A Short Summary of TikTok
TikTok has over a billion active users worldwide and this number continues to grow. If you’re currently out of the loop, that usage amount seems surprising, but there are very good reasons why so many teens are still app addicted.
In early 2020, we discovered why TikTok has so many loyal users. However, in light of its rapid and continuous growth, we wanted to discover what the app is doing that causes users to spend hours or even days browsing the TikTok feed.
“For You” Page and Algorithm
The biggest reason why so many teens and people of all ages are still addicted to TikTok is the app’s ‘For You’ page or content discovery stream known as FYP. This page acts as the primary timeline in the app and shows how people find new content. TikTok is powered by a unique algorithm that uses AI and machine learning to populate the FYP with optimal content to show a particular user.
In order to identify your interests, the app meticulously monitors the types of videos you primarily interact with. For example, if you like, comment, or share clips centered on the outdoors, you’ll see more outdoor videos in your feed. The algorithm also builds relationships based on different videos with the same users interacting. This is similar to Amazon’s “buy together” section, which creates recommendations based on products purchased.
Unlike other social networks that are primarily built on connections between people who know each other in real life, TikTok focuses on optimizing the content you see. It is entirely possible to spend hours on TikTok without seeing anyone you know or follow because the platform is driven by algorithmic discovery.
Due to the nature of FYP, the app gets better at understanding what kinds of content you will enjoy as you continue to use it. This is why people have wildly different experiences in practice. Many fill their FYPs with mostly dance videos and singing performances, while others only see videos of cooking, home repairs, and digital painting.
Another big reason TikTok is so dominant is the prevalence of trends like dance challenges for popular songs or videos compatible with popular in-app filters. The algorithm prioritizes content that fits certain online trends that are currently popular. As hot trends tend to gain more engagement, other users often create content that fits these trends.
The biggest reason for the emergence of trends in TikTok is the sound system. When users upload a video, the audio of that video can be lip synced or used by other users. For example, if a person is creating a remix of a popular song, that particular sound clip could eventually be used in thousands of other videos.
This is also the case for TikTok’s songs such as Billboard and Rolling Stone. music It is a big reason why it has become the dominant way of gathering and growing streams in their charts. Many of the biggest and most dominant hits of the past two years have been caused by TikTok trends. Sometimes vague or old songs can also increase unexpectedly. For example, Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams song, released in 1977, recently became a trend on TikTok and returned to the pop charts in the same week.
Communities on TikTok
Finally, TikTok hosts a wide variety of content. Clip and creator groups are normally called “TikTok communities” and are characterized by similar videos, sounds, and common tags. For every niche topic, there are thousands of users making videos on that particular topic.
For example, there is a whole TikTok subculture called “hut” that focuses on fantasy aesthetics and videos of homes in the forest. There are entire TikTok communities with millions of views focused on bricklaying, scooping ice cream, mixing paint colors, and animating company logos.
The variety of topics contributes to the broader user base for both viewers and content creators. It also motivates many different types of businesses to get involved in the app and create content to promote their products.
The Future of Social Media
TikTok is a great example of the role of machine learning and artificial intelligence in shaping our consumption habits. Just as ecommerce sites use user-oriented algorithms to suggest what to buy, TikTok’s platform depends on its users to drive certain types of content to grow.
TikTok has numerous privacy concerns that cause a lot of confusion, both in the area of technical privacy and the broader political rhetoric. Many questions are asked about how much data the app actually collects about its users and who has access to that data, as the app relies on using user information to foster discovery. We addressed many of these privacy concerns in our previous post on TikTok. As with any other application you install on your phone, be cautious when sharing confidential, identifiable information.