To Win Short-Form Video, Look Away From the Creator

Shreya Sudarshana
8 min readSep 9, 2020

By Shreya Sudarshana and Johnathan Zhou

If you’re following the recent developments with the future of TikTok, then you know that there’s a potential $50 billion acquisition at stake. Moreover, the platform that ends up dominating the short-form video social platform market over the next few months will greatly influence the social culture and information exchange of an entire generation of users. Although TikTok is the clear frontrunner right now, stakeholders competing for this market range from e-commerce giants, like Walmart, all the way to TikTok’s short-term video competitor, Triller.

TikTok’s success has been written about countless times, and many analysts talk about the terrifyingly accurate algorithm & the lowered barrier to content creation. However, there is another key component to TikTok’s industry leading engagement rates & growth that often goes unnoticed: its ability to cater to lurkers — silent users that consume but rarely create content. Lurkers play a critical role in the success of social applications and TikTok has been able to solve lurkers’ needs better than any other short-form video or social application.

TikTok’s growth is incomparable to any other mainstream social media platform

Understanding the User Base of TikTok

Similar to other social media platforms, a large proportion of TikTok users are lurkers. Lurkers tend to make up the majority of social media user bases, while only a small minority of users are responsible for actual content creation. Research shows that there are twice as many lurkers than content creators on TikTok, insinuating that a significant amount of users are likely engaging with the app every day, despite a lack of desire to create content. While these users are not creating content on their own, they are still considered daily active users, indirectly engaging with the application. TikTok-specific lurkers include users who are not content creators but actively scroll through their For You page, send TikToks to their friends, and spend hours engaging with the app.

Lurkers don’t just exist on TikTok — they exist on almost every form of social media. So why do lurkers use…

Shreya Sudarshana

Product @DisneyPlus. Working on getting Gen Z to vote through @2020uptous. Studied Data Science at @UCBerkeley. Keep up with me on Twitter, @shreya_sud