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TikTok Continues to Gain Momentum, But Challenges Remain in Maximizing the App’s Growth



Despite various content moderation and data privacy concerns, TikTok continues to gain momentum, with the latest data from app analytics firm SensorTower showing that February 2020 was TikTok’s best performing month, in terms of total app downloads, to date.

SensorTower TikTok chart

As per SensorTower:

“TikTok was downloaded by close to 113 million App Store and Google Play users worldwide in February, making it the app’s best month ever for both installs and revenue according to Sensor Tower Store Intelligence estimates.”

SensorTower further notes that TikTok was the most downloaded non-game app worldwide last month, outperforming both WhatsApp and Facebook. TikTok installs are up 96% year-over-year, with the COVID-19 outbreak seemingly fueling increased adoption as people look to keep themselves entertained while reducing their time spent in public.

In total, TikTok is now closing in on 2 billion lifetime installs, which is a huge number, and should represent significant opportunity for brand outreach and engagement. But there is a little more to the upfront data than it may seem – so before you latch onto that 2 billion installs count and pit TikTok against Facebook, it’s worth breaking the figures down to understand exactly what they represent.

First off, app installs are not active users. Various reports on TikTok have seemingly equated the two, but having 2 billion people download and install your app is not the equivalent of getting 2 billion users active and engaged on your platform on a regular basis. If TikTok had 2 billion active users, it would be the second-biggest social platform in the world, and closing fast on Facebook. But it doesn’t.   

The only official number we have on TikTok’s global user base is that the app reached 500 million active users back in 2018, with the majority of them using the Chinese version of the app, called ‘Douyin’. Since then, TikTok has not been forthcoming about its actual user count.

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Which makes sense – much of the narrative around TikTok has been pumped up by download counts, which, as noted, are close to reaching 2 billion. If TikTok were to come out and say that it actually has, say, 700 million monthly active users, that would only work to water down those download stats – but realistically, this is probably closer to the truth, while the audience geographic split is also important to understand.

Breaking down the data, based on the estimates and figures that have been made available, TikTok seems to have:

Other nations follow in lower user counts from there, but as you can see, the regional splits are relevant in TikTok’s overall download and usage counts. Yes, TikTok is very popular, but from an advertising and marketing perspective, it may not be comparable, at least in Western markets, to most other platforms in terms of relevant audience reach.

Indeed, in SensorTower’s extended breakdown of TikTok’s revenue information, it notes that:  

“TikTok also saw its highest-ever monthly user spending in February, with the $50.4 million it generated equalling a 784.2% YoY increase. This made it the third highest-grossing non-game app worldwide for the month behind Tinder and YouTube.”

Which is an amazing result, but again, the regional split here is significant. 

“China – where TikTok is known as Douyin – was responsible for the majority of this spending with nearly $46 million, or 91% of all revenue for the month. The U.S. ranked No. 2 with $3 million, while Great Britain came in third, with $216,000.”

So, again, TikTok is driving user interest and action, but possibly not as much as you would expect in your local market, based on the hype and top-line download counts.

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That’s not to say that TikTok isn’t growing its audience base in all regions, and becoming a more relevant consideration for marketers. But it is worth noting that, by comparison, the app is not on the same level as even Snapchat (86m North American DAUs) in terms of reach to the US market at this stage, putting it well behind Twitter Facebook, Instagram, and others.

This is the key question for TikTok. Yes, it has momentum and hype, and yes, the download figures are encouraging. But can TikTok make short-form video into a relevant, viable and engaging option? 

Vine, the first short-form video app of this type, eventually buckled because it wasn’t able to monetize effectively – with Vine’s main content offering being only six-seconds in length, at most, that made it increasingly difficult for Vine to implement ads, as users would either skip by them or ignore them in-stream. Eventually, Vine’s inability to monetize effectively left it unable to create a viable revenue funnel for its top creators, who subsequently migrated to YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, where they could post longer-form content, and make real money from ads.

Vine did try to counter this, adding longer-form videos and pre-roll ads in its dying months, but with its top creators moving on, their fans shifted with them.

While Twitter often gets the blame for Vine’s failure, really, it was the inability for the company to effectively monetize that lead to its demise – and Twitter couldn’t do a lot about that.  

Which then leads to TikTok. 

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Sure, TikTok has people’s attention, it has users tuning in, and it is growing. But Vine had 200 million active users at peak, and it couldn’t map out a revenue-generation framework. Will TikTok eventually fare any better?

As noted, it’s still not generating significant revenue in the US, and it’s still spending big on promotion. At some stage, it will need to establish a means for its top creators to monetize.

In China, Douyin has moved into eCommerce as a means to add in revenue options, which is how it’s seen such significant revenue growth in that region.

Douyin eCommerce

Will the same work in the US market? 

TikTok is already testing eCommerce tools and external links, in order to provide more revenue generation options for creators, while it’s also got its own influencer marketing marketplace, which it recently opened up to more businesses.  

TikTok Creator Marketplace

Basically, TikTok knows that it needs to move fast and build a real revenue generation pipeline for these popular users – because if it doesn’t, they’ll take their talents elsewhere, and their established audiences with them. Then TikTok will go the same way as Vine.

So while it seems like all the momentum is with TikTok, and massive numbers like ‘a billion downloads’ are regularly thrown around, there’s more to it than the surface figures. And that’s critical to note in terms of brand use, and the future viability of the platform more broadly.

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Snapchat Publishes New Report into the Importance of Privacy Tools in Facilitating Online Sharing



Snapchat Publishes New Report into the Importance of Privacy Tools in Facilitating Online Sharing

Snapchat has published a new report which provides some deeper insight into the importance of online privacy, and the key concerns that users have in regards to the content that they share online.

The report, based on a survey of over 13,500 people in 11 markets, uncovers some valuable considerations for both platforms and marketers, and reinforces the logic behind some of the latest social app developments, in regards to increased user control, encryption, and more. It also sheds light on how such controls – or the lack of them – can influence people’s behavior online.

It’s an interesting overview – you can download Snap’s full, 28-page report here, but in this post, we’ll take a look at some of the key points.

First off, Snap notes that both Snapchatters and non-Snap users are concerned about online privacy, with 81% of respondents noting that online privacy is important. At the same time, only 65% indicated that they’re satisfied with their current privacy options.

That’s a key gap in the current digital connection process which underlines the need for increased control measures on this front, and more options, like private messaging and audience controls, to help reassure users.

Which is the next key point – the report highlights the three key benefits of digital privacy, based on responses.

Snapchat privacy report

Each aspect facilitates more open communication, and without relevant measures in place, social platforms are not able to cater to these needs.

Self-expression is one of the most important elements, with users feeling more free to communicate when they’re comfortable with the available privacy tools and options.

Snapchat privacy report

Indeed, the majority of respondents indicated that privacy concerns impact what they share online, and how they communicate.

Snapchat privacy report

It’s an interesting consideration – originally, with the arrival of MySpace, Twitter and Facebook, there was a new sense of freedom and capacity to share your voice, and connect with like-minded people around the world, based on shared interests. Over time, that’s gradually shifted, as more controversies and concerns have arisen from over-sharing or past post insights, which has seen more people become more enclosed once again, and shy away from public sharing.

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Which makes sense, but it also means that what we see online is often not representative of the breadth of views out there, because many people are concerned about what sharing their thoughts and opinions could mean, and how it could potentially be used against them. Which is why more privacy controls can open up greater levels of expression and engagement, and why more people are looking to advanced tools, like messaging encryption, to gain that extra level of assurance.

Which is also why Snapchat has been able to maintain and grow its audience, despite rising competition in the space.

Snapchat privacy report

Snapchat has always presented itself as a key alternative for more intimate, private discussion, a place for friends to connect, not to broadcast your life to the world. And while that is also more restrictive, in a content sense, Snap’s approach has clearly resonated with a lot of people, and enabled it to carve a niche in the broader social and messaging space.

The report also goes into depth on the full reasons that influence how and why people share on social, and the tools that people rely on to enhance their experience.

Snapchat privacy report

There are some interesting insights and considerations here, which, as noted, largely reflect the latest social media innovations in improved audience controls, evolving private messaging tools, safety functions, reporting and more.

Without these elements, people simply won’t share, and won’t engage online at the same rate. And as we move into the next stage of digital connection, where we’re likely to spend even more time online, and potentially expose even more of ourselves, such measures will remain critically important in order to keep people safe.

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You can read Snapchat’s full ‘Global Perceptions of Privacy’ report here.

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New Report Underlines the Importance of Social Media in Connecting with Gen Z Consumers



New Report Underlines the Importance of Social Media in Connecting with Gen Z Consumers

Consumer expectations are rising, as is the importance of shared brand values, according to the latest data from market research provider Qualtrics.

To glean some insight into the shifting state of customer expectations, Qualtrics surveyed 9,000 consumers, across a breadth of age brackets, to measure the variance in importance on a range of measures between Gen Z, Baby Boomers and everything in between.

The findings highlight some key considerations for all brands – first off, the data indicates that Gen Z is the most likely to be upset by a negative interaction with a company.

Gen Z is the generation least likely to report being happy with their customer experience (on a scale of upset to delighted). Gen Z was the most upset by their interactions with federal agencies (only 13% gave a positive rating), followed by investment firms and airlines. Gen Z gave the highest ratings to social media and retail stores.

Gen Z consumers have grown up with social media and eCommerce, and they increasingly expect brands to cater to their specific needs, while they also know that they have both the means to publicly criticize a company due to negative interactions, and the capacity to easily switch, with a simple online search providing a range of competitor brands.

That’s increased their expectations around customer service and response, and it’s important for brands to consider this in their engagement and actions.

Younger consumers also value public health response, with Gen Z respondents twice as likely as Baby Boomers to stop purchasing from a brand because they felt their safety measures were insufficient. Which also works the opposite way too.

Gen Z consumers also put more emphasis on brand values – potentially a side effect of the social media era – with younger shoppers almost three times as likely as Baby Boomers to say that they were very familiar with the brand values of the products they choose.

Qualtrics consumer survey

With brands now able to communicate more about their business online, that’s opened up more capacity for consumers to also get an understanding of their stances and approach, and that expanded capability to connect with a brand on a deeper level can be a very powerful draw to generate stronger bonds and business.

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Indeed, for Gen Z consumers, maintaining a social media presence was the second-highest ranked way for brands to maintain relevance. No other generation ranked social media presence in the top three.

If that insight doesn’t underline the importance of building and maintaining a social media presence, I’m not sure what will – younger consumers want to feel more connected with every business that they buy from, and social media is the key linkage that facilitates such for this group.

There’s a range of additional insights in the full report from Qualtrics, which you can check out here. Some key considerations for marketers, especially those looking to connect with younger audiences.

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Instagram Adds New Stickers and AR Features to Celebrate Lunar New Year



Instagram Adds New Stickers and AR Features to Celebrate Chinese New Year

Instagram has added some new features to help users celebrate Lunar New Year, including new, themed stickers and a custom AR effect.

As you can see here, the new stickers commemorate the Year of the Tiger, with art by Hong Kong-based Ophelia Pang. The stickers provide a simple way to mark the event, which will be celebrated from January 31st to February 15th.

In addition, Instagram’s also added a #MyLNY2022 AR effect, which provides another way to engage with the celebration.

There’s actually a range of Lunar New Year effects available in the app, which you can find by using the search option at the end of the effects carousel.

Instagram released a similar set of Lunar New Year tools last year, which is part of its broader focus on maximizing engagement around cultural events.

 As explained by Instagram chief Adam Mosseri:

“When it comes to celebrating cultural moments, we want to be a platform where creators showcase their work.

Showcasing creativity is where Instagram is increasingly looking to align itself, as it works to differentiate the app from TikTok, which is more based on communal expression and meme-based sharing. If Instagram can put more focus on creative output, specifically, that could be a way to lean into the rising Web3 movement, in which, theoretically, creators could be better rewarded and celebrated for their work.

These Lunar New Year tools showcase the art of some creators, but the larger vision for Instagram is that it may be better placed to provide a platform for more artists in the same way, which could help it regain its momentum in the face of the TikTok challenge.

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You can check out Instagram’s Lunar New Year tools in the app.

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