TikTok explanation for you and for business

TikTok is one of the biggest social media platforms - here is everything you need to know.

What is TikTok, how does it work and what is so unique about one of the world’s fastest growing social media networks? Here is everything you need to know from a business and personal perspective.

Digital engagement became the new gold for our society as well as for businesses. From a niche video-sharing app to a cornerstone of the global social media landscape, TikTok was launched internationally by Chinese company ByteDance in 2017. Its unique proposition? A platform dedicated entirely to short-form video content, designed to entertain, educate and inspire through a mix of music, creativity and moments captured on camera.

TikTok is growing at a spectacular rate. Within a few years of its global launch, it has amassed over one billion active users. This makes it one of the most downloaded apps in the world. This explosive growth demonstrates not only that the app appeals to the Gen Z demographic, but also that it is gaining popularity across all ages. TikTok has become a cultural and social juggernaut, affecting music, fashion and even politics-which also became the problem.

The success of the platform can be attributed to its special “TikTok algorithm”, which uses a complex mix of user interaction, video information and device account settings to personalise content for each individual user. This personalisation has made the ‘For You Page’ (FYP) – TikTok’s main feed – an endless stream of highly engaging content tailored to each viewer’s preferences.

But TikTok has not only grown, it has changed the world of social media. Its emphasis on authenticity and creativity has influenced the digital and social media landscape. Unlike other platforms where polished content is the norm, TikTok encourages users to be their real selves, fostering a community where everyone from amateur creators to global celebrities can share their talents, ideas and everyday moments.

TikTok is an ecosystem in its own right and, despite its simple-looking interface, is difficult for many to understand. The question of how to understand, use or even avoid it is currently being debated, especially for companies and politicians.

TikTok explained – The TikTok 101

TikTok’s evolution and milestones

TikTok’s journey began in 2016, under the name Douyin, for the Chinese market. Its international counterpart, TikTok, was launched by ByteDance in 2017 and gained significant traction after merging with the popular lip-syncing app Musical.ly in 2018. This merger not only expanded TikTok’s global user base, but also helped the platform quickly enrich its content diversity and, in combination, find the winning formula for its rapid rise in the social media space, making it one of the top 5 social media platforms worldwide.

TikTok’s mission, vision and core demographics

TikTok aims to inspire creativity and bring joy to its users by serving as a global platform for creative expression. It is unique in its mission to democratise content creation and distribution, making it accessible to users regardless of location or background. While initially popular with teenagers and young adults, TikTok’s user base has broadened significantly, encompassing a wide age range and attracting diverse audiences around the world. In 2020, the platform will have its largest user growth, adding over 300 million users in the first quarter and reaching over 1.7 billion users worldwide by 2023. This is almost 1/4th of the whole internet population.

Comparative analysis with other social platforms

Unlike traditional social media platforms that emphasise text-based updates or curated photo feeds, TikTok focuses exclusively on short-form video content. Its interface is designed for easy content consumption, with videos playing automatically as users scroll through their feeds. The platform’s emphasis on trends, music and challenges encourages user participation and collaboration, setting it apart from competitors such as Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. However, it should be noted that Meta (Facebook and Instagram) and YouTube are now also copying the short-form video trend in an attempt to recapture their user base, making TikTok a prime target for copying their short-form video success.

The TikTok algorithm: A deep dive

Central to TikTok’s success is its highly sophisticated recommendation algorithm, which curates a personalised “For You Page” for each user. The algorithm takes into account several factors, including user interactions (such as likes, comments and shares), video information (such as captions and hashtags), and device and account settings (including language preference and location). This personalised approach ensures that users are consistently presented with content that matches their interests and engagement patterns, making the TikTok experience uniquely engaging.

How to navigate TikTok

TikTok offers an intuitive and engaging user experience designed around consuming and creating short-form video. To be honest, there isn’t much to explain as it’s built very simply for the user as the magic happens all behind the scenes, but as always, understanding the app’s interface and features is essential for both new and existing users to get the most out of their TikTok experience.

Quick guide to creating a TikTok account

Creating a TikTok account is easy. Users can sign up using their phone number, email address or a linked social media account such as Facebook, Google or Twitter. After signing up, TikTok asks users to select their interests to tailor the initial content feed and they are ready to start.

Here are the 8 steps you need to follow:

  1. Install TikTok on your Android, iPhone or iPad via the Playstore/Appstore.
  2. Open the TikTok app.
  3. Choose how you’d like to sign up.
  4. Verify your age.
  5. Enter your login details.
  6. Verify your email address or phone number.
  7. Create a TikTok username.
  8. Complete the sign up process.

Overview of the user interface

TikTok home screen and discovery page

TikTok home screen and discovery page – Via TikTokThe TikTok interface is divided into several main sections:

  • Home: This is where users land when they open the app. It toggles between two main feeds – ‘Following’ and ‘For You’ – allowing users to view content from creators they follow or explore personalised recommendations.
  • Discover: This tab allows users to search for specific content, users or hashtags. It also displays trending hashtags and challenges, making it a hub for discovering the latest TikTok trends.
  • Inbox: The Inbox is where users find their notifications, including new followers, likes and comments. It also contains direct messages for private conversations between users.
  • Profile: The user’s profile shows their uploaded videos, liked content (if public) and basic information. Users can edit their profile details and settings here.

Understanding the TikTok algorithm for your content effort

The secret sauce behind TikTok’s addictive nature is its algorithm, which personalises the ‘For You’ page for each user. Unlike platforms that rely heavily on social connections for content recommendations, TikTok focuses on user behaviour, analysing interactions, video information and device settings to curate a unique feed that matches each individual’s preferences. This also means focusing on highly engaging and “fast dopamine response” videos. This means fast, catchy, curious, loud, flashy, confusing and many other attributes. Long form videos don’t really work and as always – cat videos work well (little joke ;D).

How to make a TikTok video

Creating a video on TikTok is pretty intuitive – just click on the “+” in the middle of the navigation bar. You can then record videos directly from the app or upload them from your device. TikTok offers a wealth of editing tools, including filters, effects, speed controls and a huge music library, allowing creators to express themselves in endless ways. In particular, the realistic filters and large selection of ‘special filters’ made the app popular in its early years. Also, if you are going to upload videos, you should know that hashtags play an important role in discoverability, allowing users to participate in trends and reach a wider audience – so do your research and use them wisely.

Content moderation, safety and community guidelines

As a result of the outrage over the years, and also because of the impact mentioned above, TikTok has tightened up its policies and enforced them more strictly as part of its battle to stay out of the negative press and try to maintain a safe and positive community. It enforces strict community guidelines that prohibit harmful content and behaviour – but at the same time they want to encourage the free sharing of content, which also leads to political fallout as we have seen in the US. The platform uses a combination of technology and human moderation to screen content and enforce its policies. Users are encouraged to report inappropriate content and have access to several safety features, including privacy settings and the ability to block or report other users. In particular, TikTok has taken a tougher stance on nudity and pornography, often resulting in ‘shadow bans’, where the user doesn’t know they have been banned, the account is still there but is excluded from the recommendation algorithm, doesn’t show up in general search results and is then hidden in other people’s video streams.

Content ecosystem on TikTok

TikTok has in many ways revolutionised the way we consume media, and in just a few years has created a diverse and vibrant content ecosystem that caters to a wide range of interests and communities. The platform offers an endless stream of creativity that encourages participation from users around the world, from dance and comedy to educational tutorials and life hacks.

Classifying TikTok content

TikTok’s content can be broadly categorised into several popular genres which attract most of the users views and engagements:

  • Dance: Choreographed dances to trending songs are a staple on TikTok, often leading to viral trends.
  • Comedy and sketches: Users create humorous videos, comedic sketches and relatable content that resonates with a wide audience.
  • DIY and crafts: Creative projects, arts and crafts ideas find a vibrant community on TikTok, inspiring users to explore their artistic side.
  • Lifestyle and beauty: Beauty, fashion, cooking and health tips are highly popular, providing value and inspiration to users.
  • Challenges and hashtags: Participating in challenges or creating content around specific hashtags is a common way for users to engage with the community and gain visibility.
  • Educational: Although comparatively small, a growing segment of TikTok is dedicated to educational content, where users share knowledge, tips and insights on topics ranging from science to finance.

Trending challenges, sounds and hashtags

It could be argued that trending challenges, sounds and hashtags are the lifeblood of TikTok, driving engagement and keeping users on the platform. They encourage mass participation and FOMO effects, but they also drive creativity and foster a sense of community and belonging. Often, just exploring the Discover page is enough to see what current trends and challenges are going on, as TikTok highlights current trends and popular hashtags to drive engagement. Engaging with these trends not only increases visibility, but also connects creators to a larger audience of people with similar interests – so if you want to gain followers, this is a great strategy to jump on the right trends and challenges.

Content discovery and creator engagement strategies

Discovering new content and creators on TikTok is facilitated by the app’s algorithm, so in theory you don’t have to do anything other than go to your feed, like or comment on what you like, and the platform will do the rest by tailoring recommendations to each user’s preferences. Users can also actively broaden their horizons by pushing topics into their personal feed:

  • Exploring trending hashtags and challenges on the Discover page.
  • Engaging with content by liking, commenting and sharing, which further refines recommendations.
  • Following creators you like to create a personalised feed of content.
  • Usinging the search function to find specific topics, sounds or creators.

Community engagement and growth

With TikTok, engaging and growing your community isn’t simply a matter of gaining followers, but of creating meaningful connections and being an active part of the diverse community on the platform. The structure of TikTok promotes a sense of belonging and encourages users to interact in creative and supportive ways.

Techniques for engaging with content

Engagement on TikTok is designed to go beyond passive viewing. Users are encouraged to like, comment, share and even create response videos to content they enjoy. If you are an influencer or business looking to increase engagement, here are some strategies for engaging more deeply with TikTok content:

Liking and commenting: Showing appreciation by liking and leaving thoughtful comments can increase visibility and foster connections with creators.
Share videos: Sharing favourite TikToks on other platforms or with friends within TikTok can help spread content and support creators.
Participate in challenges: Taking part in trending challenges or creating content for specific hashtags is a fun way to engage with the wider community.

Build and manage a following

As with all social media platforms, building a following on TikTok requires consistency, creativity and community engagement. However, a unique aspect of TikTok is that you can quickly go viral and gain a large following. Here are tips for creators looking to expand their reach:

  • Post regularly: Consistency is key. Posting regularly keeps your profile active and increases your visibility on the platform.
  • Create authentic content: Authenticity resonates with audiences. Be true to yourself and share content that reflects your unique personality and interests.
  • Engage with your audience: Respond to comments, participate in duets and acknowledge your followers to build a loyal community.
  • Leverage trends: Incorporating trending sounds, challenges and hashtags into your content can improve discoverability and attract new followers.
    The role of live streaming on TikTok

TikTok’s features: Duets, Stitches, Live Streams and more

TikTok’s unique features, such as Duets and Stitches, allow users to collaborate and interact with each other’s content in creative ways. These often allow for more unique content but also for easier content creation:

  • Live streams: Live streaming on TikTok provides a direct way to interact with your audience in real-time, deepening connections and engaging with followers on a more personal level. It allows creators to share moments as they happen, host Q&A sessions and even receive virtual gifts from viewers that can be converted into revenue.
  • Duets: This feature allows users to create content alongside another user’s video, effectively responding to or adding to the original content.
  • Stitches: Stitching allows users to cut and paste scenes from another user’s video into their own, encouraging collaboration and conversation.

Leveraging TikTok for Business

Through creative and engaging short-form video content, TikTok provides a fertile ground for businesses looking to engage with a large and diverse (but younger) audience. With its unique algorithm and engaging content formats, TikTok offers brands the opportunity to go viral, build brand awareness and connect with consumers in an authentic, impactful way.

“TikTok for Business”-Suite

TikTok for Business is the platform’s suite of marketing solutions designed to help brands unleash their creative side and effectively reach their target audience. It offers a range of tools and features, including

  • TikTok Ads Manager: This is the central hub for creating, managing and tracking advertising campaigns on TikTok. It provides features for setting up ad accounts, configuring campaigns, targeting specific audiences and analysing performance metrics.
  • TikTok Analytics: Part of the TikTok for Business dashboard, this tool provides detailed insights into account performance, including video views, follower growth, engagement rates and audience demographics. It helps businesses understand their content performance and audience behaviour.
  • Creative Centre: Provides inspiration and insights for advertisers, including trending content, creative best practices and industry benchmarks. It’s a resource for businesses to discover successful content strategies and understand what works on TikTok.
  • TikTok Pixel: A web analytics tool that allows businesses to track the effectiveness of their TikTok advertising campaigns by monitoring the actions users take on their website after interacting with ads on TikTok. It’s essential for measuring conversion rates and optimising ad performance.
  • Promote: A feature that allows businesses to promote their organic content directly from the TikTok app, helping to increase visibility and reach a wider audience. It’s designed to be easy to use, making it accessible to businesses of all sizes.
  • Hashtag Challenge Plus: An enhanced version of TikTok’s popular Hashtag Challenges that allows businesses to create sponsored challenges with additional features such as a shopping function that users can access directly from the challenge page.
  • TikTok Shop: A set of e-commerce features integrated into TikTok, including product showcases and in-app purchases, allowing businesses to sell products directly through the platform.
  • Creator Marketplace: A platform where businesses can discover and collaborate with TikTok creators for branded content. It facilitates partnerships by providing data on creators’ audience demographics and engagement rates.

TikTok Advertising & Targeting

TikTok’s ad formats are designed to captivate and engage users:

  • In-Feed Ads: Appear naturally within the user’s ‘For You’ page, providing a seamless viewing experience.
  • Brand Takeovers: Full-screen ads that appear when users first open TikTok, ensuring high visibility.
  • Hashtag Challenges: Sponsored challenges that encourage user participation and content creation, increasing brand engagement.
  • Branded Effects: Custom filters, stickers and special effects that users can apply to their videos, driving brand awareness in a fun and interactive way.

Especially as a Brand you need to understand that Targeting is everything on TikTok as well for TikTok Ads as it doesn’t work to just do the same content and repost it on TikTok. Effective targeting on TikTok means using the platform’s robust unique demographic, interest and behavioural targeting options to reach potential customers. Best practices for contant and advertising on TikTok include:

  • Creativity and authenticity: Develop ads that resonate with TikTok’s culture of creativity and authenticity. Users value genuine, entertaining content over overtly promotional messages.
  • Tap into trends: Use trending sounds, challenges and effects to make your brand relevant and relatable to the TikTok community.
  • (Creative) Call to action: Include clear calls to action that encourage users to engage further with your brand, whether it’s visiting a website, taking a challenge or exploring a new product.

Data, Safety and Privacy on TikTok

All social media platforms, including TikTok, collect large amounts of personal data in order to create a personalised user experience. This data, derived from interactions and preferences, is used to tailor content recommendations, making these platforms powerful tools for understanding user behaviour and preferences.

The collection and use of personal data underscores the importance of being aware of the digital footprint you leave behind. Every like, share, comment and follow contributes to the digital profile that platforms build to deliver personalised content. While this enhances the user experience, it also raises concerns about privacy and the potential misuse of personal information.

General tips for staying safe and protecting your information online and also on TikTok:

  • Check your privacy settings: Regularly review and adjust your privacy settings on social media platforms to control what information you share publicly and who can see your content. If you are in the EU, then you usually have more settings that you can switch off – so check for these settings after you create a TikTok account or any other social media account.
  • Be aware of what you share: Think carefully before posting content or sharing personal information. Once something is online, it can be difficult to remove it completely and is often impossible to completely delete.
  • Understand platform policies: Familiarise yourself with the terms of service and community guidelines of the platforms you use. Knowing what information is collected and how it’s used can help you make informed decisions about your online activities.
  • Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication: Protect your accounts with strong, unique passwords and enable two-factor authentication wherever possible to add an extra layer of security.
  • Stay aware of phishing and scams: Be wary of unsolicited messages or requests for personal information. Social media platforms are often used by scammers to target unsuspecting users.
  • Limit location sharing: Be careful about sharing your location in real time or tagging locations in your posts, as this can reveal patterns about your habits and preferences.

TikTok’s (uncertain) future landscape

The future of TikTok, while full of potential, is shrouded in uncertainty due to a complex web of geopolitical tensions, regulatory challenges, and the evolving competitive landscape of social media. The platform’s meteoric rise has not gone unnoticed, and it now finds itself at the centre of a global debate about privacy, cybersecurity and international politics.

Geopolitical tensions and regulatory challenges

TikTok’s global ambitions are increasingly complicated by geopolitical tensions, particularly between the US and China. The US has imposed restrictions on the platform, citing national security concerns, and there is ongoing speculation about further repercussions. These developments raise questions about a potential global divide, where TikTok’s accessibility and operations could be fragmented by international borders and political interests.

The competitive landscape

Competition in the social media space is intensifying, with established platforms such as YouTube and Instagram aggressively innovating to regain market share. Instagram, for example, has experienced a resurgence in growth, overtaking TikTok for the first time in years, thanks to new features aimed at retaining and engaging users. This competitive pressure underscores the dynamic nature of the social media industry, where user preferences and platform popularity can change rapidly.

The race for market share

As TikTok navigates regulatory scrutiny and competitive challenges, its strategy and response will be critical to its future success. The platform may need to adapt its operations, content moderation policies and data handling practices to comply with various international laws and regulations. This adaptation could involve significant changes to its business model and user experience, potentially impacting its global user base and growth trajectory.

The potential for innovation and adaptation

Despite these challenges, TikTok’s potential for innovation remains significant. The platform has consistently demonstrated its ability to engage users with creative content formats, algorithmic personalisation and community-driven trends. To maintain its lead, TikTok will need to continue to innovate while addressing the concerns of regulators and competitors.

A global divide and the way forward

The possibility of a global divide in the accessibility and use of TikTok presents a unique challenge. The platform may find itself operating in a more fragmented digital landscape, where it must tailor its services and policies to meet the varying demands of different markets. Navigating this divide will require strategic flexibility and a keen understanding of global digital trends.

Conclusion: TikTok’s is powerful, but you need to understand it

Its rise to prominence in the social media world has been exceptional, and its growth has been among the most impressive to date. A powerful combination of authentic, short-form content and intelligently designed algorithms that have captivated millions of people around the world has been at the heart of its meteoric rise. This unique blend is not only the key to TikTok’s success, it is also a differentiator in a crowded digital content landscape.

For the individual user, TikTok provides a platform that is fun, fast, and endlessly engaging. It has become a breeding ground for trends that resonate far beyond its own ecosystem. It constantly leverages its community to create new trends, challenges and viral moments. This ability to continually activate and re-engage its audience shows that TikTok has a deep understanding of digital culture and community dynamics.

Yet TikTok’s journey has not been without its challenges. Other platforms have recognised the secret to TikTok’s success. They have attempted to replicate its model, with varying degrees of success. In addition, TikTok’s origins in China have sparked intense debate, leading to public outcry, political sanctions and increased scrutiny. These debates have highlighted the complex interplay between technology, geopolitics and the influence of culture in the digital age.

Despite the obstacles, the power of TikTok as a platform for both influencers and companies remains undeniable. Its ability to generate viral content at an unprecedented scale and speed offers unparalleled opportunities for visibility and engagement. For many, TikTok has become the quintessential platform for rapid audience growth, demonstrating how creativity and strategy can catapult creators and brands into the spotlight.

Benjamin Talin, a serial entrepreneur since the age of 13, is the founder and CEO of MoreThanDigital, a global initiative providing access to topics of the future. As an influential keynote speaker, he shares insights on innovation, leadership, and entrepreneurship, and has advised governments, EU commissions, and ministries on education, innovation, economic development, and digitalization. With over 400 publications, 200 international keynotes, and numerous awards, Benjamin is dedicated to changing the status quo through technology and innovation. #bethechange Stay tuned for MoreThanDigital Insights - Coming soon!

Comments are closed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More