Explained: What is TikTok?

What is TikTok? Users are flocking to the app in their millions. What is TikTok’s special sauce, and how can you use it? Here’s what you need to know.
Fanbytes | What is TikTok?

In 30 seconds:

  • TikTok has been downloaded over three billion times. But what even is it, why is it so popular, and why should your brand care? Read on, and we promise you’ll find out all of the above and more.
  • Gen Z makes up 60% of TikTok users. So if you’re looking to target them, you’ll need to know all about this game-changing app.
  • What sort of videos do you get on TikTok? We’ll go through our top choices, cherry-picked just for you.

The world of social media is constantly growing, and in 2016 it had a new kid on the block. Enter TikTok

TikTok is the fastest growing social media app in the world. It was the most downloaded app globally in 2020 and now has over 1 billion monthly active users. What is TikTok? Answer: big.

35% of TikTok‘s global audience is between the ages of 19 and 29, and 28% is under 18. It’s the number one app for younger generations. So if your brand is looking to pitch to Gen Z or millennials, you need to know about it. 

Most people by now will have heard of the worldwide phenomenon. But not everyone gets exactly what it is or how you use it. 

Luckily, if this is you, you’ve landed in the right place. 

We’ve put together everything you need to know about the trendsetting app so you can access, use and understand TikTok like the back of your hand.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media platform that allows you to upload and engage with short, snappy videos (usually up to 60 seconds long).

The company states that they are “the leading destination for short-form mobile video.” With the way their downloads are skyrocketing, it’s easy to agree. 

The app is designed around entertainment and claims to be a place for people to “inspire creativity and bring joy.” 

But where did it all start?

The TikTok story

It’s 2016. Pokemon Go has boomed, Snapchat has just surpassed Twitter in daily active users, and Harambe the gorilla is a big subject online. But simmering in the background is the birth of a new social media giant. 

ByteDance, the Chinese tech company, saw the opportunity to buy a small but fast-growing lip-syncing app, Musical.ly

ByteDance already had its own lip-syncing app named Douyin. The company bought Musical.ly for up to $1 billion. They then merged Douyin and Musical.ly to make a new video-sharing app and named it TikTok. Even the TikTok app‘s logo is a hybrid of Douyin’s and Musical.ly’s logos.

Experts value TikTok at $50 billion. It’s now available in more than 200 countries. In China, parent company Bytedance kept the social network‘s original name Douyin and provides it as a separate app for Chinese users. In 2020, Douyin achieved a total of 600 million daily active users, so it’s also hugely prevalent.

How does TikTok compare to Musical.ly?

There are two main contrasts between TikTok and its original video-sharing sister. Musical.ly was an app that allowed you to share 15-second lip-syncing videos to songs, music and other audio. But that’s pretty much it. It didn’t give you as much freedom to create videos as TikTok now does. 

TikTok has been compared to Vine because of its focus on short-form videos. But where Vine focused on 6-second long clips, TikTok allows 60 seconds – with options for longer, including livestream.

TikTok has grown far bigger and provided more options to young creatives bringing forward awesome content on the video app than any predecessor. It allows users to express themselves openly.

Fanbytes | What is TikTok - How does TikTok work?

How does TikTok work?

So you know a bit more about the Tiktok app and what it does. But how can you use it? Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started:

1. Sign up and create a profile

You can download TikTok from Apple‘s AppStore for iOS or the Google Play store for Android. You can sign up via phone, email, Google or Facebook. It’s relatively easy to do. You can add a photo to your profile, plus a bio to tell people what you’re all about.

2. Search for videos and engage in other content

Once you’ve got a TikTok account, you can start getting inspired. The “For You” feed will show you videos based on your interests and interactions with the app. Get scrolling! Liking the videos or leaving a comment will make the “For You” page more tailored to you as the app learns your preferences. 

3. Post a video

To post a video in the app, all you need to do is tap the centre icon at the bottom of the screen. On the right of the screen, you’ll then see some options:

Speed: Select the speed of your video, from superfast speed to slow motion. 

Beauty: Adapt the way you look with a filter. It can hide blemishes (although we’re sure you look fabulous as you are).

Filter: This changes the aesthetic of your video with different coloured hues. 

Timer: This sets a timer for auto-recording. It’s a nifty tool that’s easily adjustable. 

Flash: Determines whether your camera flash is on or off. 

You can then add sounds and music from the top button visible, “Add a sound”. 

You can record videos for up to 60 seconds in 15-second sections. If you want to post a longer piece of content, you need to record elsewhere then upload it from your camera roll. 

Looking for some more tips on how your brand can use TikTok and post killer content? We wrote this handy article on everything you need to know about TikTok marketing here

Fanbytes | What is TikTok - Why is TikTok so popular?

Why is TikTok so popular?

TikTok TikTok TikTok. It’s a hot topic. Everyone talks about it. But the serious question all brands need to be asking is why? What is TikTok’s special sauce? People are flocking to the app in their millions, and it’s only getting bigger. 

Gen Z loves the platform (we wrote about why that is, here). But businesses everywhere are figuring out that it’s not just younger demographics. It’s a globally growing app that may well overtake other social media channels. 

So we jotted down some of the many reasons people just can’t get enough of scrolling through the wonderful collage of content on TikTok.

TikTok champions short-form videos

In the world of social media, video is king. People share videos at twice the rate of any other form of content, and TikTok has shone a spotlight on this type of media. 

Despite the impressively long screen time TikTok commands, TikTok is the master of short-form content. That’s perfect for its majority user base of Gen Z, who have an 8-second attention span.

Combining video with short-form messaging is a match made in marketing heaven. 68% of people will happily watch a business video if it’s under a minute, so it goes to show that your brand needs to leverage short-form video content wherever possible.

TikTok promotes digital wellbeing

TikTok’s global marketing director Stefan Heinrich Henriquez explained to PRWeek that people were experiencing social media fatigue on other platforms. Hence, they gravitate towards TikTok because it’s a “happier place”. 

TikTok users agree. 31% of TikTokers included “lifting my spirits” as one of the top three reasons for returning to the platform again and again.

In short, it’s entertaining, and who doesn’t love to discover something fun?

TikTok has a sense of community

The platform has become so much more than a social media channel. It’s a community. Users engage with each other and create a sense of connection. 59% of TikTokers get a feeling of community when they are on the app.

With the pandemic and lockdowns causing us to feel so isolated, it’s no wonder the social media platform is growing so rapidly.

TikTok has an abundance of influencers

TikTok is currently the number two app for influencer partnerships, and as more young people flock to the platform, it’s likely to become number one. 70% of teens trust influencers more than traditional celebrities, so TikTok is becoming rich with influencer marketing opportunities to reach Gen Z

If you’re a bit lost on how to discover the right TikTok influencer for you, take a look at our roster of influencers, Bytesized talent. We’ll help you find the perfect star to promote your business.

TikTok is authentic and different

Moving away from the curated picture and text “false impressions” of other social media apps, video is key to feeling connected. It encourages more naturalistic content, and people can engage directly with other users. 

64% of users say they can be their true selves on TikTok, and 91% of users find its content different from any other competitive platform.

Those are groundbreaking statistics. If we could look into a crystal ball, we’d say that in the not too distant future, TikTok will become the most unique and authentic platform in the social media circle.

Fanbytes | What is TikTok - Find TikTok videos

The top 5 types of TikTok videos

Once you’ve been flicking through your “For You” feed for a while, you’ll notice certain types of videos popping up. You’ll see content creators jumping on trends or memes and creating catchy content. There are tons of varied videos on the platform (and what you see will largely depend on what the algorithm shows you), but these represent the cream of the TikTok crop.


What does “Flip the switch”, “Wipe it down”, and “Level up” all have in common?

They’re all TikTok challenges that went viral. Most challenges on the app are relatively simple, but entertaining. They are brilliant for brands because they create user generated content (UGC) and promote organic reach. 

Gen Z are way ahead on the UGC argument, with 35% of them believing that future user-generated content will have more credibility than marketing content that comes from a company or independent source. So get started and create challenges whilst the trends are hot.

Lip-syncing videos

Say hello to the original type of content on TikTok. Musical.ly’s original style perseveres, as lip-syncing has become one of the number one video styles on the platform. 

The most viewed and liked TikTok video is a lip-sync video from Bella Poarch @bellapoarch (with 54 million likes). Many TikTok users joined the trend by creating a duet – something we go into more detail here. It’s safe to say that musical content is incredibly popular.

TikTok Dance

The #dance hashtag has accumulated 181 billion views on the platform. TikTok dances have become a famous staple and peaked throughout the pandemic. We all remember videos of our front line workers bringing a bit of happiness through viral moves. The good news is, they’re here to stay. There are still plenty of catchy dances circulating the channel.

Be up to speed and get moving to the beat of this trend. You don’t need to be a dance professional to make your own video. The key is to have fun!

Pet videos

Did you know that watching cute animal videos can reduce your stress levels by nearly 50%? Well, you do now, and a lot of TikTok users can confirm it. 

Since the dawn of the years-old Internet “doggo” and “I can has cheeseburger”, dogs and cat videos have become increasingly popular online. On TikTok, it’s no different. These types of content consistently go viral.

Oddly satisfying videos

Whether cutting through kinetic sand, squidging slime, or seamlessly slicing soap, calming and satisfying TikTok videos are more popular than ever. 

#oddlysatisfying has clocked up 25.9 billion views on TikTok alone. Are you feeling zen yet?

Now you’ve got the picture…

TikTok is a brilliant app that will help transform your business’ marketing campaigns, whether you’re a startup or an established global brand.

Understanding it puts you in pole position to better brand awareness. 

But why should you care so much?

93% of marketers say they’ve landed new customers thanks to a video on social media

Guess what? TikTok is all video. It’s innovative, growing, and soon it will be the number one place to pitch to the most connected demographics

Make sure your brand is first in line. 

If you’re wondering what the next step is, we’re here to support your brand and launch it to new heights on social media. We can work with you to create intelligent influencer marketing campaigns on TikTok to land safely in the hearts of Gen Z. Take a look at our talent roster, as well as the awesome services we offer.

Looking for more? Find out how brands can master TikTok with the links below. 

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