The monumental impact of TikTok in just under 5 years

The possibility of you, dear reader, not having heard of TikTok is mathematically zero. Whether you first saw a video on social media with a pulsating TikTok logo, you have a friend that introduced you to it or your family’s resident teen tried teaching you a TikTok dance, you know what I am writing about.

A short-video sharing app stepping away from the friend-&-family centred, self-directed feed towards an experience-based feed built on algorithmic observation and deduction, TikTok is the new generation of social media platforms.

TikTok: Fact or 🧢*?

*find out what 🧢 means here

🧢: It is for 13-24 year olds only
Fact: Although it’s core market are those between 13 and 24 years of age, all ages are represented on the platform, with around 20% of active users being 40 and older (as of 27th September 2021) ✔

🧢: TikTok cannot be compared with the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
Fact: TikTok was the world’s most downloaded app in 2020 ✔

Fact: Compared to the social media giants, TikTok has 1 billion active users which places it 4th in the league (as of 27th September 2021) ✔

Fact: TikTok has been available for download since 2018 but only started seeing a large increase in users in 2020 ✔

Cultural phenomenon

Even though TikTok has only been around for 5 years, it has had a huge impact on the world. Below we summarise some of the ways TikTok has influenced behaviour and been used as a platform for change.

Digital activism

Digital activism found its home on TikTok due to the app’s community centred features allowing for active discourse, commentary and, perhaps surprisingly, organised rallying. The Black Lives Matter movement, towards the start of 2020, used the platform for social advocacy, sharing educational resources, and tips on safe protests.

Photo by Nicole Baster on Unsplash

Anti-Trump protesters used it to coordinate a successful sabotage of Trump’s Tulsa re-election rally. At the start of this month, pro-choice activists used the platform to launch a guerrilla influx of false reports and fabricated accounts in order to make a stand against the new Texas anti-abortion law.

Independent musicians

Musicians all around the world have a new way of going viral as music recommendations on TikTok are based on the virality of the sound rather than the listener’s preferences. From Kiran and Nivi Saishankar’s renditions of Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Driver’s Licence’ or  Scottish postman Nathan Evans’ song, The Wellermans, securing a record deal for the 26-year-old, TikTok has given a new platform for independent musicians to get noticed.

Big brands

Brands across multiple categories started focusing on TikTok and beginning to figure out how they can work with the platform in 2020 – today, users can consume original content from McDonalds to Prada to Starbucks Coffee to Apple within a few swipes of their ‘For You’ page. As brands started participating in trends and active conversation, connecting through co-creation and TikTok language adoption (see @emily_zugs28’s viral “redesign” of famous logos for a great example), the TikTok community began embracing and buying into them.

According to Flamingo, TikTok inspires action, with 43% of users trying something new after seeing it on the platform at least once. Therefore, when a product goes viral on TikTok (e.g. The Pink Stuff, CeraVe, Maybelline, GAP, Cat Crack etc) it will soon become sold out and might continue riding this high for a while (as is the case for CeraVe, The Ordinary, Aerie leggings, etc).

As a vastly improved social media platform with community at the core of its offering, TikTok is filling the void for authentic, cooperative and adaptive social media; the freedoms allowed within the app are leading to cultural shifts and changes in societal norms. TikTok is here to stay.

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Written by Amelia Gavrila, Senior Insights Executive at Spark Emotions.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Amelia via email or connect on LinkedIn