TikTok, The Next Big Social Media Sensation

Executive Summary:

This case study is about TikTok, a brand new app that is currently taking social media by storm and is going to become very dominant in the upcoming years. Formally known as musical.ly, this app allows users to create and share short looped videos, typically accompanying music in the background. The app features several fun and entertaining videos submitted by their user base of currently over 500 million followers worldwide (Rimm 2019). This app shows a lot of promising capabilities due to its innovations in content creation, allowing its users the ability to churn out unique, viral content at a faster rate. The app’s initial intent was for users to lip sync to their favorite songs but now is exploding to the scene because of its unique creative tools and its appeal to a younger demographic.

Introduction to the Business:

In 2017, Bytedance, a Chinese tech company, currently valued over $75 billion purchased musical.ly and rebranded it a year later as Tiktok with new eatures (Byford, 2018). Though fairly new to the scene, TikTok is making headlines for various reasons. For one, it provides an interface and infrastructure that makes it easier for people to create engaging content, especially if they are novice. Additionally, the app provides its users with tools such as filters, control over video speed, access to professional audio and more. “Even if you’re not the best lip-syncer, you can still create something fun on TikTok with a music background” (Vaynerchuck 2019).


TikTok serves a significant need in the market for varying significant reasons.

Social media platforms have become useful tools to create, share content and interact with others online. These platforms are unearthed by a younger age group as ways to connect with one another and share content amongst people of a similar age group. For example, while 18-21 year olds may communicate with each other on Instagram or Snapchat, 30 to 45 year olds might feel more comfortable on Facebook or Linkedin. 

Facebook and Instagram’s dominance over social media marketshare has lowered the rate of innovation amongst competing applications. This is because Facebook is quick to acquire and absorb any promising app with new features. This makes it hard for other companies and applications to compete. Therefore, TikTok’s emergence into the market with fresh and exciting new features will increase competition within the market and foster more innovation and growth.

TikTok is essentially going to become the app for the younger generation, Gen Z, as “60% of its monthly active users in the United States are between 16 and 24 years old” (Flynn 2019). Content curators are getting younger by the day thus its imperative to have a platform that caters to their needs and understands where the market is moving. “When TikTok was still Musical.ly, it was the first real social network that reached an audience of first graders” (Vaynerchuck , 2019). Consequently, this platform is going to able to having a much better insight as to how to organically reach the younger market.  What sets the platform apart is the different kind of engagement that it provides its users. It provides content that ensures that the users are tuned in and not scrolling aimlessly. 

Marketing, Social Media and Client Management:

The successful marketing and meteoric rise of TikTok is due significantly to Bytedance’s strong usage of algorithmic approach to content through AI technologies. For instance, they have facial recognition for the filters through the recommendation engine as well as intelligent machines that are capable of understanding and analyzing text, images and videos using natural language processing and computer vision technology. This allows the company to deliver content that users find most interesting and thus encourage them to organically share moments and instances that matter most to them on a daily basis to a constantly growing global audience.” This technology allows the app to serve as a marketing tool that organically attracts clients, brands and advertisers that want to directly access its Gen Z audience (Byford 2018).

Currently, TikTok’s advertising business is in its early stages and is still developing. Thus it cannot provide marketers and clients with advanced tools available to competitors like YouTube and Instagram (Graham 2019). It can only provide advertisers with direct IO (insertion order) buys, where the advertiser works directly with TikTok to purchase and then place the ads. TikTok is also currently pitching advertisers four different ad formats, including in-feed video ads, brand takeover ads that appear when a user first opens the app during the takeover period, banner ads that encourage TikTok users to participate in brand-designed video challenges, and finally branded lenses that a TikTok user may select to use in their own videos (Sutton 2019).


TikTok has excelled in various areas including user growth, experience, fun, innovation and marketing to unique audience. This growing user base of more than half a billion users are heavily engaged with the app and spend an average of about 46 minutes per day on TikTok (Flynn 2019). Various brands are looking to tap into the 40 million mostly preteen and teenage active users. Therefore, they have experimented and tested Tiktok’s marketing tools and received promising results. 

Chipotle recently ran hashtag campaign on TikTok in an attempt to market to millennial and Gen Z demographic to increase its brand engagement. They launched the #ChipotleLidFlip hashtag to create a challenge that would engage the users. Chipotle chose to partner with David Dobrik, a popular influencer on Youtube and Instagram with little notoriety on the Tiktok platform to begin the challenge. They launched a six day campaign in May which resulted with 110,000 video submissions and 104 million video starts. A little of over a month after, the #ChipotleLidFlip hashtag had more than 230 million views (Graham 2019). 

Tiktok’s organic spread of content was made aware to MAV Beauty Brands, the umbrella company that includes Marc Anthony after the brand’s curl defining lotion became a meme on TikTok. This event took place when young women, would demonstrate the product after purchasing and showing it like they were starring in a shampoo commercial and applying it to show off the “after” results. “The videos were captioned with messages like “beachy waves for $6!! I think yes” or “Y’all this stuff works miracles.” (Graham 2019). Consequently, by early June,  the hashtag #strictlycurls thad more than four million video views and MAV admits to seeing a 60% increase on Marc Anthony True Professional’s “Strictly Curls Curl Defining Lotion” and a significant increases on other Strictly Curls products. This type is the kind of promising organic marketing that TikTok is capable of.


I would recommend that the TikTok spends as much money on research and development into AI that will help combat potential issues that may negatively affect the community guidelines such as harassment, hate speech, racism and adult content. Technology, though a great tool, can become insidious when there are no checks and balances to limit or prevent chaos especially in a younger community of users. Thus to better lower risk of inappropriate content, and increase brand safety, it may would be in the best interest of TikTok to make this a major priority in its community.

Another recommendation would be to develop an advertising system that would not take away from the organic experience of the app. The demographic that the app targets is not very keen on advertising thus it would be useful for TikTok not to implement similar techniques of predecessors like Facebook and Instagram. 

Key Takeaways:

What I have learned from analyzing Tik Tok’s tremendous growth and innovation is to trust your market and allow your market to tell you what they want. Social network apps are always successful when they solve problems, provide entertainment, provide information, and most importantly create new tools to allow a new community or demographic to express themselves in a plethora of ways. Tik Tok has been able to bring in a brand new demographic of influencers on an exciting platform that has brought back fun for a new generation. I also have learned about this app’s incredible marketing capabilities as it was a major contributor in the song “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, earning a number one spot on the Billboard Charts. This is an astonishing achievement due to the fact that users of the app were able to generate enough interest and attention for an unknown song by merely submitting videos of themselves doing a fun video challenge. Record companies often spend millions of dollars on marketing budgets to attempt to help earn success on the charts, therefore it is very impressive when a song organically becomes a hit through the help of social media. In all, TikTok is going to be a huge platform in the upcoming years and I foresee it overtaking Instagram as a new way to reach the younger demographic. Businesses and entrepreneurs should start learning this platform to be able to take advantage of its incredible benefits and most importantly to be best prepared for future advancements and innovations. 


Byford, S. (2018, November 30). How the company behind TikTok became the world’s most valuable startup. Retrieved June 05, 2019, from https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/30/18107732/bytedance-valuation-tiktok-china-startup 

Flynn, K. (2019, April 23). How publishers are using TikTok, the latest hot app. Retrieved June 04, 2019, from https://digiday.com/media/tiktok-publishers-comedic-clips/  

Graham, M. (2019, June 08). Gen-Z’s favorite app TikTok is turning weird memes into money. Retrieved June 08, 2019, from https://www.cnbc.com/2019/06/07/tiktok-prepares-to-court-advertisers-after-brands-see-viral-success.html 

Rimm, H. (2019, April 16). What Is The TikTok App That’s Suddenly Getting Banned? Retrieved June 05, 2019, from https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/04/230000/what-is-tik-tok-app-explained 

Sutton, K. (2019, February 21). Biddable Ads Are Coming to TikTok, Opening Up the Popular Platform to More Marketers. Retrieved June 06, 2019, from https://www.adweek.com/programmatic/biddable-ads-are-coming-to-tiktok-opening-up-the-popular-platform-to-more-marketers/ 

Vaynerchuck, G. (2019, April 17). Why the TikTok (formerly Musical.ly) App is So Important. Retrieved June 05, 2019, from https://www.garyvaynerchuk.com/why-tiktok-formerly-musical-ly-app-is-important/ 

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