illustration of a woman sitting on a cloud looking at her phone with a clock in the distance

Everything Brands Need to Know About TikTok in 2020

It’s been a minute since TikTok crashed the global social media party in 2018. And a lot has happened.

For example, the Washington Post hired a TikTok app expert. Buzzfeed is recruiting teens to cover the election on TikTok. According to The Verge, Justin Bieber is desperate for his single “Yummy” to go viral on TikTok. A who’s-who of celebrities, including everyone from Snoop Dogg to Reese Witherspoon, have opened accounts. And ads finally made their way onto the platform, along with a shoppable component.

Teenagers are gaga for TikTok. And with the advertising floodgates wide open, brands are too. Chipotle, Nike, Skittles, Fenty Beauty, Pepsi, and Universal Pictures are among the many companies that have already been lured by TikTok’s warpspeed success.

So, is it time for your company to start TikTok marketing? Learn about TikTok stats, demographics, and ad options to see if it’s a fit for your business.

Download the full Social Trends report to get an in-depth analysis of the data you need to inform your social strategy in 2020.

What is TikTok?

If you, like Millie Bobby Brown or Kendall Jenner for 24 hours, are only just signing up for TikTok, here’s a rundown of the app.

TikTok calls itself the “destination for short-form mobile videos.” In some ways it’s a bite-size version of YouTube, with videos ranging between five and 60 seconds in length. Creators have access to an assortment of filters and effects, as well as a massive music library.

Tracks on TikTok have high meme potential, and it’s turned the app into something of a hitmaker. Lil Nas X’s country tap jam Old Town Road is the best example of this. While lassoing some near 67 million plays on TikTok, the single trotted to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for a record-setting 17 weeks.

TikTok video by @nicemichael to Old Town Road

Like any other social network, TikTok has a gamut of influencers and meme machines who cash in on views, likes, comments, shares—and virtual coin. There are more than 35 TikTok stars who count their followers in the tens of millions—most of whom are not mainstream celebrities.

But the machine most central to TikTok’s instant success is its algorithm, which uses artificial intelligence to make personalized recommendations for viewers. The video feed plays the minute the app opens, instantly sucking viewers in. Users can follow their favourite creators, but they don’t have to for the feed to be filled automatically with curated clips.

As Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg put it in leaked audio: “I kind of think about TikTok as if it were Explore for stories, and that were the whole app.”

TikTok makes content discovery central to its experience—which is what allows videos to blow up so fast.

A brief history of TikTok

In China, TikTok is known as Douyin. The forerunner to the TikTok app, Douyin was launched by ByteDance, the world’s most valuable startup, in 2016. TikTok officially made its overseas debut in 2018 when it merged with Musical.ly.

TikTok’s success has not come without controversy. The app was briefly banned by lawmakers in India last year who cited cultural degradation and explicit content as reasons. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission levied $5.7 million fine for violating children’s privacy law. Security concerns have led the U.S. government to launch a national security review of the app, while censorship allegations have drawn criticism from lawmakers and competitors.

TikTok has fresh competition in 2020. Byte, a new TikTok rival from a Vine cofounder, danced to the top of Apple’s app store on Jan 24. And Google just jumped into the short-form video game with Tangi. In Asia, Tencent-backed Kuaishou is gaining popularity, while its sister app, Kwai, is popular in Brazil. And of course, Facebook and Instagram will also look to close in on TikTok this year.

How does TikTok work?

Teens figured TikTok out long ago. But it still manages to befuddle many a millennial and Baby Boomer. Here’s the lowdown on how the TikTok app works.

What can you do on TikTok?

Watch and create videos: Videos are central to the TikTok experience. They can be uploaded or created in-app with stop and start recording, timers, and other tools. Live streaming is also an option. Users can add visual filters, time effects, split screens, green screens, transitions, stickers, GIFs, emoji, and much more.

Here’s the most popular effect, face zoom, in action:

@eliottbrownMy Grandpa’s smile at the end ????????????##tiktok♬ Ymca – Party City


Add Music: TikTok’s extensive music library and integration with Apple Music is where the app edges out all other social platforms. Creators can add, remix, save, and discover songs and sounds via playlists, videos, and more.

Interact: TikTok users can follow accounts they like, and give hearts, gifts, comments or shares on videos they enjoy. Videos, hashtags, sounds, and effects can be added to a user’s Favorites section.

Discover: The Discover feed is all about hashtags, but users can also search for keywords, users, videos, and sound effects. People can add friends by searching their username, or scanning their unique TikCode.

Explore profiles: TikTok profiles show a tally of follows and followers, as well as an overall total of the number of hearts a user has received. As on Twitter and Instagram, official accounts are given blue checkmarks.

Spend virtual coins: Coins can be used to give Virtual Gifts on TikTok. When a user buys them, they can convert them into diamonds or emoji. Diamonds can be exchanged for cash. Prices for coins start at $1.39 for 100, and go up to $139.00 for 10,000.

@calebnataleHow to make money on Tik Tok. Wait till the end ???????? ##backatwork ##fyp ##handgestures♬ Yummy – Justin Bieber

How do people typically use TikTok?

There’s really no typical way to use TikTok. Yes, there’s lip syncing, dancing, comedy sketches, and cats… lots of cats. But there’s no rule book. What you will find are a few formats that we explain here.

TikTok Trends: Also known as TikTok Challenges, these memes typically involve a popular song or hashtag. Trending songs and tags like #ButHaveYouSeen and #HowToAdult act as prompts for users to attempt dance moves or create their own variation on a theme.

@otbIf you had a magic suitcase where would you go!? #stopmotionme #tiktoktravel #foryou #uk♬ Crystal Dolphin – Engelwood

TikTok Duets: Duets are a popular collaborative feature on TikTok that allows users to sample another person’s video and add themselves to it. Duets can range from genuine collabs, remixes, spoofs, and more. Artists like Lizzo, Camila Cabello, and Tove Lo have used the format to promo singles and connect with fans.

@derekhoughHey everybody, How do you use this thing! #duet with itsundos♬ original sound – itsundos

Cringe Videos: These videos aim to make audiences cringe with painfully awkward performances and scenarios. Often funny and always embarrassing, they’re the type you can’t look away from. That’s why they often end up in YouTube compilations.

It is February and literally 60 here in Philly from TikTokCringe

React Videos: YouTubers pioneered the reaction genre, but TikTokers have perfected it. Under the share option of someone’s video, users can select React. They can record their reaction while the video plays, and position where they want their overlay video to play alongside the original.

@misha_segal#react to trifinn did they just forget that melody? ???? #SonicSpeedMeUp #buthaveyouseen #fyp #fypシ #workroutine♬ Lalala – Y2K & Bbno$

React videos can also be recorded simultaneously and in large groups, like this collaborative work of digital art:

@just_ethan_yeeet#react to fathoodbitch♬ original sound – fantasytune

Users have the ability to disable Duets and Reacts when they share videos.

Cross-platform sharing: TikTok memes don’t just stay on TikTok. In many cases, users share their content on other social networks like Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram. Integration for sharing on these apps and others is built in. There are more than 32 million posts with the hashtag #TikTok on Instagram. In many cases, captions can add a new layer to an already existing TikTok meme.

TikTok’s highest performing videos range from an elephant toothpaste explosion to a caesarean section performed on a banana. In other words, it’s pretty random.

Check out the TikTok Top 100 of 2019 here.

TikTok demographics and stats

TikTok’s metrics are tricky to track. Here’s what we found.

General TikTok stats

  • TikTok is the sixth largest social network now
  • The TikTok app has more than 1.65 billion downloads to date
  • TikTok was installed more than 738 million times in 2019, making it the second most downloaded app of the year, surpassed only by Whatsapp
  • According to Sensor Tower, Q4 2019 was TikTok’s best quarter yet, with 219 million app installs
  • Third-party data from Apptopia suggests that TikTok’s in-app purchase revenue topped $50 million in Q4 2019. Sensor Tower estimates closer to $87 million. For comparison, in the same period Snapchat earned $561 million.
Global mobile app rankings activites
Source: Digital 2020

TikTok usage stats

  • According to a leaked deck from TikTok, the app has 800 million monthly active users, 500 million of which are in China
  • Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, has 400 million daily active users, according to ByteDance’s annual report. By comparison, Snapchat reported 218 million global DAUs for Q4 2019.
  • According to company documents, the average user opens TikTok more than 8 times a day
  • 52% of TikTok users can be categorized as status seekers, finds a survey by Global Web Index

According to ByteDance’s annual report, in China:

  • 14.89 million “knowledge-based content videos were shared on the app last year
  • 24.18 million videos using the ‘baby’ filter, received 210 million likes
  • 3.265 million videos using the ‘aging’ filter, received 1.02 billion likes

TikTok demographics

India

  • Despite its brief ban last year, India led markets with 323 million app installs in 2019, representing 44% of global installs, Sensor Tower reports
  • There are upward of 120 million monthly active users in India as of June 2019

China

  • According to the leaked deck from TikTok, 500 million of TikTok’s global monthly active users are in China
  • Chinese users spent more than triple the amount U.S. users spent in 2019, dropping upward of $122.9 million
  • TikTok is more popular with older generations in China when compared with other places. According to a survey by Global Web Index, 60% of TikTok users are in the 25-44 age bracket

United States

  • According to TikTok, there are 30 million monthly active users in the U.S.
  • With 46 million app installs last year, the United States accounted for six percent of global downloads
  • American users spend an average of 46 minutes a day on the app, totalling 37 billion video views a month.
  • 34% of daily active users in the U.S. record videos on a daily basis
  • TikTok’s biggest age group in the US is 18-24 year olds, which account for 42%. That’s followed by 13-17 year olds at 27%.
  • In the U.S. 13-26 year olds are as likely to use TikTok as Facebook and Twitter
  • Approximately 60% of users in the U.S. are female, versus 40% male

Britain

  • Britain follows China and the United States for spending on the TikTok app, accounting for 2% with $4.2 million

TikTok advertising figures

  • Average cost per one thousand impressions (CPM) is $10

TikTok Members' Most Distinctive Attitudes

How to use TikTok for business

Last year TikTok introduced a self-serve ad platform for advertisers.

Branded hashtag challenge

So far, branded hashtag challenges seem to be the most popular approach for brands on TikTok. Several musicians and companies like the NFL, Sunsilk, and Universal Pictures have run campaigns. Even TurboTax is getting in on the action.

These campaigns encourage users to create videos around a specific hashtag, often using a specific song or set of dance moves. As TikTok points out, the baked-in virality of challenges may be why they’re favoured: 35% of users have participated in one. Some 16% of all videos on the platform are tied to hashtag challenges.

Campaigns like Pepsi’s #SwagStepChallenge have also spilled over Twitter and YouTube.

In addition to the feed, branded hashtags appear in the Trending section of the Discover tab. When a user clicks on it, they’re brought to a Challenge Page that includes a brief description. Brands can pay extra to secure the upper banner position. Sources tell The Verge that this can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Download the full Social Trends report to get an in-depth analysis of the data you need to inform your social strategy in 2020.

Get the full report now!

TikTok #WeReadyNFL videos

In August, Kroger was the first brand to try the shoppable Hashtag Challenge Plus option. With this feature the Challenge Page includes a Discover tab where people can shop products. Links opened to Kroger’s website.

TikTok #TransforUrDorm videos

K-pop channel hello82 created a contest around a TikTok hashtag challenge.

Brand takeover ad

A brand takeover ad pops up when someone opens TikTok. It can be a three-five seconds long full-screen video, GIF, or image, and links to an external or internal landing page. TikTok only allows one advertiser for this format per day, and guarantees five million daily impressions.

In-feed video ads

These 5-15 second-long ads are essentially promoted TikTok videos.

They appear in the “For You” feed and can drive clicks to an internal or external page. Users can share, like, comment, and click-to profiles as they can with organic content. These ads are available through the auction model.

Maybelline’s recent in-feed ad campaign earned the cosmetics retailer 48.7K likes and almost 3,000 comments in one day.

tiktok video by maybelline: 4 screens

Top-view video ads

TikTok’s top-view ads combine takeover and in-feed video ads. They start with a takeover, and transition to an in-feed video, lasting a total of 15 seconds.

According to TikTok’s leaked dek, this format will be available in the U.S. in May.

Branded lenses

Brands can partner with TikTok to create 2D and 3D lenses for users to “try on” and share. Doing so also lands companies in the Trending section of the Discover tab for 10 days.

According to TikTok, 64% of its users have tried face filters and lenses.

Branded songs

Remember jingles from old-school advertising days? Songs are a big part of TikTok, so having a good branded song can really help a campaign take off.

Home Depot got lucky on this front. Inexplicably, its theme song went viral all on its own.

@creditablechrisMore saving, more doing, Home Depot.♬ original sound – creditablechris

OREO created a tune and teamed up with TikTok influencers like @glitterandlazers to promote its #WhatsYourStuf challenge. So far the hashtag has nearly 2.9 billion views.

@glitterandlazers#ad My favorite way to make decisions… oreo Original is the best! #whatsyourstuf♬ What’s Your Stuf? (Original) – OREO Official

Some brands have teamed up with artists. For this year’s Super Bowl, Chipotle teamed up with Justin Bieber to promote his single “Yummy.”

@avaniWell that chipotle came quick???????? #tiktoktimeout #ad♬ Yummy – Justin Bieber

TikTok influencer partnerships

A lot of brands have teamed up with influencers to promote hashtag challenges, or simply to promote products. TikTok even provides lists of potential creators to brands.

Amazon’s #FoundItOnAmazon partnership with @glitterandlazers included a call to action to shop via the link in her bio.

@glitterandlazers#FoundItOnAmazon. U can find everything there! Shop these looks with the link in my bio! #sponsored♬ original sound – glitterandlazers

The future of TikTok

What’s coming in 2020? TikTok is reportedly beta testing shoppable ads with select influencers in the United States. Since November, these creators have been able to embed links to product pages in their videos.

Download the full Social Trends report to get an in-depth analysis of the data you need to inform your social strategy in 2020.