Thoughts From VidCon Part 2: TikTokers Unite!

Authors note: In July, I was among the lucky few (thousands!) of professionals to descend upon Anaheim, California for the 10th annual VidCon. For the uninitiated, VidCon is “the world’s largest celebration of online video and digital creators” – one part fan experience, one part creator summit, and one part industry conference that unites creators, brands, and innovative professional services agencies like D+P. 

This is part two of a three-part series exploring my reflections from an action-packed Vidcon week. Read Part I here. I’ll unpack what I learned and explore how I think these learnings will impact our industry in the future. Come along!

At the annual VidCon conference in July, it wasn’t just social media Influencers, Youtube creators, and celebrities who flocked to VidCon alongside us professionals. Thoroughly represented at this year’s conference were a new, younger cluster of creators, all from the Internet’s newest corner of the digisphere: TikTok. 

The Rise of Tik Tok 

TikTok – A video app for creating and sharing short lip-sync, comedy and talent videos – is the newest space for creators. It is reminiscent of both Vine and its former iteration, Music.ly, and it has a uniquely young demographic. So what’s the deal with TikTok, anyway?

TikTok has risen in popularity at a scorching rate, with more than 500 million active users worldwide to date. The average age of a creator on TikTok is Gen Z-dominated, ranging from ages 16-24. And they are a powerful and highly engaged audience.

Often collaborating together in person across the convention center floor, I saw hundreds of TikTokers making TikToks right there at VidCon. I even saw a dance battle among TikTokers break out in the courtyard – being filmed by onlookers, probably for their own TikTok channels. I’m still not sure who won, but it was thrilling and confusing all at once. VidCon even threw a party just for TikTokers, and it was so popular that many creators were waiting in line for hours to get in.

A New Celebrity – “TikTok Famous” 

By speaking to content creators and attending TikTok-specific sessions, I quickly learned something fascinating: unlike the social media platforms to come before it, it is very easy for TikTokers to grow a very big following, VERY fast.

Take for example college student Salina, who has amassed 900,000 followers in less than four months. She reported to Business Insider that her account gains nearly 10,000 followers a day – a dizzying number for anyone to fully comprehend. And like other platforms, TikTokers are able to make revenue through ads. But most young, growing creators like Salina approach TikTok differently than previous social platforms in that they view the whimsy of fame on TikTok not as the end goal, but as a launch pad for more sustainable ventures, like building their own brands, clothing companies, and more. 

Salina gained popularity on TikTok for her short videos, which often feature lip syncing (a common format for TikTok, which easily allows creators to use audio tracks in the platform), makeup, dance and comedy skits. 

Thanks to its algorithm-reliant user interface, which serves up content on a “For You” page to all users as its main feed, audience growth comes easily and often quickly for those making appealing content. In fact, TikTok’s top users have upwards of 33 million followers each — a very high average for non-celebrity users, as compared to platforms like Instagram. 

Leveraging TikTok

At VidCon, the focus on TikTok from the industry standpoint was two-fold: first, understanding who uses TikTok and how; and second, how can marketers leverage TikTok as a new marketing channel?  

I heard lots of theories on what to expect from TikTok in the future — namely, way more sponsored content (as in, brands sponsoring TikTokers as Influencers), brands cementing their place as TikTokers themselves (if you need a good laugh, check out the Washington Post’s TikTok channel…yes, you read that right!) and an increased focus on international audience building, thanks to the app’s unparalleled global reach. 

From our perspective, one overarching idea will be key in 2020 and beyond: apps like TikTok – new, growing platforms dominated by Gen Z creators and audience members – should not be ignored. If anything, TikTok is a prime example of the power that Gen Z especially has to champion a platform to the point of enormous and rapid growth. 

If we want to understand Gen Z enough to target them with key messages, we need to understand that platforms like TikTok is where we will find a captive Gen Z audience. And once we have their attention, it’s up to us as communicators to speak their language in a way that will maintain their interest, even if that means lip sync videos and viral dances. If anything, TikTok represents the first of the new wave of digital trends that will not just be adored by, but led by Gen Zers. And if you ask us, that’s pretty exciting. 

If you are interested in learning more about the world of social media and how it might suit your organization’s goals, schedule a free consultation with our team. Drop us a line at resteasy@devinepartners.com