9 Things You Need to Know about TikTok in 2021

[This article has been updated for 2021]

TikTok is the latest phenomenon that’s taking the world of social media by a storm. But if you’re still wondering what the fuss is all about, read on.

This quirky app seems to be all the rage among Gen Z at the moment and chances are you might have caught glimpses of it by now. (And if you’re past the age of 30, chances are, you might have secretly cringed at some of the content.)


However, the meteoric growth of the app has caused many marketers and brands to take it seriously. If you’re still quite new to this, here are 9 things Brew highlights about TikTok to help you figure out if it might be worthwhile to leverage the platform for your social marketing strategy.

1. What is TikTok?

For the uninitiated, TikTok is simply an app that allows users to create short 15-second videos (or 60-second Stories-type videos) on any topic and share them with their social media followers.


However, the platform seems to be in the process of testing out a new option by which users would be able to record videos up to three minutes in length. Social media consultant, Matt Navarra, recently tweeted a screenshot of this new update which still seems to be in its nascent stages.


Now, creating videos might seem like quite an uphill task for most people unless you’re really creative and skilled. So, does that mean TikTok is only meant for the artsy and creative folks? Not at all.

You can upload your pre-recorded video clips using the app or record them on the fly and edit them using TikTok’s built-in plethora of easy-to-use tools. Adding special effects, audio, speeding up or down, and flipping between the rear and front camera on your phone has never been easier. You can also use a video maker to make the process easier on you.

2. How Did it All Begin?

TikTok’s roots can be traced to Musical.ly – the app that teenagers around the world would use to create videos of them lip-syncing to music videos. It went on to gain popularity very quickly and garnered more than 130 million users. A million new videos were being uploaded every day.

In November 2017, Musical.ly got acquired by ByteDance, a Chinese company, and in August 2018, all of the content and users on Musical.ly were merged with their own video-sharing app, TikTok. In China, the company continues to have a separate app (having similar features) known as Douyin.

3. Controversies Surrounding TikTok

Ever since its launch, controversies have always surrounded this vastly popular app. For example, it experienced a brief two-week ban in India in 2019 over concerns about exposing children to cyberbullying, pornographic content, and predatory behavior.

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Besides this, the platform has also been accused of not safeguarding the privacy and data of young users adequately.

In June 2020, TikTok was banned in India for the second time (along with 223 other Chinese apps) due to escalating tension and military clashes over disputed territory along the shared border between the countries.

The United States has also conducted investigations into the app over concerns related to national security. The Trump administration has even attempted to ban the app from their app stores, however, it’s been halted owing to a legal dispute between them and TikTok.

ByteDance also released the first-ever transparency report to refute these accusations and fast-tracked efforts to separate TikTok from its other operations in China.

4. Why TikTok is Still the App to Beat

Despite all the controversies, TikTok still remains the app to beat owing to its enormous popularity. Ever since the new TikTok launched in August 2018, it has recorded phenomenal growth. In November 2019, it surpassed the 1.5 billion mark in app downloads (Google Play Store and App Store combined).

In fact, it was the third most downloaded app in 2019 (in the non-gaming category) behind only WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and beating the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.


What’s even more amazing is that it grew from 500 million to 1 billion downloads in just seven months and to 1.5 billion in just under another nine. In the US, TikTok enjoys the longest average session duration out of all social media platforms (10.85 minutes) and users access the app eight times a day.


Image Source: Statista

As of today, TikTok is available in 141 countries (out of 155) and occupies the #2 spot in the list of non-gaming apps that have the highest consumer spend – clearly showcasing its immense engagement levels. Currently, it’s also the most downloaded app in the world.

new3In Southeast Asia, TikTok remains the most downloaded app, with over 300 million downloads – almost half of SEA’s population of 630 million. It’s one of the most engaging social media platforms in the region with the highest average session duration of 3 minutes and 38 seconds.

In Singapore, TikTok has around 3.4 million users. Between the months of January and July during the COVID pandemic, an estimated 1.04 million new downloads were recorded in the country.

5. Who Uses TikTok?

Despite the ban, India still stands as the biggest driver of installs at 30.3% of the total, followed by China at 9.7%, and the US at 8.2%. In Asia, it has surpassed Instagram in popularity, claiming the top spot in countries like Japan, Taiwan, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Most of TikTok’s user base is comprised of teens and tweens with 41% of the audience aged between 16 and 24 years.

6. What Kind of Content Can You Expect?

With the acquisition of Musical.ly, the combined TikTok app has significantly broadened its horizon as far as the content is concerned. No longer is it focused solely on music or lip-syncing. In fact, comedy now rules the platform – analysis of the most popular videos on TikTok indicates a significant correlation between funny videos and virality.


But even apart from these, you’re likely to come across a variety of different types of content such as cooking tutorials, makeup tutorials, prank videos, memes, hair-raising stunts, magic tricks, product endorsements, and challenges.

Challenges are, in fact, one of the most popular forms of content on this platform. Celebrities or influencers share a particular hashtag and challenge users to create and upload videos related to the theme using that hashtag.

One of the most famous challenges on TikTok was the #tumbleweedchallenge from TV personality Jimmy Fallon, in which he challenged users to share videos of themselves falling to the floor and rolling like a tumbleweed.


Within a week, it generated over 10.4 million engagements and more than 8000 submissions, which according to TikTok, was the biggest spike in engagement recorded from a single challenge.

There is also a strong emphasis on localized content on TikTok. For example, the company runs the “1 million audition” contest in several countries in which it provides the theme to create videos around and then awards the top video creators. Not only does this help create a lot of local content in each country, but also helps creators gain fame and recognition.

7. How TikTok Plans to Diversify Its Content

As a company, TikTok is now focusing on creating an image as the go-to-platform for learning more serious stuff instead of the usual dances, memes, or comedic mishaps. Since how-to videos have been some of the most popular content types on YouTube, TikTok too wants to join the bandwagon in an attempt to become the world’s #1 social media platform.

To do so, TikTok has commissioned a number of institutions, experts, and brands to create educational content. These are videos that promote learning a new skill, habit, or information. Such content is typically more inspiring and actionable for users. Here’s an example.


Some popular categories include science & education, DIY & life hacks, advice & motivation, etc. Even tutorials or informational content in other categories like food or dance can be educational as long as the user gets an opportunity to learn something.

The main impetus behind this move was to provide learning material to the millions of students stuck at home during the pandemic and to give itself an image makeover due to the criticism it was facing over having a potentially harmful influence.

And so, TikTok has dedicated a $50 million fund to partnering with more than 800 educational institutions, media publishers, public figures, and experts to produce useful educational content on the platform.

8. How Does TikTok Compare with Instagram or YouTube?

The main reason why TikTok has become so popular (even surpassing Instagram) is its raw, unmasked appeal. It doesn’t mandate the need for unrealistic aesthetics in your content, unlike Instagram. Instead, it allows users to portray themselves as they are, from the comfort of their homes, free of inhibitions.

Plus, its array of video editing tools has effectively demolished all barriers that prevent people from getting creative and expressing themselves using video. The success of your content no longer gets determined by your technical proficiency (as is the case with YouTube).

In addition, TikTok uses AI to learn the preferences of users by capturing which videos they like and comment on along with how much time they spend watching them. Since these videos are quite short, it allows the company to build sizable datasets in a very short time. This allows them to provide users with a steady stream of content suited to their tastes.

TikTok’s AI also helps creators produce viral videos by suggesting filters, music, and hashtags that have proven to be popular based on their content category. This encourages more and more individuals to join the platform to consume engaging content as well as produce content that has a strong likelihood of becoming viral.

7. How Can You Leverage TikTok for Marketing?

The growing popularity of TikTok in such a short span of time is a good enough reason for you to consider the platform for your marketing. In fact, many brands have jumped on the bandwagon already and have seen quite a bit of success from it.

However, most of them have been using it to generate brand awareness than leads or traffic. Since the platform caters to a young audience, brands are also using it to show off their lighter, quirky side through funny videos and other engaging content.

If you want to engage younger audiences and build a creative and fun marketing strategy, you should definitely leverage TikTok. Here are some ways in which you can do so:

a) Create Your Own Channel and Upload Original Content

It’s pretty easy to create your account and get started on TikTok. You can create 15 or 60-second videos on the fly or upload pre-recorded videos. TikTok offers a variety of editing tools using which you can add music and special effects to your videos. You can even share these videos on other social media platforms and reach more people.

Take a cue from the Mexican restaurant chain, Chipotle, which has over 1.4 million followers on TikTok. They post a variety of different types of content ranging from challenges, memes, comedy sketches by influencers, funny videos, behind-the-scenes footage of some of their dishes being prepared, photos of their food shared by their customers, sneak peeks at their new restaurants, and a whole lot more.


Challenges are also a great way to build your brand through user-generated content on TikTok. For example, in 2018, GUESS partnered with TikTok to throw open a unique hashtag challenge to their audience on the platform. The contest invited users to create videos showcasing their GUESS denim and share them with the #InMyDenim hashtag.


The challenge quickly went viral and is a great example of how products being used by real people can be used to entice customers and build brand awareness.

Since educational content is the latest big trend on TikTok, you can also focus on creating content that inspires and educates your audiences and helps them learn something new. As the hashtag #LearnOnTikTok continues to garner a lot of popularity, posting your videos with this hashtag can help you reach more people and build brand awareness.

b) Leverage Influencers to Spread Your Message to a Wider Audience

If you’re new to TikTok and don’t have a big enough following, it’s best to partner with relevant TikTok celebrities and have them create and promote brand-specific content. The important thing here is to choose influencers whose audiences are likely to be interested in your products.

You need to also ensure that you don’t restrict your influencers with your content guidelines. Instead, leave it to them to create the kind of content that can engage their followers most effectively (even if it looks amateurish to you). Here’s an example of a beauty influencer endorsing a makeup product in one of her videos.


c) Advertise on TikTok

TikTok also offers advertising opportunities for brands. Considering that this market still isn’t saturated, this might be a good option for you to explore if a significant chunk of your target audience is comprised of Gen Z and young millennials.

Although bigger brands like Nike, Fenty Beauty, Grubhub have already started leveraging TikTok ads, its premium pricing still makes it a little less affordable for smaller businesses. The CPM for these ads start at an average of $10 and you need to invest a minimum of $500 in your campaigns (both daily budget as well as total budget).

However, it does offer the option of running your ads not only on TikTok, but also on its family of platforms such as BuzzVideo and News Republic. The different ad formats TikTok offers are hashtag challenges, in-feed ads, and brand takeovers.

Do you know of any other interesting TikTok facts we might have missed out on? Let us know in the comments below or email us at editor@brewinteractive.com

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