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A Quick Guide to “Getting” TikTok (as an Adult)

Illustration for article titled A Quick Guide to “Getting” TikTok (as an Adult)

As someone spending a lot of time on the Internet, hawking different pop culture trends, I must admit that TikTok long stayed under my radar. Yes, I’ve seen those weird lip sync videos shared here and there, but rephrasing TechCrunch, I haven’t been paying attention to TikTok because I haven’t been paying attention.

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And since I’m not the only one wondering just how and why TikTok became the center of all talks as of late, here’s my quick dive into the matter.

So What is TikTok?

In 2014, two Chinese entrepreneurs launched a simple lip sync video-sharing app.

Illustration for article titled A Quick Guide to “Getting” TikTok (as an Adult)
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Source: Variety

In two years, the app racked up some 90 million users, mostly hailing from Europe and China. Eventually, it drew the attention of ByteDance, a bigger Beijing-based tech company that owned a very similar app – TikTok – that was mainly popular in Asia.

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ByteDance decided that competing with Musical.ly does not make sense. So they purchased them for nearly $1 billion in 2016 and merged the two products (and user-bases) into one brand – TikTok.

From the users’ standpoint, not much changes except for the brand name. They got some neat new creator tools, filters, and bug fixes. Also, post-acquisition TikTok shifted the focus from lip-syncing content (though it’s still a huge part of the platform) to more diverse video content.

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What Type of Videos Can You Create for TikTok?

TikTok comes with an in-built video editor that lets you shoot 15-second vertical videos. You can also connect several shorter clips together to create longer vids (up to 60-seconds).

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The editor lets you add a bunch of filters, stickers, AR masks, music samples, and other effects as you shoot. You have three essential video shooting controllers to play with:

  • Speed: Adjust the speed of your entire video or just some of its segments.
  • Beauty: Facetune for video. Get that airbrushed look for all the close-ups.
  • Filters: Select among a variety of pre-made filters organized by categories such as Portrait, Landscape, Food, and Vibe. These will give your video some cool VSCO vibes or more fun effects.
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These tools are pretty easy to play with and back-up TikTok’s positioning as “the world’s largest creative platform.” Though YouTube would hardly agree. Anyhow, you can create a bunch of simple video combos using in-built functionality.

Beyond that, TikTok lets you upload external videos. Meaning you can shoot either with an app or another camera, add video effects in a desktop video app (such as Movie Maker or any of the alternatives to Movie Maker) and upload the video to the platform.

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Wondering just what videos to shoot? Here’s the type of video content trending on TikTok:

So How Big is TikTok in 2020?

In 2019, TikTok amassed 800 million active monthly users. That puts them right behind Instagram that reached 1 billion MAUs a year ago. The wrinkle? It took Instagram twice the time to grow its audience to that figure.

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What makes TikTok kinda a big deal right now is just how blazing fast its user base grew:

Illustration for article titled A Quick Guide to “Getting” TikTok (as an Adult)
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Source: Business Insider

And here are some other interesting TikTok stats. According to various sources:

  • TikTok app has 1.5 billion downloads across the App Store and Google Play (Sensor Tower)
  • 69% of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24. (AdAge)
  • 30+ million of the US Tiktok users open the app 8 times per day and spend at least 46 minutes mindlessly browsing the content (AdAge)
  • 68% of TikTok users watch someone’s videos and 55% upload their own content (GlobalWebIndex).
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What makes this platform kinda unique is that the published content has massively higher visibility and engagement rates compared to any other platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). And that increases TikTok’s appeal to marketers and organic reach-thirsty content creators.

OK, How Come I Never Heard About TikTok Before?

As the data above tells, TikTok is massively popular. But most of us, adults, started hearing about it just at the end of last year when adult publishers like the New York Times and Oprah Mag started covering the platform.

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Why is that? The Conversation speculates that this decision to fly below the adult’s radar was intentional. Early on, Muscial.ly (and then TikTok) team decided to pursue a largely “underserved” demographic – preteens.

Smartphone ownership among preteens was increasing. And so does their parents’ obsessive control over social media usage. Most teens didn’t want to hang out where their parents do. And, at the same time, parents were a strong barrier to preteen online engagement. So Muscial.ly did several things:

  • First, they branded themselves as a “creative tool”, rather than a social media app. This gave them a pass with most parents.
  • Next, they aggressively advertised as platforms where Gen Zs hang out such as Snapchat. At the moment, it’s the biggest advertiser on Snapchat.
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Ultimately, this allowed them to secure an early critical base of super active users that further snowballed the platform’s viral effect.

Today, TikTok is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Businesses are scrambling to figure out how to create branded content and which influencers to partner with. Individual influencers and entrepreneurs wonder whether they should jump on the bandwagon and try to build an audience on this medium too. And regular adults are trying to figure out how they just spent a good hour watching a bunch of 15-second clips.

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So Should I Join?

Well, that’s up to you. TikTok can be fun. As a creator, you have less competition and thus, higher chances to get noticed and rack up a good number of views and followers organically. Certainly, the 60-second video limit may not be for everyone though. And TikTok is not a place for “deep” educational or informational content.

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Ultimately, TikTok is a good avenue for testing your comedy or dance skills (and perhaps becoming Internet-famous for that). It’s also the platform to be if you want to connect with the Gen Z audience. The best strategy? Give it a try and decide for yourself!

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