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Opinion

Is Time TikTok-ing Out For Other Social Platforms?

TikTok was the most downloaded iOS app for the fifth consecutive quarter but how will it ever catch up with the other social platforms?

Earlier this month The Telegraph reported brands were starting to invest based on some surprisingly high user numbers, but TikTok is still light years behind other platforms and has a lot of hard yards to put in before it catches up, if it ever does.

The app – formerly music.ly – is based around users posting video loops that they can add special effects and filters too. Viewers can also record their own reactions and add them to the videos. It sounds just like Vine, the now defunct video loop sharing site, which is not a great omen.

With significantly fewer features to explore, interest in the platform is often short-lived, with users generally migrating back to the established offerings. Much of the time, just like the vanished Vine, memes start there but move to the more established sites to really take off.

Lack of data and direct purchase opportunities

TikTok also has no shopping functions, meaning opportunities for direct purchase are low and any money spent on the platform would be mainly further up the funnel driving awareness. In a world where clients demand ROI, this just won’t cut it nowadays. This is also in stark contrast to Instagram, where the newly announced shoppable posts put it square in the purchase area.

There is also no real specific user data available just yet, which means it is very difficult to target the right audience. Again, this is a standard offering with the bigger players and something clients just expect from a full-service influencer campaign.

Influencer opinion

With such barriers in place, Billion Dollar Boy asked some of its influencers what they thought. The responses all followed a similar pattern; either a lack of knowledge about its offering, or a lack of interest in using it. One influencer said: “I don’t think my audience is really on the platform as I know the demographic active on it are all under 18.”

This is another reason why user data is difficult to get hold of and that is because the audience is very young. This saw the platform become mired in controversy last year when it received the largest ever fine from a US regulator for violating children’s privacy – a development straight out of season Four of Silicon Valley. This has put many brands and influencers off the platform.

Another influencer said that she hadn’t “looked into it.” But it seems that TikTok hasn’t particularly looked into them either, which is something it should begin to delve into. So far, most of TikTok’s influencer outreach has been to use celebrities – both paid-for and organic. The platform secures deals with many celebs in regions across the world to promote the app through inclusive and interactive challenges, which is a key part of TikTok’s appeal to a younger audience.

Finding new ways to engage TikTok’s user base 

This actually shows that there is room for brands and influencers to work together on the platform. By employing influencers to set these challenges as part of the wider influencer marketing campaign the engagement potential is actually quite high.

There is more good news. Some brands have opened brand pages and have requested to know more about the platform. The less polished and more dynamic feel to the quick video format (another plus with the Gen Z audience) will appeal to certain types of brands that are more comfortable with organic, less produced content and flexible approvals. The same goes for certain influencers, who will get more flexibility to be creative and fun without having to deliver less produced content.

To even begin to catch up with the leading pack, the platform will need to keep innovating and finding new ways to engage their user base – this move towards more knockabout content is a good way to do this but it needs much more if it wants to grow. It will also have to make the platform more marketing-friendly for brands.

Finally, it needs to begin a stronger push to inform people of what it is and how it works. As one influencer said to me: “I don’t really know much about it.”

At the moment, TikTok has the whiff of a trending app about it and it needs to work hard to make sure it doesn’t die on the Vine.

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