13 November 2019, Berlin: ILLUSTRATION – A girl is holding her smartphone with the logo of the short … [+]
dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images
TikTok is one of the hottest apps on the planet. But this is not the result of Silicon Valley twenty-somethings. TikTok is actually the mastermind of 35-year-old Zhang Yiming, who lives in China. His company, ByteDance, has seen blistering growth. In fact, according to Forbes, he is worth over $16 billion (this makes him the 13th richest person in China).
Zhang started his company in 2012 with the launch of an online news service that relied heavily on Artificial Intelligence. A few years later, he would then create TikTok and Douyin (which is the Chinese version of the app).
“According to our recently launched Digital 2020 report, TikTok boasts over 800 million monthly active users who spent an average of 40 minutes on the app, every day, in December 2019,” said Ryan Donovan, who is Hootsuite’s CTO.
OK then, so what explains the success? What can be learned? Well, I talked to some tech experts to get answers:
John Holdridge, the GM of Fullscreen:
“TikTok’s success can simply be attributed to how it flips what we think of as social media on its head, while at the same time returning us all to roots of the original appeal–the ability to go viral. We’ve all gotten so caught up in maximizing reach by growing a massive fan base through subscribers or followers, so it’s refreshing to have a platform with an algorithm that rewards content above all else. Because of that, it’s pushing meme culture to new heights, giving Gen Z a visible place to be themselves while allowing brands to inspire their fans in authentic, entertaining ways. They are also making real moves to grow user trust, which will ultimately determine the future of the platform.”
Kenny Trinh, the managing editor of Netbooknews:
“TikTok attracts these users in so many ways. First, it’s convenient to use. It’s far easier to edit and upload content in TikTok than in other app such as Instagram or Snapchat. Anyone with a smartphone can easily create and post content. Second, TikTok is a unique, very niched app that is seemingly made for today’s younger generation, who are most of the time glued on their smartphones and bored. It’s appealing to their short attention span, plus the short comedy video clips are comfortingly familiar as it’s the same type of content all throughout the app. Third, I also found out that they are using advanced AI algorithms to learn user preferences and then provide customized video feeds to their users.”
Benoit Vatere, founder and CEO of Mammoth Media:
“When starting out, TikTok was very sophisticated in their paid media strategy and user acquisition, which led them to success on mobile. The users then spread awareness about the app. Additionally, the onboarding for the app is so different than any other app or what most product managers are used to. When you open the app, there is no sign up or tutorial—it just takes you straight into the app’s content, which hooks the audience right away. This is a new strategy that has appealed to TikTok’s Gen Z audience and will work in the future when acquiring users.”
Gregory Galant, the CEO of Muck Rack:
“A key element to the app’s success is the love of music by all age groups. The tie-in offers a fun twist that lends itself to new trends, memes, and challenges and with a steady stream of new songs constantly being released, there’s always something new to do, a new dance, a new joke, etc. People are looking for different outlets and options to express themselves and connect with others on social media and TikTok makes it easy. You really don’t have to search to find the content or people at all, it’s right there.”
John Lincoln, CEO of Ignite Visibility:
“TikTok has been a success because Vine was a success. The model was already proven. Why Twitter shut down Vine, who knows. But there were massive stars on the app like Shawn Mendez. It was essentially the same concept. What further propelled the growth of TikTok was the need for teenagers to get off Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat and have a place of their own where their parents couldn’t see what they were up to. This app is fun, it’s an outlet and something different than what currently exists, although the concept is really not entirely new.”
Dmitry Shapiro, the CEO and Co-Founder of GoMeta:
“What TikTok has really proven is that ‘remixing’ is the future of creation. It makes compelling content accessible to more people—and each trending remix on TikTok’s platform only inspires more people to create. While original content is powerful, remixing gives ordinary people the power to layer context and self-expression and share within memes and discourse. TikTok is only the beginning when it comes to remixing’s potential today.”
Eleftheria Kouri, the AR & Mixed Reality Analyst at ABI Research:
“TikTok became popular thanks to the connection with Instagram. Daily, thousands of people are sharing TikTok videos on their Instagram stories, something that plays an important role in usage/download rates of TikTok due to the existing large user base of TikTok. A considerable number of people became aware of TikTok through Insta stories and Instagram Influencers.”
Jon Stenstrom, the founder of Cast & Spear:
“I love TikTok and have watched my channel grow to over 32k followers in a short amount of time. I’ve also seen my friends blow up beyond six digits seemingly overnight.
“The reason for its success is that they’ve taken the knowledge companies have learned from making catchy advertisements and have given the creativity to the masses. If you watch a commercial on TV, the advertisers spend thousands if not millions to gather your attention for up to 30 seconds.”
Tom (@ttaulli) is the author of the book, Artificial Intelligence Basics: A Non-Technical Introduction, as well as the upcoming book, The Robotic Process Automation Handbook: A Guide to Implementing RPA Systems.