Chinese-owned TikTok was the world’s most popular app download last year. The app, loved by Gen Z audiences for it’s short-form video content, nudged Facebook Messenger off the top spot according to the analytics provider App Annie. Facebook – with its own app, WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger – held onto the rest of the top five.
By the numbers
- TikTok, developed by Beijing-based Bytedance has generated more than three billion lifetime downloads according to a Sensor Tower study. In 2020, the app was downloaded almost 980 million times; in Q1, its biggest ever quarter, it generated 315 million downloads.
- The app has about 1 billion monthly active users, with over 130 million of them in the US. According to Comscore, TikTok’s US audience is primarily under the age of 40, with almost a third under 19 and more than 60% under 30. Users average 52 minutes per day on the platform, across an average of eight sessions.
- In Europe, TikTok passed the 100 million users milestone late in 2020. It’s biggest user-base is in the UK, with 17 million users. France and Germany both claim about 11 million and Italy about 10 million. Average usage time is about an hour a day, except in Norway where 1.2 million users spend 74 minutes in the app across an average of 17 sessions.
TikTok topped the 2020 app charts in spite of a threatened ban on downloads in the US. Former President Trump issued an executive order to stop new downloads, claiming the app posed a national security risk. The ban was stopped by injunction and President Biden has since overturned the order.
- With its US future secure, TikTok is working to introduce features that will bring in new users. It is experimenting with time-limited clips similar to the Stories function available on competitor apps Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. TikTok Stories are available to followers of an account for 24 hours before they are deleted.
- TikTok also recently created a $1 billion fund to support content creators. The money will be paid directly to creators in an attempt to deepen relationships between the platform and its influencers. Accounts with 2.5 million followers or more will receive $600-1000 per post.
- TikTok also enjoyed phenomenal ecommerce growth of over 500% in 2020. Shopping activity on the platform exploded among its Gen-Z audience in the UK during the pandemic. The success has led TikTok to plan new ecommerce features, similar to those available on Facebook and Instagram and Facebook. These include self-service advertising, affiliate linking and in-app catalogues.
Publishing commentator Bo Sacks has been exploring TikTok from the publishers’ perspective. Following a month spent trying to understand its success, he has concluded that while TikTok may not be for everyone, but it is where the action is.
Like all emerging social platforms, publishers are moving at different speeds as they try to get their positioning right and plan in resources. But if TiKTok keeps growing as it has been, it may become too big to ignore.
For now, Bo Sacks says, “If you want to reach out to a new audience between 19 and 49, this is where they spend 52 minutes a day, every day.”