Why You Should Pay Attention to TikTok
Six reasons and three obstacles they’re currently facing
The internet industry, and especially the social media field, has been changing very fast. Many services have appeared and then disappeared one after another. When it comes to social media platforms, TikTok (known as Douyin in China) has started to get exponentially popular with teenagers.
As you probably know, TikTok is a short video-sharing app, and it is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance. It is not a public company, but they already have a $75 billion valuation, which is higher than Uber as of this moment. In my opinion, the marketer has to pay attention to TikTok for the following reasons.
Note: TikTok is an app, and ByteDance is the company which operates TikTok, but I refer to both as “TikTok” in this article for simplicity’s sake.
Reason 1: Short Videos
As mentioned above, TikTok is a short video-sharing app. I believe the short video will become a critical key in the next social media field. I think TikTok broke down a wall of posting videos. In the past, it was not easy for everyday people to make their video exposed in front of many audiences, but such a situation has been changing step by step through TikTok. This is the most essential fact for TikTok. This is something that every marketer should take notice of.
Reason 2: Localization
I think localization is one of the advantages of TikTok. Come to think of it, Douyin and TikTok app are different physically. If you are American, you might remember Musical.ly changed into TikTok out of the blue.
Usually, many global companies (American companies, in almost all cases) try to push through their own styles, even in foreign markets. As a matter of course, the so-called global company already achieved some success in its home country. Therefore, usually, these companies don’t doubt their strategy and tactics at all. On the other hand, it seems that TikTok has adopted each localization more than American companies. I heard its tactics in each market were considerably different.
Reason 3: Globalization
One of the advantages TikTok has is that it can work in the Chinese market because it is a Chinese app originally. I’m not joking. When it comes to global companies, that reminds us of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. As you know, these American companies don’t work in the Chinese market now because of (mainly) political reasons. Even Amazon, which made a prior investment, decided to plan an exit from a Chinese market. I heard that TikTok was popular in the Indian market. If TikTok could work well in not only the Indian market but also Western countries’ markets as well, this would mean that it has literally conquered the world.
Reason 4: Unique Algorithms
A unique delivery algorithm is one of TikTok’s characteristics. Usually, the users on many social media platforms initially follow others on a voluntary basis. As a result of that, users can see the account’s content that they already followed before. When it comes to TikTok, users can decide which content to deliver to whom based on the unique algorithm.
John Hermann, a New York Times journalist, said: “Imagine a version of Facebook that was able to fill your feed before you’d friended a single person.” That’s a good one. I can say TikTok has a very unique algorithm, unlike other social media platforms. What does that mean? If your content is excellent, you can get the astonishing number of reaches in a moment. You can’t do the same thing on existing platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. It’s no wonder that young creators choose TikTok over other social media platforms because they want to achieve their goals as soon as possible.
However, this algorithm has some risks. For example, if the wrong person tries to deliver illegal content, like child pornography, they might be able to get hundreds of thousands of reaches as quick as a flash. TikTok says they are blocking such inappropriate content through both AI technology and human eyes, but it is extremely difficult to prevent such violators from doing ill without any fail. I guess that’s the reason why local authority in India has banned the TikTok app in the past.
Reason 5: Local Creators
TikTok tries to cultivate local creators in the market in its own way. As for the Japanese market, TikTok Japan announced it tried to create 1,000 TikTokers — users who have over 10,000 followers. (The influencers who have a strong influence on the TikTok platform are called TikTokers.) TikTok Japan has the plan to achieve this goal with a ¥500 million (almost $4.48 million) budget. In particular, TikTok Japan has been approaching many MCN (Multi-Channel Networks), which have many creators and social media influencers, and then they are going to expand their TikTokers to 20 specific genres, like fashion, cosmetics, gourmet, gaming, travel, two dimensions (virtual character), etc.
According to its press release, TikTok will be more than happy to support new TikTokers in a strategic way. These new TikTokers will play an active role on the platform. In addition to that, TikTok Japan initiated the audition to increase new talented musician as a spotlight project. I guess this is a limited plan in only the Japanese market, but it is very helpful to increase creators and let many people know the potential of TikTok.
When I started to use the TikTok app, almost all content was videos of young females dancing in bikinis. Now, I see different genres like travel, food, sports, and funny videos. If TikTok could expand its number of TikTokers extensively, of course, the overall number of users would increase more and more. Other generations would start to enter into the TikTok world. In that sense, I believe their MCN strategy is critical for its success.
Reason 6: Limits on Influencers
When it comes to the Japanese market, so-called influencer marketing produced by third parties is strictly banned, unlike other foreign markets. If the company tries to implement an influencer campaign without any permissions, their account might get frozen by TikTok because it doesn’t permit it through the platform policy. As previously explained, the creators will increase over time through MCN partnership. Such TikTokers verified by TikTok might be able to work as an influencer in the not-so-distant future. Some industry players say TikTok is about to create by themselves a platform which can connect TikToker and marketers in the brands directly. If so, the market size of influencer marketing on TikTok will surge without taking much time.
As I have been mentioning above, I guess it is not impossible for TikTok to rule the world. I was astonished to hear that the revenue in the U.S. already accounted for about two-thirds of TikTok’s global revenue, though almost all revenue is generated from the Chinese market for the moment. But of course, it is not easy for them to achieve the goal globally. TikTok has to overcome various barriers in order to beat existing social media platforms that come from the U.S. originally.
In the past, it was said that Chinese companies often copied foreign companies. I feel such a situation will change in the social media field. In the field of social media, many emerging companies, including TikTok, started to play an active role in their market. For example, WeChat (owned company Tencent), one of the major platforms in China, already has many functions and services. It is not just a messaging app. Some experts anticipate American companies like Facebook will start to copy Chinese social media shortly. I think so too. I strongly think Facebook Messenger is about to replicate the functions and strategy of WeChat, as Instagram already copied Snapchat. That is to say, American companies are about to copy Chinese companies. Nobody imagined such a situation a decade ago. If American social media platforms, which already have tremendous employees, cash, and users, try to copy TikTok at a full scale, I would say it won’t be easy for TikTok to fight back against such American companies.
As many experts say, so-called compliance would be their weak point. In fact, TikTok U.S. (previously Musical.ly) already was fined $5.7 million by FTC (Federal Trade Commission) because they broke a COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act). Other than that, TikTok India was temporarily banned by a High Court in Madras. As above stated, the judiciary in the country might prevent TikTok from working globally. TikTok managed to pass through the judicial barrier in the U.S. and India, but there is no assurance that they can get over this kind of crisis in the days ahead.
Finally, I have to mention that the political risk could be the most troublesome and tricky one for TikTok. In the sphere of social media platforms, American companies have cornered the market so far. However, such a structure of the industry might be destroyed by TikTok for the first time. I think the U.S. won’t admit such radical transformation at all. The U.S. government might place some regulations on foreign platforms like TikTok. As you know, the U.S. market is the biggest market in the world. Understandably, TikTok can’t rule the world without the existence of the U.S. market. It wouldn’t be a surprise for the U.S. to take some action against the Chinese company, as they already have battled against Huawei, a Chinese provider of ICT infrastructure and smart devices.
The toughest hurdle for TikTok might be not itself but the reaction of the U.S. government. However, we can’t keep our eyes off TikTok because there is no doubt that it’s a game changer in the next social media world. How do they approach Internet users, including Generation Z? What kind of influencer marketing will be put into operation? How do they try to beat existing social media platforms? If you are so-called marketers in the company, you would not be able to talk about any marketing topics anymore without the existence of TikTok.