The origin of TikTok

TikTok was first launched in China as a project called Douyin, which is still the Chinese name of the app. TikTok then relaunched in its current format in 2018 and grew to one billion active monthly users by the start of 2021.

Until recently, TikTok users were limited to 60 seconds for their videos. But in July 2021, TikTok began giving users the option of uploading videos up to three minutes in length and then at the start of this year, users are now able to upload 10 minutes.

How does TikTok work?

TikTok’s success is mainly due to its incredibly impressive algorithm, but how TikTok works can be a little confusing if you are using it for the first time.

You do not need an account to use TikTok, which is different to all other social platforms. If you do not have an account, however, you cannot like, comment or engage with any content on the platform meaning the content would not be curated to your interests.

Once inside the app, it is divided into two main feeds: the For You Page and your following feed. Your following feed is made up of people you have chosen to follow and the FYP acts like an individual landing page for users that showcase curated videos that TikTok thinks they might watch or like.

Some basic gestures you should know if you are new to the app:

  • Swipe down/up: This is how to watch the next or previous videos in your feed.
  • Swipe to the right: If you like a video and want to see more content from that TikToker, by swiping right you will go to their profile.
  • Double-tap: If you tap a video in your feed twice in a row, a heart will light up and you have liked the video. This function is very similar to likes on Instagram.
  • Keep your finger pressed: By holding down your finger on the screen you can add videos to your favourites, hide future TikToks from a user or with a specific sound, or signal to the app that you don’t like this type of video.

How does the TikTok algorithm work?

According to TikTok: “The system recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors — starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in, too.”

Various factors can influence the TikTok algorithm including:

  1. Subject MatterTikTok’s algorithm is great at realising what content users are and aren’t interested in. Various factors can dictate what content you are shown but, if you find yourself watching a three-minute long ASOS haul you found on the explore page, you can guarantee that the algorithm will have made note of that and you will now be shown more ASOS hauls in your FYP.TikTok is very clever at noting how long you are watching a video for, how many times you re-watch it, and what hashtags you are interested in viewing.
  2. Video Likes, Comments, Shares, Completions and Re-WatchesThe more engagements and interactions a video has determines how many times the piece of content will be shown to other users on the app.
  3. Device SettingsElements such as phone location and language will determine the content that appears on the users' FYP.
  4. AudioIf the video features specific audio or a song that a user has previously watched and interacted with, the algorithm will continue to push the same audio/song to the user.
  5. Hashtags and KeywordsHashtags such as #FYP are more generic and intended to reach larger audiences, but hashtags that match trending audios such as #MaterialGWORL will reach a niche audience who are much more likely to interact with the content.
  6. User Activity and ‘Not Interested’ FeedbackIf a video appears on a user's FYP that they don’t like, they can submit feedback by holding down the video and pressing ‘not interested’. This message is then fed back into the algorithm and the users' preferences are updated.

So, why is it so popular?

TikTok has many reasons why it is so popular, but we have rounded up the top five for you below:

  1. Ultimately, TikTok’s popularity is down to its individuality for every user, no two single FYPs are the same. This individuality allows users to feel listened to and continue to explore new content with every scroll, as TikTok will never show the same video to a user twice.
  2. TikTok is great for younger audiences with shorter attention spans. With some videos only being 10 seconds long, it is easy for creators to entice users into their content.
  3. TikTok is easy to use and has content for all generations to enjoy. TikTok is arguably one of the easiest social media platforms to navigate through – any generation can use the app and begin to build up their interests to create their perfect FYP!
  4. TikTok is in a unique position from other social media platforms because of users’ ability to use copyrighted music, as long as the music is taken from their website.
  5. TikTok wants to be more than a place to find entertaining content, but rather a place where people can find others who are just like them and celebrate the things they love. Within the platform, users can find communities dedicated to different fashion styles, lifestyles, geographical locations etc, the possibilities are endless.

Great Examples of TikTok Content

Those of us that work in the social world will know that when it comes to Twitter, Innocent Drinks take the crown for the best content.

Innocent Drinks are known for their funny and quick remarks across social media – they have created a firm brand personality of being a British millennial.

Back in 2017 as their social media began to take off, instead of posting instagramable pumpkins like many other brands would, Innocent posted the below image:

Instagramable pumpkins

Innocent Drinks apology

Innocent Drinks Twitter Profile

When it comes to TikTok, there isn’t a firm favourite just yet, but RyanAir is getting it right every step of the way.

During the pandemic, RyanAir took to TikTok and jumped on all of the current trends which caused them to grow rapidly. As of today, RyanAir has 1.6 million followers, 46.8 million total likes and the hashtag #RyanAir has 641.6 million views total.

One of their most popular content pieces was a video using trending audio at the time asking every brand that has TikTok to comment for no reason. Comments ranged from TikTok themselves, Duolingo, Microsoft UK, Aldi UK and Heinz UK. Within the comments section, brands were commenting funny one-liners sparking conversations amongst themselves.

RyanAir - TikTok

If you are looking for more TikTok inspiration, check out Russ’ article on four business brands on TikTok to take inspiration from. 

How Tiktok Influences Users

If you’ve been online at all in the past week you will have seen the debate that divided the internet, are there more wheels or doors in the world? 

This debate originally sparked on Twitter from @NewYorkNixon following a conversation amongst friends but quickly grew across other platforms including TikTok. On TikTok, hashtags for "wheels vs. doors" and "doors vs. wheels" have 148 million views combined. Users went viral for filming themselves listing reasons for their argument of #TeamDoors or #TeamWheels. This debate was spoken about on James Cordon’s The Late Late Show, TalkSport radio and This Morning showing just how a social trend can spread so quickly. 

Out of curiosity, are you #TeamWheels or #TeamDoors? The overall majority at Selesti decided #TeamWheels but a few of the team did give good arguments for #TeamDoors and stuck to their guns! 

We’re confident that TikTok is going to continue growing at this rapid pace and become a platform that stands out from its competitors. If you need any further support with your TikTok strategy, get in touch with our social media team for some direction and support.

TikTok Facts

  • TikTok is primarily focused on Gen Z. Almost 70 percent of TikTok users are between 16 to 24 years old, which means that only 30 per cent are 25+ years old.
  • More than 50 minutes a day are spent on the app.
  • 34% percent of users actively post every day.
  • Eight new users join TikTok every second, with an average of 650,000 new users joining daily.
  • Worldwide, TikTok’s user base is 57% female. That figure rises to 61% for TikTok users in the US.