From quirky to mainstream: TikTok’s Time to Grow Up

January 23, 2020
Industry News
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TikTok, the video-sharing social media app owned by the Beijing-based company ByteDance, was released to international markets in September 2017. It has since made the headlines thanks to its stellar growth – mostly among teenagers and celebrity adopters – as well as its quirky offering (15-second user-generated videos played in a loop). Among digital marketing professionals, it has been the focal point of debates on the use of Artificial Intelligence to maximise virality of shared content, and on how to ensure user privacy against a rather volatile geopolitical backdrop.

It is not exactly the first time that the world is caught off guard by a social media app spreading like wildfire and raising all sorts of questions in its wake – from monetisation to ethics. But once the dust has settled, are these social media apps able to become mainstream? Is TikTok just a passing fad or is it here to stay? Will it also be monetiseable with the deep-pocket adults? 

To answer this, we looked at TikTok’s adoption among adult audiences in the UK. As of December 2019, nearly 3.4 million unique individuals age 18 or above in the UK accessed the TikTok app on their smartphone (iPhone or Android). This corresponds to 8.7% of all smartphone users within that age bracket in the country (see chart below), and a nearly 70% increase in users, compared with December 2018.

The fact that TikTok is mostly a young people’s app is borne by the data: as the chart below shows, the 18-24 segment is the largest age bracket with 1.4 million unique individuals, or 26% of smartphone owners in that age bracket. TikTok also seems to have far more traction among female audiences, with 1.9 million female unique users (that is, 9.3% of female smartphone users), compared with 1.5 million unique users for male audiences (or 6.8% of male smartphone users). A comparison of growth rates paints a similar picture: with growth rates highest among the younger age groups, and among women.

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