Familiar with the #InMyFeelingsChallenge, #RainDropChallenge, or the #PoseChallenge? Well these are just some of the viral social media trends that began on the Chinese-owned app TikTok, or Douyin in China.
Both apps are owned by Beijing-based Bytedance and have been a smash-hit with Gen Z kids, as they use the social media platform to create fun, addictive 15-second videos. Some tweens have even danced, sang and lip-synced their way to fame on the platform, such as Lisa and Lena, Jacob Sartorius and Loren Gray.
Screengrab via TikTok
This level of success was perhaps bolstered in part by the not-so-subtle USD1 billion that TikTok spent on advertising through Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram in 2018. Recently, however, Wall Street Journal reported rumors that Bytedance has interest in purchasing Snap (parent company of Snapchat), Twitter and Quora. However, “Snap CEO Evan Spiegel has said he has no interest in selling, and a person familiar with Snap said Bytedance didn’t express its interest to Snap. Twitter and Quora declined to comment.”
Although TikTok’s key demographic is in the range of 16- to 24-year-olds, the short-video app is apparently looking to attract older audiences. A former Bytedance employee told Wall Street Journal that Instagram is the closest non-Chinese competitor they are following, while the app recently poached a former vice president of Facebook (which owns Instagram) to help with their international strategy.
What makes TikTok so addictive are the underlying algorithms which enable ‘effortless content discovery.’ Bytedance states on its website that the platform basically logs all “taps, swipes...pauses, comments, dislikes, and favorites…[to create] a personalized content feed customized specifically for each user.”
Although this hyper-targeting probably doesn’t differ much from YouTube, Facebook or Instagram, what makes the app unique is that it isn’t dominated by the same set of micro-influencers. As summarized by TechCrunch, the home page feed is always refreshed with new amateur videos of people “doing something cute, funny or clever, with a tacit acknowledgement that ‘yes, this is an internet joke’ underlying much of the content.”
So don’t be surprised if you start seeing TikTok ads in your social media feed and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be curious enough to see what all the hype is about.
[Cover: Screengrab via TikTok]