Want to know what music is hot? Get on TikTok

by Enton Lok

Want to get a quick overview of what TikTok is? Watch this video right now.

What is TikTok | ABC News

TikTok, previously known as Musical.ly, is one of the fastest-growing social media today. The Vine alike Chinese-owned social platform allows users to upload 15-second videos onto their own channels. Similar to many other social media, users can follow, like, comment and share other people’s content. The platform now has more than 1.5 billion users, and it ranks after WhatsApp and Messenger as the third most downloaded non-gaming app of the year. It has the highest popularity in China and the United States and trending quickly in India. Besides short vlogs and comedy content, challenges, such as lip-syncing and dancing, are very popular on the app. Here are a few examples:

YouTubers React To And Try TikTok Challenges | FBE

As shown in the video above, many challenges are corresponding to a specific song. According to Rolling Stone, the platform is impacting pop music. TikTok has “become a staging ground for hits – Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road,’… Ambjay’s ‘Uno,’ Y2k and bbno$’s ‘Lalala,’ and … Lizzo’s ‘Good as Hell’ – before they crash into the mainstream.” Many new artists are looking into launching their next big hit on TikTok prior to anywhere else.

The same phenomenon happened in China as well. All users can upload their audio template to the platform for others to use, so the app and the community have made a few amateur artists gain their popularity before going mainstream. Here is a famous TikTok viral song from China called Learn How to Meow:

Learn How to Meow

The unique features of TikTok and the culture of participating in viral challenges provide huge marketing opportunities for brands. Having an iconic jingle for a marketing campaign is nothing new and now with the help of social media, the right idea can be amplified to a global level. It would be interesting to see how brands are going to emerge onto the platform and what kind of creative campaigns they are going to launch on TikTok.

This Article Has 9 Comments
  1. Hana C. says:

    Enton, I personally do not have Tik Tok and don’t currently have plans on getting it, but wow – I think this is the first major social media platform I haven’t adopted since the Myspace days. For me, Tik Tok is too much effort. I can’t envision myself creating entertaining videos to post, when I barely post photos on Instagram as it is. I wonder if this is why Tik Tok is only really being adopted by younger audiences?

    On another note, I had no idea what a useful platform Tik Tok can be for the music industry. It completely makes sense, because on Facebook I see ads ALL the time promoting Tik Tok videos with up-and-coming songs. I can only imagine how much these songs must be being used on the actual platform. I wonder what other things people will figure out to promote on Tik Tok? It is so unique in that it is really a social platform that is centered around entertainment, not so much influence.

  2. Drew Hanson says:

    This is a great write-up about a giant emerging opportunity for brands. I found out about a German-based comedy/music duo because they released a video with a unique dance and thousands of people took to Tik-Tok to do their own versions. The funny thing is, I’m not even on Tik-Tok. The videos were being re-uploaded to other social sites like Imgur and Giphy then reshared on Reddit, Facebook and Twitter. The Tik-Tok watermark was still present in those uploads. The point is TIk-Tok has reach well beyond its native environment and marketers across the globe should get on this while its hot.

  3. Anna says:

    Thank you Enton for explaining Tiktok, I was not in the know before reading your blogpost. I now have hope that TikTok will usher in a new golden age of jingles. The viral challenge aspect is fascinating to me because it seems to be more about the variety of people participating than obsessing over one perfect person. There’s something hopeful about that. I happen to love the guy doing the meow dance in his seat belt. It honestly reminds me of the early days of YouTube. If the ap continues I expect it to be monetized and transformed by new commercial applications, just as YouTube has been.

  4. Alisha S says:

    I’m also appreciative of the TikTok lesson – thanks, Enton!

    I don’t use TikTok and I don’t currently plan on downloading the app, but that could change in the coming months if TikTok continues to grow in popularity and relevance. I see my niece’s TikTok videos on Instagram and think they’re goofy, which is the extent of my relationship with that platform. Similar to what Hana mentioned, I don’t know if I have the time to make my own content regularly. Also, I’m not a big selfie person so posting videos of myself sounds even worse.

    Enton is definitely on to something when he mentions that the participation culture & virality of TikTok make it a breeding ground for innovative marketing campaigns. I wonder what types of marketing currently take place? Are there ads on TikTok? It’s a whole new frontier of marketing & advertising that incorporates consumer involvement, similar to social videos that Billie discussed in Donna’s class.

  5. Thank you for sharing this, Enton! I’m definitely in the same boat as everyone above me who has commented–I had no idea what Tik Tok really was. However, I’ve got to say I shouldn’t be shocked, but I am, at the reach Tik Tok has had in the short time it’s been available to users. It really makes me wonder what’s the difference between Tik Tok and Vine when it comes to success. I have a hunch that it’s due to Tik Tok allowing users to share other user’s content. From what I remember with Vine, the sharing capabilities were pretty limited. I also think that Vine might’ve been ahead of it’s time. When Vine launched, it was definitely marketed towards millennials at the time. However, millennials don’t seem to be all that interested in shorter videos, but more static content like pictures on Instagram (this is definitely a generalization and my own opinion). I think today’s Gen Z that Tik Tok is marketed toward gravitate much more to interactive, video content.

    After learning more about Tik Tok, I don’t think I’ll ever download it. As someone who doesn’t even really use Instagram, I can’t see myself getting into the Tik Tok game unless I needed to create a communications campaign directed toward younger generations. Since social media is ever-evolving, I’m curious what will be the next big thing in the social media world after Tik Tok’s popularity plateaus. Only time will tell!

  6. Hayley S says:

    Enton, thanks for keeping me on the cutting edge of the trendy social channel. While I cannot comment on the music scene, I found Tonight Show Jimmy Fallon’s take on TikTok a valuable lesson for a brand to raise its visibility and earn positive recognition. The show decided to join the bandwagon in November 2018. Its first “Tumbleweed Challenge” invited folks to put their own spin on the bushy plant, dropping to the ground and rolling around to a John Wayne-like song of the Western wild.

    Fallon’s Tumbleweed Challenge resulted in record engagement for TikTok: 10.4 million engagements and 8,000+ challenge submissions, the most since the app’s launch in 2016. Anecdotally, Fallon benefited from the use of TikTok, giving his show a brand marketing boost at a time when ratings have tumbled down the drain these last three years (pun intended). TikTok was a natural entry point for Fallon, and it worked well, with several more challenges thrown out to his viewers. After all, staying relevant and adding his own take on trending topics like TikTok are foundational to what he does as an entertainment show host.

    Overall, I am skeptical of adding TikTok to an already burgeoning social lineup. While the channel may prove valuable for some brands, for others, it appears more like a “Random Act of Marketing.”

    Jimmy Fallon Tumbleweed Challenge:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lq7CCoCO6j4
    https://www.tubefilter.com/2018/11/20/jimmy-fallon-tiktok-the-tonight-show-partnership/
    Washington Post TikTok:
    https://www.tiktok.com/@washingtonpost?refer=embed

  7. Gabby Sullivan says:

    I definitely agree with your statement that, “The unique features of TikTok and the culture of participating in viral challenges provide huge marketing opportunities for brands.” Unfortunately, it seems like few of us have a good understanding of TikTok and how to use it, myself included. I asked one of my high school students about the platform and he seemed frustrated trying to explain to me what was cool and what was not on TikTok, which definitely made me feel older than 25. With technology and trends evolving so rapidly, I think the more effective solution to adapting our communications to these new apps and trends is to collaborate with native users themselves, rather than trying to guess at the right approach.

  8. Kristin S. says:

    Thanks for this background synopsis, Enton. I “joined” Tik Tok because so many of my students were using it and talking about it. This is going to sound real old–but I can’t say I’ve figured out how to work it yet. I am able to watch content that other users create though, and have found that both very fun and very interesting. I was struck by a couple things, particularly as they relate to youth. First, how addictive the platform is. The infinity scrolling and engaging 15 seconds have me consistently telling myself I’m only going to watch 3 videos, then emerging from a haze of repetitive songs 30 minutes later. Don’t get me wrong, I generally enjoy every moment of my wasted time there.

    Second, I was struck by how much sexualized/pornified content was on there. Of course, this is nothing new for a social media platform, and actual pornography is banned (though it seems slow to be removed), but sexualized content is not. And, just like other platforms with built-in incentivizing, there is a real draw for young girls and teens to sexualize their content–because that’s what they’re seeing others do to become “successful.” Because of the ways that people can like and share other users’ content, this has been exploited by child predators who are sending young people innappropriate messages and asks for nudes, or recycling others’ created content with their own.
    https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ryanhatesthis/tiktok-has-a-predator-problem-young-women-are-fighting-back
    https://www.businesstoday.in/opinion/perspective/tik-tok-porn-problem-why-the-social-media-app-is-more-susceptible/story/340499.html
    https://fightthenewdrug.org/what-you-need-to-know-about-porn-and-child-predators-on-tiktok/

    So, just like the users spoke to, as fun as the app is, there is certainly a darker side as well. It has me both excited for young creators, and worried about the effect it might have on teens.

  9. Rui Sun says:

    Having younger siblings, Tik Tok is definitely something that I have seen and heard about. I had some idea of the popularity but nothing this in-depth. Thank you for the lesson. 🙂

    While Tik Tok is obviously on the rise, I wonder how long it will be around. Vine was once very popular as well and it didn’t last very long. Even though I don’t believe Vine had the same popularity as Tik Tok, it does make me wonder how other social platforms will update to try to squeeze Tik Tok out.

    It also makes me wonder how quickly other social platforms compare to Tik Tok in their earlier stages.

    Very insightful! Thanks Enton.

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