Let me start by saying that at the beginning of 2020, I was a TikTok hater. When people were doing the renegade and throwing it back, I shook my head thinking, “TikTok’s a fad, just like Vine.” I stood strong against my now dance-obsessed peers with full confidence I wouldn’t give in. It wasn’t until March, for my intern project at RPA, that I finally downloaded the app that everybody was getting on.
So what was all the fuss about?
Getting on TikTok is very confusing. You’re on the app and all of a sudden you’re watching a stranger make coffee to a French Ratatouille song and then another random person dancing to “Say So,” then another stranger is telling you a pretty intimate, embarrassing story. It’s just downright funny. Initially, the videos are all quite amateur-ish and maybe even cringe-y, but then you realize: that’s the point. The beauty of TikTok is that it’s for everybody. We’re stripping away the Instagram filters, VSCO edits, and YouTube scripts to not be afraid to just mess around and have fun for once. The fact that anyone could go viral is simply icing on the cake.
It may seem pointless, this endless flow of random videos, but TikTok perfectly captured the Gen-Z humor and meme culture: ushering in a new wave of social media as a platform for authenticity and entertainment. In a world where your online presence is ever-scrutinized and the pressure to say the right thing to not get “canceled” is inescapable, TikTok provides much-needed relief for Gen-Zs and Millennials alike. Perhaps it was due to quarantine, but the once teen-filled app is now gaining an older demographic of Millennials, making it the most downloaded app in the world since April 2020.
It comes as no surprise that brands have recognized where everyone’s attention shifted and capitalized on it. TikTok themselves also recognized the opportunity and only began to offer advertising options in 2019. Since then, brands like e.l.f. and Yoplait have utilized the app to engage with this audience through branded hashtag challenges, gaining over 5B and 3B views respectively. It was precisely the fact that TikTok was monetizing the app through advertising and influencers that I was convinced it was here to stay. I could go into the nitty-gritty details of TikTok’s advertising options but here is a quick overview of what they offer so far: