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Why TikTok is social media's new Gen Z darling

TikTok might well be the first Gen Z-propelled social media app to gain widespread global adoption. Here's what's making us stop and take notice of this short-form social video platform.


Pop-quiz, marketers: What was the most-downloaded social media app on the App Store this past quarter? It sure wasn’t Snapchat. Nope, it wasn’t Instagram. And it definitely wasn’t Facebook. Stop thinking Millennial. Start thinking Gen Z.

The correct answer is TikTok, a social media app that allows its users to post 15-second video skits of themselves lip-synching and dancing hilariously to karaoke tracks, dressing in weird costumes and otherwise having really, really awkward interactions (called “duets” in TikTok parlance) with their fellow TikTokers.

TikTok: Gen Z’s first truly global social media app

When China’s Bytedance, currently ranked as the world’s largest most-valuable internet startup (out-valuing Uber by three billion dollars), decided to merge a social app named Douyin with, the Gen Z-favorite karaoke app, it created a massive overnight sensation. TikTok’s active monthly users now number roughly 500 million — and from all around the world.

Why do Gen Zers like TikTok? Let us count the ways. . .

  • TikTok offers a user experience that's visual and straight-to-the-point. It appeals to Gen Zers’ eight-second attention spans as well as to their overwhelming preference for visually-oriented social media platforms

  • It’s truly global in its scope, a melting pot for musical audiences as various as hip-hop heads, Bollywood teenyboppers, Euro technophiles, indie rockers, country purists and K-Pop fanatics. (And in the process, it has the power to create mind-bendingly funny cultural "mash-ups” between these sub-genres.)

  • To be sure, TikTok’s become a vehicle for teen and college influencers to make a digital name for themselves (newsflash: the vast majority of memes and quick-snack content circulating through the internet nowadays was created by teenagers.) That being said, part of TikTok’s appeal is its sheer, clown-car-crash goofiness. TikTok encourages absurdity, and it doesn’t appear to take itself as seriously as other apps that are popular with Gen Z do.

Will TikTok stand the test of time?

TikTok might well be the latest globally heralded social media app to make a major splash with Gen Z, but will its influence last? Will it dominate social discourse in the same way Facebook did this past decade — or will it take the MySpace route and spontaneously combust into a dim ball of sunset? That remains to be seen.

As a poet once put it, “Time will say nothing but I told you so.” Or as TikTokers might better put it... nah, never mind. Just watch this video.

John Wheeler
John Wheeler
Contributor, Gen Z Insights

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