By: Skyler Fleisher

Social media occupies a large part of our lives. Even if you want to hate it, you can’t really escape it. Much of our lives are published online either by ourselves or someone else.  How many times have you had a family member share an unflattering photo of you on Facebook or seen friends post brunch pictures on Instagram?  More often than not, the content that’s being shared doesn’t involve one person.  

MySpace laid the foundation for what social media would become today (Our World in Data). While Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are among the apps that occupy storage space on smart devices still, there is a new app making its way to the top. 

TikTok is here and it is taking over. In January of 2020, TikTok was the most downloaded app worldwide, even beating out Instagram and Facebook (SensorTower). A scholarly article states that our attention span has shrunk from 15 seconds to eight seconds (Bradbury).  This means that on average people are only engaged for nearly half the amount of time they were in the past. Something unique about TikTok is that everyone’s “For You Page” is designed specifically for them. TikTok gets the reputation of being a lip-syncing platform, but in reality, my “For You Page” does not have anyone singing and dancing to popular songs. When someone likes a video or interacts with a video, you are shown more videos of similar things. This is similar to how YouTube and Netflix give you recommendations on things to watch next. Videos range from “humor, hobbies, fitness, travel, music, photography and dance; every category is open and gaining huge attention” (Brandtastic).  Since TikTok generates targeted content for the user, people spend a longer amount of time on the app interacting with content they enjoy.  When you add content a user actually wants to see with the user’s shortened attention span, people are more likely to interact and engage with content.

TikTok is not just for kids. Celebrities, news sources, big brands, doctors, teachers, regular people, and even some pets have TikTok pages. Practically anyone has the ability to go viral on TikTok and there’s no “standard” for the quality of the content. Some videos are shot on smartphones in a poorly lit room while some are in full production studios with high quality set-ups. Regardless of the quality of the equipment, almost everyone has a chance of going viral.

I personally love TikTok, but I have friends who say, “it’s a waste of time” and refuse to download the app. TikTok is everywhere though. On Instagram, many of the videos on the “Explore” page have the TikTok watermark on them, meaning that the video was created on TikTok and reshared to Instagram. So, in reality the people who refuse to download the app are still watching the videos that were made on TikTok. As meme culture is very prevalent today, TikTok has lots of ‘meme-able’ moments and lots of jokes have come out of it. People without the TikTok app or active on TikTok usually do not understand a lot of sayings or even dance moves that became popular on TikTok.

Some people like Charli D’amelio, 16, and Addison Rae, 19, have made careers off of the platform. Their content is lip-syncing dances, which isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but people seem to really like them considering Charli has almost 90 million followers and Addison has over 62 million. Charli has a drink at Dunkin’ Donuts named after her and brand partnerships with Hollister and Morphe. Addison is the second most popular creator on TikTok and there’s even a song by The Kid Laroi called “Addison Rae.”

I think TikTok is the perfect example of how times are changing in regards to social media, marketing, advertising, and influencer/celebrity brand deals. Not only by our shrinking attention span, but also in how people consume information and who they trust. In my opinion, regular people aren’t as envious of Hollywood celebrities anymore.  People enjoy watching everyday people create their own success stories.  Many big organizations and companies have created TikTok accounts to better engage with their younger audiences (Forbes). Companies like Chipotle, The NBA, Red Bull, The Washington Post, United Nations IFAD, Nickelodeon, Crocs, Mucinex, Kool-Aid, Hp, and many more have large followings on the app (nogood.io).

Social media platforms over the years have created different spaces for advertisers and marketers to reach a variety of audiences. Omnicore Agency has a section of their blog dedicated to social media platform statistics.  Some key statistics that stood out about generational use of social media platforms are: 25-34 year olds make up the largest demographic group on Facebook, 67% of 18-29 year olds use Instagram in the United States, and 41% of TikTok users are 16-24 years old.  If a company is looking to expand their engagement with younger generations, TikTok is a great place to do it.


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