TikTok, Fastest-Growing Social Media Network in Sri Lanka

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TikTok isn’t just for teenagers. The video-sharing app has ended up being the fastest-growing social media network of all time, which also means it has become one of the fastest growing opportunities for marketers. TikTok has been downloaded more than two billion times and ranks as the seventh most used social media network worldwide, and was the most downloaded social media app in the first quarter of this year. 

TikTok wasn’t an immediate sensation with users, much of whom were turned off by Musical.ly’s (Now TikTok) reputation as a slightly cringe platform for young teens to perform on camera. Nowadays, videos showcase everything from comedy to lip syncs to dog grooming ideas that users produce and share on their phones. The scrappy, silly, fast-moving content has hooked audiences all over the world. All of which indicates it’s something you ought to take note of. 

In the early days of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg discovered that new users were more likely to stick to Facebook if they made a minimum of 10 close friend connections in the first 14 days. In the early days of Twitter, Jack Dorsey noticed that user retention improved when a new user followed 30 accounts. Time-to-value for Facebook and Twitter – the time from sign-up to realising the value of the product – is measured in hours, days, or even weeks. It takes time for new users to understand the value of Facebook or Twitter. 

TikTok’s time-to-value is determined in seconds. Among TikTok’s key functions is that it needs no account sign-up. New users download the app and right away start consuming the content; there’s no friction and there’s no learning curve. Every 15 seconds or so, the algorithm serves a new video and a new emotional high. 

This isn’t an entirely fair comparison, since TikTok isn’t truly a social media platform like Facebook or Twitter, as it is a content platform more comparable to YouTube. A brand new user to YouTube still requires to very first choose a video. Time-to-value is drastically lower on TikTok because TikTok picks material for you. 

Netflix and YouTube produce paralysis: users are inundated with content and overwhelmed by choice. TikTok prevents this by choosing what the user should view with AI. Earlier this year, TikTok revealed how its algorithm works: 

The app takes into consideration the videos you like or share, the accounts you follow, the comments you make, and the content you create to help determine your interests. In addition, the recommendation system will factor in video information like the captions, sounds, and hashtags associated with the material you like. To a lesser level, it will also utilise your device and account settings information like your language choice, country setting, and device type. And if a user sees a longer video from beginning to end, it’s considered a strong indication of interest. This would be provided a higher weight than a weaker signal, like if the audience and poster were from the same nation. 

TikTok is optimised to hold your attention, serving a continuous and constantly refined stream of material. Because users are not required to browse, TikTok can dedicate the whole feed to the content. 

Local adoption 

TikTok in Sri Lanka is going where no social media app has gone before. A majority of TikTok’s users (in Sri Lanka) are 18-35 years old and initial adaptation came from tier-2 and tier-3 cities. Other international tech platforms such as Instagram and Spotify had a clear bias for major urban centres, unlike TikTok. There are around 900,000 users signed up in Sri Lanka with mass adaptation happening across all socioeconomic classes. Another reason for its growth is that the app allows people to express themselves even if they do not have the gift of the gab. So anyone who feels a little ostracised on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter may find solace on TikTok. 

TikTok has become a way for Gen-Z and millennials to connect during the pandemic. Some users documented emotional reactions to the cancellation of major events such as graduation, while many users performed with their editing skits to bring some humour into this situation. Local brands also joined the TikTok bandwagon to raise awareness on Covid-19 as well as inspire people to create interesting content during the lockdown. 

TikTok’s playful, short-video format and straightforward user interface have turned phones into a creator’s studio on a budget for the locals. Many Gen-z in Sri Lanka never owned a desktop or laptop, however, leaped into owning a smartphone. This allowed aspiring actors, dancers, and performers far from the flashing lights to gain recognition. Local celebrities joining the platform and making this app a source of income through content creation and collaborations also made it a judgment-free platform that doesn’t “ask you to pretend that you’re on the internet for a good reason. In the past, I did manage a few brands that were cheeky in their communication (according to 2014 standards). And what we identified during that time was many users who visited and viewed our page daily, but never engaged with the brand since they felt they would be judged by society. It’s a different story as of 2021, the biggest engagement drivers are the controversial and cheeky content creators. 

Viral loop 

When sharing a post on Instagram, the default is to send a direct message within the app; Instagram keeps communication within its closed environment. But when I go to share a post on TikTok, the first tap shows me a range of options: SMS, Instagram, Instagram Stories, Messenger, Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. TikTok attempts to press me out of the TikTok environment. This function making external sharing the default-creates a powerful viral loop for user growth. If a new user shares a TikTok to her Instagram Story and 1,000 people see it and choose to check out TikTok. TikTok has virality developed into its features. 

Editing tools and visual effects 

To enable its closed creation environment, TikTok offers video editing tools and effects for creators. All within the app, creators can cut video clips, merge clips, decrease or accelerate the speed in the clips, and set a timer to tape-record their videos. Vine creators had to blast speakers in the background to add sound to their video; on TikTok, creators play sounds through their phones while they record. 

TikTok’s founder, Zhang Yiming, said that he realised early on that normal users didn’t have the right tools. His mission ended up assisting the average individual to express themselves by making technology more accessible. 

Zhang developed available technology that enables anybody to develop. Equipped with these tools, anyone can make top-quality content. And when combined with an AI-driven feed, this means that anyone can go viral if their content is deemed “good enough” by the algorithm. This is the reason that a 16-year-old like Charli D’Amelio can be the most popular person on TikTok (117 million followers today), while traditional celebs like Madonna (430,000 fans) or Kylie Jenner (32 million) lag behind. TikTok’s production tools democratise the roadway to fame. 

Content inspiration 

Beyond making it possible to create content, TikTok needs to make creation central to the user experience. Just compare the navigation bars for YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. 

YouTube’s app bar is completely focused on consumption. On the YouTube app, there’s nothing that would make me think that I could or ought to create something. And this has an impact: it would never occur to me to share content on YouTube. 

Instagram, on the other hand, puts production and creation front and centre. In this way, TikTok is a hybrid of YouTube and Instagram: TikTok content is more complicated than Instagram’s-more like a mobile-first YouTube, and yet content creation is core to the TikTok user experience on Instagram. 

Another hurdle to content creation is choosing what to produce. TikTok solves this by utilising sounds and challenges to supply motivation and inspiration to creators. 

If a user develops a video with an original sound, that brand-new sound becomes a sound that everyone else on TikTok can utilise in their material. This is an effective driver for content generation. Challenges work similarly. At any given time, there are trending challenges on TikTok that millions of users could join in on. By being able to search by sounds or challenges, brand-new creators can easily find motivation for new material. 

Last thoughts 

The surge in app downloads is not a surprise in this age of video content. Coronavirus and quarantine have made a substantial impact on how individuals live their everyday lives, and we are now seeing this shown in the marketing methods of all services. Fame comes quick and furious on TikTok, which utilises a powerful algorithm to excavate someone from anonymity and turn them into an overnight sensation. A year back, D’Amelio had yet to publish her very first TikTok video. Now, she has the potential to earn millions and a group of representatives, managers, and legal representatives working tirelessly behind the scenes. Though the nature of internet virality is that it can disappear as quickly as it arrives. 

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