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In the span of less than 12 months, social networking platform TikTok has become a global phenomenon. With nearly 525 million users around the globe, TikTok has already surpassed almost all of the legacy social media platforms – such as Twitter and LinkedIn – and trails only Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook in terms of the number of users worldwide. Already, some of the most famous brands in the world are starting to experiment with TikTok-based marketing campaigns, primarily through the use of influencers and celebrity endorsers.
For brands and digital marketers, perhaps the best way to think about TikTok is that it is a sort of amalgam of Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine. TikTok refers to itself as a “video-sharing social network,” and that’s exactly what it is. Users can upload short video snippets of up to 15 seconds, and then add all sorts of sounds, song snippets and filters. Until August 2018, TikTok was known as Musical.ly, and primarily focused on the creation of short dance and lip sync videos. Since that time, though, the scope of content on TikTok has broadened significantly, to include everything from dance challenges to magic tricks to funny videos.
Tapping into the influencer trend
Perhaps the biggest reason for TikTok’s phenomenal success has been its embrace by top social media influencers and celebrities. In the U.S. market, for example, late night comedian Jimmy Fallon has been one of the most visible supporters of TikTok, and around the world, TikTok has worked closely with influencers, celebrities, and high-profile personalities. As part of these collaborative relationships, influencers often cross-post their videos on Instagram or other social media platforms, thereby raising the profile of what users can do with the TikTok platform.
For brands, then, one possible use of TikTok would be as an extension of existing influencer marketing programs. In addition to working with influencers across YouTube or Instagram, it’s now possible to work with influencers on TikTok. That’s an especially valuable proposition across Asia, where influencers carry much more marketing sway than in the United States.
Easily discoverable short-form content
Another key advantage of TikTok is that content is easily discoverable, via the use of hashtags, and can be created entirely on smartphones with a minimum of effort. This significantly lowers the bar for participation, and makes it possible to conduct challenges, competitions or other similar contests, in which users around the world submit short entries into a contest or competition. Jimmy Fallon, for example, recently racked up 8,000 entries from fans, and more than 10 million cumulative engagements, within a single week for his #TumbleweedChallenge.
For brands and digital marketers looking for increased engagement across social media, TikTok is a no-brainer. While it may lack the name recognition of Instagram or YouTube, there’s no denying the potential marketing appeal of a 500 million-strong user base. The only question, of course, is whether TikTok is destined to be a flash-in-the-pan media sensation, or whether it can develop the tools, options and features needed to be a robust marketing platform for the world’s biggest brands.