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TikTok: The next marketing platform for brands

February 11, 2020 No Comments

TikTok, it’s the social media platform that’s taking the world by storm. Gen Z is all over it, and even millennials are joining in on the fun. Can brands be far behind? But what is TikTok, and is it lucrative enough for brands to include in their 2020 marketing plan?

We look at the growing popularity of the channel, what it means for brands, and how companies can maximize their TikTok marketing.

The rise of TikTok

TikTok is a mobile video app much like the now-defunct Vine, created by parent company ByteDance, a startup based in Beijing, China. Launched in 2016, the app currently boasts over 500 million active users and is popular in India, China, and the US.

Users create short, fun looping videos, from 15 seconds to a minute long that’s usually set to music available from the vast TikTok library. The app also offers effects like split screens and filters much like in Snapchat and Instagram. It also provides live streaming.

Alongside the videos that users can create, they can also remix songs and create playlists, in the same vein as Spotify. Like most other social platforms, there is a certain level of interaction between members on the app, such as liking, commenting, hashtagging, and sending hearts.

TikTok recently incorporated paid advertising, which has encouraged brands to join the app and promote themselves.

Why brands should join TikTok

The number of users on TikTok and the app’s potential to grow should be sufficient enough reason for brands with a mobile marketing strategy to join.

But there is reason to seriously consider whether or not it is worth joining the app. For one, the majority of TikTok users are Gen Z, with a few millennials thrown in for good measure.

If your target audience is Gen Z, TikTok may be the next platform to try while Instagram and Snapchat also cater to this demographic, TikTok is centered entirely on them. 

A presence on TikTok could help you boost the reach within this demographic with ease.

On the other hand, if you aren’t exclusively catering to Gen Z – though most marketing trends suggest you should, TikTok may be superfluous to your social media strategy. 

There is no point in stretching yourself thin if the other platforms are doing the job of improving your reach and conversions.

Additionally, take a look at how important video content is to your marketing strategy. Ask yourself, are you creating videos for your channels regularly? If yes, then TikTok could be a good fit.

You also need to ascertain whether your niche will be well represented on TikTok since the app is very entertainment-focused and takes a whimsical approach to content.

Can you mimic that tone in your content and will it be appropriate for your audience? If you answered, “yes” to those questions, then you should be joining TikTok.

How to market a brand on TikTok

Now that you’ve decided that TikTok is the platform for you and will help you reach your target audience of under-30s, how do you market your brand on the app?

Because of how new the app is as compared to the popular platforms of today, it’s difficult to define a TikTok strategy. However, there are a few methods of engagement that you can use on the platform that we will outline below.

1. Behind the scenes

TikTok is a great channel to showcase life behind the scenes, take your followers through an intimate look at the workings of your organization.

A number of entertainment and news brands are making TikTok videos of their brainstorming sessions or inside writers’ rooms.

You can show how a product is conceived and goes through the stages of production until it’s finally ready to be launched for customers.

Note: You may want to consider how you’d want to do this without giving away crucial or business-sensitive information.

But remember, this is not the place to be overly sales-y as we have mentioned earlier, TikTok is about entertainment. If you can make this content fun and quirky, then it can earn you views and followers on TikTok. If you can’t accomplish this, don’t post content on the app.

2. User collaborations

A handful of TikTok users consistently create such entertaining and unique content, that they have already earned millions of followers. These creators are akin to the influencers on Instagram and Snapchat, and it is worth looking into setting up collaborations with these individuals.

Brands are still considered interlopers on TikTok, which is why creative individuals we have mentioned are the real draw.

Instead of trying to appropriate the platform with content that may not be right for the audience, partner up with creators who already know the lay of the land to make promo videos.

3. Duets

Another type of collaborative content that brands can create on TikTok is duets. These are videos where users can add a new video to an existing piece of content. The final product looks like a split-screen video. If executed well, the result can be incredibly entertaining.

Creating a video that can easily be spliced into another is a great way to boost engagement on the app and improve follower numbers.

4. Hashtag challenges

By far the most popular way to engage users on TikTok and to go viral is – to join or issue hashtag challenges. 

These challenges are social media contests usually based on a particular topic or subject, and users are encouraged to send in responses to the challenge as quickly as possible.

TikTok hashtag challenges draw in millions of users and views—if you have a creative enough challenge to share, you can see some serious engagement. 

5. Paid advertising

TikTok advertising is still a new concept but some major brands like Nike and Disney have already managed to create successful ad campaigns on the platform.

However, TikTok advertising may not be for everyone, ad campaigns need businesses to spend at least $ 500, and the cost of a campaign could number in the hundreds of thousands.

One can see why only mega brands have tried it, making it thus far for smaller businesses, native videos, and challenges that may be the way to go.

If your company does have the budget for a TikTok ad campaign, you will need to create a TikTok Ads account.

Once you have been verified, you can set the parameters for your ad, similar to how one would create a Facebook Ad campaign.

6. Reaction videos

Similar to duets, TikTok’s reaction videos are another way to create interactive and engaging content. These videos prompt reactions from people, which they can share via video.

Unlike most other platforms that only give users the option of leaving comments or likes as reactions to posts, TikTok allows users to create a reaction video that can be embedded in the original content.

Creating content that will evoke reactions strong enough for users to leave a reaction video is a good way to boost your follower numbers.

7. Branded stickers

Snapchat has had branded stickers for a while, and TikTok recently released the ability to create your own stickers, alongside importing them from Giphy.

Branded stickers, like the brand emojis on Twitter, can improve your brand awareness on the app. They don’t need to be elaborate, just fun.

However, try to keep the stickers as relevant to the popular TikTok hashtags as possible to increase the possibility of them being used.

Summing up

TikTok is new and exciting but it may not be for everyone. With a large Gen Z following and their quirky video output, TikTok is as niche as a social platform can get.

Brands need to ask themselves whether this is the audience they need to reach and whether they can commit to creating the kind of content that is popular on the app. Because TikTok is gaining popularity every day and it’s targeting the crowd that knows what is on-trend before anyone else knows it. TikTok could be the channel that sends your marketing strategy through the stratosphere. But it may be too much hard work for your team right now so you might want to keep it on your mind for the near future.  

Look at the history of the app and its niche, as well as the content channels available to brands, and make a decision about whether it is right for you or not.

Ronita Mohan is a content marketer at the online infographic and design platform, Venngage.

The post TikTok: The next marketing platform for brands appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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How Dubsmash revived itself as #2 to TikTok

January 31, 2020 No Comments

Lip-syncing app Dubsmash was on the brink of death. After a brief moment of virality in 2015 alongside Vine (R.I.P), Dubsmash was bleeding users faster than it could recruit them. The app let you choose an audio track like a rap song or movie quote and shoot a video of you pretending to say the words. But there was nowhere in the app to post the videos. It was a creation tool like Hipstamatic, not a network like Instagram. There’s a reason we’re only using one of those today.

So in 2017 Dubsmash‘s three executives burned down the 30-person company and rebuilt something social from the ashes with the rest of the $ 15.4 million it’d raised from Lowercase Capital and Index Ventures. They ditched its Berlin headquarters and resettled in Brooklyn, closer to the one demographic still pushing Dubsmashes to the Instagram Explore page: African-American teenagers posting dances and lip-syncs to indie hip-hop songs on the rise.

Dubsmash stretched its funding to rehire a whole new team of 15. They spent a year coding a new version of Dubsmash centered around Following and Trending feeds, desperately trying to match the core features of Musically, which by then had been bought by China’s ByteDance. It’s got chat but still lacks the augmented reality filters, cut transitions, and photo slideshows of TikTok. But Dubsmash has the critical remix option for soundtracking your clip with the audio of any other video that sets it apart from Instagram and Snapchat.

“We realized to build a great product, we needed a depth of expertise that we just didn’t have access to in Berlin” Dubsmash co-founder and CEO Jonas Druppel tells me. “It was a risky move and we felt the weight of it acutely.  But we also knew there was no other way forward, given the scale and pace of the other players in the market.”

Few social apps have ever pulled off a real comeback. Even Snapchat had only lost 5 million of its 191 million users before it started growing again. But in the case of Dubsmash, its biggest competitor was also its savior.

The pre-relaunch version of Dubsmash

In August 2018, ByteDance merged Musically into TikTok to form a micro-entertainment phenomenon. Instead of haphazardly sharing auto-biographical Stories shot with little forethought, people began storyboarding skits and practicing dances. The resulting videos were denser and more compelling than content on Snapchat and Instagram. The new Dubsmash, launched two months later, rode along with the surge of interest in short-form video like a Lilliputian in a giant’s shirt pocket. The momentum helped Dubsmash raise a secret round of funding last year to keep up the chase.

Now Dubsmash has 1 billion video views per month.

Dubsmash rebuilt its app and revived its usage

“The turnaround that we executed hasn’t been done in recent memory by a consumer app in such a competitive marketplace. Most of them fade to oblivion or shut down” Dubsmash co-founder and President Suchit Dash tells me. “By moving the company to the United States, hiring a brand new all-star team & relaunching the product, we gave this company & product a second life. Through that journey, we obsessed only on one metric: retention.”

Now the app has pulled 27% of the US short-form video market share by installs, second only to TikTok’s 59%, according to AppAnnie. Sensor Tower tells TechCrunch that TikTok has about 3X as many US lifetime installs as Dubsmash, and 11X more between when Musically became TikTok in August 2018 and now.

In terms of active users outside of TikTok, Dubsmash has 73% of the US market, compared to just 23% on Triller, 3.6% on Firework, and an embarrassing 0% on Facebook’s Lasso. And while Triller began surpassing Dubsmash in downloads per month in October, Dubsmash has 3X as many active users and saw 38% more first-time downloads in 2018 than 2019. Dubsmash now sees 30% retention after a month, and 30% of its daily users are creating content.

It’s that stellar rate of participation that’s brought Dubsmash back to life. It also attracted a previously unannounced round of $ 6.75 million in the Spring of 2019, largely from existing investors. While TikTok’s superstars and huge visibility could be scaring some users away from shooting videos while a long-tail of recent downloaders watch passively, Dubsmash has managed to make people feel comfortable on camera.

“Dubsmash is ground zero for culture creation in America—it’s where  the newest,  most popular hip-hop and dance challenges on the Internet originate” Dash declares.  “Members of the community are developing content that will make them the superstars of tomorrow.”

Being #2 might not be so bad, given how mobile video viewing is growing massively thanks to better cameras, bigger screens, faster networks, and cheaper data. Right now, Dubsmash doesn’t make any money. It hopes to one day generate revenue while helping its creators earn a living too, perhaps through ad revenue shares, tipping, subscriptions, merchandise, or offline meetups.

One advantage of not being TikTok is that the app feels less crowded by semi-pro creators and influencers. That gives users the vibe that they’re more likely to hit the Trending or Explore page on Dubsmash. The Trending page is dominated by hot new songs and flashy dances, even if they’re shot with a lower production quality that feels accessible.

Dubsmash tries to stoke that sense of opportunity by making Explore about discovering accounts and all the content they’ve made rather than specific videos. While popular clips might have tens of thousands of views rather than the hundred-thousand or multi-million counts on TikTok’s top content, there’s enough visibility to make shooting Dubsmashes worth it.

TikTok has already taken notice. Shown in a leak of its moderation guidelines from Netzpolitik, the company’s policy is to downrank the visibility of any video referencing or including a watermark from direct competitors including Dubsmash, Triller, Lasso, Snapchat, and WhatsApp. That keeps Dubsmash videos, which you can save to your camera roll, from going viral on TikTok and luring users away.

TikTok’s content moderation guidelines show it downranks content featuring the watermarks of competitors like Dubsmash

TikTok also continues to aggressively buy users via ads on competing apps like Facebook thanks to the billions in funding raked in by its parent ByteDance. In contast, Dash says Dubsmash has never spent a dollar on user acquisition, influencer marketing, or any other source of growth. That makes it achieving even half to a third of as many installs as TikTok in the US an impressive fete.

Why would creators choose Dubsmash over TikTok? Dash clinically explains that its a “decoupled audio and video platform that enables producers and tastemakers to upload fresh, original tracks that are utilized by creators and  influencers alike” but that it’s also about “Its role as a welcoming home for a community that’s underrepresented on social platforms.”

If Dubsmash keeps growing, though, it will encounter the inevitable content moderation problems that come with scale. It’s already doing a solid job of requiring users to sign up with their birthdate to watch or post videos, and it blocks those under 13. Only users who follow each other can chat.

Any piece of content that’s flagged by users is hidden from the network until it passes a review by its human moderation team that works around the clock, and it does proactive takedowns too. However, brigading and malicious takedown reports could be used by trolls to silence their enemies. Dubsmash is working off of a common sense model of what’s allowed rather than firm guidelines, which will be tough to keep consistent at scale.

“Being a social media app in 2020 means you need to take greater responsibility for the well being of the community” says Dash. “We decided upon relaunch to take a strict perspective. Our goal is to be intentional and proactive early, and invest in safety and healthy growth rather than growth at all costs. This may not be the most popular approach amongst the market, but we believe this is the most effective way to build a social platform.”

Dubsmash proves that short-form video is so compelling to teens that the market can sustain multiple apps. That will have to be the case given Instagram is preparing to release its TikTok clone Reels, and Vine’s co-founder Dom Hofmann just launched his successor Byte. The breakdown could look like:

  • TikTok: A slightly longer-form combo of comedy, dance, and absurdity
  • Dubsmash: Mid-length dance and music videos with a diverse community
  • Byte: Super short-form comedy featuring slightly older ex-Vine stars
  • Triller: Mid-length life blogging clips from Hollywood celebrities
  • Instagram Reels: International influencers making videos for a mainstream audience

Perhaps we’ll eventually see consolidation in the market, with giants like TikTok and Instagram acquiring smaller players to grow their content network effect with more fodder for remixes. But fragmentation could breed creativity. Different tools and audiences beg for different types of videos. Make something special, and there’s an app out there to enter your into pop culture cannon.

For more on the short-form video wars and the future of micro-entertainment, read:


Social – TechCrunch


Instagram adds Boomerang effects as TikTok looms

January 12, 2020 No Comments

TikTok has spawned countless memes formats from its creative effects, challenging Instagram for the filtered video crown. Now nearly five years after launching Boomerang, Instagram’s back-and-forth video loop maker is finally getting a big update to its own editing options. Users around the globe can now add SlowMo, “Echo” blurring, and “Duo” rapid rewind special effects to their Boomerangs, as well as trim their length. This is the biggest upgrade yet for one of mobile’s most popular video creation tools.

The effects could help keep Instagram interesting. After so many years of Boomerangs, many viewers simply skip past them in Stories after the first loop since they’re so consistent. The extra visual flare of the new effects could keep people’s attention for a few more seconds and unlock new forms of comedy. That’s critical as Instagram tries to compete with TikTok, which has tons of special effects that have spawned their own meme formats.

Starting today, people on Instagram will be able to share new SloMo, Echo and Duo Boomerang modes on Instagram” a Facebook company spokesperson tells TechCrunch. “Your Instagram camera gives you ways to express yourself and easily share what you’re doing, thinking or feeling with your friends. Boomerang is one of the most beloved camera formats and we’re excited to expand the creative ways that you can use Boomerang to turn everyday moments into something fun and unexpected.”

The new Boomerang tools can be found by swiping right on Instagram to open the Stories composer, and then swiping left at the bottom of the screen’s shutter selector. After shooting a Boomerang, an infinity symbol button atop the screen reveals the alternate effects and video trimmer. Mobile researcher Jane Manchun Wong spotted Instagram prototyping new Boomerang filters and the trimmer last year.

Typically, Boomerang captures one second of silent video which is then played forward and then in reverse three times to create a six second loop that can be shared or downloaded as a video. Here are the new effects you can add plus how Instagram described them to me in a statement:

  • SlowMo – Reduces Boomerangs to half-speed so they play for two seconds in each direction instead of one second. “Slows down your Boomerang to capture each detail”
  • Echo – Adds a motion blur effect so a translucent trail appears behind anything moving, almost like you’re drunk or tripping. “Creates a double vision effect.”
  • Duo – Rapidly rewinds the clip to the beginning with a glitchy, digitized look. “Both speeds up and slows down your Boomerang, adding a texturized effect.”
  • Trimming – Shorten your Boomerang with similar controls to iPhone’s camera roll or the Instagram feed video composer. “Edit the length of your Boomerang, and when it starts or ends.”

The effects aren’t entirely original. Snapchat has offered slow-motion and fast-foward video effects since just days after the original launch of Boomerang back in 2015. TikTok meanwhile provides several motion blur filters and pixelated transitions. But since these are all available with traditional video, unlike on Instagram where they’re confined to Boomerangs, there’s more creative flexibility to use the effects to hide cuts between takes or play with people’s voices.

That’s won TikTok a plethora of ingenius memes that rely on these tools. Users high-five themselves using an Echo-esque feature, highlight action-packed moments or loud sounds with Duo-style glitch cuts, and conjure an army of doppelgangers behind them with infinity clones effect. Instagram Stories has instead focused on augmented reality face filters and classier tools like layout.

TikTok Screenshots

Hopefully we’ll see Instagram’s new editing features brought over to its main Stories and video composers. Video trimming would be especially helpful since a boring start to a Story can quickly lead viewers to skip it.

Instagram has had years of domination in the social video space. But with Snapchat finally growing again and TikTok becoming a global phenomenon, Instagram must once again fight to maintain its superiority. Now approaching 10 years old, it’s at risk of becoming stale if it can’t keep giving people ways to make hastily shot phone content compelling.


Social – TechCrunch


Instagram adds Boomerang effects as TikTok looms

January 11, 2020 No Comments

TikTok has spawned countless memes formats from its creative effects, challenging Instagram for the filtered video crown. Now nearly five years after launching Boomerang, Instagram’s back-and-forth video loop maker is finally getting a big update to its own editing options. Users around the globe can now add SlowMo, “Echo” blurring, and “Duo” rapid rewind special effects to their Boomerangs, as well as trim their length. This is the biggest upgrade yet for one of mobile’s most popular video creation tools.

The effects could help keep Instagram interesting. After so many years of Boomerangs, many viewers simply skip past them in Stories after the first loop since they’re so consistent. The extra visual flare of the new effects could keep people’s attention for a few more seconds and unlock new forms of comedy. That’s critical as Instagram tries to compete with TikTok, which has tons of special effects that have spawned their own meme formats.

Starting today, people on Instagram will be able to share new SloMo, Echo and Duo Boomerang modes on Instagram” a Facebook company spokesperson tells TechCrunch. “Your Instagram camera gives you ways to express yourself and easily share what you’re doing, thinking or feeling with your friends. Boomerang is one of the most beloved camera formats and we’re excited to expand the creative ways that you can use Boomerang to turn everyday moments into something fun and unexpected.”

The new Boomerang tools can be found by swiping right on Instagram to open the Stories composer, and then swiping left at the bottom of the screen’s shutter selector. After shooting a Boomerang, an infinity symbol button atop the screen reveals the alternate effects and video trimmer. Mobile researcher Jane Manchun Wong spotted Instagram prototyping new Boomerang filters and the trimmer last year.

Typically, Boomerang captures one second of silent video which is then played forward and then in reverse three times to create a six second loop that can be shared or downloaded as a video. Here are the new effects you can add plus how Instagram described them to me in a statement:

  • SlowMo – Reduces Boomerangs to half-speed so they play for two seconds in each direction instead of one second. “Slows down your Boomerang to capture each detail”
  • Echo – Adds a motion blur effect so a translucent trail appears behind anything moving, almost like you’re drunk or tripping. “Creates a double vision effect.”
  • Duo – Rapidly rewinds the clip to the beginning with a glitchy, digitized look. “Both speeds up and slows down your Boomerang, adding a texturized effect.”
  • Trimming – Shorten your Boomerang with similar controls to iPhone’s camera roll or the Instagram feed video composer. “Edit the length of your Boomerang, and when it starts or ends.”

The effects aren’t entirely original. Snapchat has offered slow-motion and fast-foward video effects since just days after the original launch of Boomerang back in 2015. TikTok meanwhile provides several motion blur filters and pixelated transitions. But since these are all available with traditional video, unlike on Instagram where they’re confined to Boomerangs, there’s more creative flexibility to use the effects to hide cuts between takes or play with people’s voices.

That’s won TikTok a plethora of ingenius memes that rely on these tools. Users high-five themselves using an Echo-esque feature, highlight action-packed moments or loud sounds with Duo-style glitch cuts, and conjure an army of doppelgangers behind them with infinity clones effect. Instagram Stories has instead focused on augmented reality face filters and classier tools like layout.

TikTok Screenshots

Hopefully we’ll see Instagram’s new editing features brought over to its main Stories and video composers. Video trimming would be especially helpful since a boring start to a Story can quickly lead viewers to skip it.

Instagram has had years of domination in the social video space. But with Snapchat finally growing again and TikTok becoming a global phenomenon, Instagram must once again fight to maintain its superiority. Now approaching 10 years old, it’s at risk of becoming stale if it can’t keep giving people ways to make hastily shot phone content compelling.

Mobile – TechCrunch


Zuckerberg misunderstands the huge threat of TikTok

October 2, 2019 No Comments

“It’s almost like the Explore Tab that we have on Instagram” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in leaked audio of him describing TikTok during an all-hands meeting. But it’s not. TikTok represents a new form of social entertainment that’s vastly different from the lifelogging of Instagram where you can just take a selfie, show something pretty, or pan around what you’re up to. TikToks are premeditated, storyboarded, and vastly different than the haphazard Stories on Insta.

That’s why Zuckerberg’s comments cast a dark shadow over the future of the Facebook family of apps. How can it beat what it doesn’t understand? He certainly can’t ignore it. Facebook’s copycat Lasso has been installed just 425,000 times since it launched in November, while TikTok has 640 million installs in the same period outside of China. Oh, and TikTok has 1.4 billion total installs beyond China to date.

TikTok Screenshots

TikTok

Casey Newton of The Verge today published two hours of audio and transcripts from two internal-only all-hands Q&As held by Zuckerberg at Facebook in July. His comments touch on the company’s plan to fight being broken up by regulators, especially if Elizabeth Warren becomes President. He thinks Facebook would win, but on resorting to suing the government, he says “does that still suck for us? Yeah.” Zuckerberg also describes how Facebook is working to launch a payments product in Mexico and elsewhere by year’s end as Libra deals with regulatory scrutiny.

But beyond his comments on regulation, it’s his pigeonholing of TikTok that’s most alarming. It foreshadows Facebook failing to win one of the core social feeds that its business depends on. Perhaps his perspective on the competitor is evolving, but the leak portrays him as thinking TikTok is just the next Snapchat Stories to destroy.

Zuckeberg’s Thoughts On TikTok

Here’s what Zuckerberg said about TikTok during the internal Q&A sessions, (emphasis mine):

So yeah. I mean, TikTok is doing well. One of the things that’s especially notable about TikTok is, for a while, the internet landscape was kind of a bunch of internet companies that were primarily American companies. And then there was this parallel universe of Chinese companies that pretty much only were offering their services in China. And we had Tencent who was trying to spread some of their services into Southeast Asia. Alibaba has spread a bunch of their payment services to Southeast Asia. Broadly, in terms of global expansion, that had been pretty limited, and TikTok, which is built by this company Beijing ByteDance, is really the first consumer internet product built by one of the Chinese tech giants that is doing quite well around the world. It’s starting to do well in the US, especially with young folks. It’s growing really quickly in India. I think it’s past Instagram now in India in terms of scale. So yeah, it’s a very interesting phenomenon.

And the way that we kind of think about it is: it’s married short-form, immersive video with browse. So it’s almost like the Explore Tab that we have on Instagram, which is today primarily about feed posts and highlighting different feed posts. I kind of think about TikTok as if it were Explore for stories, and that were the whole app. And then you had creators who were specifically working on making that stuff. So we have a number of approaches that we’re going to take towards this, and we have a product called Lasso that’s a standalone app that we’re working on, trying to get product-market fit in countries like Mexico, is I think one of the first initial ones. We’re trying to first see if we can get it to work in countries where TikTok is not already big before we go and compete with TikTok in countries where they are big.

We’re taking a number of approaches with Instagram, including making it so that Explore is more focused on stories, which is increasingly becoming the primary way that people consume content on Instagram, as well as a couple of other things there. But yeah, I think that it’s not only one of the more interesting new phenomena and products that are growing. But in terms of the geopolitical implications of what they’re doing, I think it is quite interesting. I think we have time to learn and understand and get ahead of the trend. It is growing, but they’re spending a huge amount of money promoting it. What we’ve found is that their retention is actually not that strong after they stop advertising. So the space is still fairly nascent, and there’s time for us to kind of figure out what we want to do here. But I think this is a real thing. It’s good.

To Zuckerberg’s credit, he’s not dismissing the threat. He knows TikTok is popular. He knows it’s growing in key international markets Facebook and Instagram depend on to keep user counts rising. And he knows his company needs to respond via its standalone clone Lasso and more.

Facebook Lasso Screenshots

Lasso

But while TikToks might look like Stories because they’re vertical videos, and TikTok might algorithmically recommend them to people like Instagram Explore, it’s a whole ‘nother beast of a product and one that may be harder than it seems to copy.

To crystallize why, let’s rewind to Snapchat. With the launch of Stories, it started to blow up with US teens. Facebook’s attempts to clone it in standalone apps like Poke and Slingshot never gained traction. In fact, none of Facebook’s standalone apps have succeeded unless they splintered off an already-popular piece of Facebook like chat and users were forced to download them like Messenger. It wasn’t until Zuckerberg stuck his clone of Stories front-and-center atop Instagram and Facebook that Snapchat’s user count went from growing 18% per quarter to shrinking. There, Facebook used the same strategy laid out in Zuckerberg’s comments — push its good-enough clone in countries where the original isn’t popular yet.

But Facebook was fortunate because Stories really wasn’t that dissimilar to the content users were already sharing on Instagram — tiny biographical snippets of their lives. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel had originally invented Stories as a vision of Facebook’s News Feed through the lens of an ephemeral camera. All users had to know was “I take the same videos, but shorter and sillier, posted more often, and then they disappear”. The concept of Instagram and Facebook didn’t have to change. They were still about telling friends what you were up to. Choking off TikTok’s growth will be much more complicated.

Why TikTok Is Tough To Clone

TikTok isn’t about you or what you’re doing. It’s about entertaining your audience. It’s not spontaneous chronicling of your real life. It’s about inventing characters, dressing up as someone else, and acting out jokes. It’s not about privacy and friends, but strutting on the world stage. And it’s not about originality — the heart of Instagram. TikTok is about remixing culture — taking the audio from someone else’s clip and reimagining the gag in a new context by layering it atop a video you record.

TikTok Remixes

That makes TikTok distinct enough that it will be very difficult to shoehorn into Instagram or Facebook, even if they add the remixing functionality. Most videos on those apps aren’t designed to be templates for memes like TikToks are. Insta and Facebook’s social graphs are rooted in friendship and augmented by the beautiful and famous, but don’t encompass the new wave of amateur performers TikTok elevates. And since each post to the app becomes fodder for someone else’s creativity, a competitor starting from scratch doesn’t offer much to remix.

That means a TikTok clone would have to be somewhat buried in Instagram or Facebook, rebuild a new social graph, and retrain users’ understanding of these apps’ purpose…at the risk of distracting from their core use cases. This leaves Facebook hoping to grow its standalone TikTok clone Lasso which TechCrunch scooped a year ago before it launched last November. But as we’ve seen, Facebook struggles growing brand new apps, and that effort is further hindered by its increasingly toxic brand and sheen of uncoolness. Nor does it help that Facebook must divert development resources to comply with all the new privacy and transparency obligations as part of its $ 5 billion FTC fine and settlement.

The Next Feed

Facebook’s best bet is to assess the future value of the ads it could run on a successful TikTok clone and apply some greater fraction of that grand sum to competing directly. It’s already made some smart additions to Lasso like tutorials for how to remix and the option to add GIFs as sections of your video. But it’s still failing to gain serious traction in the US. While typical videos on the TikTok homepage where I’m spending a few hours a week have hundreds of thousands of Likes, the top ones I saw in my Lasso feed today received 70 or fewer.

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TikTok trounces Facebook’s Lasso in the US iOS App Store charts

I had Sensor Tower run some analysis comparing TikTok with Lasso since its launch last November, and found that Lasso gets 6 downloads for every 1000 for TikTok in the US. Some more stats:

  • US Total Downloads Since November: Lasso – 250,000 // TikTok – 41.3 million
  • US Downloads Per Day Since November: Lasso – 760 // TikTok – 126,000
  • Average US Google Play Social App Chart Ranking: Lasso – #155 // TikTok – #2

Beyond the US, Lasso has only launched in one other market, Mexico in April, where it’s been faring better but could hardly even be considered a competitor to TikTok. Facebook needs to lean harder into Lasso:

  • Mexico Total Downloads Since April: Lasso – 175,000 // TikTok – 3.3 million
  • Mexico Downloads Per Day Since November: Lasso – 1,000 // TikTok – 19,000

Facebook Lasso Logo

Zuckerberg may need to find a coherent place for TikTok style features inside Instagram and potentially Facebook. That could be another horizontal row of previews like with Stories and/or a header on the Explore page dedicated to premeditated content. Certainly something more prominent than a single button like IGTV that still no one is asking for. One opportunity to best TikTok would be building a dedicated remix source browser into the Stories camera to help users find content to put their own spin on.

Facebook will also need to buy out top TikTok creators to make videos for it instead, and even quasi-hire some of the most prolific video meme or challenge inventors to give users trends to jump on rather than just one-off clips to watch. Its failure to offer IGTV stars monetization has led many to ignore that platform, and it can’t afford that again.

If Zuckerberg approaches TikTok as merely an algorithmic video recommender like Explore, Facebook will miss out on owning the social entertainment feed. If he doesn’t decisively move to challenge TikTok soon, its catalog of content to remix will grow insurmountable and it will own the whole concept of short form performative video. Snapchat’s insistence on ephemerality makes it incompatible with remixing, and YouTube isn’t nimble enough to reinvent itself.

If no American company can step up, we could see our interest data, faces, and attention forfeited to an app that while delightful to use, heralds Chinese political values at odds with our own. If only Twitter hadn’t killed Vine.


Social – TechCrunch


TikTok adds Giphy integration to import Stickers and export TikTok memes to the rest of the world

August 1, 2019 No Comments

TikTok is the breakout hit in social media apps at the moment — it’s currently ranked first in entertainment, and 12th overall in terms of download popularity on iOS, and 8th on Android in the US — and today it’s starting a partnership that should give it an even wider profile, with the added benefit of bring another key tool in for creators on the platform to use: the app is now working with Giphy, the GIF platform, to make it possible to import Giphy GIFs, specifically its animated Stickers, into TikTok posts, and at the same time, to be able to create new GIFs for Giphy based on what you are doing in TikTok .

file 2TikTok tells me that this is not a commercial deal: there’s no money exchanging hands, a spokesperson said in an email. “We’re excited to continue enhancing our creative tools with this integration,” she continued, “as well as share some of TikTok’s most iconic memes with GIPHY keyboards everywhere!”

The spokesperson said that this is the first partnership for TikTok — owned by China’s Bytedance — to integrate a third-party GIF/Sticker content into its platform. On the side of Giphy, though, this is the latest of a string of integrations that it’s used over the years to expand its reach. You can call up Giphy GIFs in Twitch, enterprise apps like Slack and Quip, and (after ironing out a little controversy with how well GIFs were being vetted) on Snapchat and Instagram, among others.

(Note: TikTok does have deals with other kinds of third parties, though, for example music labels and publishers, who are apparently in the process of rethinking those agreements, in light of just how huge TikTok has become, and its role as the primary place where music is being played, heard and appropriated.)

TikTok will be putting the Giphy integration front and center into the app, with creators able to add a sticker to a post by hitting a Giphy button to call up a directory. It sounds like an algorithm will surface a pared-down selection for users: TikTok said that it worked with Giphy Studios to create stickers that reflect some of the more popular memes and hashtags on TikTok (eg #oddlysatisfying or a dog sticker). You can also search on #getGiphy to find more.

At the same time, TikTok’s using the integration to give creators on its platform a little more amplification: the most popular stickers based on TikTok memes will also get surfaced now on Giphy itself, and wherever it is integrated. You find these by searching on #TikTok in the Giphy libarary search bar. At a time when there is a lot of heated competition to bring the most popular creators to do their best original work on a specific platform, this potentially could be one way to help woo them to TikTok over others.

But that’s not to say that anyone’s Giphy stickers will appear anywhere that Giphy is.

file 1“Giphy users can create and upload their own Stickers to the platform. However, their content won’t be indexed in Giphy’s search and will not show up in third party apps like TikTok unless they are a verified channel on Giphy,” a spokesperson told us. “Giphy Studios has worked with a wide array of brands and partners, such as TikTok, to create custom content, which they do on a case by case basis. TikTok worked with the creators and the Giphy Studios team to turn popular TikTok memes into GIFs. To create this content, we invited a group of creative, funny, and diverse creators, @DreaKnowBest, @Gabe, @BenoftheWeek who are excited to immortalize TikTok memes in GIF form.”

Doubtless if this takes off, there will be more added to that mix.

TikTok doesn’t share how many users it currently has on its platform, but the app — and before that, its predecessor Musically — has proven to be a massively popular channel for sharing fun and occasionally sentimental short videos set to music. But even that loose remit, which has attracted so many users, has its limitations. If you browse enough TikTok, a lot of the posts start to meld together. Adding in a sticker option gives a little extra nudge of differentiation.

There is a longer-term option that this brings to the platform, too: While TikTok has yet to turn the advertising taps on to full volume, stickers can become an obvious way of bringing in more #brands and messaging in a way that keeps the fun ethos of the platform intact.


Social – TechCrunch


TikTok tests an Instagram-style grid and other changes

July 21, 2019 No Comments

Short-form video app TikTok, the fourth most downloaded app in the world as of last quarter, is working on several new seemingly Instagram-inspired features — including a Discover page, a grid-style layout similar to Instagram Explore, an Account Switcher and more.

The features were uncovered this week by reverse-engineering specialist Jane Manchun Wong, who published screenshots of these features and others to Twitter.

A TikTok spokesperson declined to offer further details on the company’s plans, but confirmed the features were things the company is working on.

“We’re always experimenting with new ways to improve the app experience for our community,” the spokesperson said.

The most notable change uncovered by Wong is one to TikTok’s algorithmically generated “For You” page. Today, users flip through each video on this page, one by one, in a vertical feed-style format. The updated version instead offers a grid-style layout, which looks more like Instagram’s Explore page. This design would also allow users to tap on the videos they wanted to watch, while more easily bypassing those they don’t. And because it puts more videos on the page, too, the change could quickly increase the amount of input into TikTok’s recommendation engine about a user’s preferences.

Another key change being developed is the addition of a “Discover” tab to TikTok’s main navigation.

The new button appears to replace the current Search tab, which today is labeled with a magnifying glass icon. The Search section currently lets you enter keywords, and returns results that can be filtered by users, sounds, hashtags or videos. It also showcases trending hashtags on the main page. The “Discover” button, meanwhile, has a people icon on it, which hints that it could be helping users find new people to follow on TikTok, rather than just videos and sounds.

This change, if accurately described and made public, could be a big deal for TikTok creators, as it arrives at a time when the app has gained critical mass and has penetrated the mainstream. The younger generation has been caught up in TikTok, finding the TikTok stars more real and approachable than reigning YouTubers.  TikTokers and their fans even swarmed VidCon this month, leading some to wonder if a paradigm shift for online video was soon to come.

A related feature, “Suggested Users,” could also come into play here, in terms of highlighting top talent.

Getting on an app’s “Suggested” list is often key to becoming a top creator on the platform. It’s how many Viners and Twitter users initially grew their follower bases, for instance.

However, TikTok diverged from Instagram with the testing of two other new features Wong found that focused on popularity metrics. One test shows the “Like” counts on each video on the Sounds and Hashtags pages, and another shows the number of Downloads on the video itself, in addition to the Likes and Shares.

This would be an interesting change in light of the competitive nature of social media. And its timing is significant. Instagram is now backing away from showing Like counts, in a test running in a half dozen countries. The company made the change in response to public pressure regarding the anxiety that using its service causes.

Of course, in the early days of a social app, Like counts and other metrics are tools that help point users to the breakout, must-follow stars. They also encourage more posting as users try to find content that resonates — which then, in turn, boosts their online fame in a highly trackable way.

TikTok is also taking note of how integrations with other social platforms could benefit its service, similar to how the Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger apps have offered features to drive traffic to one another and otherwise interoperate.

A couple of features Wong found were focused on improving connections with social apps, including one that offered better integration with WhatsApp, and another that would allow users to link their account to Google and Facebook.

A few other changes being tested included an Instagram-like Account switcher interface, a “Liked by Creator” comment badge and a downgrade to the TikCode (QR code), which moves from the user profile in the app’s settings.

Of course, one big caveat here with all of this is that just because a feature is spotted in the app’s code, that doesn’t mean it will launch to the public.

Some of these changes may be tested privately, then scrapped entirely, or are still just works in progress. But being able to see a collection of experiments at one time like this — something that’s not possible without the sort of reverse engineering that Wong does — helps to paint a larger picture of the direction an app may be headed. In TikTok’s case, it seems to understand its potential, as well as when to borrow successful ideas from others who have come before it, and when to go its own direction.


Social – TechCrunch


TikTok owner ByteDance’s long-awaited chat app is here

May 20, 2019 No Comments

In WeChat -dominated China, there’s no shortage of challengers out there claiming to create an alternative social experience. The latest creation comes from ByteDance, the world’s most valuable startup and the operator behind TikTok, the video app that has consistently topped the iOS App Store over the last few quarters.

The new offer is called Feiliao (飞聊), or Flipchat in English, a hybrid of an instant messenger plus interest-based forums, and it’s currently available for both iOS and Android. It arrived only four months after Bytedance unveiled its video-focused chatting app Duoshan at a buzzy press event.

Screenshots of Feiliao / Image source: Feiliao

Some are already calling Feiliao a WeChat challenger, but a closer look shows it’s targeting a more niche need. WeChat, in its own right, is the go-to place for daily communication in addition to facilitating payments, car-hailing, food delivery and other forms of convenience.

Feiliao, which literally translates to ‘fly chat’, encourages users to create forums and chat groups centered around their penchants and hobbies. As its app description writes:

Feiliao is an interest-based social app. Here you will find the familiar [features of] chats and video calls. In addition, you will discover new friends and share what’s fun; as well as share your daily life on your feed and interact with close friends.

Feiliao “is an open social product,” said ByteDance in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “We hope Feiliao will connect people of the same interests, making people’s life more diverse and interesting.”

It’s unclear what Feiliao means by claiming to be ‘open’, but one door is already shut. As expected, there’s no direct way to transfer people’s WeChat profiles and friend connections to Feiliao, and there’s no option to log in via the Tencent app. As of Monday morning, links to Feiliao can’t be opened on WeChat, which recently crossed 1.1 billion monthly active users.

On the other side, Alibaba, Tencent’s long-time nemesis, is enabling Feiliao’s payments function through the Alipay digital wallet. Alibaba has also partnered with Bytedance elsewhere, most notably on TikTok’s Chinese version Douyin where certain users can sell goods via Taobao stores.

In all, Flipchat is more reminiscent of another blossoming social app — Tencent-backed Jike — than WeChat. Jike (pronounced ‘gee-keh’) lets people discover content and connect with each other based on various topics, making it one of the closest counterparts to Reddit in China.

Jike’s CEO Wa Nen has taken noticed of Feiliao, commenting with the 👌 emoji on his Jike feed, saying no more.

Screenshot of Jike CEO Wa Ren commenting on Feiliao

“I think [Feiliao] is a product anchored in ‘communities’, such as groups for hobbies, key opinion leaders/celebrities, people from the same city, and alumni,” a product manager for a Chinese enterprise software startup told TechCrunch after trying out the app.

Though Feiliao isn’t a direct take on WeChat, there’s little doubt that the fight between Bytedance and Tencent has heated up tremendously as the former’s army of apps captures more user attention.

According to a new report published by research firm Questmobile, ByteDance accounted for 11.3 percent of Chinese users’ total time spent on ‘giant apps’ — those that surpassed 100 million MAUs — in March, compared to 8.2 percent a year earlier. The percentage controlled by Tencent was 43.8 percent in March, down from 47.5 percent, while the remaining share, divided between Alibaba, Baidu and others, grew only slightly from 44.3 percent to 44.9 percent over the past year.


Social – TechCrunch


Indian court lifts ban on TikTok in India

April 24, 2019 No Comments

An Indian state court has reversed its ban on TikTok, allowing the short-video app to return to both Apple and Google’s app stores, according to a report this morning from Reuters. Earlier this month, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had ordered TikTok be removed from app stores, after a High Court in Madras determined the app was encouraging pornography and other illicit content.

Though the removal only affected new users who were looking to download TikTok’s app to their devices for the first time — not those who already had it installed — the ban was a major blow to TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance. The company said in a court filing the ban was resulting in a $ 500,000 daily loss, and was putting more than 250 jobs at risk.

India had become a large and growing market for TikTok, with nearly 300 million users in the country out of over 1 billion total downloads, according to Sensor Tower. (TikTok notes it had over 120 million monthly actives in India.)

India had also accounted for 27 percent of TikTok’s total installs between December 2017 and December 2018, Sensor Tower found, which meant the app was a huge source of TikTok’s overall growth.

However, some Indian politicians and parents believe the app’s content is inappropriate, particularly with regard to its use by minors. And the Tamil Nadu court — which ruled against TikTok — said the app could expose children to sexual predators, as well.

TikTok, meanwhile, had argued that a “very miniscule” proportion of its videos were inappropriate, and that after reviewing content created by users in India it had removed over 6 million videos that had violated its terms of use and community guidelines.

The ban, had it been upheld, could have foretold increased legal action and regulation against other social media apps in India.

This wasn’t the first time TikTok has come under fire by government regulators.

In February, the FTC in the U.S. fined TikTok $ 5.7 million for violating children’s privacy law (COPPA) and required the app to implement an age gate.

ByteDance, in a statement, welcomed the court’s decision to reverse the ban, saying:

We are glad about this decision and we believe it is also greatly welcomed by our thriving community in India, who use TikTok as a platform to showcase their creativity. We are grateful for the opportunity to continue serving our users better. While we’re pleased that our efforts to fight against misuse of the platform has been recognised, the work is never “done” on our end. We are committed to continuously enhancing our safety features as a testament to our ongoing commitment to our users in India


Social – TechCrunch


TikTok spotted testing native video ads

February 15, 2019 No Comments

TikTok is testing a new ad product: a sponsored video ad that directs users to the advertiser’s website. The test was spotted in the U.S. TikTok app, where a video labeled “Sponsored” from the bike retailer Specialized is showing up in the main feed, along with a blue “Lean More” button that directs users to tap to get more information.

Presumably, this button could be customized to send users to the advertiser’s website or any other web address, but for the time being it only opened the Specialized Bikes (@specializedbikes) profile page within the TikTok app.

However, the profile page itself also sported a few new features, including what appeared to be a tweaked version of the verified account badge.

Below the @specializedbikes username was “Specialized Bikes Page” and a blue checkmark (see below). On other social networks, checkmarks like this usually indicate a user whose account has gone through a verification process of some kind.

Typical TikTok user profiles don’t look like this — they generally only include the username. In some cases, we’ve seen them sport other labels like “popular creator” or “Official Account” — but these have been tagged with a yellowish-orange checkmark, not a blue one.

In addition, a pop-up banner overlay appeared at the bottom of the profile page, which directed users to “Go to Website” followed by another blue “Learn More” button.

Oddly, this pop-up banner didn’t show up all the time, and the “Learn More” button didn’t work — it only re-opened the retailer’s profile page.

As for the video itself, it features a Valentine’s Day heart that you can send to a crush, and, of course, some bikes.

The music backing the clip is Breakbot’s “By Your Side,” but is labeled “Promoted Music.” Weirdly, when you tap on the “Promoted Music” you’re not taken to the soundbite on TikTok like usual, but instead get an error message saying “Ad videos currently do not support this feature.”

The glitches indicate this video ad unit is still very much in the process of being tested, and not a publicly available ad product at this time.

TikTok parent ByteDance only just began to experiment with advertising in the U.S. and U.K. in January.

So far, public tests have only included an app launch pre-roll ad. But according to a leaked pitch deck published by Digiday, there are four TikTok ad products in the works: a brand takeover, an in-feed native video ad, a hashtag challenge and a Snapchat-style 2D lens filter for photos; 3D and AR lens were listed as “coming soon.”

TikTok previously worked with GUESS on a hashtag challenge last year, and has more recently been running app launch pre-roll ads for companies like GrubHub, Disney’s Kingdom Hearts and others. However, a native video ad hadn’t yet been spotted in the wild until now.

According to estimates from Sensor Tower, TikTok has grown to nearly 800 million lifetime installs, not counting Android in China. Factoring that in, it’s fair to say the app has topped 1 billion downloads. As of last July, TikTok claimed to have more than 500 million monthly active users worldwide, excluding the 100 million users it gained from acquiring Musical.ly.

That’s a massive user base, and attractive to advertisers. Plus, native video ads like the one seen in testing would allow brands to participate in the community, instead of interrupting the experience the way video pre-rolls do.

TikTok and Specialized declined to comment.

 


Social – TechCrunch