Special Issues on TikTok

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General

Today we have a detailed look at the hype around TikTok. We also give reading recommendations for the weekend and report on the latest features on the platforms. Since we assume that our explanation piece about TikTok will be of interest to many, the briefing is free for everyone today as an exception.

The hype around TikTok, explains

What is: Everyone is talking about TikTok. Even in big German media the app has arrived. I also spent a lot of time with the app. You can find out here what TikTok is, how to buy tiktok fans, why the app is so hyped and why we’ve read it all before, but this time it’s still something different.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a short video app for Android and iOS smartphones. TikTok belongs to the Chinese company ByteDance, one of the highest rated start-ups in the world (WSJ), which is becoming the biggest competitor of Tencent (parent company of WeChat) in China.

ByteDance also develops the popular apps Duoshan (Bloomberg), a messenger compared to Snapchat, and Toutiao (Techcrunch), a news aggregator for which there is no real counterpart in the West. ByteDance took over the Musically app in 2017 and merged it with TikTok in the summer of 2018.

Actually, the app is called Douyin – only in the western world is it known as TikTok.
TikTok is financed by the money of the parent company ByteDance. Advertising and virtual goodies are supposed to play a role in the monetarization of the app – read on for more.

How does TikTok work?

TikTok lets users share videos that they either produce directly in the app or create in advance and upload to TikTok.
Videos recorded via the app can have a length of 15 seconds. In total, a TikTok video can be up to one minute long.
Just like many other popular social media apps, TikTok allows you to follow other users and collect followers yourself.
You can also comment, link and share with TikTok. But TikTok has some features that set it apart from other platforms, especially when it comes to sharing content. Users can convert TikTok videos into gifs or download them. It is also possible to share the videos created in the app directly on Twitter, Instagram or WhatsApp.

Music and sound effects are elementary at TikTok

The videos usually don’t work without sound – a huge difference to the videos on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, which are often provided with text so that they can be accessed silently.

TikTok is characterized by the fact that users take part in challenges hundreds of thousands of times or add their own variant to memes. The videos are communicated via hashtags like #ChooseYourCharacter (here a compilation on YouTube) or snippets of popular songs like Baby Stark (here also a compilation on YT). Users can follow certain challenges, hashtags and sounds. Some hashtags have already been called several billion times.

In addition, a so-called duet feature can be used on TikTok. For example, in Challenges you can publish the original dance video on one side and your own version on the other.

Why is TikTok so popular?

Unlike other social media apps, TikTok does not require you to follow people or hashtags. The app also works without a single subscription and is therefore more reminiscent of a contemporary version of television.
In general, TikTok offers a quite intuitive handling, which is more accessible than with Snapchat. It is easy to watch one video after the other or find more about the respective hashtags and sounds.

What are the problems at TikTok?

First of all, TikTok has a lot of harassment and hate comments – not least because of the duet feature. Trolls and Haters still don’t have the platform as firmly in their hands as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter do. But first reports show a connection between TikTok use and suicides (TNW). There are also indications that TikTok is used to share pornographic content that is relevant under criminal law.

It can be assumed that TikTok is heavily censored and that content that Chinese authorities disapprove of cannot be published on the platform. According to a Financial Times report, TikTok is responsible for what users post. So rigorous monitoring seems inevitable for political reasons too.

The bigger picture

So-called short video apps are currently mega popular in China. Abacus has a great overview of the wide range of different apps from this segment: Short Video App Wars.
Facebook has already reacted to the increasing popularity of TikTok and launched its own app Lasso on the market – but so far without much success (TechCrunch).
In the West, Vine was already a quite popular video app that specialized in short content. The app was discontinued in 2016. Founder Dom Hofmann had recently announced a Vine successor for spring 2019 (CNBC). Whether the app will really come, however, is questionable.

Be smart

TikTok is in a good mood, no question. Unlike Vero or other temporarily hyped apps, TikTok won’t disappear again after a few weeks. Rather, numerous artists, celebrities, politicians and media houses are likely to join TikTok in the coming months. This will change the app significantly.

Professional content will conquer the feed and displace creative videos from normal users. That’s exactly what happened with Flickr, Vine, Instagram and Snapchat (see Jason Kottke). This could jeopardize the anarchic charm that sets TikTok apart from other apps. Red Bull, the NBA and funk are already there.

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