Can TikTok Keep Pace?

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Patrick Cumming

With over 500 million active monthly users globally and more App Store downloads in Q4 than Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube achieved in the same time period, TikTok is the first app since the controversial debut of Vero that looks like it could compete with the big players in social media. And for courageous brands and marketers willing to embrace the hype, that could mean a profitable opportunity to reach and engage with new audiences.

Here’s the low-down

TikTok is a rapidly emerging social media platform that follows in the footsteps of Vine, allowing users to create and share short videos with their followers. Despite being launched only 3 years ago, it’s already gained more users than Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn. This is in part because TikTok originated in China, where 60% of their users are still located today, while Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter are all blocked by China’s Great Firewall. And that rapid and impressive userbase growth is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.

As with other social media platforms, users can add hashtags to their content to help them reach wider audiences. Savvy brands and early adopters have already begun initiating “hashtag challenges” for consumers to create brand awareness and improve consumer engagement.

For example, Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon launched the #tumbleweedchallenge on the platform, which resulted in the creation of over 8,000 new videos and a whopping 9 million views in just 7 days. This gives a glimpse the potential reach for brands willing to experiment with brand promotion in the app.

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What does it mean for businesses and marketers?

In order for businesses and marketers to stay relevant, it’s important for them to keep a close watch on what’s happening in the social media world. Failing to capitalise on new channels (whether paid, owned or earned) could be a fatal mistake for businesses in an increasingly competitive market.

That said, TikTok is still in its infant stages, and hasn’t yet rolled out an in-app advertising platform. But the developers are currently experimenting with advertising models in the US. With a need to make the app financially viable in the long term, it probably won’t be long before they roll out ads and marketing analytics across app versions worldwide.

But just because the app doesn’t currently support ads, doesn’t mean businesses should wait to take advantage of the app’s marketing potential. Popular users on the app have over 30 million followers, which opens the doors for profitable influencer marketing.

By liaising with high profile users and getting mentions on the app, brands could get their names into the minds of millions of TikTok users. With relatively little competition, it’ll likely be easy to establish professional relationships with users that want to use their popularity on the app as an income source.

Should you be using it?

With 60% of users between the ages of 16 and 24, advertising through TikTok isn’t going to beneficial to all businesses. If you’re selling financial services, for example, it probably isn’t worth investing in just yet.

For fashion, sports, beauty and music brands, however, there’s an opportunity to reach audiences your competitors are missing out on, in a space with far less ad clutter to cut through. And with a rapidly growing userbase, this kind of experimentation could bring about extremely profitable results. The question is, are you willing to be the first to step onto the new platform?

Here’s a thought-provoking quote from marketing guru Seth Godin to help you decide:

“Change almost never fails because it’s too early. It almost always fails because it’s too late.”

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