To say that TikTok, the video-sharing social platform owned by the Chinese multinational ByteDance, has been one of the key apps of the last few years would be quite the understatement.
While TikTok’s future in many ways hangs in the balance after US President Donald Trump’s issuing of two orders that essentially ban it from continuing to operate there for as long as it remains in Chinese hands, the app’s growth numbers in recent times have been little short of staggering.
Despite only being released for the first time in 2016 – and worldwide in 2018, following its merger with Musical.ly – TikTok was one of the most downloaded apps of the 2010s.
With the arrival of the new decade and the coronavirus crisis that has left any of us confined to our homes, the platform has built on its traditionally Generation Z-heavy audience, drawing attention from older generations who have provided their own takes on its famously anarchic vibe.
There’s a lot that you can do with 15-second video clips
In much the same way as Instagram revolutionised online image-sharing by providing even the most amateur and inexperienced photographers with the means to easily and instantly create and share pleasing photos, so TikTok has had a similar impact on video creation.
The app enables its users to shoot, trim and stitch together 15-second video clips set to jaunty soundtracks, and enhanced still further with voice effects, with almost zero time or effort investment needed.
The resultant videos can then be shared with select accounts or on a Twitter-esque public ecosystem that elevates videos with the greatest engagement to the front of other users’ feeds.
It’s a simple formula that lends itself to all manner of forms of amateur creativity. And let’s face it – with the wider world not making great sense to many of us at the moment, one can perhaps easily understand the attraction to TikTok’s offbeat, organised disorder.
Rising rapidly up the rankings
TikTok has been somewhat secretive about its user numbers in its short history so far. While an official announcement way back in July 2018 claimed the platform had some 500 million monthly active users around the globe, ByteDance has been reticent about issuing further updates since then.
With TikTok VP Blake Chandlee having suggested in September 2019 that the site’s user numbers were then between the aforementioned 500 million and one billion, recent estimates of 800 million would seem fair. The app has also been downloaded more than two billion times on the App Store and Google Play.
800 million active users would rank TikTok about seventh among the most popular social networks worldwide, according to Statista. That would place it well behind Facebook’s 2.6 billion and YouTube and WhatsApp’s two billion each. It should be noted, however, that not all of the platforms in this ranking had published recently updated user figures, or stated monthly active user numbers at all.
And of course, such absolute numbers do not account for the very particular appeal of TikTok among the younger generations. A November 2019 release from Reuters suggested that about six in 10 TikTok users in the US were aged between 16 and 24.
However, given the data from March 2019 showing that a quarter of US TikTok users were aged from 45 to 64 – at least in a set of statistics that excluded those under 18, which is a key demographic in itself for the site – it might be inaccurate to suggest the app was only ever ‘just for the kids’.
Make the most of TikTok’s potential with our help
As TikTok continues to expand its relevance and popularity among less typical groups – even amid the headwinds of certain well-publicised controversies – so the network is also increasingly finding its forte as a destination for influencers and brands.
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