A Beginner's Guide to TikTok

TikTok is the video-sharing platform on everyone's lips, but if you're unfamiliar with this new social media app, you may wonder what the hype is about. Although TikTok only appeared on the world stage three years ago, in 2018, it existed for four years under its previous name Music.ly.
Musical.ly was a video streaming and sharing app that allowed users to create short lip-syncing and comedy videos, and in 2017 it was acquired by TikTok's parent company, ByteDance. The following year, ByteDance merged Music.ly with the new TikTok app to combine data in one app and create a larger, worldwide video community. Soon after, in 2020, TikTok surpassed Facebook as the most downloaded app of the year, firmly establishing itself as the must-have social media channel.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a video-sharing and social networking app that allows users to create and share short videos lasting from 15 seconds to three minutes on any topic. It is owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company that also operates a similar app for the Chinese market known as Duyin.
Tik Tok vs. Musical.ly
Musical.ly is a Chinese social media service launched in 2014, where users create and share short lip-sync videos lasting from 15 seconds to one minute. ByteDance acquired Musical.ly Inc. in November 2017 and merged it with TikTok in August 2018. The TikTok app is based on the same concept of short videos but has a much broader reach. Unlike Musical.ly, however, it's not just focused on imitation music.
Videos on TikTok are often accompanied by background music or other audio clips and can be customized by slowing down, speeding up, or adding a filter to the content. In addition, users can add their sound on top of the background audio.
How does TikTok work?
To start with TikTok, users must first download the app and sign up for the platform using their phone numbers, email addresses, or third-party accounts such as Facebook and Instagram. Once logged into the app, users can use their phone contacts or social media followers to find friends already on the app. They can also search for popular creators, categories (dance, fitness, beauty, pranks, etc.), and hashtags to find videos.
While many users enjoy creating their video content on the platform, many prefer to simply use TikTok as a way to find and follow video content or authors that interest them.
Why is TikTok so popular?
Since TikTok launched, the app has grown at an impressive rate. In October 2018, it became the most downloaded photo and video app in the Apple store worldwide, surpassing Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Since then, the app has reached more than two billion global downloads. Of that number, most of the downloads have come from U.S. users. TikTok, for example, has about 50 million daily active users in the United States alone.
The main reasons for the app's growing popularity are celebrity support, localized content, and the ease of creating, sharing, and watching video content. The app is also known for its quirky trends and hashtags. TikTok is particularly popular among Generation Z, which refers to users born after 1996 and accounts for over 60% of TikTok users. This popularity among the younger generation can be attributed to many elements of the app, including a wide range of diverse content, personalized selections, a fresh take on advertising, and the ability to express oneself.
How can brands use TikTok?
TikTok, because of its popularity and video content, is a channel worth using for brands looking to introduce their products to a broader, more engaged, and younger audience. Brands can use TikTok in four main ways to increase brand awareness:
Using TikTok challenges and contests to encourage users to create their own brand-related video content
Using hashtags like on other social media platforms to promote their marketing campaigns, products, or services.
Guess became the first brand to use TikTok in this way, launching the #InMyDenim campaign on September 1, 2018. The campaign asked all U.S. TikTok users to create denim video content with the hashtag #InMyDenim.
Through this, their brand received endorsements and mentions from influencers who create content millions of users view daily. Using these personalities, their target audience, and the type of content they make, brands can create creative, entertaining, and unique marketing campaigns like never before.
Brand capture ads are ideal for maximum exposure and reach because they instantly draw the user's attention to the brand. It does this by showing a full-screen ad to the user the first time they open the app, either a three-second image or a three- to five-second video.
These captures are exclusive to a different category each day, so only one brand can capture a variety each day. The ad can be linked to a brand's landing page or Hashtag Challenge in TikTok, which increases traffic to these campaigns.
Frequently Asked Questions About TikTok
Who owns TikTok?
ByteDance owns TikTok, a Beijing-based technology company co-founded by Chinese entrepreneur Zhang Yiming. Zhang, whose personal fortune is estimated at $44.5 billion, is one of the wealthiest people in China.
Zhang is currently chairman and CEO of ByteDance, but earlier this year it was announced that he would step down as CEO at the end of 2021, with his co-founder Liang Rubo taking his place.
Zhang was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in 2019 and was described as «the best entrepreneur in the world.»
Along with TikTok, ByteDance has acquired several other products and services over the past decade, including news and content platform Toutiao («Headlines»), Indonesian news recommendation platform BABE, News Republic, Flipagram, and Music.ly.

What's the point of TikTok?
Although TikTok is currently the most popular app, only some understand the excitement, especially older people. For millennials and members of Generation Z, TikTok provides a new, engaging, and exciting way to interact with their friends and the world around them. For the younger generations who grew up in the digital age, smartphones are an extension of their bodies. Therefore, TikTok is part of their youth culture and a way to entertain and creatively express themselves.
What is a TikTok account?
A TikTok account allows you to sign in to the TikTok app and start creating and sharing short mobile videos. A user's first creation of a TikTok account is public by default. However, users can adjust the app's privacy settings and switch to a private version. Having a private account allows a user's «friends» to view the user's content, as well as comment, send messages, or create a «reaction» or «duet» video with the user.
After reading this guide to TikTok, it's no surprise that this app overtook Facebook as the most downloaded app last year. As you've learned, TikTok stands for big business and is a channel worth using for brands looking to get their products in front of a larger and more engaged audience.
By familiarizing yourself with the app and learning about the features of TikTok, how you can post on it, why it is so popular, and more, you are well on your way to building a successful presence on this sought-after platform.