TikTok: an app that has taken the world by storm. It seems like everywhere you turn, someone is talking about TikTok or sharing their latest creation. So, what exactly is TikTok, and how did it become so incredibly popular? Let’s dive into the fascinating history of this social media sensation.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a widely recognized social media app that allows users to create short and engaging videos ranging from 15 seconds to 10 minutes. With a variety of features like filters, sound effects, stickers, emojis, and colorful texts, creators can enhance their videos and let their creativity shine. Sharing videos with followers and interacting with other creators’ content is a major part of the TikTok experience, along with features like TikTok LIVE, duets, the For You Page, and TikTok coins. But before we delve into the app’s features, let’s take a look at how it all started.
TikTok’s Journey: The Background Story
While most social media platforms have their roots in the United States, TikTok’s story is a little different. It all began in China with an app called Douyin, launched by ByteDance in 2016. Douyin quickly gained popularity, amassing 100 million users within its first year. Recognizing the potential for expansion, ByteDance’s founder, Zhang Yiming, set his sights on a global audience.
The Global Launch of TikTok
TikTok’s journey wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Musical.ly, a platform known for its comedy and short lip-syncing videos. ByteDance saw the potential in Musical.ly and acquired the app for approximately $1 billion in 2017. The following year, ByteDance merged Musical.ly into its own app, TikTok, creating a global version of the wildly successful Douyin.
Evolution of TikTok: Impressive Growth by the Numbers
Successful brands are always evolving to meet the needs of their users, and TikTok is no exception. Let’s take a look at the app’s growth since its launch:
- 2017: TikTok acquired around 65 million users.
- 2018: The merger with Musical.ly propelled TikTok to surpass YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook in-app downloads for November.
- 2019: TikTok celebrated over 1 billion downloads from the Google PlayStore and App Store.
- 2020: The app saw over 63 million installations, five times more than the previous year. In April, TikTok reached the milestone of 2 billion total downloads and unveiled a $200 million creator fund for the U.S. market. By August, TikTok gained over 100 million new users in the U.S. alone.
- 2021: TikTok surpassed 1 billion monthly active users (MAUs), a remarkable 45% increase from the previous year. It became the most downloaded app globally, and users spent an average of 19.6 hours per month on the app.
- 2022: Once again, TikTok secured the title of the most downloaded app, with approximately 672 million downloads. It reached an impressive milestone of over 3.5 billion total downloads, making it the fifth app ever to accomplish this feat. Furthermore, TikTok remains the only non-meta-owned app to achieve such high download numbers, with its largest user base residing in the U.S.
What Makes TikTok So Incredibly Popular?
Now that we’ve seen TikTok’s growth in numbers, let’s explore the factors that contribute to its immense popularity. There are three main elements that make TikTok stand out:
Viral Challenges and Trends
TikTok is synonymous with viral challenges and trends that captivate its users’ attention. One video can spark a craze that spreads like wildfire. Remember the #lipsync challenge? Users lip-synced to background music, creating fun and entertaining content. Another example is the #crate challenge, where people attempted to climb stacks of crates. Some succeeded, while others hilariously failed. Dance challenges, dark humor, and even day-in-the-life content are just a few of the countless trends on TikTok.
Numerous celebrities, like Dwayne Johnson, Mariah Carey, Selena Gomez, and Will Smith, have embraced TikTok. They provide glimpses into their everyday lives and share behind-the-scenes moments. Jimmy Fallon even initiated the #Tumbleweed trend, prompting his audience to roll like tumbleweeds. These celebrity endorsements have sparked immense engagement and propelled TikTok even further into the mainstream.
Creating TikTok videos is incredibly easy. With just a few taps, you can unlock a world of creativity. The platform’s intuitive interface and handy creator tools make content creation and social media marketing a breeze. When you open TikTok, the For You Page (FYP) greets you with a personalized stream of videos based on your preferences and interactions. This algorithm-driven feed ensures that you’re always discovering content tailored to your interests.
TikTok’s ease-of-use and engaging content are just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s take a closer look at some of the app’s key features.
7 TikTok Features to Keep You Hooked
Once you open TikTok, it’s hard to resist scrolling endlessly. So, what features make this app so addictive? Here are seven TikTok features that will keep you glued to your screen:
1. Duet or Stitch
Creating videos on TikTok doesn’t always require starting from scratch. With the duet and stitch features, you can interact with existing videos. Stitch lets you add a few seconds of another person’s video to your own, while duet allows you to comment on someone’s video via a split-screen format.
To duet or stitch a video:
- Open the TikTok app.
- Find a video on the For You Page that you want to interact with.
- Click the “Share” icon.
- Select the “Stitch” or “Duet” option at the bottom.
2. TikTok Sounds
Sounds play a significant role in TikTok’s popularity. With over 600,000 tracks in its library, TikTok offers a vast selection of sounds for creators to use. You can trim sounds, add multiple songs to one video, and even use the audio from another creator’s clip.
To use a sound from the For You Page:
- Tap the disc icon at the bottom right of a video.
- Click “Use this sound” or “Add to favorites.”
To find sounds from the search results or the TikTok library, follow these steps:
- Tap “Sounds.”
- Select a sound and either add it to your favorites or use it right away.
3. Filters and Effects
TikTok’s extensive library of filters and effects sets it apart from other social media platforms. From augmented reality (AR) effects to custom-created filters in the Effect House beta, TikTok empowers users to craft visually stunning videos.
Accessing filters and effects is simple. They are readily available for use on the video creation screen.
4. TikTok LIVE
Need to connect with your audience in real-time? Go LIVE! TikTok LIVE allows you to engage with your followers and the wider TikTok community. You can respond to comments and interact with viewers directly in your live chat.
To go LIVE on TikTok:
- Head to the For You Page.
- Tap “LIVE” on the upper left corner.
Additionally, users can support their favorite creators by sending virtual gifts, which can be redeemed for cash.
5. Comments, Likes, Shares, and Reposts
Engagement is a crucial aspect of TikTok. Users can leave comments, like videos, share them with friends, and repost them on their own feeds. The comment, share, and like buttons are conveniently located on the right-hand side of each video, making interaction effortless. Reposting can be done directly from the share menu.
6. Video Recording and Uploading
Videos are the backbone of TikTok, and the app’s recording and uploading features make it simple to join in on the fun. Additionally, you can add pictures to your videos and stylize them according to your preferences.
To create a video on TikTok:
- Tap the “+” icon at the bottom.
- Long-press the shutter icon (big red button at the center) to begin recording a video. Alternatively, click “Upload” to import videos from your device.
- Edit your video to your liking, click next, and then post it to share with the TikTok community.
7. Privacy and Control
Protecting user privacy is of utmost importance to TikTok. The app offers various privacy settings to ensure a safe experience for its users. Switching to a private account restricts access to your content, and you can also enable features that prevent others from commenting, downloading, or liking your videos.
TikTok and Politics: A Complex Relationship
TikTok’s rise to prominence hasn’t been without challenges. Several countries, primarily in Asia, Europe, and North America, have banned or restricted TikTok due to concerns about content, user privacy, and security.
In countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, TikTok faced bans due to cultural reasons. Some viewed the content on TikTok as vulgar and immoral, and there were allegations of inappropriate content exposure to minors. TikTok took measures to address these concerns by taking down offending content.
User Privacy Controversies
Data privacy concerns have been raised regarding Chinese apps, including TikTok. American conservatives, in particular, voiced suspicions of potential Chinese government surveillance through user-generated content. However, it was revealed that some consulting firms, such as Targeted Victory, played a role in fueling these accusations.
The app faced scrutiny from various parties, including Reddit’s CEO, Steve Huffman, who referred to TikTok as “spyware” and claimed it was “always listening.” Wells Fargo removed TikTok from its devices over security concerns. In response to these privacy concerns, TikTok took steps to address them, including routing all U.S. user traffic to Oracle Cloud and pledging to delete U.S. user information from its servers.
TikTok and the United States
The relationship between TikTok and the United States has been complex. In 2020, the app faced a potential ban under the Trump administration, which was later revoked by President Joe Biden. Concerns about user and data privacy prompted TikTok to make significant changes, transferring control of U.S. data to American companies, such as Oracle, and implementing measures to address security issues.
3 Ways to Leverage TikTok for Brand Growth
With TikTok’s immense popularity, it’s an invaluable tool for businesses looking to expand their brand. Here are three key strategies for leveraging TikTok for successful marketing campaigns:
1. Identify Your Niche
Identifying your target audience and understanding their preferences is essential for success on TikTok. Different trends and challenges appeal to different demographics. For example, engaging with Gen Z often involves participating in trends and challenges, while other age groups may prefer content that aligns with their interests. Utilize TikTok LIVE, duets, and stitches to meet your followers’ content needs and boost engagement.
2. Partner with Influencers
Collaborating with influencers within your niche is a fantastic way to reach their followers, who are likely to be interested in your products or services. Influencer partnerships offer a cost-effective alternative to traditional forms of advertising like billboards or TV commercials.
3. Engaging Content is Key
On TikTok, capturing and retaining viewers’ attention is crucial. As videos are short, typically ranging from 15 to 60 seconds, you need to make an impact quickly. Incorporate filters, effects, and trending sounds to enhance the quality of your content. Consider running challenges and encouraging users to create content related to your brand. User-generated content not only fosters engagement but also sparks virality.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about TikTok:
Is Douyin different from TikTok?
Douyin is the Chinese version of TikTok. While Douyin was launched in 2016, TikTok became globally available in 2018. Both platforms are owned by the Chinese company ByteDance.
Who are TikTok’s competitors?
Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram are major competitors for TikTok in the social media landscape.
When did TikTok become popular?
TikTok gained significant popularity in 2019 and experienced explosive growth in 2020, with the pandemic playing a role in its cult-like following.
What do I need to become a TikTok user?
To become a TikTok user, all you need is a mobile device, a stable internet connection, and an email address. Simply visit the TikTok website or download the app, sign up, and dive into the world of TikTok video content.