It hadn’t even been one full week of sheltering-in-place when my curiosity finally got the best of me. As someone who loves social media and spends way too much time on their phone, I was well aware of TikTok and its growing popularity.
I watched as downloads continuously dominated the App Store and read countless headlines about the new app “taking over” and “revolutionizing social media.” I wasn’t naïve; I knew TikTok was here to stay, but still, I was reluctant to dive in. Maybe growing up in the Vine generation made me nostalgic and prideful, but I didn’t want to admit that something better might have come along. But it has, and after a few months of use, I’m more than okay with it.
The fact is TikTok has created a powerhouse app for people to connect and share with others in a way you can’t on other social media platforms.
Creating a successful new social media platform is no easy feat, and many have tried and failed. I’m looking at you YikYak, Google+, and Vine (RIP). Even TikTok went through some changes to get where it is today, remember Musical.ly?
So what exactly makes TikTok so popular, different and successful?
Let’s start with the obvious. Video is the preferred type of content across the internet.
Compared to images and text, video is more attention-grabbing, memorable and engaging.
You might be thinking, “So what? Other social platforms have video,” which they do, but with TikTok video isn’t just a feature, video IS the app. There are no still images, just an endless supply of scrollable videos. TikTok also has a low barrier to entry as it provides all the tools in one intuitive platform. Users don’t need special programs, fancy lighting, or any formal video editing training as the app provides all the visual/audio effects and filters you need for infinite creations.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million. TikTok’s short form (15-60 second) video format allows users to create and consume large amounts of content. In fact, 83% of users have uploaded a video proving that TikTok is not only successful at getting people to watch but to actively participate.
TikTok’s Explore page and home feed are in a format familiar across most social media channels. But when you log into TikTok, you aren’t taken to your standard home feed. Instead, you are greeted with a “For You Page,” full of content picked specifically for you. TikTok’s content customization algorithm truly sets it apart.
For some time, the inner workings of TikTok’s algorithm remained undisclosed. Recently, as part of the company’s efforts around transparency, TikTok disclosed the algorithm uses device and account settings along with machine learning to evaluate the quality of videos based on user engagement and watch times. These quality ratings are paired with individual use patterns to curate a customized queue of content for every user.
The algorithm is constantly learning and readjusting, presenting new content to test engagement, and providing unique suggestions that go well beyond the capabilities of other social application’s Explore page content.
TikTok has blossomed from its humble beginnings of dance and lip-syncing videos into a landmine of content you never knew you needed but suddenly cannot live without. Spend a few minutes scrolling through your For You Page, and you’ll find that what these videos lack in production quality they make up for in pure entertainment value.
TikTok is revolutionizing the type of content people are creating and wanting to see. Perfectly filtered and edited photos are not what’s flooding your feed. In fact, it’s common to find the opposite. Similar to traditional meme humor you find on other social channels, TikTok is filled with authentic, self-deprecating, and sometimes really cringe content. People aren’t afraid to share their thoughts and flaws because they know that with 800+ million users, they are bound to find people who relate.
While the user base is predominantly made up of 16-24 year old high school and college students, user demographics are quickly diversifying. People of all ages and backgrounds are finding their niche and creating their own engaging content.
At its core, TikTok has a level of authenticity that other apps don’t. While that’s a characteristic in high demand from Gen Z, anyone, regardless of age, can appreciate real content from real people.
When it comes to not overdoing things I have pretty strong self-control, but from the past few months of unwittingly spending hours and hours watching videos I can confirm that TikTok has an allure other social media platforms can’t mimic. I applaud not only TikTok but the users who have created such a unique space on the internet.
While we may feel the Coronavirus has robbed us of traveling, hanging out with friends, and stress-free grocery trips, it has also given us the gift of time. So if you’ve already made all the banana bread, handmade masks and puzzles you can handle, try downloading TikTok. I can’t promise it will change your life, but it will bring a little bit of fun and entertainment to your day.