TikTok is a video-based social media app whose users share brief videos using TikTok’s built-in music, filters, and special effects.
TikTok has almost one billion users who access the app at least once a month. It’s noted for its hyper-engaged audience, with users spending up to 1.5 hours per day on the app.
In 2022, they made an estimated $110 million in in-app purchases per month, which makes it the highest-earning (non-game) app globally.
Why is TikTok so popular? How has it changed the digital marketing game, and can it continue to be successful in the face of its ever-increasing privacy woes?
Why is TikTok so popular?
TikTok is crammed with movie stars, celebrities, and influencers. According to Gartner, over 80% of well-known brands have a TikTok presence.
The short answer to questions about its popularity is that TikTok has nailed the algorithms that drive user feeds. It’s a TikTok in-joke that users just keep scrolling until they’re exhausted.
TikTok’s almost legendary, ultra-refined algorithms actively match the content to user interests in real time.
The success of the TikTok algorithm has long been the subject of speculation among marketers and has even forced Meta and Instagram to up their algorithm game.
TikTok’s privacy woes
They contend that TikTok collects vast amounts of private data from users, such as face and voice prints, keystroke patterns, and location information. The data collection depth is a cause of concern, but many critics have also noted the potential ties to the Chinese government.
Several governments, including the US Government, are taking the potential threat seriously and are investigating claims that the app may leak private data to unauthorized users.
The app has long been banned in India, restricted or censored in Russia, Indonesia, and Bangladesh is under increasing scrutiny in Australia and is under investigation in the EU. The FBI has issued a warning in the US, and TikTok has just been banned from all devices managed by the U.S. House of Representatives network.
The TikTok algorithm
TikTok’s algorithm relies on three data pillars that continuously tweak what content users see on their For You Page (FYP).
● Video input (similar to metatags) is created by the person who uploads the video. It includes the chosen sub-culture, niche, caption, hashtag, and content. Videos incorporating the music, sounds, and filters TikTok provides get a boost, especially if the elements are trending.
● Device information: Device type and language preference, and location. In some cases, users may override location information using a secure VPN, which is how users in countries where TikTok is banned get access to the app.
● User activity: TikTok uses a massive array of data points that include how long you spend on each video, your keystrokes and swipes, which videos you share or comment on, what you scroll past, and what you watch or flag as ‘not interested.’
Is TikTok still an excellent digital marketing tool for business?
Despite the ongoing attention to its data privacy practices, there are many reasons why TikTok has changed the way users engage with brands. Why else would users keep using the infinite scroll feature?
● It is focused on younger audiences who want creativity, authenticity, and collaboration. Only 11% of users are older than 50 years.
● Brands that produce short, easy-to-digest video clips emphasizing fun and entertainment can do extremely well.
● The short-video format lends itself to leveraging User Generated Content (UGC) rather than relying on one-way messaging.
● In-app eCommerce capabilities drive a seamless buying experience for consumers.
● It’s very effective in driving specific calls to action. For example, the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt has had more than 7 billion views.
● Use it to drive traffic to your website, shopfront, or further engagement on other social media platforms.
Using the TikTok digital marketing tools
The TikTok premium user interface offers several tools to discover trending hashtags, hashtag challenges, trending music, and other marketing features.
● Niche down. Focus your digital marketing game on your niche demographic group.
● You have 300 characters to write an engaging caption.
● Use the tools to discover trending music, hashtags, competitions, and other trends.
● Use the Ads Manager.
● Use the Promote features to drive your objectives.
● Make great, very short content.
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Among social media platforms, Instagram may still have the highest daily user count (39 percent, with TikTok at 29 percent, Meta at 27 percent, and Snapchat at 26 percent), but TikTok users are tremendously engaged.
TikTok’s algorithm uses so many data points to predict user interests that, even if they use a secure VPN to keep their location a secret, the app can still deliver targeted information and can still be a useful digital marketing tool for your business.