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May-20-2020   |   by Rokaya Badawy   |   
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Around the world, all of us are stuck at home, bored and scrolling through our feeds on different social media platforms trying to pass the time. During which, almost all of us started encountering an increasing number of TikTok videos in our feeds; whether made by friends or strangers, we can all agree that they were both entertaining and more frequent. Now, what caused such a spike in TikTok activity that showered us all in these short funny videos? 

TikTok at First Glance

TikTok is a video-sharing app that allows users to create 15-second clips over music or soundbites. The app which was founded in 2012 by Chinese entrepreneur Zhang Yiming has grown recently from being a teen and young adult platform to a record-breaking social media application. How did this happen? Let’s find out.

Before everyone was flocking to TikTok, its user base consisted mostly of teenagers whose posts usually included prank videos, dance routines and meme culture references. But since the coronavirus pandemic caused lockdowns forcing people to remain home, almost everyone is now on TikTok!

A new Trend

The popularity of the app initially surged this past March; with TikTok being downloaded 2m times in the 2nd week of the month in the US. Not only did the app record an increase of 48.3% in its unique visitor counts from the beginning of the year till the end of March, but its installations surged by 34% in the UK after the lockdown was enforced. All this gave the app the boost it needed to record the most downloads for any app ever in the first quarter of 2020.

Reasons for the Boom

The first reason all this can be attributed to is that due to lockdowns and educational institutes closing their doors, teen and young adults are spending more time at home. This allows them to have more free time dedicated to applications; especially short video applications. This is reflected through the statistics by Kantar "COVID-19 Barometer" that showed that in the time-frame of one month “from mid-March to mid-April” TikTok usage increased 33% for Gen Z and 27% for the millennial generation.

Another great factor for this boom is the distribution ability of TikTok videos over other websites and applications which results in higher awareness of the app and more traffic directed back to TikTok. This is also exacerbated by the fact that people do not need to create an account and log in to view videos on the app.

We also cannot forget that TikTok itself offers content that combats the overwhelming general sense of anxiety and pressure in this current state of a worldwide pandemic. Kenneth Goldsmith, author, believes that this increase in TikTok usage is a normal and predictable reaction to the global lockdown as people seek it to relieve the tense atmosphere they are living in through its absurd and comical videos.

An additional contributing factor to this phenomenon is that TikTok has always been seen as an “indoor” platform. Users are used to making and watching videos of people in their own homes, as opposed to Instagram for example which is more of an outdoor platform as users usually share their trips and outing photos on it.

All of these reason combines paved a perfect recipe for an increase in users and that resulted in TikTok being another platform through which organizations are reaching to people urging them to practice safety precautions, as was the case with the UK health secretary who uploaded TikTok videos advising people to stay home. The World Health Organization also has a TikTok account with 1.4 million followers. 

Trends related to the COVID-19 pandemic are also frequent on the app. Examples of these include the #IWillSurviveChallenge where users take videos of themselves washing their hands to the titular song, the #StayAtHomeChallenge where people encourage each other to stay home while sharing cooking advice and sports routines.

Future in Advertising

This influx in users may, in the future, drive advertisers to start using TikTok as a new ad platform through which they can reach audiences. Some companies have already used the app for some cause marketing, most notably was Oreo’s #CookieWithACause campaign where they asked users to show the different ways they can get a cookie from their forehead to their mouths without touching it. The aim of the campaign was for Oreo to make a donation to a children-dedicated charity after 1 million videos featuring their challenge are uploaded.

At the end of the day, whatever the reason or effects of the TikTok boom, the application has been able to provide a safe haven for users to escape the hard times they are living in. At the same time, allowing them to share videos of themselves doing silly things while locked indoors and providing them with joy and comfort while the world around them is changing.

 

References:

https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/tiktok-crosses-2bn-downloads-after-racking-up-500m-in-just-5-months/

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/apr/26/how-coronavirus-helped-tiktok-find-its-voice 

https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/coronavirus-quarantine-appears-to-be-driving-a-global-tiktok-download-boom/ 

https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-consumers-are-flocking-to-tiktok

https://www.newsweek.com/tiktok-users-soar-viral-videos-coronavirus-covid-19-1494229

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