TikTok: What Is It, Why Should I Use It, and How Do I Use It?

Opinion Piece
Sep 2020
Sydney Kinard - CWF (Author)

If you’re on social media at all, you’ve probably seen a plethora of videos of people dancing to popular songs or re-enacting other videos with the easily recognisable TikTok logo flashing across the screen. Or you may be wondering what happened to the ever-popular Musical.ly app from a few years ago. Well, Musical.ly, which launched in 2014, was acquired by ByteDance in 2017 and was then merged with their similar app, TikTok. 

So what exactly is TikTok? 

TikTok is a social media platform that allows users to upload short video clips of up to 60 seconds long, although 10-15 second clips tend to perform best. Users can pick from a library of songs, sound effects and sound bites to add to their videos. These videos frequently feature lip-synching or dancing but they also may include comedy sketches, people just messing around and much more.

When posting content, users can edit, speed up, or slow down their videos and also add stickers, activate special effects or use filters (similar to Snapchat-style AR filters) to change up the video’s look. TikTok is unique as it’s not only a social media platform, but it is also a video and music platform all-in-one where users can add music to their video TikTok also has a social aspect to it.

Users can “react” to the videos of others by filming their reaction when watching something (called a “duet”) where their video is side-by-side along with the existing content. Users can also interact with posted content by “liking” videos, leaving comments and sending messages to others within the app itself.

You may also wonder why this app blew up seemingly all of a sudden and while we don’t really know the answer to that question, the massive growth on this platform is indisputable. Due to COVID-19, there was a surge of new TikTok users outside of the platform’s typical demographic (Gen Z). This has allowed the platform to reach more people than ever and has also increased engagement. To put this into perspective, there was a 93.7% increase in total unique visitors and a 93.2% increase in average minutes per visitor on TikTok.com from October 2019 to March 2020.

Why should you use TikTok? 

There are actually quite a lot of reasons to check it out. The first is that TikTok is currently available in 150 markets across the world and in 75 unique languages. This is a great opportunity to reach international audiences. TikTok also boasts one of the highest average engagement rates on a social platform. Users of the platform have been known to click through to discover more and purchase items as a result of the videos they’ve seen. 

The environment of the app is best described as joyful, fun and creative, which is one of the many reasons that it has experienced such rapid growth. The most popular Creators on the app have tens of millions of followers and billions of views per month. The community on TikTok is also completely different from every other platform. By connecting with the community on a creative level, you’re able to engage audiences who may not be active on other platforms. 

Importantly, TikTok is easy to use which makes it easier than ever to create content, especially since the algorithm favours organic and authentic content versus overly-produced content. 

While the TikTok user base is not nearly as large as that of Instagram, it’s growing fast. Over 41% of TikTok users are between 16-24 years old and 24.5% of users are between 25-34 years old. This is a great opportunity to diversify your presence on social media and engage your audience in a new and unique way. This platform will only become more relevant as the user base increases. 

How can you take advantage of the platform? 

Firstly, you should start your own channel and start creating content! The best way to fit in on this platform and grow your channel quickly is to be involved in what is trending on TikTok each week. This will boost the visibility of your posts and get you more views while increasing also your “cool” factor. 

Another way to be successful on TikTok is to jump in on or even create a viral hashtag challenge. This gives you the opportunity to join or create a cultural moment. Top-performing challenges will attract millions of users to join the campaign and users that are looking at that specific hashtag will see your content. 

Australian electo-pop duo, Confidence Man, have just launched the #FirstClassConMan challenge, asking people to share video's of their fabulous dogs, worthy of a "First Class Bitch" title. Tinkerbelle the Dog has entered the competition, showing us how she's got the IT factor:

Some tips for best practices for this platform:

  • While videos can be up to 60 seconds long, best practice is to keep them short (10-15 second videos tend to perform the best).
  • Tell a story. This could be through before/after videos that show a transformation when a beat drops or it could be a lip sync video where the audio is consistent across videos.
  • Use relevant music. Choosing the right music shows that you’re on trend and increases your viewership algorithmically. 
  • Jump on trends by adding a new and fun interpretation to the mix. This will help you reach new audiences beyond just your followers and it will show that you not only understand trends, but you can contribute to them. 
  • Upload content onto Reels as well as TikTok. Instagram’s latest feature, ‘Reels’, allows users to upload very similar short form videos on the platform which work well across both Instagram and TikTok. Don’t forget to optimise your videos for each platform with the correct hashtags and tags. 
  • Make sure your videos are raw and authentic. You don’t need to over-produce them or use 4K cameras and editing programmes. TikTok is designed for videos to be captured on smartphones. Highly-produced videos will feel out of place among content from other creators. On TikTok, you want to produce low-fi videos that feel organic. 

We hope this helped you gain a better understanding of what TikTok is, why you should use it to broaden your reach, and how to use it for maximum impact!