The clock TikToks on marketers to adapt to the latest trends in social media marketing

By Niall McHugh

The exponential rise of social media across the globe in recent times has brought its significance to the forefront of businesses and consumers alike. Various channels have risen to prominence with each update in your respective app store, and marketers must be ever ready to adapt. A recent example is a new player from China that has moved to prominence in the social media sphere, particularly among younger age groups across the globe, specifically Gen Z, born from the general range of the mid-nineties until approximately 2010.


TikTok is a free social media app that focuses on short-form video content and lets users watch, create, and share videos, often with music and overlapping pieces of audio. Users can easily express themselves and become creators on social media, with the app providing all the tools in one place to help create short, visual and engaging content while also latching onto emerging trends and stories using hashtags. Popular among Gen Z, users record themselves dancing to popular songs and editing their videos with a focus on creativity and humour. The short-form video content is also less demanding of attention spans and typically, though not always, diverts away from more-serious topics.

Gen Z are now more comfortable than ever before, not only in using social media but in promoting and profiling themselves online. Today, there is a genuine want among this demographic to become ‘Insta-famous’. TikTok allows for the possibility of overnight success, fame or infamy as a direct result of their content. Users can grow an audience, reach thousands of people and curate legions of fans. One could argue that this is the first social media platform to be driven by Gen Z.

A New Player

The traditional social media giants have all taken notice of TikTok’s emergence. Late in 2018, Facebook launched a standalone video-sharing app called Lasso to directly combat the popularity of TikTok. Similarly, Instagram has since diversified to retain audiences and is currently testing a new feature entitled ‘Reels’ with its Brazilian users, with a view to expanding into markets where TikTok is yet to establish a foothold. Google too is looking to get in on the action, potentially incorporating similar features into its YouTube platform. 

However, ByteDance, the Beijing-based start-up behind TikTok has amassed an incredible following for the app in regions like India and China with adoption rates in Ireland and the rest of Europe on the rise. The company reported in June of this year that TikTok had over one billion users globally. In a very short space of time, TikTok has caught right up to Instagram in terms of monthly active users and makes it a massive threat for both Facebook and Instagram, making the app a serious player in the market.

What This Means For Marketers

With TikTok’s emergence into the global social media sphere, there is ample opportunity for marketers to leverage it for the benefit of their brand and business, achieving both marketing and branding objectives.

  1. Influencers and celebs can play a massive role in delivering brand messaging to prospective audiences with many well-known content creators already present on TikTok and delivering key messaging or product placement on behalf of brands.
  2. Brands too can create their own social media channel and upload video content direct to a global audience, with over 1.5 billion downloads of the app to date.
  3. Opportunity also exists for advertisers to latch onto certain hashtags, trends and emerging topics. Given people’s preferences for engagement with hashtags, the TikTok algorithm could also allow advertisers to directly target specific users and their homepage / ‘for you’ section based on that users’ preferences. The platform also plans to build up its ad technology for automated campaigns which will be targetable and measurable based on the behavioural characteristics of their audience.
  4. Viral content from the app is also permeating into other social platforms. More and more content from the app is being shared on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, meaning that we may have seen TikTok content without being fully aware of its origin.

Time will tell whether TikTok can continue to compete as the bigger social media players diversify, but the app and its parent company have already established themselves as being well versed in adapting having previously merged with ByteDance, which has a valuation of $78 billion and generated more than $7 billion in revenue for the first half of this year, also owns several other popular apps and has plans to diversify further into the music streaming business as a direct rival to Spotify and Apple Music.

TikTok will have to fend off stiff competition from other well-established social media apps. Instagram and Snapchat users will remember that originally, the Instagram stories feature was introduced to directly combat the rise of ‘Snapchat’ and is now accepted as an everyday feature of the Instagram app. However, with backing from some of the heaviest hitters in venture capital funding, including SoftBank and Sequoia Capital – ByteDance will not be bullied easily out of the market. There are also several blueprints for success and case studies for brands like Bebo and MySpace which eventually ran out of steam.

To build from a marketer’s perspective, the app is looking to unleash its full advertising potential and is actively engaged in a push with advertisers. For now, this is focused on simply explaining to advertisers how the app works and how brands can leverage its unique interface. But as TikTok further integrates itself into the marketplace, marketers would be wise to keep tabs on the unique opportunities which comes with a new player in the game.

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