themselves doing a certain step. This garnered over 4
TikTok in India is managed by Bytedance India which is a fully owned subsidiary of TikTok Pte Singapore Ltd. It has over 2000 employees and over 2000 contractual staff. Indian users’ data is located in Singapore servers
While TikTok is mainly used for creating short videos for entertainment purposes, it had decided to go the extra step in doing something different in India. In collaboration with Josh Talks and The/Nudge Foundation, the company launched an initiative to expand and democratize education on the digital platform.
The purpose was to educate over a hundred million Indians through fun and engaging ways. The initiative led to 25 million videos being created and managed to score 65 billion views and 2.8 billion shares. EduTok launched a mentorship program that supported new internet u0sers by giving them educational content created by educational organizations and TikTok users. JoshTalks would organize 25 EduTok workshops across Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, and Jammu.
The workshops had started from October 2019 and ended in March 2020.
They were held in the states’ regional languages and presented by popular
TikTok creators. The content was tailor made by The/Nudge Foundation
and covered the areas of:
● Soft Skills
● Skill Development
● Identity Building
● Job Readiness
● Career Planning
Educational technology companies such as Toppr, Made Easy, and
GradeUp have also joined the EduTok campaign in creating educational
content. The company has also partnered with the National Skill
Development Centre (NSDC) to support skill development and celebrated
World Youth Skills Day 2019. This can help with the Prime Minister’s plan
of Skill India and creating over 100 million jobs by 2022. Along with this last
September, the EduTokXCampus program was launched at Narsee
Monjee College of Commerce and Economics, IIT Mumbai and V.G. Vaze
College. Students were encouraged to get on the app and share
TikTok in the time of COVID-19
So far the world has witnessed 4.6 million infections and 302,000 deaths as a result of the deadly Covid-19 disease. The economies of countries around the world have slowed down and people fear going outdoors. The disease itself has a 6.5% mortality rate and the middle aged upwards and those with comorbidities are the most vulnerable to death. The world has significantly changed although by no means is it the first time such a pandemic has struck havoc.
Given the challenges that the world faces, TikTok has not shied away from providing relief. The company had donated Rs. 30 Crore to the PM Relief Fund and a further Rs. 5 Crore to the Swades Foundation and CRY (Child Rights and You). Moreover it has collaborated with the World Health Organization to livestream relevant information about the virus. The Kerala Police, Bengaluru City Police and Durg Police have also used TikTok handles to effectively spread awareness about Covid-19.
The company has contributed to all segments of society.
A further 100 Crore rupees have been spent on donations for medical equipment and 20 crores have been distributed to the CM relief funds in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh. These efforts have even been appreciated by Union Cabinet Minister Smriti Irani.
$50 million have also been distributed in grants around the world to creators who can disseminate educational information through distance learning mode.
TikTok Ban in India
On 29th June 2020, the Government of India banned TikTok along with 58 other Chinese apps citing threats to security and sovereignty in the wake of clashes in Ladakh. The decision was said to be so as to protect the data and privacy of Indian citizens. According to Forbes, the brand is set to lose 6 billion dollars as a result of this ban. So far the company claims to have been invited to meet Govt. officials to respond and submit clarifications. It is yet to be seen what the future holds for the company in India.
Read Full article by Forbes :- Click Here !
As of now, influencers lose out on the platform on which they gained traction, although they will try to find green pastures on which to continue creating content such as Youtube and Instagram. It remains to be seen though how much this shift happens. TikTok undeniably had a great reach among the hinterland of the country.
The ban sends a message to not just the app in question but other brands as well to review their data protection and privacy laws that have been coming under the scanner recently from Facebook to Twitter. In conclusion, while TikTok is here to stay around the world, its continued existence in its largest overseas market, India, has hit a pause even if this is not the end of things for the Chinese brand.
How it continues to re-invent itself during COVID-19 and how it comes up with solutions to some of the criticisms levied against it with regards to data protection is something that time will tell.
By:- Pranav Grover