TikTok #foryou

Managing Director

Birgit Zuurveld

15 Dec 2020

TikTok, the hugely popular "new" social platform. During lockdown, all of us were pretty much "bored in the house and I'm in the house bored". However, nowadays, more and more opponents of the platform are speaking up and a serious boycott is being considered in the US.

Since I’m convinced we shouldn’t let this go by unnoticed, I would like to go into this first. I'm going to try to keep it short. Honestly, this is almost worth a separate article, so do forgive me if I don't go into all the details now.

The first Chinese social media platform with real success in the Western World

TikTok is a Chinese app from tech company ByteDance and, more importantly, the first Chinese social media app that is very successful in the Western world. However, similar to Facebook and Instagram, more and more concerns about the privacy and security risks of the app have been voiced in recent days and weeks.

This is mainly due to the fact that the Chinese government has much more influence on (technology) companies than governments have in Western countries. Where there are independent companies in the Western world that guarantee our privacy, in China, this is also handled by the government. On top of that, rumors are increasing, stating that data collection at TikTok goes much further compared to what Facebook does. It doesn’t need to be said we were all already quite suspicious about Facebook… TikTok not only appears to be collecting data on a much larger scale, it also is rumoured to provide the Chinese government with insight into this. Some parties, such as Hackers Group Anonymous, even claim that TikTok was originally developed as spyware for the Chinese government.

In all of these allegations, ByteDance has stated that they want to withdraw from their Chinese background, in order to maintain and strengthen their position in the Western market. They claim not to share data with the Chinese government, but, honestly, with the new security law in Hong Kong, can we take their word for it?

A new way of content creation

No matter how many rumours circulate about TikTok’s data and privacy approach, we can be sure of one thing. With TikTok - or actually already with Musical.ly, a new way of content creation has arrived. To illustrate what this means, we first need to go back to the basics of TikTok. In short, it is the social media app that allows you to create and share short music videos. Dancing, singing, doing challenges, play-backing, … Basically one big party 💃🕺. Officially, TikTok is for everyone above 13 years old. However, there are users who are definitely younger than 13. More than two thirds of TikTok’s userbase is under 30 years of age, but we are seeing a steep increase in "older" users. To demonstrate the popularity of TikTok: in the month of May, TikTok already had 3.5 million users in the Netherlands.


On TikTok, there are two pages: the “Following” page and the “For you” page. With this pages, you immediately see the difference with other social media platforms. You don’t immediately start out with the content of people you’re following, but rather, you start out with the “For you” page. This page consists entirely of content that TikTok thinks you will like. Because of this, followers on TikTok are much less important than on any other channel, as your number of followers affects your reach way less, in proportion.

Challenge for brands

Creativity and authenticity are without a doubt the secret to being successful on the platform. It is these two basic principles that ensure a whole world of its own arises within the platform. It is also the biggest challenge for brands who want to ride along the wave of TikTok. If a TikTok challenge grows into a success, this will happen within a few hours. As a brand, you can’t stay behind. There’s no time to work out a storyboard and have two feedback rounds take place. Since the content also scores better if it’s made within the app, the “traditional” way of approving content also proves to be more difficult.

Of course, TikTok would like brands to embrace the platform and it is now possible to place advertisements that users see in their app. However, ads have to be made in the creative TikTok way, as it shown by TikTok’s own account that wants to convince brands to make Tiktoks and not ads. Within all the options, you can also use pre-roll ads, vertical ads, billboards and overlay ads. Collaborations with influencers are also considered important and we have already seen several sponsored challenges, such as the #tumbleweedchallenge.

I would like to conclude this blog article by stating that I hope that TikTok will get their privacy business sorted out quickly, though, honestly, I have my reservations about that. However, it is undeniable that a new way of creating content is conquering the world and we need to be aware of it. And, maybe then, another platform can arise, one where we can safely indulge ourselves…


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