How publishers are using TikTok

The Bytedance owned app hits the note with brands whose audiences are composed of young people.

By Sahar Amer | Jun 26, 2019

The social media and video sharing app, TikTok (ByteDance merged its app with Musical.ly – the social network built around lip-syncing and dancing, which previously took the teen social media world by storm), first launched in China as ‘Douyin’ in September 2016. Towards the end of 2018, it surged in popularity as the number one most downloaded app on iOS and has been downloaded more than 1 billion times worldwide.

Unlike any other social media apps, TikTok is a quirky combination of Snapchat, Vine, and Spotify where 15- second customized video clips are shared on a scrollable loop-feed. Content is an assortment of anything from lip-syncing and dancing, to pranks and challenges with options to layer special effects and filters.

Who’s using the app?

TikTok has seen the highest growth in users coming from India, amounting to 47% of downloads in quarter 1 January to March 2019Popularity in the US has also been high, with 13.2 million new users during the same period.

However, other countries across Europe are not as keen to adopt the app, the UK has 4.7 million users but publishers are (gradually) starting to see the appeal.

Most people who use the app are aged between 16-24 and the daily average engagement time from every user amounts to 46 minutes. The opportunity for publishers to reach and engage younger audiences seems evident, but with the app still being fairly new, how are news publishers creating content through the platform?

“The growth of TikTok is very exciting; it incorporates the viral nature of Vine and merges together the interactive elements of Snapchat. Young digital natives are really taking advantage of the interactive tools and using them to create interesting and original short videos.”

Devran Karaca, co-founder fo Gen-Z entertainment network, Kyra TV

News publisher content strategies

News publishers Kyra TV, NBC, BBC, MTV, and ESPN have already started publishing content through the app, experimenting with:

  • Sponsored partnerships
  • Influencer marketing
  • News explainers
  • Challenges

NBC News repurposed their daily news programme, ‘Stay Tuned’ for TikTok which they originally streamed on Snapchat and amassed a 25-35 million mobile-first audience. Presented by the channel’s three hosts, videos contain daily news updates, challenges, and fact sharing where the audience can discuss and participate. ‘Stay Tuned’ has currently shared 38 videos attracting over 64,000 followers.

MTV previously partnered with TikTok to live stream the 2018 European Music Awards exclusively to the platform’s audience. Users could also take part in a ‘red carpet’ challenge, entering their own red carpet look.

On a platform where the audience are the owners, TikTok is a hotbed for influencers. The BBC has commissioned a two-part series through its children’s channel CBBC that features influencer twin duo, Max & Harvey who have 6 million followers on the app.

Digital technology is presenting new opportunities for the creation of children’s programmes and we are delighted to be bringing huge online talent, such as DanTDM and Max & Harvey Mills, to international buyers.”

Paul Hembury, executive producer, BBC Worldwide

So far, news publishers are only exploring the potential to create original entertainment content to reach a wider, younger audience. Direct ways for brands to monetize through the platform don’t seem to be clear yet, however TikTok has started to develop interest-based targeting and pixel tracking to attract advertisers, so opportunities could be possible in the future.

Join Reuters Community for more insights on audience engagement