I joined TikTok. It’s been an interesting experience in every way, not least of which is simply telling people this. My older daughters are now 13 and 15 and they are horrified, to say the least. “There’s no way you can understand TikTok, mom. It’s memes you don’t get.” Okay, I’ll accept that. There’s definitely a layer of youth culture on TikTok that I’m just not accessing, but it’s not stopping me from enjoying the platform.
Older people seem to kinda roll their eyes at me like why waste your time? But the other day I listened to a wonderful tech writer, Taylor Lorenz, explain TikTok on the Recode Media podcast and as soon as she started talking I got super curious and downloaded the app.
And I love it. TikTok moves really fast. It’s silly and clever and totally entertaining.
Here’s my attitude towards new social media apps. I’m not going to invest unless I feel like the platform has legs and is here to stay, but then I’m ready to play. There’s no reason to resist or be fearful or overwhelmed. The internet is constantly changing and part of staying relevant is having an open mind. It’s a sandbox so let’s not be afraid to get sandy.
If you’ve never heard of TikTok or never really investigated, TikTok is a social media app for short-form video with music playing in the background. It’s owned by the Chinese conglomerate ByteDance and it used to be called music.ly. Bytedance has spent a ton of money on marketing TikTok in the US and so far it’s been really successful. In February of this year, TikTok, together with its Chinese counterpart Douyin, hit one billion downloads globally. So, it’s got legs.
TikToks are between 3-15 seconds and can be looped up to 60 seconds and anyone with a phone can create one. Lots of TikToks are of people lipsyncing and dancing in their driveway or their bedroom. There are challenges on TikTok in which one creator makes something and then other people riff on that idea creating endless iterations.
Okay, here’s what I think is especially cool about TikTok. As soon as you open the app before you even create an account, TikTok starts showing you neat stuff. You don’t need to follow anyone or really do anything. This app breaks away from all of the US social media norms we’re used to: follow your friends’ feed and then see what they’ve posted. Instead, you just see things! Click the heart button and you’ll see more things like that. Follow a few hashtags and…boom all I see now is videos about crafting, cake decorating, baking, embroidery, hand lettering, nail art, and braiding hair. It’s super international, and its pure discovery.
This means as a creator (which I’m not, at least not yet kids!) your video can go viral if it’s good. There’s definitely space here for crafters to build an audience. It’s still the early days for us on this platform. If you like making short-form tutorial videos check it out. I think there will be ways to directly monetize your TikTok audience in the future, but for now, it’s worth building especially if you’re hoping to reach teenagers (and American teenagers are a powerful audience!).
I know it’s easy to say, “Oh no, not one more social media site to worry about!” And I’m not asking you to worry about TikTok. What I’m saying is take a look, check it out, be open-minded and see what it’s all about. It’s super entertaining, really intuitive, and you’ll be able to horrify your kids! Now that’s a win-win if you ask me.