101 Guide to Tiktok

iphone xs on white table

Get our FREE PDF report on TikTok Marketing success and video course demos via Email today >

TikTok 101 – All You Need To Know

TikTok is a social media short video creation and sharing app.

It started out in China in 2017 and there is now one app solely for the Chinese market and an international version which is TikTok.

Users can post videos of either 15 seconds or 60 seconds in length on the platform.

Since its launch TikTok has seen significant growth.

There are now over 500 million users across the world and it was the most downloaded app in the first quarter of 2018.

During this time there were over a million downloads of the app for both Android and iOS devices.

What is TikTok?

The company behind TikTok, ByteDance in Beijing, China, purchases the app Musical.ly for $1 billion.

It kept a number of the features of this popular app and added a few new ones.

Users of Musical.ly mainly created lip-sync videos to popular songs.

This tradition continues with TikTok but it has a lot more features besides this.

The user base for TikTok is young.

Over 60% of the current users are under the age of 30.

They like to be entertained and they also like to entertain users themselves.

As a result most of the videos are really fun and make good use of the special effect features from within the app.

Not every user creates their own content.

Some are happy just to view and enjoy the content created by other users.

TikTok uses artificial intelligence technology to recommend new videos to users on their “For You” page.

The technology looks at the videos a user has watched in the past and makes recommendations for other similar content.

There is a “Discover” feature where users can search for specific videos. One of the most popular things about TikTok are the hashtag challenges.

Here the users are ask to participate in a certain challenge and create their own videos around this.

The host of the Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon, initiated a TikTok challenge called #tumbleweed challenge.

The idea behind this was for TikTok users to find a public place and then when they heard a piece of music they had to drop to the floor and roll around like a tumbleweed.

This was incredibly popular and resulted in more than 8,000 videos created in response to the challenge. This challenge also created the greatest engagement levels the platform had ever seen at around 10 million. Companies and organizations are now using the challenges for branding and awareness.

Other Features

TikTok has a very popular feature called the Duet. Here users can create a video that appears next to a currently existing video. This was popular with Musical.ly and now even more popular on TikTok. The most popular of these Duet videos are those that show a user’s reaction to another video.

There are some great special effects with TikTok. Slowing down or speeding up videos is a popular feature. There are also filters and other effects that can really make videos stand out. The majority of the most popular videos on TikTok all use special effects.

Types of Videos

Virtually all of the videos on TikTok have background music. Some users create mini music videos and others make music montages. Funny videos are usually very popular as are dance videos. The more creative and fun a video is on TikTok the more successful it is likely to be.

Tiktok Ban

With roughly 100 million users in the United States, it’s no surprise that TikTok videos have taken over the internet.

But as the relationship between Washington and Beijing frays, the fate of the video app, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, looks uncertain.

In recent weeks, US government officials have claimed that TikTok poses a serious threat to national security,

and President Donald Trump has threatened to ban it unless an American company takes control of its domestic operations.

That set off a bidding contest that’s roped in some of America’s top corporations, including Microsoft, Oracle and Walmart.

While Microsoft is no longer a contender — the company on Sept. 13 announced its bid was rejected by ByteDance — Oracle appears to have emerged victorious and Walmart may still have a small part to play.

Oracle has agreed to become TikTok’s business partner in the United States, though it’s not clear that the proposed deal will appease government officials on either side, who have indicated they intend to carefully review any new arrangement.

The latest major development came Friday, when the US Department of Commerce said it would ban Americans from downloading TikTok and WeChat, another Chinese-owned app, as of Sunday.

What is clear is that the fight over TikTok is bigger than who owns an app popular with Generation Z.

It’s also about the future of US-China relations, and the murky new rules businesses are forced to navigate as tensions between the world’s two biggest economies ramp up.

Oracle said it submitted a proposal to the US Treasury Department earlier this week to partner with TikTok in the United States.

But the companies have yet to secure support from either Trump or Beijing, which means the saga is far from over.

Under the deal, ByteDance will continue to be TikTok’s majority shareholder, according to a person familiar with the matter.

TikTok would set up its headquarters in the United States, the person said, while Oracle will host TikTok’s user data and review TikTok’s code for security.

The company would plan to file for an initial public offering on a US stock exchange in about 12 months.

That structure could be problematic. Trump said this week that he would oppose an arrangement that left ByteDance with majority control.

“Conceptually, I can tell you I don’t like that,” he told reporters Wednesday.

“If that’s the case, I’m not going to be happy with that.”

On Friday, the US government raised the stakes. Any moves to distribute or maintain TikTok on a US app store will be prohibited starting on Sunday, the Commerce Department said in a statement.

In addition, it will be illegal to host or transfer internet traffic associated with TikTok as of November 12, it said.

“At the president’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement.

How did we get here?

The frenzy kicked off in early August when Trump signed an executive order that would effectively ban TikTok in the United States unless ByteDance could find an American owner for its US operations by Sept. 20.

The Trump administration expressed concerns that the hugely popular app could be used as a spying tool by Beijing.

Authorities also fear that it could be leveraged to collect personal data on US citizens, or to censor speech deemed sensitive by the Chinese government.

TikTok has denied those allegations. The company has said its data centers are located entirely outside of China and that none of that data is subject to Chinese law.

The Oracle announcement came days before the executive order was due to take effect.

Some experts think the proposed deal could pass muster because of Trump’s ties to cofounder Larry Ellison, a supporter of the president. CEO Safra Katz has also donated to Trump’s reelection bid.

Still, the decision was a surprise to some following negotiations who expected a joint bid from Microsoft and Walmart to win the day.

What’s Trump’s role?

Trump has positioned himself as the kingmaker of any TikTok deal, making clear that he must agree to the terms before anything is made official.

If that seems unusual, it’s because it is.

While governments often vet pending deals to protect consumers from monopoly power, and often do weigh national security when a merger is announced, Trump’s deep involvement is a stark departure from how deals are typically finalized — as is his move to compel a sale in the first place.

US President Donald Trump has made clear he must approve any TikTok deal.

“In the end, Trump is the X-factor,” said Dipayan Ghosh, the co-director of the Digital Platforms and Democracy Project at the Harvard Kennedy School.

“Whatever he wishes will happen, no matter the merits of the related set of policies underlying the proposal.”

Trump has previously said that any company that scoops up TikTok must make a payment to the US Treasury as a sign of thanks.

It’s not clear if Trump has the legal authority to mandate such a requirement, which would be unprecedented.

Why does this matter?

The battle for control of TikTok in the United States goes beyond social media, security concerns and who winds up in charge.

Sure, that’s a big part of it.

But the outcome will have major geopolitical consequences, too, as the United States and China move further apart under Trump.

For a while, the focus was on trade and protecting intellectual property, with both sides slapping tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in goods while government officials tried to negotiate new terms of engagement.

But over the past two years, sensitive technology has become a big area of contention, too.

The US government has been conducting a long campaign against China’s Huawei, which makes smartphones and is a leading manufacturer of equipment for 5G wireless networks.

Citing similar spying concerns, the Trump administration has pushed allies to opt for other 5G equipment vendors, while cutting off Huawei’s access to US technology, including crucial computer chips.

As pressure expands to TikTok as well as messaging app WeChat, which is owned by China’s Tencent, companies are considering the emergence of a new world order that could reshape how global firms do business.

Tencent’s WeChat has also been targeted by the Trump administration.

Deutsche Bank has estimated that supply and demand disruptions, along with the construction of a “tech wall” that forces companies to create two sets of standards for the United States and China, could cost companies $3.5 trillion over the next five years.

The broader economic relationship is also at stake at a delicate moment following the historic shock from the pandemic.

In a report published in mid-September, the consultancy Rhodium Group found that US-China investment dropped to its lowest level in nine years during the first half of 2020 as tensions rose.

“I use TikTok. What does it mean for me?”

As the situation rapidly progresses, TikTok’s tens of millions of US users worry they could lose access to one of their favorite products.

For now, people can continue to post their short videos of dances, fun recipes and comedy routines per usual.

Once the ban is enacted, however, it’s still not clear what it would mean for users.

If negotiations continue between TikTok and the US government, the end result could still be a deal that would allow US app stores to host TikTok once again.

Learn something new everyday for your side project and small business in our Premium Video Course Series by Digital Academy >