From dance trends to meme culture to infamous challenges, TikTok has become a pop culture hub for young people and created a new generation of influencers. TikTok has become a social media sensation over the last few years, only with President Trump’s recent proclamations to ban the app in the US threatening the success of the app at its pinnacle. Unsurprisingly this has been met with dismay by users and creators alike, and has seen competitor social platforms try to hone in on the potential market gap and the accompanying audience. With this imminent threat on the social media behemoth, many have begun to question the future of TikTok. On the other hand, there is opportunity for the social media world to take advantage of this potential shake up and for companies to learn from the success of the viral app. We know what kids want, and in to order give TikTok a run for its money, you need to understand too.

Why is TikTok so popular?

TikTok boasts an overwhelming 2 billion global users who spend an average of 52 minutes a day on the app, and therefore has become one of the most popular social platforms to exist.[1][2] Utilising insights from our in-house syndicated tracking study, Little Voices, where we speak to 550 kids aged 2 to 12, we found that 41% of 8-12 year olds use the TikTok App, either through their own accounts or their parents.[3] Success of the platform comes down to its ability to combine the interactive benefits of Instagram, with the quick creation of Snapchat that has the entertainment of a YouTube video. It is revolutionizing the way children interact with content and the way they consume it and integrate it into their lives.

The TikTok algorithm is an essential part of what makes the app so addictive and popular. The algorithm learns which content users likes, down to the type of creator, the music, the type of video and fast feeds this to the user on a personailised ‘For You’ page. Not only is this content tailored for the user, but often showcases new videos from creators that the user probably doesn’t follow causing TikToks to spread like wildfire. This has driven the viral dance trends that you may be familiar with, such as easy routines to Drake’s ‘Toosie Slide’, Doja Cat’s ‘Say So’ and Jason Derulo’s ‘Savage’. Not only does TikTok satisfy the musical entertainment one might seek from the likes of YouTube, but like Instagram it also capitalizes on fashion trends and humour. The app has gained notoriety in its ‘hack’ video which cover anything and everything from tie-dying your clothes to altering garments for quick fixes. ‘Meme culture’ is something more often attributed to social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, but humour is something not lost on TikTok. Some of the most popular videos are the funniest, often making light of situations and being relatable. Even the Covid-19 pandemic has not escaped the attention of the platform, with creators enticing trends such as #Boredinthehouse and #workoutfromhome.

Top content genres on TikTok from our Little Voices study:

TikTok: The self-isolation hero

With months of self-isolation and lockdown restrictions imposed on many of us around the world, a way to cure boredom has never been more in demand. With newly found free time, kids, teens and adults have found themselves on the ever growing TikTok platform trying out a viral dance trend for themselves. During the first 3 months of 2020 TikTok garnered more than 315 million downloads, with this only increasing as we entered the prime of the pandemic.[4] The app has not only been a point of entertainment for its audiences, but has been a platform to share safety tips and health warnings during these unprecedented times. Videos on how to wash your hands properly, how to socially distance and how to wear a mask have propelled through user streams – their popularity aided by the iconic comedic undertones you expect from a TikTok. The social media giant has ballooned over the last few months, increasing its audience and revenue. Bytedance, the owner of TikTok is now estimated to be worth $75 billion following a new round of investment.[5]

The world without TikTok?

Despite the momentous success of TikTok, recent reports have suggested that this may come tumbling down. With Trump moving to ban the app across the US, where a vast majority of the audience and creators are – what does this mean for the world of social media?

Competitors have been gearing up to adapt and revitalize their social media offerings to be more content focused in the hopes to capture any of those TikTok may lose in the upcoming months. Instagram began this transition last year with the introduction of IGTV and a similar platform algorithm that tailors content to the user. In the last few weeks, it has even implemented the ‘Reels’ feature which allows users to create their own videos easily – incredibly similar to the premise of TikTok. Influencers and creators themselves have even started plugging their Instagram accounts, encouraging their TikTok followers to migrate to the Instagram with them promising the same content. Snapchat is adding a TikTok style music feature which allows people to add music to videos they record and share with friends. Although Snapchat have not redesigned their app to be a fully-fledged competitor to TikTok, it is clear that social media companies are beginning to make moves to tap into this content led audience.

Whether or not TikTok is removed from the United States, one thing is clear: content is the ultimate winner and is here to stay. As social media agencies scramble to find the next big trend, it is a no brainer that videos will be an essential part. Easily accessible, bespoke to the user, relatable and entertaining are just some of the vital ingredients for popular content and therefore a worldwide app sensation. Social media platforms must seek to understand and discover what drives trends, how kids access and recognize content and what makes an app addictive.

Getting ahead of the game

Utilising insights from our in-house syndicated tracking study Little Voices, where we speak to 550 kids aged 2-12 and parents every other month. We have the ability to track questions around key topics that influence their world, ranging from media viewing, social media usage, favourite brands and, importantly, spend.

It is our flagship studies that provide us with the insight that enable us to stay ahead of these changing times, if you would like to find out more about how to be involved then please get in touch.




[3] Giraffe Insights: Little Voices Study Wave 2



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