What will be Gen Z’s Top Social App by 2025?

TikTok Continues to Win Over Gen Z

No landscape shifts more quickly than that of social media. Today’s number one platform is tomorrow’s old news. What was on the rise in the morning, by the evening has vanished without a trace. This constant state of transformation makes it difficult for marketers to take full advantage of social media channels. Nonetheless, the importance of these channels to overall digital marketing is indisputable. Recent statistics show that there are now nearly 3.5 billion active social media users worldwide, 45% of the global population. To succeed as a brand, therefore, it is a must to keep up with the latest social media trends.

And the most dominant of these trends – for now at least – seems to be the rise of TikTok. TikTok, for those unfamiliar, is a platform where users can share and consume short, bite-sized videos. Formerly known as Musical.ly, TikTok was acquired in 2017 by Chinese tech giant ByteDance and merged with the company’s own short-form video platform bearing the TikTok name. Since then, TikTok has exploded in popularity, especially among younger users. In fact, a recent article in Insider Intelligence predicted that by the end of 2021, TikTok will be more popular among Gen-Z Americans – those born after 1996 – than Instagram. The same article predicted that TikTok will surpass Snapchat in total users by 2023. The dramatic growth of this platform, especially among the coveted Gen-Z demographic, is a trend that marketers should certainly be paying attention to.

Source: eMarketer, May 2021

One reason that the growth of TikTok makes for such a compelling story is that it may unlock the answer to one of the greatest riddles in modern digital marketing: how to appeal to Gen-Z, also known as “Zoomers.” Like the millennials before them, the members of Generation-Z have demonstrated novel and unpredictable consumer behaviors that leave many marketers scratching their heads. Countless articles have been written – many on this very site – on how to reach out to the elusive Zoomers. The very fact of TikTok’s popularity among Gen-Z (some 60% of the app’s users fall within the Gen-Z age range) makes it a worthwhile case study for marketers.

How is TikTok able to reach this generation so effectively? By answering that question, marketers may learn a thing or two about how to reach this demographic themselves. 

There are many reasons for TikTok’s popularity among young people, many more of which will surely be revealed in years to come. Some of the most popular theories explaining the phenomenon focus on a few key aspects that are unique to the TikTok experience:

Short And Sweet.

As much of a cliche as it has become, there is evidence to suggest that Gen-Z has a shorter attention span than previous generations, clocking in at 8 seconds compared to millennials’ 12. Rather than making tired jokes about this fact, however, one should simply accept it at its face value. Thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones and the internet, Gen-Z is used to getting information and entertainment immediately and without any filler.

That is certainly an apt description of TikTok, whose videos generally clock in at less than a minute – and often less than twenty seconds. The bite-sized nature of TikTok content allows Zoomers to consume large amounts of content on their own terms. In addition, the stripped down nature of TikTok – along with typically low production values – means that there is very little barrier to entry. Viewers can easily become contributors to the platform, fulfilling the Gen-Z desire to be creators rather than consumers

The fact that TikTok’s short length may contribute to its popularity among Gen-Z should be good news for brands and digital marketers. It means that they, too, should consider exploring short-form video content – a process that is far from labor intensive, but presents a very high potential return on investment.

What’s in a Word: Authenticity.

One of the key words to keep in mind for marketing to Gen-Z is “authenticity.” But… what exactly does that mean? Although Gen-Z may be less likely to take much marketing at face value, having grown up numbed to many advertising techniques, they are still interested in engaging with brands that appeal to their core values. Recent research from the National Retail Foundation underscores that Gen-Z prefers brands to be transparent and honest. They don’t want flashy and elaborate marketing campaigns, but down-to-earth messaging that seeks to connect with them on a more personal level.

TikTok presents just such an opportunity. Once again, the low barrier to entry for the platform is key to building up TikTok’s reputation for “authenticity.” Anyone, it seems, can become a TikTok star. They don’t need corporate sponsorships and lavish studios. For that reason, Zoomers may be more willing to trust the voices that they hear on the platform. The people communicating to them on TikTok are doing so in a stripped back, intimate setting that closely resembles an actual peer-to-peer relationship. This creates an invaluable opportunity for influencers and brands to connect with Gen-Z on a personal, “authentic” level.

TikTok is also closely connected to the all-important social dynamics at the center of Gen-Z life. TikTok is not just a platform for individual consumption, but a social network that can bring together Zoomers, their friends, and people from all over the world. Trends on TikTok, such as the countless dance-themed “challenges” that have taken over the platform, encourage users to engage with and mimic their peers. The very act of posting a video becomes a form of social interaction in itself. Marketers must pay attention to this social element of TikTok in order to understand its appeal.

Success Stories

It is all well and good to preach on the value of TikTok for reaching Gen-Z. But where is the proof? What follows are just a few examples of brands that have taken advantage of the power of TikTok, and used it to reach out to their audience in novel and exciting ways.

NYX
Beauty brand NYX created an original song, and encouraged consumers to create videos showing how they preferred to apply their favorite lip gloss brand. The company enlisted the help of several viral TikTok influencers to make the challenge go viral, resulting in over 2 million user-generated videos under the hashtag #butterglosspop. By encouraging creativity and user participation, NYX was able to raise attention to their brand for a fraction of the cost of a high profile ad campaign.

Pepsi
Pepsi teamed up with TikTok along with some of the world’s most popular soccer stars to raise awareness for their brand. The #PepsiChallenge encouraged users to make their own videos showing off their soccer moves alongside star athletes such as Lionel Messi and Jadon Sancho. As a result, Pepsi saw a 9% lift in purchase intent on the platform and a 13% lift in brand awareness. By aligning their brand with already popular sports superstars, Pepsi showed how synergy can be effectively leveraged on TikTok.

NBA & NFL
Sports leagues such as the NBA and NFL have also begun to make a splash on TikTok, sharing highlights, memes, and other short but engaging videos to their legions of fans. Many leagues have had trouble connecting with Gen-Z in the past few years, and the access afforded to them by TikTok represents one novel way to reach out to this next generation of sports fans.

These are only a few examples of how brands have been able to leverage the potential of TikTok. By partnering with creators and influencers, and by recognizing the social currency that TikTok represents among Gen-Z, marketers can take advantage of this fast-growing platform. In a few years, TikTok may be the most popular social networking tool in the world; alternatively, it may be eclipsed by something even newer. Regardless, marketer must start to adapt to the platform today if they want to reach an enormous and influential audience.

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