Smells Like Teen Spirit: The Age of TikTok


Smells Like Teen Spirit: The Age of TikTok


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(EN) In the thick of updates from old-timers like Facebook and Instagram, we’ve seen one app swiftly picking up steam. Among the fastest-growing social media platforms in the world, TikTok exhibits a rare instance in which a China-born app explodes in the West, with over 1 billion all-time downloads (excluding Android installs in China) and 500 million active users worldwide. The Chinese counterpart of TikTok, Douyin, has amassed 400 million daily active users, parent company ByteDance revealed in its annual report this week (in Chinese).

Is it here to stay or is it a passing fad? And should you jump on the bandwagon? Here are five questions to ask yourself:

  1. What goal are we trying to achieve by setting up a new social media platform?
  2. Does the content we want to produce need a dedicated social media platform, or can we update an existing platform?
  3. Do we have the resources, budget and manpower to manage this new platform?
  4. Is this social media platform the appropriate choice for our audience and brand?
  5. How would we drive our audience to this new social media platform, and how are they using this platform?

So you’ve made the decision that it’s a go. What are five things about TikTok that you should keep in mind?

  1. TikTok is focused on content and not aesthetic. Say good-bye to the overly styled posts of Instagram – on TikTok, you’ll find that many videos are shot without consideration to lighting or scripting. It also means that TikTok users don’t like “old school” types of promotions and selling, they prefer a good narrative, or sometimes, just a fun video that may not make sense.
  2. Most of TikTok’s users are young, with roughly 41% between the ages of 16 to 24. However, a growing number of adults are adopting the platform.
  3. TikTok (formerly called was originally a music-based app for people to share lip syncing videos. Music continues to play a part in the videos and you can easily add a soundtrack.
  4. TikTok is home to numerous tribes, from gamers, fitness fanatics, and parents to beauty bloggers, dancers, and more. The app’s “For You” section uses algorithms to help users find their tribe, and by extension, the type of content they’ll want to see. From a marketing perspective, this allows brands to target specific youth audiences based on their psychographic profiles.
  5. TikTok is purely a play for brand awareness. Right now, you can’t even add a link to your TikTok bio! That hasn’t stopped certain brands from getting a head start on the platform, however, with Chipotle, The Washington Post, NBA, and even the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) getting in on the craze.

Virginia Ngai

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