What's the deal with TikTok?
TikTok is the new kid on the social media block, but do you know what the app is all about?
TikTok is for video creation
TikTok is an app for creating and sharing short videos. The videos are 15-60 seconds long and often set to music. The app encourages you to engage through participating in challenges, or by responding to other people’s videos; you can duplicate someone else’s video and add your response alongside it. TikTok uses hashtags to organise its content – challenges, trends and response videos are all grouped together and searchable by hashtag.
TikTok was created in China
In China the app is known as Douyin and it was created by artificial intelligence company ByteDance. ByteDance is based in Beijing and reportedly worth £57.3bn.
The app became popular outside of Asia when it bought and merged with American social network Musical.ly, an app created for sharing lip-syncing and dancing videos.
TikTok’s user experience is different
Most social networks we use on a regular basis assumes that we belong to a community that we want to engage with online. When you open Instagram, Facebook or Twitter for the first time, identifying the people you’d like to engage with is a key part of the signup process.
TikTok doesn’t make the same assumption. When you open TikTok for the first time you’re met with a screen titled ‘For You’. A curated video stream will start playing before you’ve told the app anything.
TikTok puts content front and centre
The aim of the game with TikTok is to engage with the content. This is also true of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, but these apps also put a greater focus on the creators of the content. It is a subtle difference, but nevertheless an interesting one.
As a natural consequence, your TikTok feed and the app’s search function is primarily centred around content, not the content creators. By structuring content around trends and challenges, the app encourages its users to dip in and out of communities.
TikTok’s algorithm could change the game
From the minute you open TikTok you’re shown content and asked to engage. As you react to the content in your feed, an algorithm is running in the background, noting the content you are engaging with, how you’re engaging and curating your feed accordingly.
Instagram and Twitter in particular have moved towards a version of this user experience for a while with their own algorithms, but the content you engage with continues to originate from the community you have identified for yourself.
TikTok comes at it from a different angle, most likely with the hope that you’ll engage for longer.