TikTok: the reasons behind its success

Is the nature of TikTok actually way more sophisticated than we expect?

In 2019 we must certainly give way to the gilded app throne to TikTok. This social media took off the wheel after the death of Vine (RIP) and leveled up the content exactly to the taste of teenagers and young adults.

Somehow the Chinese app built even more sustainable "meme culture" that rooted in our daily lives and changed traditional media formats. We even have a case of a politician saying "OK Boomer" during a speech in The Parliament. Not only, by the end of 2018, TikTok had more active users than Twitter and according to Dice-K as of this year, it has an over $75 billion valuation, which is higher than Uber. But what caused its success?

If Vine is dead, how come TikTok still exists?

Even though Vine gave birth to a lot of viral content and people swore by it, the platform died. A lot of careers were ended, some "Vine stars" had to move out to the wild world of YouTube, where you can now find thousands of video attributes to the platform.
The platform itself didn't evolve in the expected direction and became a unique accepting environment for weird content and new kind of joke-telling. But as is sometimes the case with sad endings, tragedy ensues after apogee.
Soon new users stopped flowing at the expected pace, and money was not in line with the engineering and commercial needs of the project. People with a lot of followers didn't even bother posting daily. Everything was off and eventually, Vine was found dead.
Screenshot from the official website of byteScreenshot from the official website of byte
Screenshot from the official website of byte
Meanwhile, Vine 2 was a thing for a minute - Vine's founder Dom Hofmann hold on to the loop idea and started developing the byte app. Even though it was said to launch in Spring, 2019 there's nothing out to the public yet.
A brief history check follows a change of the logo. Despite the redesign the app is still in closed beta and if interested, users have to subscribe for the mailing list. Everyone will get notified when the app is live and ready to download.
We can't hide but wonder how different can a loop video app get in the future?
Can't wait to see what's happening next!

Smule and Musical.ly were just not enough

Music was a big part of Vine and other app competitors were quick to notice it. This lead to apps like Musical.ly and Smule, which decided to focus on short videos accompanied by libraries with plenty of musical proposals. Instagram also saw potential in this content, so now most users from countries with lighter copyright laws can add a music track to their stories.
But what do all of these musical apps lack? Memes.

This is probably the same reason why Facebook is developing a meme-making App and involving Machine learning too somewhat. 

When it comes to Smule, it has placed its bets on duets with professional singers, celebrities or just other users with a passion for music.

Can't sing? Well, Musical.ly was all about the lip-sync... Until 2017 when the app merged with TikTok, becoming the ultimate short-video sharing platform with the perfect amount of music and memes. The rapid pace of growth of the platform is proving our point that no matter how creative, users are mainly in search of a good laugh.

New meme format, fitting our low-attention span

The short-video format is the perfect way to tell a joke to millions of people, without making them wait for the punchline. But limited timing is not a limit at all - the right cut at the right second is just what makes things funnier. In fact, the pacing of the delivery of the joke and the surprise element have a strong impact on the comic effect.
Wanna know what others think about this joke? Just look at the numbers at the engagement counter. You'll quickly notice that the most liked videos use the "Inversion" comedy approach, where the users' expectations are not violated with a contradictory conclusion.
This modern entertainment perfectly fits our endorphin needs and matches our low-attention spans
Not engaging, no "foreplay" with the user and just straight to the point - just what we're looking for.
Today, a big part of the world's population has so little care and reasons to worry that we are practically flooded with simple sources of happiness that no longer give us pleasure.
We are addicted to endorphin, so every strongly wanted dose should be delivered to us as soon as possible. And that's when short formats of entertainment come in hand. Of course, like anything addictive, it comes with side-effects like eternal dissatisfaction, lack of creativity and loss of time concept.
The algorithm of the app shows you the content you enjoy and every other video requires your tap on the screen - a well-known technique for "gamification" and higher engagement.

It feels like you walk into a casino and every slot machine auto-plays

When you open the app so many things are happening at once that eventually, you lose a track of time and everything starts to look so exciting and delightful. Content sucks you in and can't stop scrolling for more. This is known as "addictive design", in fact, the cultural anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll has spent years studying how slot machines hold gamblers... and users. 
If you're a sucker for power, you may start considering an accumulation of followers and soon find yourself in a battle against the algorithm for the prize of a place on the trending page. It's tempting because you can really gather thousands of followers overnight without any investment.

It's a crappy execution and you'll love it

Why does one buy Kanye West's Yeezy merch if it looks like a cheap Aliexpress' replica that went wrong? It's probably the same reason why you will share a short video with a bad montage and ridiculously old-school special effects. Somehow the crappy execution is adding value - a sentence you wouldn't believe we will be saying in 2019.
But on the other hand, we must admit that sometimes the unlimited possibilities and tools can be the gallows of creativity. It's like one big, terrific, never-ending parody. And that's what makes it funnier.

Music, Filters, Special Effects, and AR

It's not only musical content, TikTok has also taken some other successful app features highly requested upon users.
In TikTok there's one really high-quality implementation of Snapchat's groundbreaking live filters and AR animations. If you don't have free time to spend on big PC video editing software, the platform is bringing you simple and easy to download video effects for that perfect final touch you've been seeking.
It's smaller and easier to run version of a video editing software where you can try out different scenarios and act out your favorite movie scenes for free. Think about it, it's heaven for today's kids!
All special effects are updated regularly and are it's so tempting to download and try them all. They are definitely an incentive for users' creativity.

Advertising in TikTok

Today advertising is more complex than ever, because not only are adults resistant to it, but children, too.
In 2019 it's hard to make users pay attention to your ads. As much as some companies want, we are no longer living in the "loud & blinking, annoying pop-up ads" era.
Just a few years ago, a platform with a young audience would have sounded like a paradise for any advertiser. But kids are no fools and oh, how tables have turned - it's so hard to impress them, let alone make them believe you.
The Chinese company is developing a new digital marketing platform which is not in their users' face. In fact, when you download TikTok you will rarely come across an ad and somehow this marketing model is working.
You can't milk your user, you have to look after him, understand what he likes, what he wants, but most of all - anticipate what he will want in the next few weeks. Offer him a few times until at some point he really wants to ask for it - and eventually starts to notice it.
"Oh, my God, are they reading my thoughts?" - no, they are predicting and directing them.
There a few simple ways to advertise on TikTok - through a "Brand Takeover", with a video in the feed or with the help of a custom hashtag. We must recognize that all of these three approaches are really smart.
The Brand takeover is an ad that comes up right after you open the app on a full screen.
You can also create a video for the feed and disguise it as a native TikTok content in-between real users' videos. This makes the video hard to recognize as an add at first glance until you see the "Call To Action" button.
The company also offers the possibility to create your own official hashtag, perhaps a challenge that prompts people to take part and add content in favor of your brand "movement". All digital advertising options engage with their followers on a higher level, making the customer the main character in your campaign as if by his own will. This innovative advertising way heralds success.

Will it last?

So that's about it. Looking back to all these points we've mentioned, you can go deeper into the sophisticated side of TikTok and the psychological phenomena behind its success.
It's very smart to ask yourself will this app last or will it be replaced. Let's hope that TikTok will fight for its marketplace because some other platforms are already following their footsteps very closely.

Good luck TikTok!