TikTok: A Ripe Opportunity for First-Movers Public  

Article by Marina Ghazaryan.

Chances are you have heard about the new kid on the block, TikTok. This rapidly growing social media platform is a video-sharing app that allows its 800 million international users to watch, create and share videos from 15 to 60 seconds in length. These videos can be enhanced with a variety of audio and visual effects such as filters, background music and stickers. Users can also connect with each other to create split-screen “duet” videos. TikTok offers arguably the richest set of tools for producing appealing video content among the major social media apps.

The peculiarity of TikTok is that it turns everyone into a creator. Users don’t need to have a high-end camera or master complex video editing programs. Everything is done in-app. There is no shortage of engaging content on the platform, and talented creators see the results very quickly. TikTok has carved out a niche for itself as a leading platform for short-form mobile video content, with a stated mission to inspire creativity and bring joy.

A success story born in China

According to Sensor Tower Store Intelligence’s estimates, the platform is one of the world’s most popular apps, with 1.5 billion downloads on the App Store and Google Play to date. Today, TikTok is available in over 150 markets and in 41 languages.

Retracing TikTok’s success story takes us back to 2017, when TikTok’s parent company, the Chinese Bytedance, purchased Musical.ly (a lip-syncing app) for USD 800 million. Bytedance had already launched Douyin, the forerunner to TikTok, in China. After Musical.ly was acquired, the two platforms merged and launched TikTok. At the moment of the merger, Musical.ly had already reached over 200 million users, who automatically migrated to the new platform, giving it a sizable user base.

Today, Bytedance is the most expensive startup in the world, valued at USD 75 billion, surpassing Uber. With considerable economic power behind it, it’s not hard to imagine TikTok will continue on its upward trajectory. 

Apps ranked by total worldwide downloads, 2019

Source: Sensor Tower

The platform has certainly given Facebook a run for its money. In 2019, TikTok overtook regular top achievers Instagram, Facebook and Messenger, to rank second with 738 million downloadsright after WhatsAppsqueezing in between Facebook-owned products. This is a significant increase on the 655 million total downloads recorded in 2018. 

Most of TikTok’s 2019 growth came from Asia, and more specifically, India. The country was followed by TikTok’s domestic market, China, and the United States with 45.5 million (7.4 percent) and 37.6 million (6 percent) downloads respectively. As it is, India and China make up more than 40 percent of the total number of downloads.

Year-by-year comparison of top apps

Source: Sensor Tower

In 2016, it was hard to imagine that a Gen-Z video app would go toe-to-toe with Facebook’s suite of products. TikTok’s success reminds us that in the digital world, nothing is seemingly impossible.

The TikTok audience and why businesses should take note

TikTok has over 500 million active monthly users. It’s especially popular with teenagers, a demographic commonly referred to as Generation Z. According to the Global Web Index, 41 percent of its users are between 16 and 24 years old. 66 percent of its users are under the age of 30.

Teens are the influencers of today and the buyers of tomorrow

From a business perspective, Generation Z is not quite a prime target for companies at the moment, but they are definitely influencing their parents’ wallets. After all, most social networks have been created with young people in mind, before they spread to older adults. Such was the case with Facebook, originally intended for students. Instagram was initially a simple photo app for teens with a great selection of filters and editing tools. A billion-dollar buyout by Facebook later, it is now serving a much broader audience.

TikTok’s young users are spending massive amounts of time on the app too. Converting Android-based TikTok user engagement data to hourly figures, users spent in excess of 68 billion hours using the platform in 2019. And this number excludes China. Compared to 2018, this represents an eye-popping 210 percent increase. Not only is the user base already massive and growing, teens are spending a lot of time on the app too.

A business opportunity ripe for the picking

Savvy marketers should hurry up and include TikTok in their 2020 marketing plan, especially if they want to get ahead of their competitors.

While 89 percent of marketers are factoring Facebook into their social media marketing strategy for 2020, only four percent are adding TikTok, according to the 2019 Sprout Social Index.

Platforms marketers are adding to their 2020 marketing strategy

Source: Sprout Social Index

So, if currently only four percent of businesses are present on a platform with over 1.5 billion users, there is a lot at play. Now is the time for companies to secure their first-move advantage.

What’s especially noteworthy for marketers is TikTok’s user engagement. The average user spends 52 minutes on the app every day, which is right on par with Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Additionally, users open their app eight times per day on average.

Average time spent on social media

Source: Broadbandsearch.net

The main way businesses should use TikTok mainly as a means of building brand awareness and recognition through targeted campaigns. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, users who go to the apps to find news, hot-takes on political events or to see where their neighbors went for vacation, “TikTokers” spend their time solely for one purpose: to get their daily dose of entertainment and inspiration. Content that is too serious in tone may be off the mark with TikTok’s teens… Companies should embrace the ephemeral nature of how teens interact with the world and provide engaging content. It can take on many forms, whether that is showing off their talented employees or company culture, sharing the fun parts of their day, or creating or joining trends.

The TikTok algorithm

The most important condition for success in TikTok is to create good content. Like most social media platforms, TikTok is all about user-generated content. But unlike Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other sites, it revolves less around people users follow, and more around introducing users to new content. Popular brands that are currently on TikTok have done a great job of using it exactly for what it isa tool to raise brand awareness rather than generating traffic or leads. They’re also using it to engage younger audiences and show off a lighter side of themselves through funny, light-hearted videos and challenges.

Analyzing the presence of brands that have had success on the platform, we can point out the following sectors, that have benefited the most from the young audience and content format:

  • Clothing
  • Media & entertainment
  • Food and beverages
  • Groceries
  • Sports
  • Cosmetics

Following are examples of campaigns that brands have launched on TikTok, their success measured by the number of views and shares:

Coca Cola with their #ShareaCoke challenge, which generated 900,000 videos from their target audience created for the #Challenge, with a combined 200 million views.

Guess with their #InMyDenim challenge. Focused on the millennial and Gen-Z audience, the challenge asked users to share short videos of them flaunting their fashion looks with the branded hashtag. The campaign helped the brand stand out from the crowded space and successfully engage with the targeted audience

Michael Kors with #korsshanghai challenge. The campaign garnered five million streams on influencers’ videos and 30,000 users posted the short video using the hashtag. A challenge, as it suggests, invites users to compete for the most popular video.

Ralph Lauren with #WinningRL challenge to promote the U.S. Open. Users were encouraged to share moments where they won real-life challenges using the hashtag. Through the shoppable feature, TikTok users could shop U.S. open-branded Ralph Lauren products. To top it off, Ralph Lauren partnered with several TikTok creators with a combined reach of over 11 million fans.

Kroger teamed up with four college TikTok creators to encourage users to share pictures of their dorm transformations using the hashtag #TransformUrDorm. Using the sponsored hashtag challenge, Kroger capitalized on the platform’s shoppable content offering, enabling users to shop for a variety of products. the hashtag gained more than 800 million total views.

Chipotle (@chipotle) does an excellent job of sharing original on-brand content with its TikTok audience, while also optimizing the platform’s features. Food brands should definitely check them out for inspiration if they are stuck on how to create content for the platform.

Brands that target younger people have been taking advantage of the platform to create buzz and drive engagement.

Why should businesses be looking at TikTok right now

Now, while TikTok is competing with the big players on the market, the platform serves a different purpose than YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. It’s mainly aimed at content creators. And the ease with which anyone can become a content creator is one of the many factors that give TikTok an advantage over the competition.

Once companies start to realize TikTok is a platform expanding into a strong influencer marketing arena with wild competition and a broad audience, then the challenge becomes creating good content corresponding to TikTok’s principles: fun, interesting and short. Only content ticking all these boxes will be able to become viral, spreading quickly throughout the platform, driving engagement, and thus boosting brand awareness, popularity and, eventually, the all-important sales.


This article was researched and written by Nimdzi’s Data Analyst, Marina Ghazaryan. If you wish to find out more about this topic, please reach out to Marina at marina@nimdzi.com.

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