Tiktok is a household name at this point across most countries in the world. It has 3B app downloads, the highest for a non-meta platform app. It has 1.2B monthly active users, across 150+ countries. But what was the reason behind its meteoric rise, despite going against industry behemoths like Google, Meta Platforms. We will explore the reasons here.
The User Interface
Most of the existing video publishing sites like YouTube, Vimeo, etc were built for vertical viewing, i.e 16:9 aspect ratio. So on mobile, the video is displayed horizontally, covering only a part of the screen. And the user has to go to full-screen mode to view it right. And if you wanted to interact with the video ( like/comment), you had to exit the full-screen mode.
Tiktok is horizontal viewing, and it covers the entire screen right away, as you open the app. And you can interact too right from the home screen.
Videos that look good on bigger screens like PC/Laptop, might not look good on a smaller screen. This is where platforms like YouTube suffer.
With TikTok being an app-only platform, the user experience is uniform across.
Snap & Snip
Again, to upload your video onto these existing platforms, you need to be able to edit videos beforehand. You would need separate video editing tools for this which needs time, energy, and expertise. And the rendering process also takes a good chunk of your time. And the upload process is also a bit tedious.
Tiktok on the other hand, allows you to shoot and upload videos by clicking one single button, that’s right on the launch screen, at the center. It has inbuilt filters, that can be applied right on the app itself.
So it essentially enables anyone with a smartphone to share their own videos, whereas, on other platforms, the subset of creator base is quite small when compared to the total userbase.
No Copyright conundrum
In most video publishing platforms, If you have used even a few seconds of material not owned by you, be it music or visuals, you would have to deal with copyright. Your video could be blocked or restricted in certain regions depending on the copyright rules.
But Tiktok has licenses with music labels where royalty is paid to them. This allows the users to use any song or music commercially available, for free.
Young & Free
Tiktok userbase is majorly made up of Gen-Z & millennials, an age group of 15-24, with a lot of free time on their hands. This is also the most creative age group which gives rise to new trends that spread like wildfire on the app.
In the social media culture driven by the need for validation, TikTok made it easy for commoners to amass a larger following akin to celebrities. All one needs is a viral video.
Brands, celebrities, and influencers also want to keep up their brand value, so they post content on Tiktok which brings in their own wider fanbase.
Every video platform is utterly inconsistent when it comes to the duration of the video. It can be anything from a few seconds to multiple hrs. While Tiktok is capped at just 1min. This works well on dopamine fuelled human brain with an ever-decreasing attention span, thanks to the same smartphones.
Down the rabbit hole
Going to the next video is just a swipe away, and the never-ending feed of new content, essentially makes users spend longer time than ever. A regular TikTok user spends over 1.5 hrs on the app. And the user also tends to come back to the app multiple times a day.
Abracadabra of Algorithms
The For You feed in Tiktok is driven by user demographics, searches, and the type of content a user watches often, all thanks to complex algorithms driven by ML analytics. The recommendation engines push the content that’s going viral over similar communities. The more a user spends on the platform, the better the algorithms are aware of his/her tastes, interests, and people they would want to watch.
The Road Ahead
TikTok competitors are slowly catching up to them, YouTube with their Shorts, Instagram with their Reels. But it was still able to hold them back. It’s clear TikTok is here to stay, as short mobile videos seem to be the way forward for amassing larger user base and also have them active and on the platform for longer periods of time.