Gen Z TikTok: What The Growth of TikTok Says About Gen Z (2023) 

Marketing to Gen Z? TikTok is where you should be. But what do young people love about the platform - and what does that say about them? Here’s all you need to know.
Fanbytes | Gen Z TikTok

In 30 seconds:

  • TikTok has over 2 billion downloads- and in 2021 it was 60% Gen Z. Now that stat is over 40%. But not because Gen Z is leaving. Quite the opposite. We’ll fill you in on the latest.
  • If you want to pitch to Gen Z, TikTok isn’t just where to access them – it can help you understand them too.
  • Why should your brand care? We’re detailing each critical element of TikTok that makes Gen Z love it.

There’s no point fishing in an empty pond. If you’re looking to reach Gen Z, TikTok is the place to find your catch. Our own research shows it’s this generation’s favourite social media platform – and it’s where they’re most likely to interact with brands.

TikTok has changed the way we consume social media. Its recommendation algorithm serves users content based on interests rather than interpersonal connections, and this focus on passion over popularity clearly speaks to Gen Z

So what does the growth of TikTok tell us about this next generation of customers?  In this article, we’re taking a look at Gen Z on TikTok: why they love it – and what that says about them

Learning why TikTok is popular can help you unlock a whole new generation of fans for your brand, boosting ROI on campaigns and increasing long-term customer acquisition for a user base worth holding onto (with their spending power at over $140 billion, you may want to hold on tight).

The rise of TikTok

Once upon a time, there was an app called specialising in lip sync videos. Chinese tech company ByteDance seized the opportunity to merge this app with its owwn, Douyin. The international version of this became TikTok.

The platform became the fastest growing app in 2020 and has now risen to reach 1 billion monthly active global users. You simply cannot ignore its influence, especially amongst young audiences. 

TikTok is here to stay, and brands looking to unlock its power should take note.

What percent of Gen Z use TikTok?

Over half of Gen Z consumers were on TikTok in 2021. And 46% of 13-19-year-olds said they were using the platform daily. Nowadays, however, this generation makes up over 40% of the app’s users. So why the drop? 

Zoomers aren’t leaving the app. In fact, according to our data, 69% of Gen Zers say they’ve had an account, and 34% claim it’s the ‘platform they spend the most time on’. The reason the total percentage of Gen Z on the app is decreasing is because TikTok is growing. Millennials and older generations are joining TikTok and enjoying what it has to offer too, making the audience pool wider. 

You can discover more about how TikTok demographics are changing in our article, TikTok Demographics: Who’s Using TikTok Now? 

But despite older users jumping on board, TikTok is still a firm favourite amongst Gen Z, with young consumers, with 70% of Gen Z TikTok users saying they would recommend it to others. 

With so many social networks available to these digital natives, it’s crucial to know why this social media channel is close to their hearts. So what draws this demographic to TikTok over others? Let’s go through it.

Why is TikTok so appealing for Gen Z?

Just as the times they’ve grown up in have been complex, Gen Z’s digital wants and needs are varied. What can we learn about younger consumers from TikTok? There are plenty of reasons TikTok attracts them, so let’s examine just why it ticks their boxes.

1. TikTok is personalised

TikTok has a discovery feed customised to each individual user. The “For You Page” or FYP delivers curated content upon entering the app. The TikTok algorithm tracks watch-through rates, likes, comments and shares to work out what will interest the user most. That personalisation resonates with Gen Z

A study showed that 41% of Gen Z would provide their data for a personalised experience. That’s a mighty number when you think about the rising reluctance to hand out information online. 

Gen Z are much more likely to engage when you’ve taken their wants, needs, and desires into consideration. Gen Z TikTok users know that the more content they consume, the more tailored – and better – their experience will be. 

Why should your brand care?

58% of Gen Zers are willing to pay more for products targeted to their personalities and 77% of Gen Z believe it’s important for businesses to customise interactions. It’s clear why Gen Z likes TikTok’s ultra-curated approach. So how can brands personalise experiences for these young consumers?

The most important step is understanding your audience. If you get to know who you’re speaking to on the app, you’ll be able to create hyper-targeted content that will resonate with the right users. Researching which communities you want your brand to click with will help you create more applicable content. 

The more applicable the content, the more likely the TikTok algorithm is to promote it to other like-minded users, the more likely you’ll set off chains of UGC or discussions and tags in video comments, and the more likely your brand will grow. 

TikTok has become a hub for personalised marketing, so use it to create bespoke content and experiences that will help your strategy succeed.

2. TikTok is video-first

The constant stream of short-form videos on TikTok helped it differentiate from other social platforms. It’s this catchy, video-first identity that makes the app unique. 

Other social media platforms have adapted to compete. Instagram introduced Reels, Youtube introduced Youtube Shorts, Facebook integrated the “watch” feed, and Snapchat’s “remix” feature is similar to TikTok’s “duet”. But TikTok holds the crown for video-first visuals. Its offering is neatly centred on this. 

Gen Z are the most likely age group to watch videos on social media. Now, Gen Z watches over 7.2 hours of videos daily, so TikTok is the place to capture their attention.

Why should your brand care?

91% of Gen Z prefer video content over other marketing formats. This is why TikTok videos are a fantastic way to market eye-catching campaigns that speak directly to Generation Z. TikTok is known for its short, snappy content and since 79% of Gen Zers stream short-form content it’s the perfect place to spark their interest. But this generation isn’t just here for the quick wins. 

They have the capacity to watch long-form content too. 59% of Gen Z watch longer versions of videos that they discover on short-form video apps. What does this mean? 

Brands have the opportunity to engage Gen Z with quick, entertaining content on TikTok to draw them into the bigger brand picture. Once you have their interest, you can bring them onto nurture sequences, including larger communities and even other marketing sources and touch points. Then you can communicate, connect and create long-lasting relationships with these consumers.

3. TikTok feels good

One of the defining elements of TikTok is its ability to make its users feel good. 31% of Gen Z TikTok users include “lifting my spirits” as one of the top three reasons for returning to it. 

Our own research shows that 76% of Gen Z said the purpose of TikTok is for ‘comedy and humour’. That desire for fun is meaningful and has helped them traverse some difficult times. 72% of Gen Zers said coronavirus memes made them feel “capable of getting through” the pandemic. 

This desire for fun hasn’t dropped. 

TikTok influencers play a large role in entertaining Gen Z. They can do it at superspeed (useful as your window to attract their attention is 8 seconds). Their followers feel instantly good. When you consider how crowded older social apps are, TikTok’s positivity presents a clear opportunity to stand out for all the right reasons.

Why should your brand care?

When you consider 97% of Gen Z use social media as their main source of shopping inspiration, TikTok is incredibly exciting. It’s a way to shout about your brand – and make your customer feel good at the same time. That’s a connection that’s hard to beat.

Gen Z don’t just want entertainment from other users. They’re looking for fun from brands too. When asked what they like most about the brands they follow on TikTok, 34% of Gen Zers said ‘they have funny content’, 31% said ‘they entertain me’, 11% said ‘they teach me new things.’ In fact, when Gen Z were asked what the best ways for brands to engage with them on TikTok were, the largest percent (28%) stated ‘make me laugh’. 

This goes to show that, for Gen Z, even retail and brand experiences are inherently social, and should be entertaining. Brands that can effectively communicate in this manner will reap the rewards on TikTok – and on their bottom line.

4. TikTok is trusted

Gen Z may have grown tired of heavily edited, unrealistic social media images. But TikTok is different. 64% of users say they can be their true selves on the platform, while 56% of Gen Z TikTok users say they can post videos they wouldn’t post elsewhere – because of the platform’s less synthetic feel. 

This is game-changing news for Gen Z, and it’s no wonder they love it. 

We are talking about the next generation of trend-setters. They look for truth and gravitate towards real stories. Since TikTok is predominantly video-based, it’s more important than ever to be authentic instead of hiding behind highly edited ads or unattainable aesthetics. 

Why should your brand care?

53% of TikTok users say they trust others to be their natural selves on TikTok. This increased trust leads to stronger engagement and delivers a deeper connection with users. They want to see this with brands too. 

When asked what brands get wrong on TikTok, 39% of Gen Zers said ‘ads are false or inauthentic’, and 20% said ‘ads are too perfect and edited’. How can brands make sure they’re not guilty of this? 

Fanbytes by Brainlabs’ Brand Partnerships Manager, Markus Rytkonen says, “The best performing ads on TikTok are those that feel authentic and native to the platform, with the viewer only realising it was an ad at the end! 

“Using Influencers to create UGC for ads means that you can embed your brand’s ad into viewers’ everyday feeds, without it feeling out of place and interrupting their experience.”

Is working with any influencer your automatic ticket to gaining Gen Z’s trust? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. 

Although 52% of Gen Z indicate that they trust influencers‘ advice on the products and brands they affiliate themselves with, you need to remember that Zoomers are digitally savvy. They want to see true connections and meaningful content. Partnering up with any old influencer won’t cut it. You have to work with creators who align with your values and care about your product. Otherwise, your young Gen Z audience is likely to become brand sceptics rather than brand ambassadors. 

We created our award-winning in-house social listening and data insights tool, Bytesights, to identify the perfect TikTok influencers for any campaign – including creators who’ve organically mentioned your brand, who have engaged in relevant TikTok trends, and who are growing quickly in your niche.

Working with these creators boosts brand sentiment, increases sales conversions, and nurtures long-lasting consumer relationships.

5. TikTok sets trends

There’s a reason TikTok’s slogan is “Trends start here”. They really do. TikTok is the new source for cultural trends – and Gen Z are first in line to see and create them. 

The most viewed video of 2020 on TikTok was Bella Poarch’s lip-sync rendition of grime song, M to the B. This became a viral TikTok trend, with thousands of users having a go at lip-syncing to the same audio, imitating Bella’s content. 

There’s a reason TikTok’s slogan is “Trends start here”. They really do. TikTok is the new source for cultural trends – and Gen Z are first in line to see and create them. 

The most viewed video of 2020 on TikTok was Bella Poarch’s lip-sync rendition of grime song, M to the B. This became a viral TikTok trend, with thousands of users having a go at lip-syncing to the same audio, imitating Bella’s content. 

But the same can be said for any user who makes influential TikTok videos – you don’t have to be a huge name to spark a trend. On TikTok, users fall in love with ideas first, whether that’s a trending song, popular video concept or a viral visual aspect.

And, as in the case of Bella Poarch, your viral video can be the thing that makes you famous.

Why should your brand care?

Trendsetting is not just for individuals; it’s for brands too. 79% of Gen Z TikTok users find content on TikTok to be unique to the platform. TikTok is the go-to place to get your product or service trending – and get younger generations promoting organic growth through user-generated content. 

The most essential part of this is knowing what’s hot. That means staying up to date on the latest trends, leveraging them when you can (as long as your brand messaging can fit into them authentically) and then keeping up that engagement. How can you keep an eye on what’s current?

We have a shortcut. Sign up for our TikTok Trends newsletter to keep in the know.

6. TikTok encourages participation

Gen Z TikTokers aren’t just downloading and absorbing content. They’re creating it. 83% of TikTokers have created a video themselves. Since the platform makes it so easy to create, with intuitive in-app features and a simple interface, it’s no wonder Gen Z are ready to put their content out there. 

In addition to this, TikTok is an egalitarian space where anyone can go viral, and anyone can speak with the same volume as big brands or influencers. That makes it a rewarding place to create, too. 

Gen Z are creators at heart. Having grown up in a digital world, creating in-app videos is second nature to them. Almost a fifth of Gen Zers are intent on making social media content creation their full-time job. So they’re here for the creation as well as the consumption.

Why should your brand care?

Participation on TikTok has helped create the #tiktokmademebuyit phenomenon, seeing many brands skyrocket to success. 

Participation is so crucial for social commerce on TikTok that it’s transforming the traditional marketing funnel. With so many young people creating on the app, the power of UGC is causing a must-join shopping movement with a powerful “loop” of customer intent. 

97% of Gen Z use social media as their shopping inspiration. But in 2023, that inspirational content on TikTok is doing more marketing than ever.

Like any traditional marketing funnel, the loop begins with “discovery” as the first phase (where users see a product that they desire). Then it’s the consideration phase, where they might do their research on the product – by checking TikTok comments, for instance, or searching for more TikTok video reviews. Next we have the purchase stage. (where TikTok’s in-app shopping tools may help).

But it’s post-purchase on TikTok where things get interesting. 

The review phase represents the stage where customers share their feelings and impressions. On TikTok, this is often part and parcel of an exciting addition: participation

On TikTok, review videos often go viral. This promotes products to other users and restarts the loop for more would-be customers.

Brands who successfully market through participation-led campaigns on TikTok can trigger a chain reaction, promoting further platform growth and custom

Gen Z wants to participate with brands online, so to get them to stop scrolling, brands should create entertaining, engaging content that helps form this loop. 

Want to know more? Check out our article, How to Use TikTok for Social Commerce.

7. TikTok is the new Google (but better)

Although TikTok isn’t a search engine in and of itself, it does have searchable features that are changing the way online discovery works. 

Gen Z are increasingly using TikTok to search for topics, discussions and ideas and it’s leading them to christen it the “new Google”.  In fact, nearly 40% of Gen Z members prefer TikTok for online searches. So how does it work? 

When you Google search for something, you type it into the engine and receive millions of results based on the keywords you put in. Usually, these results contain the empirical answer to your search query. But what if you’re not looking for something specific? What if you want to find conversations around a subject or the latest news or gossip on a particular topic? That’s where TikTok comes into its own. 

TikTok search is where Gen Z searches for fashion inspo, news, reviews or conversations. The app also suggests search terms based on videos they are already watching, helping users discover more interesting themes. 

The best part? Once Gen Z has discovered content around their searches, the algorithm will continue promoting relevant videos around these terms to their FYP. So they get continuous discovery even after they’ve searched for what they’re looking for.

That’s like Google telling you what to google next – but more fun!

Why should your brand care?

Brands can use this search function to effectively harness and direct traffic. In order to do so, you need to understand the kind of content your audience might be searching for. 

SEO on TikTok is key. For Gen Z, it’s all about keeping it relevant. Your video descriptions need to match your user’s search intent, and you can even leverage influencers to directly inspire increased search volumes

Interestingly, TikTok search can directly impact Google searches. Data from Google has shown spikes in searches from items that began to trend on TikTok – like a 501% increase in Google searches for a ‘Negroni Sbagliato’ after an audio from Game of Thrones stars discussing the drink went viral. 

We’ve also noticed Google search trends in ‘TikTok makeup products’ and ‘TikTok fashion’ – indicating that young Gen Zers are searching for trending TikTok content, even when they’re not on the platform.

Utilising TikTok search and TikTok SEO will help you speak directly to Zoomers and expand your reach through Google itself. Want to learn more about the opportunity? Take a look at our article, TikTok Search: How Marketers Can Reach Young Audiences Now.

8. TikTok promotes community

TikTok says it is “building a global community” on its app. Gen Z TikTokers agree with this: by joining TikTok, Gen Z feel like they are becoming part of something bigger.  

Globally, 59% of users feel a sense of community when they are on the platform. This is particularly important when considering how the pandemic impacted Gen Z’s formative years. Generation Z rely on social media for rich social interaction. Community is essential to them. 

TikTok is the ideal place to find communities. TikTok audiences say the platform is 1.48x more likely to help them explore new communities and content. The highly intuitive algorithm makes it easier than ever to find groups that interest you, making it a haven for community-searching Gen Z

Why should your brand care?

A thriving community means young people can communicate with one another. This promotes word of mouth encouragement, brand loyalty and user-generated content (UGC). If you can create a brand community on TikTok, you’ll be winning. Creating and nurturing a brand community will increase organic growth and help you with long term customer relationships. 

What’s one of the top ways to do this?

Answer: Influencer marketing. TikTok has a higher engagement rate for influencers than Instagram and Youtube put together. This is just one tool your brand should leverage to connect with customers, but there are plenty. Check out our article Brand Community: How to Skyrocket Your Brand to find out more.

9. TikTok is forward-thinking and inclusive

If you’re reaching Gen Z, TikTok doesn’t just go deeper – it has breadth, too. The video app is available in 155 markets and 75 languages. It’s known for giving users around the world a voice to create. 

TikTok is known for its niche communities, as the app’s personalisation algorithm allows users to discover hashtags and content buckets related to their taste and favourite activities. This fosters spaces where TikTokers can share with like-minded others.

As a result, TikTok content isn’t homogenised: it celebrates different perspectives. That’s an important factor for promoting diversity.

Why does this matter? TikTok doesn’t just find you a global audience, it allows you to resonate with their beliefs. Diversity matters to Gen Z through many dimensions, including race, gender, identity and orientation. They are the most diverse generation yet and so they want to see brands celebrate that.  

Why should your brand care?

76% of Gen Zers feel diversity and inclusion is an essential topic for brands to address. Speaking directly to Generation Z while promoting diverse stories means brands will connect deeper, sparking and associating with positive social change. 

Remember, you can’t just make claims without backing them up. Gen Z are savvy and know when a brand is saying something just for show. Your brand values need to align with what you say on TikTok, and your actions speak louder than words. 

Gen Z are activists and they don’t generally trust big business, so if you want to get them on board with your brand, make sure you speak truthfully about your causes.

You need to reach Gen Z. TikTok is how.

So now you know why Gen Z loves TikTok, it’s time to take your brand to them. 

60% of Gen Z TikTok users say they follow brands on the platform, and an average of 52% say they search for products or shop on TikTok. This is ground-breaking, and the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt viral sensation is the cherry on top.

So how can you make yourself a success on TikTok? Consider what it is about the platform that Gen Z TikTokers love. Be personal. Be real. Make your viewers feel good. Show them you care – and have fun!

The TikTok algorithm won’t punish you if your content doesn’t work, so make sure to keep trying different content ideas to reach your audience and start building a strong community on the app. 

Here at Fanbytes by Brainlabs, we know a thing or two about the social media platform. Our experience with global enterprises has fuelled our expertise, allowing us to help brand campaigns maximise ROI and overachieve targets. 

Get in touch to find out how our services could help, or take a peek at our case studies to see our work in action.

Looking for more? We have plenty more insights on starting Gen Z TikTok trends and why TikTok is the best entertainment platform for Gen Z:

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