17 December 2019

TikTok: The key to unlocking Gen Z

Guides & explainers
Fast food, fast fashion, fast content – as our phones become a larger part of our lives, we want things now. 

Drive-thru, next-day delivery, swipe down to refresh…

It’s everywhere we look and a part of how we live. With this wave of innovation, new trending topics and technology are transforming the way we consume media – and creating new opportunities for powerful branded content.

As of 2018, 6,140 apps were launched every day, so you can only imagine the competition to rise above and become one of the most downloaded in the market. And that’s exactly what TikTok has done.

Since first launching in 2016, the platform has eclipsed some of the largest social networks in the world (currently boasting more monthly users than Twitter and Snapchat combined). The company has developed a loyal fan base of predominantly Gen Z-age (16- to 24-year-old) users through a focus on inclusivity and encouraging creativity. Their users are most interactive than other sites who the majority of simply consume content – 84% of TikTok users post a video themselves every month.


An app on the rise

Downloaded more than 1.5 billion times globally, TikTok is the world’s fastest-growing social media app. And speed is exactly what TikTok is about. With reps of the app saying “We don’t want someone to take five cuts of the video… we want them to show their true selves”.

While the creation of each video will never be as streamlined as the time it takes to construct a tweet, the tools available on the app give creators the ability to craft content in minutes – despite the average being 43 minutes to shoot and edit.

Compared to a YouTuber’s whole-day’s-work-per-10-minute-video regimen, it takes a fraction of the time. This could encourage users to create content in bulk and roll out on a schedule, but it’d sacrifice the reactive element that’s seen TikTok grow.

Going viral is like catching lightning. But instead of flying a kite and hoping it hits, you have a list of trending topics to help you out – which only slightly guarantees the results you desire.

We don’t want someone to take five cuts of the video… we cant them to show their true selves.

Music is a huge part of the TikTok experience – after all, it’s blossomed from a simple lip sync app into a zeitgeist test-tube. Ever heard of Old Town Road? Lil Nas X has the app to thank for helping his track become a cultural phenomenon.

By vaulting off the users of Musical.ly, TikTok was born with an audience developers could only have dreamt of achieving – presenting the opportunity for artists, composers and brands to manipulate TikTok views into outer world profit. In fact, there are even rumours of TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, becoming the latest player in the music subscription business.


The brands that tik

Now at number three in the App Store, brands are beginning to recognise the potential for TikTok as part of their online presence. And what’s most notable is the difference in tone compared to their other accounts. The 15-second limit makes it a place for brands to explore their creativity and focus on pure entertainment instead of the regular press releases. It’s about delivering the maximum impact in the shortest space of time – much like an audio branding production does while played to callers while they wait on hold.

One of the signature names producing regularly is The Washington Post. Renowned for breaking some of the biggest stories in America and the world, they solely use it to show off their light-hearted side and the ‘behind-the-scenes’ action of their reporters.

See The Washington Post’s TikTok here

And while the NBA already dominates the conversation on Twitter and Reddit, and now they’re using TikTok to reach the next generation of players and fans. Where the other online outlets focus on performances and highlights, they too prefer to use the app for the lesser-seen moments of the league; celebrity fans, mascot mischief and the players’ more real moments – with the odd game-winning play or posterising dunk thrown in for good measure.

Trends come and go, but just like check shirts, beanies and trainers, some things never go out of fashion – and the online equivalent is cute animals. As David Attenborough has proven year on year, people love to see wildlife up close, and San Diego Zoo is giving their followers VIP access to the hottest attractions. You’ll find penguins, elephants, lions and more with a well-known track played over, as if they’d shuffled their playlist for all to hear.

See San Diego Zoo’s TikTok here

As the app becomes more established with every passing day, the chances for sponsorship are growing, but as with all social networks, there’s a sweet spot between finances and consumer interest. In order for brands to beat the buzzer for when promotions fall out of fashion, they need to act fast. The clock is tiking.


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