TikTok, The Basics 1

TikTok, The Basics

By Sabrina Devereaux

TikTok, The Basics 2

TikTok, the social media platform that’s taken the world by storm. It reached over 800 million subscribers within a year and a half of its 2018 launch and shows no signs of slowing down. Most people recall TikTok as the hit pop single by Kesha, but for Gen Z (those born after 1995), it has taken a completely different meaning, quickly becoming the number one social media app and a completely new subculture. TikTok’s competitors range beyond the social media industry competing in the entertainment field with companies like Netflix. 


Simply, the app is a short-form video sharing platform. Although the app became popularized via dance and lip syncing videos, the content greatly varies into whatever the user chooses to share in 15-60 seconds. TikTok keeps its users mesmerized for hours on end with everything from choreography to cooking and comedy. 


It can be hard to determine why TikTok is performing so well to those of us that are more familiar with social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube which showcase posts, images and long-form video content. But one of the largest factors leading to the app’s global success was imitating the content form from a short lived social media app: Vine. Implementing the wildly successful short-form videos that put Vine on the map, coupled with the internal infrastructure to support the platform (unlike Vine), TikTok has filled a void in the social media world, driving traffic to the platform from mass consumers and creative professionals alike.

Related Content: Death of Vine Should Be A Lesson to Other Social Media Platforms


TikTok uses the most sophisticated AI algorithm in the US and Western markets. The AI algorithm instantly and constantly learns about it users video preferences from the moment the app is opened. Part of what makes a unique user experience on TikTok is the full screen, automatic video stream. The algorithm adapts the feed based on each individual user’s engagement including how long a video is watched, if it’s skipped over, viewed multiple times (all videos play over again on a loop), or liked. Most other social media algorithms feature content suggestions for the viewer, whereas the AI algorithm TikTok applies dictates the content viewers are exposed to (with the exception of pages/profiles that users choose to follow), automating the user interface. The more time users spend on the app, the more sophisticated and unique their experience becomes. 

Although TikTok’s current user base is largely Gen Z with 41% of its users between 16-24 years old, the app is steadily growing in popularity with older generations. TikTok’s rapidly expanding user base and winning content strategy, coupled with one of the most sophisticated algorithms globally, tells us this platform should be on your radar regardless of your current target audience. 

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