Scrollers, rejoice: TikTok has found its groove.

TikTok is a social media app that allows users to create and share short videos set to music. Often panned as “just an app for dancing and pointing,” the short form video sharing app has matured into one of the most influential platforms online. One estimate found that users watch TikTok videos for an astonishing 92 minutes a day, far more than any other social media platform.

But with the popularity comes concern in the United States and other countries. TikTok parent company ByteDance is based in China, raising concerns about national security, and the app has repeatedly been flagged for inappropriate content and mishandling younger users’ data. Nevertheless, with Twitter on the decline, TikTok has become the wittiest place on the internet, and young people are flocking to it in droves.

Key Takeaways

  • TikTok’s buzz began when it became the most downloaded app in the App store in 2018.
  • The platform has an “anti-aesthetic;” simple green screen effects and content shot from a user’s phone often performs well.
  • The platform’s stitch feature makes it easy to film reaction content, in which a user responds to other user generated content.
  • Viral TikTok videos are common, but converting the user base into subscribers or customers is a challenge, and many TikTok influencers struggle to monetize, despite their large followings.
  • TikTok became the number one most-visited website in the world in 2021, eclipsing Google, a huge feat.

Here’s a rundown of TikTok for us old folks, along with how you could potentially leverage it to bolster your online presence.

What Is TikTok and Where Did It Come From?

The TikTok app first launched in 2016. TikTok’s parent company ByteDance later acquired another app, lip-syncing video content platform, in August 2017. ByteDance then rolled’s user base and features into TikTok and did a rebrand. In 2022 TikTok had more than 1.4 billion users, more than double its user count in 2020.

The merger gave TikTok more souped-up features. Within TikTok, you can access libraries of background music and sound effects, and can post videos whenever you want. One of the main features of TikTok is its easy-to-use video creation tools. Users can choose from a wide variety of filters, effects, and soundtracks to enhance their videos. Whether it's lip-syncing, dancing, or showcasing their creative talents, TikTok offers endless opportunities for users to express themselves.

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Many TikTok creators utilize highly visual footage and frequent jump cuts to hold a user's attention.

Users must be at least 13 years old to use TikTok. In 2019, ByteDance completed a $5.7 million with the FTC for allowing users under 13 years old to use the app, a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA).

Short Form Video, Defined:Short form video is video content intended to be very short in length. It’s especially popular in vertical video formats, like what TikTok offers.

How a Video Sharing App Disrupted Social Media

Internet users quickly flocked to the TikTok platform because the app’s algorithm is set up differently from other apps. Most other social media platforms use a social graph; your feed is influenced by friends and family. In contrast, TikTok’s “For You” feed is entirely algorithm-driven, showing you short form video content and viral trends based on your past browsing history.

The result is an incredibly addicting and personalized feed, one that has made TikTok one of the most popular apps in the world, particularly with younger audiences.

Takeaway:The “For You” feed is the primary feed on TikTok. There is a separate feed you can toggle to to see just the posts of users you follow.

Qualities of TikTok Users

TikTok users value educational content, but also creative freedom and expression. The content on this platform is downright bizarre at times, and that’s part of the fun.

One of the app’s primary features for finding content is hashtags. Hashtags play a crucial role in TikTok's community building. By using relevant hashtags, users can connect with others who share their interests and passions. This resurgence in hashtags has led to the emergence of various TikTok communities: #BookTok, #FinTok, #FitnessTok… you get the idea.

Since TikTok content exists as web URLs too, the massive amount of traffic flowing through the platform has also made it a great search engine. Many younger users search on TikTok the way you and I might search on Google or YouTube. As a result, TikTok SEO has become a marketing strategy of interest in recent years.

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On TikTok, clarity is more important than production quality, as most users post footage shot from their phone.

How to Make a Great TikTok Video

Short, Short, Short

Get to the point quickly! TikTok is all about speed. Although the app rolled out functionality for longer videos recently, the cap was 60 seconds for a long time.

As such, try to keep your videos short and sweet so that they’re native to the platform.

This video from “Dr. Matt” gets the point across in seven seconds.

Capture Attention in the Very First Second

Users spend just a second or two on a video before moving on. Make the beginning of your video interesting or compelling so that users are more likely to stay. You can see how much of your videos users typically watch in the TikTok analytics dashboard.

Follow the Community Guidelines

Content should be in line with all. It should also be well-lit. When video content is poorly lit, some algorithms will deprioritize distribution. This is because some predators will mask, uh, unsavory activities in poorly lit sections of their videos, then target those videos to children.

Have good lighting in your TikToks and other videos so you don’t run the risk of getting dinged because an algorithm perceives your video as having dark spots.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Will TikTok Remain Available in the United States?

We don’t know yet. TikTok has been banned on government devices in the US and other countries. If TikTok were to be banned, it’s possible that ByteDance would explore divesting the US arm of the business to a US-based company.

What Are the Pros and Cons of TikTok?

TikTok content is easy to create, and your feed is algorithm-driven, based on your viewing history. A drawback is that most content is pithy and short, so it can be hard to hold users’ attention or invite them to go off-site.

How Does TikTok Make Money?

Like most social media platforms, most of TikTok’s revenue comes from selling ads. TikTok marketing is generally more effective for brand awareness than it is for making sales.

Can You Make Money on TikTok?

TikTok creators are eligible to make money through the app’s creator fund, but this fund is a set pool of money, meaning the spoils are getting smaller as more content creators arrive on the platform.

Who Is the Target Audience for TikTok?

At this point, TikTok appeals to users of all age demographics. Short form videos typically appeal to users who like to scroll, enjoy visual stimulation and storytelling, and want some variety in their feeds.

What Are the Benefits of Using TikTok?

  • Higher potential for content to go viral.
  • Nice selection of in-app editing tools.
  • Easy to push your own video from TikTok to other platforms.
  • Easy to follow other users.

Is TikTok Kid-Friendly?

TikTok has parental control features that parents can set for their kids’ accounts. These features can prevent strangers from direct messaging your child and can adjust what content your child can see.

Burrow Into the TikTok Rabbit Hole Today

TikTok has evolved into an incredibly valuable app. If you want to reach new users with your work, and dread the thought of having to make or manage longer videos, it might be the perfect platform to reach your target audience. ◆

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