Time for a TikTok Reality Check

TikTok is the world’s hottest social media platform. Young people are flocking to it and the media, fascinated as always by the preferences of youth, has followed. Naturally, digital marketing professionals are also intrigued: TikTok looks like an access point to Gen Z consumers with significant user growth expected from other demographics.

However, keen industry observers are urging restraint. In a recent article, Marketing Land’s Nick Shackelford described TikTok as “the internet’s shiny new toy” and cautioned against investing too heavily. And on March 3, eMarketer reviewed several reports that cast doubts on TikTok’s Gen Z influence.

In September 2019, a YouGov survey found that only 2 per cent of American 13- to 17-year-olds called TikTok their favourite social media platform. A quarter of respondents chose Instagram, 24 per cent preferred Facebook, 22 per cent chose Snapchat, and 16 per cent chose YouTube. Twitter and WhatsApp also placed above TikTok.

Marketing Consult’s November ‘Influencer Report,’ on the other hand, showed that a large number of teens (41 per cent) do use TikTok. And while Piper Jaffray’s recent ‘Taking Stock with Teens’ report found that only 4 per cent of respondents called TikTok their favourite platform in Fall 2019, that represents a significant increase from the zero per cent who preferred it in the Spring.

TikTok, in other words, is growing – but not as quickly as media attention suggests. The platform’s existing marketing and measurement tools are also limited; young people can be reached on TikTok, but proving return on investment is challenging. Privacy is also a concern.

If your business relies on engagement with Gen Z and millennial customers and your marketing team understands how TikTok works and what voices resonate there, then by all means take a stab at TikTok advertising. However, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and even Snapchat also provide access to young consumers and boast significantly more robust marketing tools.

As a Google Premier Partner digital marketing agency with access to valuable insights on Google’s preferred practices, GrowthEngine Media offers a wide variety of digital marketing services, from paid search ads to social media management. Contact us today for more information.


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