A “Tok” about TikTok’s Appeal – Why Marketers Should Pay Attention

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Marketers – we need to have a Tok… about TikTok. If you just have internet access in general, chances are you’ve heard the buzz surrounding this rising platform, which is swiftly becoming one of the major players in social media. Many people are baffled by the app, which is seemingly different than the Facebooks and Instagrams of the world, but once you download and dive in, it’s easy to become hooked.

We could list the stats all day – but maybe the best evidence of TikTok’s staying power comes from a recent story in The New York Times. A savvy group of high school students in Florida have organized their own school-sanctioned TikTok club, which has already produced more than one “TikTok-Famous” rising stars. Or, perhaps you’ve heard the billboard-topping hit song of the summer, Old Town Road x Nas, which got its start on TikTok.

The big question on everyone’s mind is: why? Why is this platform resonating in such a powerful way?

It’s a rabbit hole of fun: The format of the app itself draws the user in and is optimized to capture and hold your attention. The videos take up the full screen (similar to IG and Snapchat stories), with very few distractions to stop someone from continuing the endless scroll from one short-form video down to the next.

TikTok shows you content it thinks you’ll enjoy, learns from your reaction, and refines its algorithm accordingly: Unlike the algorithmic suggestions from IG and FB, where content from your tightly knit community (your friends & followers) is neatly arranged and displayed in an order that seems most relevant for you, TikTok functions on full algorithmic interference. The app, fueled by machine learning, finds content you will enjoy and shows a never-ending discovery feed filled with it. It is NOT driven by news, or outside trends and is one of the first social networks that, in theory, has nothing to do with your actual social network. This creates a user experience that is often unpredictable, but exciting, and wildly entertaining.

It’s relatable and easy to use: Unlike the polished feeds of Instagram, where you may have learned to curate a perfectly-filtered image that matches your feed, TIkTok is a “come as you are” app, that welcomes the weird, the misfits, and the sometimes “cringe-worthy” (but extremely relatable) content that makes everyone feel heard.