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What is TikTok and is it Safe to Use

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What is TikTok and is it Safe to Use

TikTok is currently one of the most popular apps around the world. This platform’s statistics are mind-blowing where it generated an estimated $4.6 billion in revenue in 2021 and a 142% increase year-on-year. TikTok also had 1.2 billion monthly active users in Q4 2021 and is expected to reach 1.5 billion by the end of 2022. It has also been downloaded over three billion times.

In the United States alone, over 60% of monthly active users on TikTok are between the ages of 12 and 17. Where the majority of the users are minors, it is important for parents to know whether it is safe for their children to be using TikTok. Diving right into it, let’s learn a little bit about what TikTok is exactly, who owns it, and what kind of information is being collected by this social media platform.

What is TikTok

TikTok, in essence, is a video production app that blew up in 2018 and has gained popularity in today’s generation of instant gratification and very short attention spans. Young people love this app due to the nature of short videos on the platform where they are free to express themselves in any way they would like. TikTok was actually born by emerging Douyin and Musical.ly.

Its purpose and usage are similar to both of those apps, prioritizing video production, watching other people’s videos, and adding music to these videos. Young people today are no longer asking is technology a good career path as they have seen people reach instant fame on TikTok. It has become a part of the Gen Z cultural narrative, rivaling platforms such as Facebook and Instagram
 

Who Owns it

In all honesty, very little is known about how TikTok operates and its current owners. What is known, however, is that it is owned and operated by a Chinese company named ByteDance, which also owns the news aggregation service Toutiao, a Chinese news and information platform.

ByteDance was founded in 2012 by entrepreneur Zhang Yiming, who has since gone on to become one of the richest people in the world. While TikTok was launched globally in 2017, it only blew up the following year after ByteDance bought Musical.ly and then proceeded to merge it with TikTok.

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While TikTok is a global phenomenon, people inside China are not allowed to use the app. Instead, they use a Chinese version of the service, called ‘Douyin,’ which is basically the same app as TikTok and is also owned and operated by ByteDance. However, neither app has access to the other’s content.

What Information is Collected

Simply by installing the app, it collects information on your location, IP address, your device’s make and model, as well as other information such as your browsing history, search history, and conversations that you have with other users on the platform. TikTok has the ability to collect your phone contacts, social media contacts, GPS, and personal information such as age, phone number, payment information, and any other generated information that you decide to post on the app.

TikTok’s algorithm tracks the videos you like and share as well as how many minutes you spent watching particular videos. Once the app learns what you like, it pushes content specific to you making it highly addictive. TikTok is so addictive that not long after its launch, the platform introduced a feature that would remind people to get off the app after 90 minutes.

What Kind of Content is Being Consumed

As to what kind of content is usually found on TikTok, you can find anything from DIY projects to make-up tutorials to dance instructions to sports, basically, anything you can possibly imagine. Children might be on TikTok to learn a new skill or to connect with people they share a common interest with.

While most of the content that is on TikTok is described as being fun and playful, some use it to push their own extremist agenda or overly sexualized content that is not appropriate for minors. There has been a lot of controversy on this app over the concerns of online predators that are on TikTok connecting with young people.

This social media platform has also begun to have a reputation for not removing sexual messages that are being sent to minors because it is very easy to change one’s profile as being over the age of 18. In addition to overly sexualized content, this platform is also infamous for popularizing challenges that can be extremely dangerous to anybody’s physical health.

Taking into account that TikTok is the perfect playground for predators, popularizes dangerous challenges, and contains highly sexual content that anyone can watch, it is safe to say that children should probably not be using this app. While there are parental controls that can be set up on TikTok, most parents don’t know just how much information this app is collecting. The moment it gets downloaded on a child’s phone, all of the information that was mentioned previously is collected and stored.

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MARKETING

Follow This Purpose-Driven Path to Greater SEO Success

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Follow This Purpose-Driven Path to Greater SEO Success

Historically, getting content to reach the top of a search engine results page usually hinged on your team’s ability to fulfill the rules of Google’s algorithm – no matter how complex, obscure, and sometimes unwritten.

However, that picture is changing now that AI has arrived behind the scenes of the top search engine, says Dale Bertrand, Fire and Spark’s content and SEO strategist. Its machine learning delivers more precise, adaptive, and contextual search results. It also gives marketers another approach to search result success – a purpose-driven strategy.

Develop a purpose-driven #SEO strategy that would please @Google’s #AI algorithm, says @joderama via @CMIContent @pageonepower. Click To Tweet

At the 2022 ContentTECH Summit and a recent Ask the CMWorld Community interview, Dale discussed what Google’s heavier reliance on an AI-controlled algorithm means and how a purpose-driven approach can help your brand compete with – and even beat – bigger fish in the SEO sea.

Search for greater SEO intelligence

In the early days of digital search, Google’s founders used the web’s link structure to rank the most relevant page results. “Basically, if you had the right links to your website and the right keywords on your pages, you would rank well,” Dale says.

But now, it’s more important to understand how that AI engine gets trained than to follow technical SEO rules. Dale says making this mindset change can help set your content on a path to increased visibility on search and stronger marketing performance overall.

It’s more important now to understand how that #AI engine gets trained than to follow technical #SEO rules, says Dale Bertrand of @Fire_and_Spark via @joderama @CMIContent @pageonepower. Click To Tweet

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Engineers set the technical quality guidelines

Human engineers are still involved in ranking content relevance. But instead of programming the algorithm, their role is to rate a site’s trustworthiness, content accuracy, authoritativeness, and connection to other relevant content providers on the topic at hand.

“That quality information is collected as a big dataset from websites that have been graded, which is part of what they feed into Google’s algorithm to train the AI,” says Dale. There’s a big, long document out there – the web quality raters guide. Any marketer can read it to see what the raters look for when building the training dataset for Google’s AI.”


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AI adds behavioral signals

From that point, Google’s AI engine takes over, tracking search behaviors, analyzing signals of intent, and correlating those insights with the quality rating data to determine the most relevant content to a search query.

But, Dale says, keep in mind: “Google’s AI engine doesn’t care about your content – it only cares about its own performance.” It’s looking for confirmation that the content it selects will deliver a satisfying experience for searchers. Your job is to make sure it sees your brand’s content as a likely win.

Prove your #content has what it takes for better search results. Build momentum through community and demonstrate multifactor authority, says Dale Bertrand of @Fire_and_Spark via @joderama @CMIContent @pageonepower. Click To Tweet

Shared purpose promotes multifactor authority

Dale discusses two ways brands can prove that their content has what it takes to deliver the AI’s desired results:

  • Build momentum through community. A community behind your brand frequently visits, engages with, and links to your website. They recommend your products and services and amplify your site. Dale says these actions demonstrate a high level of customer intimacy. Google’s AI uses the artifacts of success from this content – high engagement, low bounce rate, and a high click-through rate – to confirm your site and content are loved.
  • Demonstrate multifactor authority. Part of AI’s investigation of brands that resonate with online consumers is the company you keep, Dale says. Authoritative individuals, organizations, and influencers can contribute to your brand’s authority by linking to, citing, and amplifying your content across their channels and platforms.

Prove your #content has what it takes for better search results. Build momentum through community and demonstrate multifactor authority, says Dale Bertrand of @Fire_and_Spark via @joderama @CMIContent @pageonepower. Click To Tweet

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How to use purpose to build SEO power

Dale describes an SEO strategy that can help build authority and momentum by focusing on a purpose your brand believes in: “Hopefully, your brand stands for something. But [for SEO], it’s even better if your brand is actively promoting a change that you want to see in your industry.”

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By using your content to build valuable conversations around that change, you give the tools to those with an established interest to spread your brand messages. This data around this reciprocal relationship demonstrates the brand traction Google’s AI sees as proof your content is a solid search bet.

Dale shares a client example:

I worked with one brand that was selling handmade children’s products. The US government was about to pass a law that would have made it so [small businesses like this] would have had to do $100,000 worth of testing before being allowed to sell a single product. We were able to lead the movement against that law and turn that into an SEO campaign that generated authority, backlinks, and website engagement – all the things that Google’s AI is looking for.

He explains the process he used to achieve those results:

Step 1: Find high-profile groups and learn about the causes they support

Find potential partners – influencers, non-profits, advocacy organizations, and others who are working towards a purpose in which your business might have a stake. It could be an organization that’s written about helping previously incarcerated people find jobs, influencers promoting veteran-run businesses, or an event that supports disadvantaged youth in your local community.

When you’ve identified viable candidates, research their positions and how they communicate about them in their online conversations. “You need to understand what issues these influencers care about, what they’re writing about, what’s going on in their social conversations. All of those things are targets for your purpose-driven SEO campaign,” Dale says.

Step 2: Choose a mission your content will support

Once you find an area with enough grassroots supporters, craft a mission statement around it for your brand’s SEO campaign. It should be something your brand can speak to authentically; otherwise, audiences will see right through it. “It has to be based on your organization’s values because you’re going to get behind it. At the end of the day, if you don’t care about feeding hungry children, that just can’t be the mission,” Dale says.

If you’re on the B2B side or operate in a crowded market, it may be worthwhile to adopt a unique or even slightly controversial mission to differentiate your brand. “[You might think] sustainability is a good [purpose to build on], but so many companies have taken this topic on that it doesn’t move the needle from a search marketing perspective,” Dale says.

Rather than just choosing a hot topic, he suggests looking for a niche, such as a critical change affecting the supply chain for your industry or a regulatory issue that impacts product costs, to rally around. Doing so can help insert your brand name into relevant conversations that your bigger, higher-profile competitors may not be associated with.

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Step 3: Create “citable” content aligned with your mission

The goal isn’t to promote your brand’s involvement with the chosen cause; it’s to create content your partner organizations can cite when making their case for the cause. “The content is fuel for their advocacy – it gives them credible, authoritative information they can use in their arguments,” Dale says.

For example, Dale says, interview someone personally affected by the mission, write an opinion piece about the change your business is advocating, or publish an original research report. “This is the type of content that [they] would organically mention and link to while trying to get their point across in their own content conversations. That’s how you’re going to get the deeper engagement and increased backlinks that Google’s AI can see,” says Dale.

Step 4: Reach out to other like-minded influencers

With a body of purpose-focused content cited and linked to, you can increase your content’s authority and reach by sharing the outcomes with other influencers who care about the topic. But rather than conducting a blast email campaign, contact them individually by email or personal message on social channels.

In this outreach, focus your messages on furthering the mission. “We’re not promoting our business, our products, and services, or our content. We’re saying, ‘Hey, I saw that you’re a big advocate for helping previously incarcerated youth find jobs. We’ve got an interview your audience would be interested in … would you help us promote it?’” Dale explains.

Not only are influencers more likely to respond to this type of outreach, but they may be more willing to promote your content without compensation because it helps them create content in an area that they’re passionate about, Dale says.

Fuel a shared purpose and find greater search success

In a crowded landscape, where reaching a top spot on SERPs is harder to achieve than ever, it’s time for marketers to stop trying to outsmart the search algorithm. By putting a shared human purpose at the center of your SEO strategy, your content will broadcast all the signals of authority, relevance, and value Google’s AI is looking for.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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