New social media apps are popping up all the time - but what is it that makes one stick when so many others have fallen away?
For a new social platform to be successful in the modern digital landscape, it needs to offer a space for a community of people who don't already have an ideal digital space to connect. It needs to stand on its own, and it has to offer a unique set of tools for its users, while still embodying many of the same traits as the current social giants.
Newcomer apps need to find the perfect balance of intrigue and familiarity, as well as value unique to their platform - which, given the innovation of the established players, is increasingly hard to do.
But even all of these concepts are still very vague. What is it that really makes a social media platform successful?
This question has stirred up a few debates among the Social Media Today team in regards to the latest rising social app TikTok. Will TikTok survive, and become a more significant player in the social media space, or has it hit it's peak, and will soon fall like the rest?
We put the question to our SMT Experts to get their thoughts on the future of rising app.
What does the future have in store for TikTok?
While TikTok has been reluctant to share its actual user numbers, we know that TikTok, along with the Chinese version of its app, called 'Douyin', currently sees over 500 million monthly active users. The app has also hovered around the top of the overall app download charts for the last few months, so it's clearly popular - but is it filling a longer-term 'need' within the space?
It’s difficult to say how anything gets this popular, this quickly; it's the right product, great timing, and so many other factors that make a difference. But I do think that in TikTok’s case, a big reason for its massive popularity is because it filled a need: one that was left behind by the death of Vine. Plus, it’s a great format for potential influencers. That being said, I don’t think the momentum will last long enough to make a real impact on all social media marketing - already, short videos are very popular on most major social networks and not because of TikTok, but because it’s easy-to-consume fun content that you just have to share with everyone else."
Content Marketing and Social Media Specialist
RIP Vine. Tabitha Jean Naylor also references the loss many people felt when Vine shut down.
"When the short-form video app Vine shut down in December 2016, it left behind a void that no app or social media platform could fill. For a while, I thought Snapchat would be the app to do it, but its ephemeral content model wasn’t quite consistent with Vine’s."
Tabitha goes on to explain how TikTok filled this void.
"Fast forward to today, and it’s clear who Vine’s spiritual successor is: TikTok. Like its predecessor, TikTok allows users to create video clips that are a few seconds long, making them easy to share and therefore easy to go viral. In fact, TikTok has been at the center of cultural phenomena, powering Lil Nas X and his song “Old Town Road” into mainstream consciousness. The singer/rapper had released the single on TikTok as a meme, only for it to explode in popularity and top the Billboard charts."
Lucy Rendler-Kaplan also reminds us of the efforts TikTok has made to ensure users understand their privacy rights. "The brand also educates users on how to safely use the platform and on how to ensure (as much as they can) safety to the younger audience they’ve built."
TikTok is a shining example of how to niche down and focus on your target... It was built for young adults to show off their skills and (I suppose) live out their viral dreams.
Founder, Arkay Marketing & PR
TikTok for Brands
So should brands jump on this new social trend or not? And if so, how can they best utilize the platform?
Once you begin looking at it from a branding lens, the marketing possibilities are almost endless.
Founder, Arkay Marketing & PR
A not-so-surprising statistic shows that (as of March 2019) the main age group using the app ranges from 18-24-year-olds. That being said, if your brand is targeting Gen Z, TikTok may be the perfect social network for you.
Lucy shared a myriad of opportunities TikTok can offer brands - so long as you're creative with your use of the platform and provide followers with entertaining content, you likely will find success here.
She explains how getting TikTok users to incorporate your product in their videos can be great "unobtrusive influencer marketing." She continues by saying "In a world where consumers are more skeptical of ads than ever before, raw, un-overly edited videos of people using your brand in their everyday lives will bring in new users than a commercial-type video."
Tabitha was more skeptical:
"Can businesses tap into this viral machine? From my professional standpoint, it all depends on TikTok’s next few moves."
We already know it’s a hit with Gen Z, the cohort of users that proceeds Millennials. We also know that TikTok's audience is engaged enough to launch relative nobodies into music stardom, again, much like Vine. If the app’s video feed can churn out a few more viral hits that cross over into Facebook and YouTube, we could be looking at something here.
But TikTok can’t be a one-trick pony. Sooner or later, young people will lose interest in the app’s short-form videos and TikTok will have to roll out new features to maintain its following - just as Snapchat moved from disappearing messages to introducing disappearing Stories.
TikTok also needs to figure out what kind of ads it wants to roll out. Companies like McDonald’s are already running campaigns involving dance challenges on the app, but these videos have to be submitted through the official McDonald’s app, not the TikTok app.
If TikTok intends to woo businesses, it needs to ad native support for promotions and campaigns.
A few of our SMT Experts began by outlining how TikTok obviously found success today, but then continued on to explain why they're not positive the momentum will last.
I don’t think the momentum will last long enough to make a real impact on all social media marketing - already, short videos are very popular on most major social networks and not because of TikTok, but because it’s easy-to-consume fun content that you just have to share with everyone else.
Content Marketing and Social Media Specialist, Speaker
Short-form videos can't be TikTok's sole purpose if it wants to survive in the long run.
Next, TikTok can’t be a one-trick pony. Sooner or later, young people will lose interest in the app’s short-form videos. TikTok will have to roll out new features to maintain its following, just as Snapchat moved from disappearing messages to introducing disappearing Stories.Finally, TikTok needs to figure out what kind of ads it wants to roll out. Companies like McDonald’s are already running campaigns involving dance challenges on the app, but these videos have to be submitted through the official McDonald’s app, not the TikTok app. If TikTok intends to woo businesses, it needs to ad native support for promotions and campaigns.
Tabitha Jean Naylor
TikTok does have momentum, but the app needs to keep up with the trends to make sure it doesn't lose its appeal. That's a tough ask for any incoming app, but TikTok, by most measures, seems to be holding up, and could break through.
But it's not there yet. There are some areas of concern for the app, but if TikTok can overcome those initial shaky steps, and build a more effective monetization framework - something Vine couldn't do - then it may well be the next big thing.
That said, there is marketing potential in TikTok right now, but how much time you want to commit to it will obviously depend on the results you're seeing, and whether it's actually driving traffic. You'll want to keep an eye on your metrics, and measure your results at each step before increasing your investment of ad spend and labor time.