The future isn’t creeping in slowly; it’s well and truly here.
If there ever were a synonym for ‘phenomenon’ in recent years, it would definitely be ‘TikTok.’ Those unfamiliar with the platform probably know it as the treasure trove of viral dance videos and occasionally political makeup tutorials. But when you consider that TikTok eclipsed Google as the site with the most traffic in August 2021, then it’s important to think: can TikTok answer more questions than Google can?
Judging from the sheer volume of traffic there, it’s likely that not only Gen Zs think so. According to the stats, only 32.5% of TikTok users are teens, and about 38% are above the age of 30. TikTok might have begun as an entertainment platform for tweenyboppers, but it’s gradually evolving to become an educational space as well, where people go to learn. As Chris Giuseppini would find out for the rest of us, TikTok is “a platform that has transitioned from entertainment, to the number one source of information for modern times.”
In fact, in 2019 TikTok launched #EduTokXCampus in Mumbai, a campaign that promotes knowledge sharing through content creation. Working with leading educational institutions in India to encourage the creation of meaningful content on TikTok across themes such as education, motivation, health and wellness, it’s not a surprise that people gradually look to the platform for solutions.
For instance, there are now so many TikTok channels featuring topics like urban planning and public transit. In videos hovering around the 60 second mark, creators like Jacob Gotta delve into the history of environmental racism in New York City. It’s essentially a glorified talking head video, but it’s quick, it’s snappy, it’s illustrative and most of all, it’s casually thoughtful.
For a 65-second video to even discuss an example of systemic racism is shocking, let alone get down to its depths. But Gotta manages that with some deft storytelling flair, using simple but emotive language to convey subtext. And in this video below, he uses a playful, light-hearted conversation to draw an association between pollution and the auto-centric urban planning in the US.
In a world that grows more digital by the day, TikTok celebrates content featuring the best facets of humanity. As one of our ex-content directors Tom Radford mentioned in his article recounting the success of his venture into TikTok, “the content [has to be] real, genuine, human, flawed, fallible and charming.”
Tom’s own TikTok channel has his most popular segment titled Death or Dinner, which educates people on the plants you can and cannot eat in the British Isles. But what’s most notable in these videos is his personality, his language (as can be seen in the comments, “bay leaves on acid” really left its mark) and really, a reflection of British culture and attitude. It is a video about the UK after all.
The range of instructional TikTok videos really run the gamut, from teaching viewers how to make, maintain and use sourdough starter to the technical skills needed to yo-yo. Even Bill Nye the famous science guy is on a roll on TikTok, and from the looks of it he knows how to play the algorithm pretty well. He’s had multiple paid partnerships on the platform and his videos typically get views well into the millions.
In our previous foray into the world of TikTok, we discussed the massive potential for marketing on the platform, but we didn’t exactly examine the reasons why this new form of content works. To content marketing people, TikTok’s format is the big break we’ve been waiting for. As seen in the examples above, we now market with people, personalities and emotions, not explicit brands.
Ironically (and perhaps not surprisingly), humanity becomes the most valuable commodity in a world that’s increasingly operating on various technologies. We just need to remember that TikTok is merely the next platform on which human nature expresses itself, and we can simply gawk at the way it moulds itself into precipitously short videos, or we can jump in on the action.
Amidst all this opportunity, there of course exists the chance of misinformation, but let’s remember this is also a problem on Google as well. This is where the algorithm works against the audience, and one example of this is especially rife in the fitness community on TikTok. Fitness content creators with physiques matching prevailing beauty standards will always get more engagement and views compared to those who don’t, and it’s the same for those who prescribe the trendiest, quirkiest, non-traditional exercises to get attention.
On the subject of health, you have the infamous dissociative identity disorder craze, where teenagers self-diagnose with the mental disorder after watching videos which describe the symptoms and trauma involved in the condition. What was initially intended to educate people about the illness eventually further stigmatises mental health conditions as a whole. But as has been mentioned earlier, these are not new problems on the internet — they’re merely taking a different shape on this new platform.
As our content marketing and public relations manager Grace Girsang says, “TikTok has become one of the most powerful social media platforms and what I love about the app is that anyone — and by that, I mean EVERYONE can go viral — if you’re lucky enough. The algorithm itself is still a big mystery, but with some luck and a little formula your video might just be the next thing that trends and be splashed all over your audience’s For You page.”
Of course, Google’s been so comfortable sitting on top that it’s not going to concede without some sort of retaliation. Youtube Shorts are already a thing now with 1.5 billion viewers, and Google is looking to include videos there as part of Google Search results. This is on top of deals being struck between Google and TikTok and Instagram to index clips there on Google Search.
While many marketers have been slow to consider TikTok as a viable place to do their business, it’s very clear from the range of educational and prescriptive videos that people are looking for solutions on the platform. For those who are appalled at TikTok’s inexorable march towards world domination, they really should know that yes, it is scary, until someone creates the next big social phenomenon. Then you’ll drop your jaws at that…and so forth.
As for us, we’ve done some experimenting, so maybe while TikTok is still here you can see it for yourself at our own TikTok channel?
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Click2View is Southeast Asia’s premiere full-service independent B2B content marketing agency servicing clients like Microsoft, Google, Visa, Prudential, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.