TikTok’s 500M Users: What You Need To Know for Social Media Marketing.

Tiktok is a social media short-form video app for creating and sharing lip-sync, comedy and talent videos. TikTok first grew in popularity in Asia and then the app’s parent company bought Musical.ly and merged the two apps under the TikTok name. In two years, Tiktok has quickly grown to 500 million global monthly users. Unlike previous social networks that relied on organic growth, TikTok has invested in a huge advertising campaign on competing social platforms. Globally, TikTok users are younger than most other social platforms with 41% aged 16-24 years-old and 60% under 30.

Statistic: Most popular mobile social networking apps in the United States as of June 2019, by average session duration (in minutes) | Statista
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In the U.S., TikTok is the second most popular mobile social network app behind Facebook. Facebook users spend an average of 13 hours per month on the app, while TikTok users have risen to 6 hours per month over Snapchat’s 3 hours. Average session length is high with nearly 10 minutes per session compared to Pinterest’s and Facebook’s 5 minute average and Snapchat’s 2 minute average. This isn’t surprising when you learn TikTok is one of the first social platforms to use artificial intelligence to show users more of what they like with advanced interest behavioral targeting.

Yet despite the growth and active engagement, TikTok is a niche audience with just 2% reach among U.S. mobile users placing it 16th behind Facebook with 91 percent reach and Snapchat’s 26 percent reach. Even among Gen Z, Instagram (65 percent), YouTube (63 percent) and Snapchat (51 percent) are still the most popular social networks based on daily use compared to TikTok (11 percent).

Like other social platforms TikTok users have a profile that includes a photo, username and bio. Users follow other accounts to see their videos. Popular videos are liked with a heart counter appearing over the video and organized by hashtags that appear as trending on a Discover Page. Examples of trending hashtags include #whywebrokeup, #rocktober, #facetrackingchallenge, and #MosaicZoom creatd by TikTok to promote use of a new creative effect.

The For You page is TikTok’s front page as it is the landing page when users first open the app. The For You page is based on an algorithm designed to show you more content similar to what you have liked in the past from people you do not follow. At the bottom of the page users can find content outside the For You algorithm through the Search and Explore page. This is the opposite of Instagram where when you open the app you first see content from users you follow, then you can switch over the Explore tab.

Getting on the For You page is important to going viral and is a goal of many users to grow their followers much like brand trying to get into the newsfeed of Facebook users. TikTok has not released information on what goes into a video making the For You pages, but many speculate it has to do with engagement such as likes and more people watching all the way through (retention rate). Hashtags related to what users have indicated they like also most likely matter, but many also include #foryou, #foryoupage, or #fyp trying to get on this page, gain more exposure and become TikTok famous.

TikTok enables users to create short music and lip-sync videos of 3 to 15 seconds and short looping videos of 3 to 60 seconds. Videos can be sped up, slowed down and edited with filters and background music is selected from various music genres. Users can also create short lip-sync videos to popular songs. The react feature allows filming reactions in a small window over the main video. The duet feature you can film two videos beside each other. Unlike Facebook videos the default is to have the sound turned on. Therefore, subtitles are not has important.

Businesses can participate in the social platform by creating a brand channel and uploading and sharing relevant content. Brands can work with influencers to spread messages to a broader audience. TikTok offers social ads with some creative formats. TikTok ads include standard native in-feed video, brand takeovers that run full screen, and branded lenses that use AR face filters and 3D objects. Brands can also sponsor Hashtag Challenges that encourage user-generated content such as the #JumanjiChallenge.

 

TikTok ads can be targeted by age, gender, state-level geo-targeting and custom audiences from CRM lists. The platform also boasts advanced interest targeting based on their AI technology. Marketers set campaign periods and budgets paying on a cost per thousand (CPM), cost per click (CPC), or cost per view (CPV) basis. Advertisers besides Jumanji include Grubhub driving app downloads and the NFL courting younger viewers. TV stars such as Jimmy Fallon have embraced the new platform. His #TumbleweedChallenge created 8,000 videos with over 9 million views in just 7 days.

This fast growing social platform is not without controversy. The U.S. government opened up investigations into TikTok owner ByteBance alleging the Chinese company may be censoring politically sensitive content and questioning how it stores personal data. Users have also complained that their videos are being used in TikTok ads on other social platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram without being asked for paid. Yet, everyone who signs up for TikTok agrees to their terms of service (whether it is read or not):

“You or the owner of your User Content still own the copyright in User Content sent to us, but by submitting User Content via the Services, you hereby grant us an unconditional irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, fully transferable, perpetual worldwide licence to use, modify, adapt, reproduce, make derivative works of, publish and/or transmit, and/or distribute and to authorise others users of the Services and other third-parties to view, access, use, download, modify, adapt, reproduce, make derivative works of, publish and/or transmit your User Content in any format and on any platform, either now known or hereinafter invented.”

These terms are similar to what other apps and social platforms have included in their small print, but perhaps they have been noticed more with the high profile of Tiktok’s ad campaign. California’s new data privacy law (CCPA) takes effect January 2020 with similar privacy protection and disclosure requirements to Europe’s GDPR. Many companies will be changing the way they disclose and what they do with people’s data to avoid fines.

Despite these concerns brands have moved forward on the platform to reach its young user base. How will your brand leverage TikTok?

Social Media Reaches Middle Age. Are We Headed Towards A Midlife Crisis?

When you reach middle age life begins to change. Things don’t work like they used to, your favorite songs are now considered classics, and you start dreaming of convertible sports cars. Social media as a marketing tool has reach middle age and is maturing as a medium. Yet this doesn’t mean we are facing a mid-life crisis. It means we need to change the way we think about our social media strategies.

Social media is no longer new and has become mainstream for many. Across the globe 3.5 billion people are active on social media. And while social media users are increasing there are signs we have entered a maturity stage. One sign of this new era is that user growth has stalled in certain markets. The number of social media users in the U.S. failed to grow for the first time last year. And Facebook’s growth has slowed in the U.S. and Canada to just 1% while growth in Europe was just 2%.

Growth has stalled in other areas as well. US daily time spent with social media fell 1 minute in 2018 after an increase of 13 minutes the previous two years. And it is predicted that time will remain flat at just 1 hour, 15 minutes through 2021. While we are spending less time on social media we are adding more social platforms. The average global social media user age 16-34 has 9 social media accounts. Even 55-64 year old’s are on 5 social media platforms now.

In this new era social media managers must consider more than global monthly active users (MAUs) and overall user demographics of social platforms. Another stat to consider is daily active users (DAUs) among target audiences in specific markets. The question to ask may no longer be “What social media platform is my target audience on?”, but instead consider “What social media platforms are my target audience most active in?” This makes a difference as the table below illustrates.

Globally the top social platforms by highest MAUs are Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. But if you look at global DAUs the top social platforms switch order with Snapchat in first, then Facebook, followed by Twitter. The platforms and order further change when you add demographics and a specific country. The highest DAUs for Gen Z (age 13-19) in the U.S. now become Instagram first, YouTube second, and third Snapchat.

Flat time spent with social media, stalled user growth and more social accounts means platforms and brands have become more competitive for user’s time. And this has lead to increased social ad spending. Social media used to be thought of as “free marketing,” but no longer if you want to remain effective and drive results. While social media marketing use among U.S. brands rose 1% in the past two years (90% to 91%), social media ad spending increase 48% ($18.6 billion to $34.9 billion).

What do these signs of aging mean? It means putting the top down on your social media and letting in some new strategies. Instead of using social to saturate your audience with brand content across the same channels you may need to add social platforms where you have not been before. And if you haven’t already you’ll need to use more paid social to reach those users. But this doesn’t mean spray and pray. Success comes in targeting the right audiences at the right time in the right social platforms. And it means using AI machine learning to optimize those efforts.

Yet brand posts and brand ads may not be enough. Social media strategies must also integrate employee advocacy, executive communication, user generated content, social customer care, influencer marketing, and messaging. Paid can drive direct action and increase reach, but organic can build community which can lead to advocacy.

Finally, with the increase in social ad spending this means more than ever you’ll need to connect social strategy to business objectives using analytics to measure outcomes. Avoid a midlife crisis. Take the time to adjust your social media strategy. A good first step is to perform an audit of your existing strategy following this Social Media Audit Template. Social media author and consultant Jay Baer says, “If your social media strategy is older than a year, you don’t have a strategy.” How have you adjusted as social media has matured?