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Since its inception, TikTok could be perceived as the “ugly stepchild” of social media. It first came onto the market with the somewhat juvenile name Musical.ly, providing a platform for users to create and share short lip-sync videos. In 2017, the app was acquired by China-based company ByteDance, who rebranded it into TikTok. 

 

TikTok first resonated with a younger audience containing no advertising medium to draw more prominent companies and older users. However, since quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, TikTok has grown faster than any other social media in history. The app’s popularity in China is now at a similar level of popularity in the US; today, TikTok has over two billion downloads worldwide.

 

In the News

Recently TikTok, as a media platform, has become a subject of newsrooms all over the world as on August 6, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to restrict business between ByteDance and US citizens. The order, which takes effect 45 days from inception, states that any transactions between TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, and US citizens will be outlawed for national security reasons.

What does this mean, exactly? For starters, American companies will no longer be able to spend advertising dollars on the platform, rendering it useless to paid marketers already invested. Additionally, the app would most likely be removed from Apple and Google app stores. Consequently, the app would no longer receive regular updates, thus leading to the app inevitably becoming non-functional over time. 

Existing platforms are now launching comparable apps to adapt to these changing times and meet the popularity of TikTok. Ironically, Facebook launched Instagram Reels, a video-sharing app that mimics TikTok on the same day the executive order was announced. The competing platform, Triller, has also been said to have acquired a few of TikTok’s star creators. 

However, changes in business and ownership possibilities are changing that narrative and possibly changing Apple’s impact on the social media landscape of the world.

Microsoft, who has long desired to have a social media platform under its umbrella, has confirmed talks to purchase TikTok from ByteDance on Monday, August 3. Microsoft released a statement confirming the suspicions and announced that this was done in conjunction with President Trump.

Undoubtedly, this is big and newsworthy. However, from a marketing standpoint, this is an exciting time for anyone who works with brand influencers or targets audiences between the ages of 18 and 40.

If this purchase is confirmed, this would be the first social media platform for Microsoft to enter the market. Having a large tech platform as a backing with limitless resources in development engineering will mean big things for the social media platform.

The time of ignoring the relevance of TikTok is over, especially for careers in business. Not to say that everyone needs to jump on and create a TikTok account, but the average business marketer should have a reasonable understanding of what the app does, what content can be found, and how users engage with the platform.

 

Platform Basics

The basics of TikTok revolve around short-form video content. This content can take on multiple forms but usually is listed under three primary categories: talent, interest, and tutorials.

From individual renditions of a popular dance, showcasing unique talents or poor abilities, to people or groups highlighting their dedication to rehearsing a viral dance routine or some catchy trick, these are a few examples of content that always seem to do well on TikTok. 

There is also a brand of TikTokers that discuss interesting ideas, thoughts, and perspectives that are both educational and informative. There is a TikToker who posts nothing but random animal facts and has grown his audience to over 100,000 followers in less than a month. Another creator with over 800,000 followers brands herself as the “Space Girl” and talks about nothing but random and exciting space facts.

The educational content on TikTok runs the gamut of everything from discussing endangered predatory birds to cooking creators. The latter subject has individuals ranging from home chefs walking people through one-time recipes to professionals giving tips and tricks that they have cultivated in the fine dining industry.

 

Genuine Influencer Heaven

Unlike most platforms, the recipe for success on TikTok requires genuine content and disciplined delivery.

Many celebrities have launched and seen massive short-term success with TikTok but eventually failed because they do not possess the time nor the genuine talent to continue to produce content. This dramatically differs from other channels such as Snapchat and Instagram.

It is also not enough to just be an attractive and highly engaged creator. The most successful creators are those who show genuine talent or expertise in a subject matter and produce content regularly. Diversity and consistency in the content have proven again and again to be the recipe for success.

For influencers who are looking at creating a personal brand around their subject matter or talent, TikTok is an extremely viable platform. It can produce high levels of engagement with either niched or non-niched audiences. 

For marketers or entities looking to work with influencers, TikTok is and will become more so of a gigantic pool of influencers with large audiences who are engaged, responsive, and genuine.

 

Community First

To say that a social media platform desires to create a community amongst its users is undeniable. But, seeing a social media platform that has genuinely created a community between its creators is rare.

The short-form video content of TikTok added with a robust algorithm makes it so that a user can find highly suitable personalized material without ever having to search for it or personally know any of the users ahead of time.

Because of this, TikTok has created communities around interest and geographical location, in some cases sparking support groups, activist groups, and culture diversity/education. While many other social media platforms have tried to accomplish this, TikTok was able to do so, organically, and with minimal effort on the individual users.

So, while some may have never seen TikTok as a viable way to exchange information, TikTok is proving itself a significant platform for business marketing. Understanding how to be effective with this platform could be the future of influencer marketing. Now, more than ever is not the time to ignore TikTok. 

 

Note: Much of the data comes from my personal use of the app, which I have used and observed since its launch to be aware of new trends in marketing. While I consider myself an expert in the world of marketing and social media, it should be noted that this is still one person’s experience with the app and the videos I see are based on my interests.

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