TikTok Growth Predictions For 2021: What’s In Store For TikTok?

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TikTok Growth In 2020

2020 has been TikTok’s year. It’s the most-downloaded app of 2020 on iOS and Android, overtaking tech giant Facebook. It’s on track for 1.2 billion active users in 2021 and remains unique in it’s 70% Gen Z (aged under 24) demographic. In the UK alone, regulator OFCOM reported an increase from 5.4 million users in June to a whopping 12.9 million in April

TikTok’s user base has nearly tripled since 2018, but this year has propelled it into serious competition with Facebook’s social trio: Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. 

What fueled TikTok’s growth in 2020?

Firstly, the pandemic accelerated general mobile adoption and time spent on mobile devices: people spend over 4.3 hours a day on their phones. Many people turned to TikTok for the first time at the height of coronavirus lockdowns. Q1 2020 alone was responsible for 315 million downloads out of the 2 billion times TikTok has been downloaded globally. TikTok gave people a short-form video crossover between streaming and social: the ideal ‘time-pass’ activity for when people were staying at home. The pandemic made TikTok so popular, people used it for an average of 52 minutes a day, often longer.

Secondly, TikTok targets the fast-growing Gen Z demographic, aged between 8 to 23 years old. This is the largest generation, and given TikTok’s signup age is 13 years of age, most of them can (and do) use the network. Gen Z are digital natives: 98% own smartphones and they have 60% more sessions in top apps like TikTok, compared to older demographics (App Annie).

TikTok’s short-form video format also lends itself well to a generation with an attention span that’s only 8 seconds long. There’s interactive elements encouraging participation, something highly valued by this generation. The content is diverse, spanning everything from humor, dance challenges and education, to ‘digital safe spaces’ for marginalized communities (such as LGBTQ+ teens). In short, TikTok is the ultimate Gen Z network. 

TikTok growth in Q1 2020 was fueled by people looking for entertainment during the pandemic. It’s long term growth is a result of its natural fit with the lucrative Gen Z market.

Our Predictions For TikTok In 2021

So, it’s clear 2020 has been TikTok’s best year yet. TikTok growth in active users is predicted to hit 1.2 billion people globally in 2021. 

TikTok jumped 15 spots up in 2020 to become the second highest revenue-generating app behind Tinder. We anticipate it could come out on top in 2021. Here’s our top predictions for TikTok growth and content in 2021. 

The Rise Of Social Commerce

Social commerce is when sales take place entirely through social media networks, i.e. without leaving the app or website. Social commerce is on the rise: 87% of people say social media helps them decide what to buy, 55% of US consumers have bought products online after seeing them on a social app, and 30% of social users say they want to complete purchases entirely within apps like TikTok and Instagram.

In response to this, TikTok has made efforts to support social commerce. They started with ‘Hashtag Challenge Plus’ allowing for shoppable hashtags – a tactic used by brands like Uniqlo. A ‘Shop Now’ call-to-action allowed for in-app checkout under in-feed videos.

In 2020, TikTok partnered with Shopify, allowing 1 million merchants to create and run marketing campaigns directly from their Shopify dashboards. Shopify sellers can make shoppable videos, allowing people to buy products in-app on TikTok. This big move indicates that TikTok is ready to invest more in social commerce. TikTok’s revenue from ads was $500 million this year, but we believe ‘integrated commerce’ will propel this a lot further in 2021. 

TikTok Growth For ‘At-Home’ Activities

News of COVID vaccines is likely to shift some, but not all, behaviour back to pre-pandemic ‘normal’. Coronavirus simply accelerated the digital shift, rather than caused it. So, it’s likely people will continue to rely on digital avenues for ‘at-home’ activities.

The ‘at-home’ activities include remote work support, education, e-commerce, cooking, baking, fitness and mobile finance apps. TikTok is home to an incredibly diverse range of content, making it well-placed to benefit from a shift to ‘at-home’ in these categories. 

Home ‘mini’ fitness tutorials and challenges dominated at the height of the pandemic. Financial worries or a desire for security encouraged the popularity of finance, leading to a wave of ‘finfluencers’ sharing money-saving and investment tips on TikTok. And of course, the #LearnOnTikTok initiative propelled a shift into serious educational content, across topics like math, chemistry or simply ‘real world topics’ like the economy or cooking

Looking at other app categories, we’re convinced at home behaviours will last beyond the pandemic. Zoom is predicted to see compound annual growth of 57%, and remote learning apps will grow 62%. Categories like finance, fitness and e-commerce will all continue to grow. So, we expect TikTok to thrive off this lasting shift in behaviour.

More TikTok Trends: Same, but different

Of course, TikTok wouldn’t be TikTok without the trends – especially musical ones. Viral audio is incredibly popular, comprised of either voiceovers, pop music or catalogue tracks. 

We’ve seen viral trends originate from catalog tracks, such as Jubel’s Dancing in the Moonlight combined with the #freetobe challenge. Pop music such as Megan Thee Stallion’s Savage was combined with TV shows like Netflix’s Tiger King, resulting in it’s own dance challenge.

Beyond this, TikTok has propelled new musicians like Lil Nas X and Doja Cat into superstardom. We anticipate more trends crossing over music and memes will pop up, and music will continue to play a huge part in TikTok’s content in 2021.

Gen Z’s Space For Serious Issues

No longer just an app for kids, TikTok has matured in the past year. TikTok partnered with the World Health Organization to combat ‘fake news’ around COVID-19, and even the UK government posted public health advertisements on the app. The network is also encouraging #LearnOnTikTok: an education focused initiative encouraging content across cooking, maths, finance, languages and more. This has led to more ‘serious’ content on the app. 

However, TikTok is also Gen Z’s space for political awareness and education. With historic events like the Black Lives Matter protests, and US General Election, TikTok has become a hub for political activism. Black History Month was celebrated on TikTok with content like @taylorcassidyj’s self-love videos for Black girls, and makeup tutorials where @iambrattyb turned herself into Black historical figures.

Mental health and self-care content is popular too, such as @saratonin’s videos supporting those fighting eating disorders. The app also gives LGBTQ+ teens an online space to be themselves, especially in countries where being gay is still not legal. Gen Z is the most diverse generation to date, so it makes sense TikTok content highlights inclusion.

In short, TikTok is a popular place for Gen Z to have serious discussions about ‘taboo’ topics like sexuality, mental health, racism and even women’s health issues. We predict TikTok will continue to become a hub for more serious content in 2021.

@crissa_ace

We are stronger together...no matter the color or sexual preference... let fight for what’s right together! ✊🏽 ##blacklivesmatter ##passtherock

♬ My Tears Are Becoming A Sea - M83

TikTok Becomes Gen Z TV

A unique quirk is TikTok’s episodic nature: users ‘tune in’ as though they’re watching a TV series. Because content discovery happens through hashtags, the right one can prompt hours of watch time. TikTok stands apart in that it encourages episodic content, whereas other platforms encourage one-off siloed posts. 

For example, @bomanizer’s popular videos are designed to parody episodes of reality TV series. His ‘persona’ encourages repeat watching from his community, as his audience literally tune in for parts of an ‘episode’ split across several days. @king_victober has a similar persona called ‘Stacy’ – a ‘dumb girl’ in various scenarios like being stopped by a cop (9.9M views!), or ‘Stacy as a therapist’. These repeat personas draw people back in just like TV shows would. 

Another tactic is users splitting a challenge over several days, encouraging people to come back for the next part of the video. While this trend is currently fueled by organic users and influencers, we expect celebrities and mega-influencers to leverage this content format more in 2021. TikTok is already used alongside traditional TV and Netflix, so we anticipate it will draw more attention away from long-form streaming in 2021.

@king_victober

Remaking my first viral video w/ a real cop 😂🤣👏🏽 @curlyheadedgoat1 #viral #fyp #comedy #kingvictober #ventimochaswirl #stacy

♬ original sound - VENOM
@bomanizer

When actually cooking a meal during quarantine deserves a prime time 60 minutes special ##primetime ##fyp ##quarantine

♬ original sound - Boman Martinez-Reid

More Celebrities And Artists Will Join In 2021

Recently, TikTok trends have drawn in celebrities and artists to the app. Take @420doggface208’s viral video, where he’s skateboarding to Fleetwood Mac while drinking Ocean Spray juice. This went so viral, it changed the creator’s life and got legend Stevie Nicks to join the platform, recreating it

Director Justin Baldoni joined for similar reasons, after his movie ‘Clouds’ prompted the viral #CloudsMovie challenge where people posted their reaction to the movie. Justin began to duet users’ reactions with his wife, which really incentivises people to post their own videos if they can feature on the director’s page!

Singer Megan Trainor joined to react to videos about her music, where users set different lyrics to her songs. Tom Felton, who plays Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter, also joined to react to Harry Potter content and impressions. He gave way to the viral #DracoTok trend with over 9 billion views!

Right now, TikTok’s mostly attracting celebrities because their content has already gone viral. We think this trend is likely to flip, with celebrities joining and starting their own trends on platform in 2021. 

@meghantrainor

#duet with @franciskarelofficial SMASHHHHHHHHHHHH THIS IS CRAZY!!! Go follow him! Yaaas superstar 💖

♬ original sound - Meghan Trainor
@justinbaldoni

##duet with @jermainekc This handsome English gentleman’s ##reaction to ##cloudsmovie made my night! 😂 ##masculinity ##tearschallenge ##men ##cry

♬ Night Trouble By Petit Biscuit - Tyler

Conclusion

2020 has been TikTok’s biggest year yet, and we expect this rise to continue in 2021. TikTok growth has been helped by the pandemic, and the app’s long-term future looks good thanks to its highly engaged Gen Z audience. 

We think social commerce will rise in 2021, and the platform will continue to thrive off ‘at-home’ activities become a habit beyond the pandemic. We also expect more crossover trends in music, film and memes, and expect more celebrities to leverage TikTok both as a broadcast tool and as ‘Gen Z TV’. 

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