August 25, 2021

TikTok Might Be Overrated: Marketing on Social Media

With limited resources and too many options, what is the answer in 2021? A lot of people think it's TikTok.

Photo by <a href="">Aaron Weiss</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>

Social media marketing is a great way to reach your target audience. It's also very accessible, intuitive and oftentimes free to use. One of the challenges of social media marketing is deciding which channels to activate or manage, especially as new apps emerge.

With all these options, it can be hard to decide which social media network is best for your business. With limited resources, most companies aren't able to spend time creating engaging content on every single social media platform. As companies consider reaching the next generation, new channels have started to enter the mix.

So, with limited resources and too many options, what is the answer in 2021? A lot of people think that TikTok might be the answer. However, in this blog post we'll explore why TikTok might not be the right social media channel for your business- especially if you're looking for long-term results.

<iframe src="" height="423" width="504" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" title="Embedded post"></iframe>

"We’ve officially hit the moment where any brand that believes in content marketing absolutely must be on TikTok.

The reach is just insane. The For You Page gifts you huge audiences that aren’t even following you. It’s by far the best platform for awareness."

The post above was offered up by Jack Appleby, Creative Strategist at Twitch, recently LinkedIn. I've followed Jack for several years now on social media channels. Jack is really intelligent and has an excellent point of view on digital a vast majority of the time - which is why this one caught my attention.

I'm guessing if you're reading this post, then you have an idea of what TikTok is, but in short order, it's an app compromised of 100% vertical videos that has tremendous popularity with Gen Z currently. During lockdowns in 2020, TikTok accelerated its already exponential growth trajectory and has now entered the public consciousness when it comes to social media apps. To date, it's been downloaded more than 2 billion times worldwide.

Marketers have been excited about TikTok for a long time and there are two main reasons for that.

Getting Younger

First of all, marketers love TikTok because of its demographics. One of the eternal ventures of marketing is figuring out how to reach the next generation. As I write this on a Tuesday morning, I literally just walked out of a meeting with a centuries old brand with 50+ year olds as their target demographics. However, in that meeting, a VP for the company said, "We're trying to get hipper and reach a much younger audience."

While other apps like Instagram have a greater volume of users currently, TikTok is making strides in capturing the youngest generation. According to Statista, 25% of US-based users of TikTok fall into the 10-19 year old demographic - the highest of any demo on the app. Additional data from Statista indicates that girls and and young women ages 10-19% account for 16.4% of the app's monthly active users.

The quantitative data alone can tell the story of TikTok's success with a young generation. However, talk to almost any parent of a middle schooler today and you'll get the qualitative data as well. TikTok is the app their kids are spending their time on, or begging their parents to get.

The Reach

The second reason marketers love TikTok is the reach - which is where Jack's comments on LinkedIn are coming from.

Every day on TikTok, brands and influencers are getting video views in the millions. Rarely are these videos highly produced or promoted outside of the app. The size of following that TikTok accounts have seems to have little relevance as well. The way the For You page and its algorithm work, app users are served a seemingly endless amount of content from creators that they may or may not follow.

Basing the app's success and necessity in your strategy based on these view numbers is where my hesitancy begins.

Let's first address the way the metrics are calculated. Below is a list of how major social media platforms record a video view:

  • Facebook and Instagram: 3 seconds or more
  • Twitter: 3 seconds or more with video in full view
  • YouTube: "around" 30 seconds
  • Snapchat: Upon opening / 1 second or more
  • TikTok: 1 second or more

Right off the bat we can see that we're not comparing apples to apples here. TikTok is counting video views at a much lower threshold than YouTube, and a significant lower bar than Facebook or Instagram.

Next let's address the user experience. If you've spent time on TikTok, you're familiar with how quickly a video plays, one after the next. It's understandable how teenagers spend so much time on the app given how easy it is to swipe from one video to the next. On top of this, TikTok counts a replay as an additional view. Given the typically very short nature of TikTok videos, it's likely that users will rewatch something they even mildly enjoyed.

So are you behind the times if you aren't on TikTok?

The decision to join TikTok is really up to you and your brand to determine. Don't let another brand's inflated video view metrics determine whether or not you're going to start activating on the channel. Let your strategy be your guide.

Some questions you should ask yourself include:

  • Do we have the resources to manage an active TikTok presence?
  • Does the content we create have a place on TikTok?
  • Does our core audience use the app regularly?

If you're unsure about any of those questions, then feel free to treat TikTok as an experiment. Set goals for yourself based on your digital strategy, create an account, then see if you're able to reach those goals.

Ryan Sawrie

Digital Leader, Author

Ryan Sawrie is the author of Build Your Digital Strategy and a veteran digital marketer. Ryan shares his insights to creating digital strategies in BYDS and at the website.

About Ryan

Subscribe to my newsletter

Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum aute irure dolor