Should Your Marketing Team Care About TikTok?

By Emily Gaudette

My favorite TikTok meme is a bit called “I smell pennies.” Every video begins with someone holding a bunch of pennies. The person says, “Finally. Now I can keep these pennies to myself.” The camera tilts up to reveal some kind of disturbing monster in the doorway. Sometimes it’s a person stuffed into an Amazon box. Sometimes it’s a person in a penguin costume. Sometimes it’s just a dark shape. The monster says, “I smell pennies!” and runs at the camera while the person with the pennies screams. That’s it. That’s the joke.

For those unfamiliar with TikTok, it’s an app for publishing and watching short videos no more than a minute long. Think of it like Vine, but more popular.

The appeal of TikTok videos, thus far, is that everything begins with an unusual video clip uploaded by a non-celebrity. (Celebrities like Jimmy Fallon are now active on the platform, but the original memes almost always come from non-famous users). After the community discovers a video, they rip the audio, manipulate the joke from every angle, and publish all conceivable versions of the meme until it fades. You’d be surprised what TikTok creators can do with that simple scenario, one that remains funny and frightening no matter how many times I’ve watched it.

Now that TikTok’s popularity is climbing, the question becomes: When are brands going to join the party? The better question, though, is should they join in the first place?

The pulse of TikTok

Tiktok is the internationally branded version of Douyin, a Chinese app owned by ByteDance, which acquired Musical.ly in 2017. Since the acquisition, TikTok has continuously grown. By the end of 2018, TikTok claimed to have 500 million monthly active users, most of who live in China. As of early this year, U.S. users topped 100 million. Estimates say two-thirds of users are under 30 years old, and the youngest users are 13 (the platform requires this).

It’s no secret that brands love young people, whom they see as impressionable and interested in new trends. Most brands who invest in content marketing are searching for the kind of commitment TikTok users demonstrate when it comes to spending time. Daily sessions are up, and people spend an average of 52 minutes each time they pull up the app.

In November 2018, TikTok was the second most-downloaded app in the Apple App Store and Google Play. In 2019, the app started running video ads and in-app purchases, ignoring critics who called the ad-free experience a breath of fresh air. Months later, the number of brands and media companies with notable presences on the platform is still small, and users can exit out of the that initial video ad without waiting.However, compared to major platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube, TikTok doesn’t have the same level of daily engagement. People visit those apps just about every single day, per Apptopia’s Engagement Index, while the average TikTok user only …read more

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