TikTok has continued to impress and has achieved a new milestone, reaching one billion monthly active users. The growth has occurred despite the platform’s considerable challenges. 

The Story of TikTok’s growth has been quite the envy for emerging platforms. TikTok has also been releasing a slew of new features, mostly targeting brands and content creators. Together with the good old short video format, these new features are now creating real ripples in the social media world.

Let’s take a look at how TikTok has achieved this growth and what it means for competitors, particularly Facebook.


Putting The Numbers In Context

TikTok got to the 1 billion monthly active users mark in 5 years since its launch. TikTok was launched in China as Douyin in 2016, and in 2018 merged with musical.ly to form TikTok as we know it today. 

Facebook launched in 2004 and took 8 years to hit the 1 billion mark in 2012. Facebook currently has 2.8 billion monthly active users today. Instagram too took 8 years to reach 1 billion active users a month in 2018. YouTube is the other platform in the 1 billion club, and interestingly, it took 8 years to get there. Currently, it has over 2 billion active users a month. 

The popularity of TikTok soared during the pandemic, adding over 500 million users from Q1 2020 to Q3 2021. Overall, the growth has also remained steady ever since its launch in 2016. 

ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, has also seen massive growth in revenue over this period, growing from $73 million in 2017 to $1.9 billion in 2021. There have also been several features that have helped brands invest on the platform in ads and other content formats.


The Growth Of The Short Video Format

TikTok’s growth has also had another consequence – the growth of the format as a whole. The short video format was perfected by TikTok, and the biggest attraction to the platform is the short snappy nature of the content and the unique presentation. Despite its massive growth, TikTok has managed to keep its essence alive. 

The short video format has taken off following the success of TikTok. Today, most of the leading social media platforms have some form of short video content. YouTube launched Shorts, Snapchat has Spotlight, Instagram has Reels, and Facebook also has a short video format. 

The number of people engaged in short videos is also increasing year on year. So much so that Instagram has shifted its focus from being a photo-sharing app to one that harbors a variety of styles of content. They have also started to promote Reels much more aggressively with premium positioning on the feed. 

Other smaller TikTok-like platforms have come up, each with its own approach. These alternatives are also looking at ways to get a share of the market, and it is common to see ads and influencer campaigns run by these apps on social media and mainstream media. 


Enabling Creators

The short video format and TikTok is also the arena for another battle. One that allows content creators to shine and earn some money while doing it. TikTok prioritized ways to help content creators on the platform get paid for their work. These are in the form of payouts for certain benchmarks and ways in which creators can monetize their following both from brands and from the community in the form of subscriptions/extra content. Snapchat also pays as much as $1 million a day to content creators on their short video content format, Spotlight.

Creators are becoming indispensable for social media platforms. While social media feeds originally catered to content from those close to the user, such as friends and family, formats like short videos are geared towards influencers and content creators, both niche and macro. It is often the good content that comes from these accounts that make the platform attractive for users. TikTok has been at the forefront of this change with the way their discovery algorithm works. 

The creators are getting a great deal right now, with all platforms catering to various content formats and focusing on particular audiences like gaming and sports. At the same time, the platforms are also ensuring that the content is original. For instance, Instagram actively reduces the reach of posts with the TikTok watermark. 

For influencers and creators, there are more choices now than ever before. There are also distinct profiles of people on different platforms, so the creators can also create more content of the same format and use them on different platforms. This opens up a lot of opportunities. 

TikTok has set the tone for influencer marketing as well in the recent past. TikTok’s are ideally suited for product recommendations, awareness campaigns, and other brand content. A whole variety of influencers are present on TikTok, ranging from music, fashion, gaming, family, health, and more. More brands would be looking at TikTok as an option, and as creating TikToks themselves may not be possible, influencers can fill this gap. 


What’s Ahead?

TikTok’s growth has been a gamechanger for the industry as a whole. It also coincided with the rise in video content, and short-form video was ideal for a world of short attention spans. TikTok’s approach towards content also helped, keeping it fun and lively always. This is espoused in their advice to brands who are on TikTok – “create TikToks, not ads.” This is quite a different approach when it comes to social media marketing.

TikTok’s envious growth has been center stage in terms of conversations around social media. The biggest threat to TikTok’s further growth is established platforms like Instagram and YouTube focusing on short video content. This is an attempt at keeping the audience engaged on their platforms. If this attempt succeeds, the fight for new users could be closely fought.

TikTok’s growth has also attracted problems of very different nature – regulatory ones. TikTok remains banned in India, one of the fastest-growing social media markets in the world. All this while, Instagram Reels and other competing platforms are gaining popularity. TikTok will find it difficult to reach the 2 billion mark without a market of this size.

The regulatory concerns in the USA, however, seem to have been quelled for the time. The troubles with the Trump Administration seem to be a story of the past at this time. This is certainly a tick in the right column for TikTok.

However, at least in the short term, TikTok seems to have no plans to slow down. Their growth is likely to continue the trend, at least in the coming few months. It could be more difficult to add new users and keep them engaged in the long term. The slew of new features aimed at creators will certainly help. The 1 billion mark means that TikTok is now a serious contender to attract new creators, ensuring that new users turn up too. 


Final Thoughts

Roughly 1 out of 4 social media users are now on TikTok, which is quite a big achievement. It was difficult for a large section of users to take TikTok seriously initially, and its essence did not go with the notions of how social media content should be. But in 5 years, TikTok has taken quite a few people by surprise. The growth is no mean feat, and it is a product of TikTok’s commitment to enabling creators to connect with the community and help them monetize this effectively.

Short video content as a format is on the rise and is likely to be the leading format on today’s biggest platforms. TikTok has led this charge, but the path ahead may not be as straightforward. With veteran social media players like Facebook in the game, TikTok must constantly innovate in order to stay ahead of the curve. 

In no small part, this growth is also due to the work of content creators who have used the platform to create quirky, fun content that is often quite informative. The continued growth of TikTok would also be dependent on content creators and enable them to monetize. 

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