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The following excerpt is from Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing by Eric Butow, Jenn Herman, Stephanie Liu, Amanda Robinson and Mike Allton, available August 25 via Entrepreneur Press. Pre-order now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books.
The most popular and talked-about social network in 2020 — and perhaps the second-most controversial behind Facebook — is TikTok. Beijing-based ByteDance Technology Co. bought lip-syncing app Musical.ly in 2017 and merged it with its own lip-syncing app in 2018 to create TikTok. (TikTok is known as Douyin in China.)
Both TikTok and Musical.ly did much the same thing: allow users to make 15-second lip-synced music videos, add filters to make them more amusing and colorful, and then send them to fellow users. But TikTok rules the shortform world.
ByteDance has continually upgraded the TikTok service, and its efforts are paying off—it now has 500 million monthly online users. The MediaKix website has some more interesting statistics about TikTok’s rapid rise:
- People downloaded the TikTok app more than 660,730 million times in 2019.
- Only 26.5 million of the 500 million monthly online users come from the United States.
- The country with the most TikTok users is in India, which has 24 percent of all TikTok users.
- Though ByteDance is headquartered in Beijing, TikTok isn’t available in China. The company still sells its original app there: Douyin.
- Sixty-six percent of TikTok’s users are under 30 years old.
So when would you use TikTok to promote your business? If you want to attract young people, consider creating videos on TikTok in communities that dovetail with what your business offers. What’s more, if you market your business overseas, particularly in South Asia, TikTok should be on your list of social media networks to review as you create your company’s social media strategy. Here are five ways you can harness the power of TikTok:
1. Creating Video
TikTok allows users to select from a wide variety of background music. Once you choose your music, you can use your smartphone camera to record yourself dancing and/or lip-syncing to the music. Once you finish capturing the video, you can edit it with a variety of filters, such as one that allows them to change the speed of the video.
2. Sharing Video
When you’re done editing, you can share it with other TikTok users or post it on YouTube and Facebook. TikTok is similar to those other two social networks in that you can set your TikTok profile to private and share your videos only with your friends.
3. Find Your Community
What’s more, TikTok has a variety of theme-based communities that you can search for. When you find some, view some videos in the community to learn what types of videos are popular before you record and post yours.
4. Pay Attention to Reactions
After you post your video, the users you share it with can use TikTok’s “react” feature, which shows them reacting to your video in a small window in front of your video. That feature is an effective way to learn who likes your video within the community and/or within your group of TikTok friends.
5. Create Duets and Challenges
Two of the most popular features in TikTok are creating “duets” and “challenges.” A duet is a video that is combined with another video so both videos can be watched at the same time. Someone can do this with your video and vice versa. If another user has the Duet feature turned off, then you can’t add the video into your own duet. (You can also turn this feature off in your own profile or only allow friends to create Duet videos.)
You can also participate in a challenge, where one user will post a video about a topic and challenge others to post videos about that same topic. The One37pm website published a list of the best TikTok challenges in 2019; one example included showing off videos of a user’s best artwork and a glimpse into their artistic process. This challenge created an atmosphere of creativity and community.
All that said, TikTok has its apparent safety issues. In mid-2019, the UK began investigating how TikTok collected and used children’s account data. This investigation came on the heels of a U.S. Federal Trade Commission fine of $5.7 million against TikTok in February 2019 for illegally collecting children’s personal information.
In 2019, U.S. lawmakers in Congress expressed concerns that TikTok was censoring information, especially videos of the Hong Kong democracy protests, and sending user data to the Chinese government.
These concerns led to a formal national security review by U.S. federal government agencies. The U.S. Army and U.S. Navy have also banned their personnel from using TikTok on government-owned phones because they consider it a security risk.
For its part, ByteDance has pledged to cooperate fully with the U.S. government to assuage its concerns, but that promise was met with deep skepticism by Congress when the company refused to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in November 2019.
(Since UG to SMM went to print, there have been siginficant updates to the legal concerns surrounding TikTok and U.S.-China relations. You can read more about that here.)