The social media platform, initially geared toward Gen Z, has branched out to attract beauty brands, foodies and plenty of celebs (and “normal folks”) over 25.
But much of that success is due to being isolated with not much else to do. The extra time on one’s hands, combined with having people always available to film, has definitely increased the app’s popularity. The bite-sized, sensory-overloaded clips are easy to get warped into, making these the perfect time-suck for the video star or the viewer.
That said, with things opening up around the country and people leaving the house more frequently for errands and social distance hangouts, the landscape and frequency of the app is bound to change.
To gain further insight, we reached out to Giselle Ugarte, founder of MasterofTikTok.com. Giselle also serves as Media Bridge Advertising Marketing Director, Speaker and Coach. Her job is helping people make careers out of TikTok, and breaking down facts from fiction regarding the app, its algorithms and its comparisons to Instagram.
Keep reading for how Giselle envisions the future of TikTok, post quarantine.
Sweety High: Why do you think TikTok has become increasingly popular amid quarantine?
Giselle Ugarte: Quarantine, for many, has become that time to do the thing you’ve always wanted to do, but never really had the time to do it. For social media lovers, it’s been exploring this mysterious app that everyone and Gary Vaynerchuk believe to be the next greatest thing. But I also think there’s an element of secrecy that makes someone think they are safe to create in the space because perhaps none of their friends are on it and even one of anonymity where they can totally start over and hit the “reset” button on their audience, brand and online persona.
What then sucks them in is when they become exposed to this diverse group of people who they otherwise wouldn’t have found or followed—all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations and random thoughts. It’s an authenticity and a boldness that is so raw, real, relatable and contagious. It’s a human connection that we’ve been craving long before social distancing became a thing.
SH: Do you see the app slowing down post-social distancing, or just shifting its focus?
GU: I think we’re just getting started. I ran a poll on my Instagram the other day to see who of my followers were on TikTok, and it was only about 40% (and a large portion of those people had yet to even upload a video).
For those who are grasping, understanding and legitimately utilizing the app, TikTok will become the focus (or, at the very least, a happy place and a creative outlet). [My company] started with 0 followers at the beginning of the year and is now approaching 70,000. To see just how “quality” these followers were, I decided to create a product for TikTok and exclusively launch it only using organic pull from TikTok. What resulted was $10,000+ in sales in less than a week. This has established a whole new form of revenue for our business that we never thought possible even just six months ago.
I hope that the connections people make and the permission they receive to be more true to themselves will flow into other platforms, as well. Users who are only on the platform to get “TikTok Famous” will likely exhaust themselves from the platform with or without social distancing.
SH: What makes a person turn to TikTok more frequently than Instagram, for example, during these times?
GU: Two things:
1. The “For You” Page: When you log in to TikTok, you’re presented with two different feeds, you have the “Following” feed with people who you’re following and then you have the “For You” feed that is, by default and design, the first page you see. This feed is entirely customized exactly how it sounds—for you. It’s based not only on who you follow and videos you like, but profiles you explore, videos you watch for the longest and content you save for later. Even if you never publicly acknowledge this content, TikTok gets to know you better than even some of your closest and best friends, because it can see what types of content you’re leaning into, for better or worse.
I make the joke that TikTok is very quick to show your haters that they’re just confused admirers. If someone creeps on your profile for a long time or binge-watches your videos, even if they never follow you, like a video or leave any comments, their “For You” page is likely to then suggest you (and keep suggesting you) based on how long someone spent checking out your page.
The “For You” page is also why everyone has the chance to go viral. That doesn’t mean that everyone will go viral, but everyone has the chance to have their videos shown to people who don’t already follow them without having to pay to play.
2. Content Shelf-Life: On pretty much every other platform, the shelf-life of your content is limited (24 to 48 hours, tops). On TikTok, as long as people are engaging with and especially sharing your content, TikTok will continue to show your videos and most definitely your “greatest hits” to users and followers, old and new. What that means is your content has the potential to go viral within minutes, hours, days, weeks or even months after uploading.
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SH: How do you envision the future of TikTok in general, post-social distancing?
GU: I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the ongoing legal battles that TikTok is continuing to have with record labels. Yes, there are artists and businesses who understand the role that TikTok can play in promoting a new album or a single (See: Justin Bieber, Dua Lipa, Lizzo and Camilla Cabello). However, there are a lot of nuances that haven’t quite been worked out in terms of outlining guidelines and permissions for the use of music across the platform.
Quite simply, though, TikTok is no longer musical.ly and no longer wants to be known as a music-driven app. They’ve completely changed their mission statement (“to be leading short-form video destination…. to inspire creativity and bring joy”) and tagline (“Make Your Day. Real People. Real Videos.”), and I wouldn’t be surprised if a logo change is also on the way, too.
SH: Is there anything else you want to add about TikTok and quarantine?
GU: There’s a misconception that the “Discover” page is a ranking of the top trends and top videos, and this is wrong. Unlike Twitter, where hashtags listed are the most popular in a given region, all of the hashtags listed in the “Discover” section of TikTok are curated by humans at TikTok and selected far in advance. These hashtags are either purchased by a sponsor with influencers already in mind, or they’re picked out by the people at TikTok, who either choose the hashtag and then, from there, handpick videos that would fit into the category (regardless of whether or not they use the hashtag) or reveal the hashtag to a large group of select creators, after which those creators have the opportunity to create and submit content to be considered as a featured video.
The point of this is to ensure quality control across the platform. And what this says about the future of the platform is that TikTok values practical content over passive content. They want to “inspire creativity and bring joy.” What I often tell my clients, followers and partners is, “Provide value from ‘Hello.’ ” And value can come in the form of a lesson, a life hack or simply entertainment or feeling included in some way. The purpose of social media is to be social. Create community wherever you go.
Need more TikTok guidance? HERE are stars to follow on the app if you love Charli D’Amelio!