Why is TikTok dominating?
Last year New York Magazine’s John Herrman crowned TikTok the King of Social Media, claiming that the previous five years of social media have been a ‘race to see who can copy TikTok the fastest and with the least dignity.’ As a result, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook have all launched their own scrollable, short-form video sections in Reels, Shorts and Suggested for You, respectively.
This is all indicative of the immense popularity of TikTok. The Chinese social media platform has seen its daily users rocket from 133 million in the first quarter of 2018 (an average of 1.47 million per day) to a staggering 45 million daily users across iOS and Android apps earlier this year.
So, why is TikTok so effective? Here we break down some key reasons, backed up by the hard stats, to help figure out why TikTok is dominating other social media platforms.
How does TikTok compare?
We’ve established that TikTok is popular, sure, but first things first, let’s quantify what those numbers above actually mean. How do they compare with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other non-social websites?
The short answer is: very well (if you’re a TikTok fan). It’s true that Facebook and Instagram are still way out in front with 2,958 million and around 2,000 million monthly active users, respectively. But when you consider the functions of the different sites, this starts to get a little more complicated. Facebook first surged to prominence as a tool for social connection, while Instagram served to share pictures and experiences with friends and family.
TikTok differs here, as when polled, only 22% of users said they used the platform to connect with friends and family. However, when asked a similar question, as many as 71.1% of Facebook and 56% of Instagram users cited connection with loved ones as a reason for using their respective sites. This explains their disproportionately high usage as, in a society moving away from SMS text messages, thanks to widespread internet access, people are using Facebook and Instagram as messaging services.
‘Which’ can be as important a factor as ‘how many’ when looking at the lifespan of social media apps. Hootsuite found that almost half of all TikTok users are under the age of 29, while 41% of all Facebook users are aged 45 and older. It’s no secret that companies generally base their development on younger audiences’ appetites. So, the fact that TikTok has found its natural audience and super-fast growth amongst the millennial age group is a crucial factor when considering why TikTok is so popular. It also means it will likely continue to dominate the discussion when it comes to social media.
Why is TikTok so popular?
The data shows that while it’s not quite top of the ratings, TikTok is definitely the rising star among social media platforms, so let’s look at the reasons why.
Text or hybrid-style social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram, for example) could be imitating TikTok due to the efficacy of videos on social media. The narrative nature of video content and the visual engagement with the ‘presenter’ are important reasons why videos are more popular with consumers. And, within that popularity, shorter videos (15 seconds or below) are even more sought after. This means that while long-form videos will continue to support brand loyalty and deeper engagement, short-form videos provide an accessible way to draw users into a new experience.
The mysterious and hyper-effective ‘algorithm’ is often cited as the most important factor when asking why TikTok is so popular. When polled, 60% of users said their primary reason for using TikTok was to find funny or entertaining videos, while 45% said it was to fill their spare time. Even 23% each for following influencers or keeping up to date with trends land above the numbers registering social interaction as their primary reason. To meet this demand, TikTok has continued to hone its ability to recommend suitable videos at the correct times to the right users.
While ‘the algorithm’ might sound like a villainous sci-fi supercomputer, TikTok is disarmingly open about how it works. They explain that recommendations are based on a number of factors. The app considers user interactions with videos such as liking, sharing, accounts followed, and comments posted to construct a ‘For You Page’ (FYP) bespoke to the consumer.
Not only does this include the content you watch, but also the way it’s packaged. If the videos you interact with use captions, specific sound effects or device and account settings, then videos that conform to that type will be recommended to you. The algorithm being one of the key reasons why TikTok is so effective is alarming to some. As a result, it has generated a certain level of controversy, but this, as we’ll go on to explain, isn’t inherently a bad thing.
Fame vs Infamy
Philosopher William Hazlitt said that when something ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases to be a subject of interest. While it’s unlikely that TikTok was quite as popular in the 1820s as it is now, the sentiment has been proven true repeatedly (think of the infamous Weetabix Tweet). And, if one thing is true about TikTok, it’s that the platform’s history hasn’t been free from controversy.
With concerns over a lack of content regulation, as well as fears that it’s overly addictive, TikTok has been the subject of many bans and attempted bans throughout the world. However, this has little impact on the rising global popularity and may have grown the global discussion around it.
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