A guide to TikTok: Opportunities for brands & influencers
Nothing like a good dose of humor and dance routines to fill up days of self-isolation that blend into each other.
That’s exactly why TikTok usage has soared over the last few weeks. And it’s not just you and me out there spending hours trying to master the latest TikTok hashtag challenge. Many celebrities and influencers have jumped on the TikToker bandwagon too.
According to recent research from Nielsen’s US team, media consumption is expected to rise up to 60% with people stuck at home.
While that will include old and familiar platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram - it will certainly be reflected in TikTok consumption as well. TikTok boasts 1.2 billion monthly users globally, making it potentially bigger than Instagram. In Q1 2020, TikTok set the record for the most quarterly downloads of any app ever. Let that sink in.
TikTok is the most downloaded app on the Apple App Store (source: SensorTower, 2019)
At the end of last year, we released our annual social media trends round up which predicted that TikTok would make huge gains over other social media platforms in 2020. Recent numbers are certainly proving it.
TikTok has been downloaded over 2 billion times, up 96% year-over-year. TikTok users open the app 8 times everyday on average with a monthly engagement rate of over 70%,
TikTok also reportedly spent nearly $1 billion on advertising alone last year.
Now let’s take a step back to demystify all things TikTok and break down some key information that influencers and brands should know about one of the most exciting players in the social media space now.
Table of Contents
TikTok is a video-sharing and social networking platform which first boomed in China before entering other markets across the world.
Essentially, TikTok allows users (also referred to as creators) to upload and edit short vertical videos (max 60 seconds long), set to a background “sound.”
These sounds can be snippets of songs or voice-overs from TV shows, movies, or any sort of pop culture.
In addition to the sounds, creators have other creative elements available to them on the app such as filters, quick cuts, and stickers, that they can use to make their videos.
Creators can also record their own voices to upload a voiceover that can be used as a sound.
Content that usually goes viral on TikTok includes dance routines which are developed by one person to start and then copied across the world with various creative spins.
But TikTok is certainly not just about dance routines.
Pretty much any type of content you’re used to seeing on other platforms can be found on TikTok - just in its unique, short, and creative format.
From kitchen hacks and self-help videos to comedy skits, beauty & fashion tutorials, you will not struggle to find any genre of content on there, delivered in raw ways you probably haven’t seen before.
TikTok is all about self-expression and authenticity.
Additionally, the platform is now being used to fight misinformation about COVID-19. They have included an in-platform feature that users can access for information from the World Health Organizaiton.
Following my exclusive last week, I looked into the NHS nurses going viral, why TikTok are donating big £ and why coronavirus is bringing more British politicians onto the app for @BBCBreakfast ft. @tiktok_uk and @MattNavarra. Self-shot and edited by me ✌️ pic.twitter.com/GqPPLlpvGG— Sophia Smith Galer (@sophiasgaler) April 22, 2020
The “TikTok generation” was initially thought to be Gen Z.
i really just threw in a dramatic Passé for no reason @keke.janajah♬ Savage - Megan Thee Stallion
These days, however, we are seeing more and more millennials embrace the platform. And the odd boomer too. In fact, 3x the number of U.S. users 18+ downloaded TikTok in April vs. last year
Can you blame them? We could all use a pick-me-up right now.
But what many people don’t know is that TikTok can literally make you a celebrity too.
Lil Nas X, the artist behind the now-ubiquitous song, Old Town Road, was just a college dropout living on his sister’s couch before his hit single (that, by the way, broke an all-time record for longest run at No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100).
Lil Nas X tried to promote his song as a meme for months - to no success.
Then he dropped it on TikTok (a platform he was familiar with and fond of already), and his hashtag #yeehaw blew up.
His song was available as an 'original sound’ on TikTok and, before he knew it, thousands of TikTok creators were using it to make videos - resulting in more than 67 million plays.
Proving that TikTok is a platform that can help you find, build, and engage an audience.
There's been a huge spike in online converastion around TikTok globally.
In February, we registered a total of 11.2 million mentions of TikTok online. By the end of March, this number increased by 150% to 16.5 million mentions and by the end of April reached a staggering 22.9M.
To understand what people are saying about TikTok online, I used Conversation Clusters, a data visualization tool that helps visualize and understand the context around any topic at a glance from millions of results from media, consumer, and social data - in under a minute.
One of the main conversations is around TikTok celebrities, who have created large followings that help contribute to the dedicated and passionate fan base on the platform. Additionally, there are a series of trends that also drive conversations, whether it is Drake’s Toosie Slide challenge, the “Bored in the House” challenge or other home-based challenges. This type of content seems to have led to much excitement in the TikTok community as creators find comfort in their collective experience of being locked down.
The TikTok algorithm favors engaging content by using machine learning to evaluate the quality of the videos.
TikTok shows a new video to a small number of users in between popular videos. The hashtags used on the new video determine which users see it as the algorithm finds users who have previously engaged with the hashtag before.
The algorithm then calculates how much of the video is watched as well as how many likes, comments, shares, and downloads it receives. If a video performs well (speculations are 1 like for every 10 views is the metric), then the video is shown to more people.
If a video then receives 20% more likes in one day, TikTok shows it to even more people, causing it to go viral.
Because of the way the algorithm works, a TikTok feed is not chronological. There are no time-stamps.
Comments on videos are also hidden unless you click on them.
There are 2 sections on a TikTok feed - “Following” and “For You.”
The ‘Following’ feed shows you content uploaded by creators you follow.
The ‘For You’ feed shows you content curated based on the algorithm described above. It also features ads between every 5 or 6 videos (the natural evolution of any social media platform) although they somehow seem less intrusive on TikTok.
One thing is for sure - your feed won’t have that polished, picture-perfect vibe to it that Instagram has.
TikTok videos always loop to restart on the feed.
So, influencers now have a golden opportunity to shine and prove that they can deliver sky-high ROI - probably more than ad campaigns would right now. TikTok reportedly paid one influencer $1 million for a one 15-second video.
With everyone at home these days, the audience’s time is virtually guaranteed. The trick is to keep it. How can influencers capture and retain people’s attention and ensure they’re delivering engaging content that also adds value in these troubling times?
TikTok’s engagement rates have already proven to be miles ahead of any other social media platform right now.
Quick TikTok case study:— August Noble (@AugustNoble) January 30, 2020
About 3 months ago we started DMing and sending free product to anyone with a decent following (5k+).
We’ve sent ~100 units costing ~$2k.
Yesterday a review video did over 2 million views and we did over $50k in sales (avg. day ~$8k).
If you want to start building an audience base to enable you to go viral on TikTok, don’t just post the content you post on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook.
As we saw above, TikTok is engineered in a unique way that specifically favors content for its platform.
Spend time scrolling through TikTok to understand how it works and what kind of content engages the audience
Keep tabs on which ‘sounds’ and hashtags are trending on TikTok
Invest in good equipment if you can - videos in 4K/HD tend to perform better. Use good lighting.
Put a unique spin on a trending sound - think of ways you can be original, funny, and/or add value
Keep the video short - short videos generally perform better. For longer videos, try to capture attention in the first 3 seconds.
Familiarize yourself with a video editing tool - once a video is on TikTok, you’re limited to certain editing options. If you use a third-party editing tool, you can play around with your footage as much as you want to before uploading it to TikTok.
Use relevant hashtags in your caption - it’s always good to have a niche that you target with these hashtags.
Join TikTok hashtag challenges or duets to attract more eyes to your content
Share your TikToks on other platforms - one of the reasons TikTok has been doing so well is how easy they’ve made it to share their native content. By clicking the share button, your video will automatically brand itself with the TikTok watermark and add your handle to it too.
Lather, rinse, repeat. The more you push out content, the more you’ll be able to experiment with what works and what doesn’t.
Post 2-3 times per day (morning, afternoon, evening). Consistency is key.
Monitor your analytics to understand your audience better.
If you become a successful TikToker, don’t be surprised if you get stopped on the streets by fans (once we’re all allowed back outside, that is) because if you go big on TikTok, you go really big.
Brands, too, have a unique opportunity to use TikTok to unlock unprecedented engagement figures.
For example, MAC Cosmetics worked with three TikTok influencers in September 2019 for a hashtag challenge ad campaign called #YouOwnIt. A total of 635,000 videos were created, with around 1.6 billion video views - in just 6 days.
Under normal circumstances, TikTok presents an engaging way to build brand exposure - through:
- Creating a channel for the brand
- Advertising on TikTok and/or
- Collaborating with influencers to create & amplify brand content
Today, especially, brands have a unique chance to really hone in on their influencer collaboration choices by closely observing who is delivering quality content with the current limited resources.
Forget about fancy holidays and restaurant and hotel reviews - influencers today have to work with their sheer creativity and prove that they can add value to their audiences.
Family influencers are now offering creative ideas for home activities to engage children in.
Food influencers are tapping into their inner chefs.
Fitness influencers are providing at-home workouts or live sessions.
And the list goes on and on.
Likewise, brands have to work hard to think outside the box and engage the audience on TikTok in a relevant way. They need to be extremely in tune with current pop culture and online trends.
Brands also need to be willing to be experimental and have some fun. Because that’s what TikTok is all about.
In return, brands will get fresh brand exposure through user-generated content created by and targeted at the increasingly lucrative Gen Z and millennial markets .
Gambit’s Jamal Al Mawed was recently quoted in Arabian Business describing the unique situation we find ourselves in today:
“Our daily screen time on smartphones has increased dramatically, so there is a bigger spotlight on influencers as purveyors of entertainment.There is also a surge in interest in homebound activities like cooking, home workouts, reading, consuming popular shows/movies, cleaning/disinfecting, laundry, gardening, online shopping, so if marketers utilize influencers correctly there is still a lot of opportunity to promote products sensibly and sensitively,” he says.
Data from Quick Search reveals that TikTok conversations in the MENA region have increased by 148% in the past month (March 15-April 15 2020) when compared to the previous one. In the UAE specfically, the conversations around TikTok more than doubled from 12K to 25K.
So, whare you waiting for? There's never been a better time to delve into all things TikTok. To start you off, here’s a list of Middle East TikTok influencers that covers every niche under the sun - from beauty, fashion, and family to food, health, gaming, and comedy.
You’re bound to find a TikTok profile that will get you hooked to the platform! Join the club.
Karen tops pretty much every influencer list out there. And for good reason.
Her content hits all the right notes - it’s trendy, fun, wholesome, and inspirational.
She’s a female Arab entrepreneur who's kicking some serious butt globally. She’s vocal about various serious issues such as bullying and self-love and it’s hard not to relate to her when she draws from her own personal experiences with internet trolls and vitiligo.
Also did I say wholesome? Her kids are EVERYTHING.
Most asked questions 🤣🤣🤣🤣 ##noyeahchallenge♬ original sound - karenwazenbakhazi
With a profile boasting over 5 million followers, UAE-based Sarah Milad is definitely doing something right on TikTok.
Sarah recently collaborated with Huawei Mobile Gulf on a TikTok hashtag challenge. Check it out.
Challenge me and show your best moves to win HUAWEI P40 Pro 5G equipped with Ultra Vision Leica Quad Camera!@huaweimobilegulf ##HUAWEIP40AppGallery♬ HUAWEI AppGallery - Roy Edree
Just when you think Mimi can’t take another social media platform by storm, she goes ahead and does it again. Her TikTok profile is on fire - check it out!
We know and love Maged from his Instagram account and Binge Circle. He has just the right personality for TikTok too so his profile is definitely on my list.
Khalid and Salama
Khalid and Salama have become household names not just in the UAE but all over the world as many people have tuned into their content to combat misconceptions about the Middle East region.
It's only fitting that they have brought their signature comedy skits of everyday family life and couples dynamic to TikTok. Their more serious content is equally popular and important as they clear up misconceptions about the Arab world, autism, and vitiligo - amongst other things.
Freya is an English student living in Jordan. Her profile really took off thanks to her videos showing off the Arabic she’s picked up!
POV: Gemma introduces her ‘Arab’ friend to the group ##fyp♬ original sound - freyannaa
Hiba Al Hadidi
If you’re looking for a good chuckle, you’ll have to follow Lebanon-based, Hiba Al Hadidi.
Speaking of hearty chuckles - US-based Palestinian, @ginaiscracked, certainly delivers. Taking one for the Middle Eastern expats team with her hilarious skits.
A professional skater who knows how to have fun! Follow Jode for a regular dose of tricks, pranks, and challenges.
اش رايكم ب الخدعه 😂 .. اذا تبو تعرفوا الطريقه انتظروا المقطع اليوم على قناتي في اليوتيوب 🤔🔥♬ original sound - 1jode
Noha is one of our favorite Instagram influencers. So, finding her on TikTok was a huge plus! No shortage of fun content featuring her iconic sense of style and humor. And cameos from the kids too.
Siwar is a Jordanian student living in the UK. Amongst general lifestyle and beauty posts, she also posts hilarious TikToks about the day to day life of an Arab expat.
I am HERE for the mother-daughter videos...and for the ones that throw shade like this one.
Wholesome much? A joint account that brings together Asala and Anas and their little one, Milah, is exactly what the world needs more of.
Quarantine day 7😓♬ sonido original - grettyoficial
Kuwaiti actress, Farah Alhady, is also a familiar Instagram face thanks to her engaging lifestyle and beauty content. Follow her TikTok to keep up with her challenges and original takes on trending sounds.
Me & Aqeel did the ##KFCStayHomeChallenge @kfcarabia order now through KFC.ME and show us how you do!♬ original sound - farah_alhady0
I can’t talk about beauty without talking about Ms Huda Beauty herself, Huda Kattan. Just like us - she’s in full quarantine mode.
Ahmed Al Nasheet
Ahmed is well-known in the entertainment and gaming industry. He has clout on almost every single social media platform, so it’s no surprise to see that his TikTok has taken off too!
A popular beauty and fashion content creator on YouTube and Instagram, it’s fun to see Narins Beauty delve into the world of TikTok and share dance routines and funny short skits too.
Kat's content is simply hilarious. Expats living in Egypt (or the Middle East in general) will definitely be able to relate.
Jordan-based Rozzah has a feed full of entertaining content for all fellow Arabic speakers out there.
She’s established her success through Instagram and through her own beauty brands, Glam Jam Express and Glam Jam Beauty Bar, Elijammi is now on TikTok too! Who doesn’t love a good hack?
Dr. Nourhan Kandil
I love how different Nourhan’s account is. While it features all the fun challenges and comedy skits, Nourhan also adds value with her public health advice which we need now more than ever.
ازاى تعمل ماسك قماش فى ثوانى، احدث توصيات CDC, WHO ##coronavirus♬ original sound - dr_nourhankandil
UAE-based fashion and beauty influencer, Leanne, is really serving with her expertise on TikTok. And she’s NMC-licensed too!
More beauty content served courtesy of UAE-based Egyptian, Amira Ibrahim. Definitely worth the follow!
A fun hybrid of Egypt, UAE, and Saudi - Islam creates content simply to entertain you.
When she’s not on TV, Eleen usually posts about the glamorous world of fashion & beauty. Follow her TikTok journey to watch her discover a new side of herself as she gets acquainted with domestic life! And fun make-up content too.
Caroline is an Australia-based Syrian entertainer whose spontaneous, fun-loving spirit just jumps right off the screen!
Life As Sara
Jordan-based Sara takes a new spin on beauty content with her entertaining style. Check out this TikTok from a recent collaboration with Benefit Middle East.
UAE-based Jordanian, Raghad, is an icon when it comes to modest fashion. Watch her take up a whole new space with her entertaining TikTok content.
It’s all about humor and make-up on Dalal’s TikTok. The Kuwait-based influencer is also a successful entrepreneur thanks to her own ready-to-wear brand, Dala Mara.
😜 جم مره صديتو اللي جدامكم و تحسفتو♬ original sound - chatyahb
If you’re after more make-up content on TikTok, you should also check out Sarah’s profile. That blue shadow look! #Wow
Definitely a familiar icon from Instagram, Roz is the first female model from Saudi Arabia. Unsurprisingly, her TikTok is full of fun content of her jumping on the hottest hashtag challenges.
Wessam’s take on TikTok is so original, he creates the sounds himself!
Students will find it easy to relate to his content! And all of us self-isolated folk too.
وضع الطلاب مع دراسة الاونلاين♬ original sound - loransalmansi
Shouq’s polished makeup looks on Instagram are iconic. But we also love seeing the raw and unfiltered side of her on TikTok!
Me being so F annoying 💀😂😂♬ mood - trevvvvor
Totally living for the fashion content on this profile.