When SnapChat first burst onto the Social Media scene, it set the marketing world a light with buzz around this new ‘golden bullet’ opportunity to reach the ever elusive millennial target-market.
Brand strategies were quickly re-examined in light of the growing success of this new, mobile-first and transient platform, where filters were the norm and there was no content history to browse. SnapChat introduced content that was here and now – and you had to know where to look to be part of the wave. Brands were keen to tap into the mysterious new platform, but also weary of investing large budgets into a platform that didn’t offer accurate analytics, and didn’t have the type of penetration that Facebook, Twitter, Youtube & Instagram were experiencing.
The final blow to SnapChats increasing popularity was the sudden and unexpected adoption of Stories by Instagram – a direct slap in the face of SnapChat.
Stories offered the Instagram user-base the 2 most essential features that defined Snapchat’s popularity with the youth – Vertical Content & Ephemeral Content.
Within a year of Instagram Stories being launched, almost half of all activity on Instagram now consisted of the vertical, transient story content, rather than the curated timeline content the platform was initially famous for. Although Snapchat had now been shoved into the corner of niche social networking – the core content principles remained and lived on in stronger than ever in other platforms – with stories now available across Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp & YouTube.
A New Challenger Enters
While Snapchat was grasping for relevance amongst the big Social Network king-pins, a new contender was quickly rising among the ranks in the background. In late 2016, the app Douyin was launched by ByteDance in China – and within a year had accumulated an impressive 100 million users with 1 billion video views a day. Although incredibly popular in the Asian markets, it would take another year or so before this success started spreading globally.
In November 2017 – just two months after launching with a new brand, TikTok spent around $1 Billion to purchase muscal.ly – a competitor app start-up from Shanghai that had amassed a cult of teenage followers from California. Along with their new brand-identity geared for global appeal, they merged their user-base with Musical.ly – giving them a substantial advantage for controlling the lip-syncing app market. But just how big was this lip-syncing market – and was there anything more to it than awkward pre-teen dance clips?
As it turns out – TikTok’s appeal would explode come 2018 with it becoming the first Social Network to crack 500 million users since Instagram did so in 2016. From lip-syncing – to dance, comedy, tips, make-up, memes, celebrities and everything else – TikTok was proving to be an incredibly versatile app when it comes to content creation, as well as filling the void left by Vine when it comes to touch-and-edit video recording software. Furthermore – it offers content creators a vast array of filters and features that are not available (yet) on the usual social network apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube.
So what does TikTok’s sudden and extreme success tell us about the content ecosystem at the moment? And how can we apply these learnings to our content strategies going into 2020 and beyond? Here are 7 content trends that TikTok can teach you:
1) Keep it Short
TikTok’s tag line is Real Short Videos which shows just how important short content is to their brand strategy. Short content is not only easier to consume, but also easier to create, and easier to buffer quickly. While Vine capped video length at 6 seconds – TikTok & Instagram Stories have capped their video length at 15 seconds – the ‘golden number’ according to them, and most likely accurate, based on the mountains of user-retention data they must have. If you can’t say what you want to in 15 seconds, then it would be worthwhile rather developing a long-form content strategy or focusing on creating episodic, branded content.
2) Keep it Shareable
Just keeping your video short won’t make it go viral alone in the current attention-based economy. Kath Walter’s speaks about the idea of Sticky Content – where content can be like peanut butter – easy to spread but sticky when touch. With the constant competition for attention – video content needs to appeal to the viewer within 3 seconds before they decide to scroll on. If you can hook them in the first few seconds, and keep them to the end, your content will shared around and stick with those who experience it.
3) Video effects and Editing
At the core of the TikTok experience is their robust and versatile editing suite. There is an apparently infinite amount of sounds and songs to use, with various time-editing effects to allow users to create quick and accurate edits. Filters AR-experiences and post-editing effects all add to the creator’s toolbox and allows even the most basic user the arsenal to create advanced edits that would traditionally take professional creators hours to make. If one thing is clear – content at the moment is just as much about the bells and whistles, as it is about being genuinely authentic and creative.
4) Music, Sound & Dance is more important than ever
A large part of TikTok’s appeal is the ability to create content using otherwise copyright-protected content. This is fitting too for the new generation of content-creators, who are extremely dance-orientated. From Fortnite dances, to world-wide famous dance-moves like The Floss; dance and movement are quickly becoming important pillars of content-marketing. The possibilities here for content strategies are endless, especially as the boundaries between music, dance and sound all become further blurred.
5) Full Screen only
Following from Snapchat and Instagram’s success – it is safe to say that full-screen, vertical content appeals to the masses. TikTok demonstrates this well, throwing the user straight into full-screen, auto-play videos on their timeline. Regardless of video quality – users will still opt for full-screen content over smaller video, especially when viewed on the new generation of full-display smart-phones. While other content dimensions have their time and place on different social networks – the future of mobile video is vertical – at least for now.
6) Make it a trend if you want it to trend
Like most of the social networks, TikTok does a great job at promoting users to share and adopt new trends. From the likes of Finger-Dances, to the Backpack Challenge – or hashtags and popular songs, TikTok is trend machine. This is evident when considering the number of vast number of memes promulgated through the app over. For marketers and brands a like – TikTok offers a plethora of trends to hop-on - as well as try to create.
7) Mobile first – but not only
While mobile-first has become a mantra for marketers – TikTok’s success demonstrates this perfectly well. Mobile phones are not only the best way to record and edit short videos, but they are also ideal for consuming them as well. Even with mobile being so pivotal for content strategies, it does not mean it’s time to ignore traditional formats. A vast amount of TikTok’s success stems from clips being shared via other platforms – from YouTube compilations, to Facebook Viral videos and Instagram stories. Whether your viewers are on mobile, tablet, TV or desktop – the most important thing is to ensure that they can access your content – and then that your content is worth their time.
So now the only question really left is ‘Should my brand be on TikTok?’ While that would depend on what type of brand it is - the answer is most likely ‘Not for now’, especially as there is no real paid space on it for marketers yet. But one thing is most definite – all brands should be watching what the creators on TikTok are doing closely – and what this could mean for your brand or content strategy going forward.