The secrets behind TikTok’s video content phenomenon

Posted by: JasmineThompson
Posted on: 29/03/2023

By Generation Next member Esme Wade, content marketer at MacMartin

By this point everyone has heard of TikTok. Most of us are used to getting sucked into an endless pit of video content, wondering where three hours of our life went.

At six years old, TikTok has developed from a music video style app into the more video-based social media that we know today. With video content creators, otherwise known as “influencers”, businesses, and individuals really capitalising on the platform, what is it that has made TikTok take over the world?

Designed for YOU

It’s no accident that the video content that TikTok is serving up is so relevant and engaging for you. Try swapping phones with a friend for the day and see how different the videos are on each of your pages – or maybe not, depending how similar you are! Either way, no person will see the exact same stream of videos on their app. One of TikTok’s biggest secrets to success is thanks to how intelligent its algorithm is.

TikTok knows you. Whether you think you’re being discreet in your interests and likes or not, it knows you. Don’t get me wrong, the rulers of TikTok aren’t going to turn up at your house and knock on your door. But if you spend any amount of time on the app, it will learn more and more about your interests, your humour, your gender, your age, your career, your personality, and your lifestyle. Sounds scary right? Well, realistically it’s simply getting to know you so it can deliver a more personal and entertaining experience. No one is complaining when they’re seeing the 50th video that day that makes them smile.

The way that TikTok can do this is through its algorithm. Depending on the videos you interact with, the videos you skip, the pages you click-through to, and those you follow, the algorithm will learn more about you. The data the app collects from you identifies more about you as a person. In turn it can determine what demographic and personality type you fit into and serve you video content that you are likely to enjoy watching. Plus, you do have some control over this as a user. If you are seeing content that you don’t like, you can tell it. By holding down on a video, a menu will pop up and you can select “not interested”, then the app will avoid serving you content of a similar likeness. Pretty cool, right?

Entertainment or education?

TikTok has done an incredible job of answering questions without ever advertising itself as an educational app. In fact, its sole purpose was for entertainment. However, we have arrived at the point where so many millions of users are making video content on the platform, that the app is churning out useful and educational content. I’m not talking full school-style lessons posted on feed (with the max video length being 3 minutes, that might be a bit of a stretch). Instead, it delivers quick snappy pieces of information via authentic and genuine content created by users. This means the content shared is based on real-life situations and first-hand knowledge.

Ever searched on TikTok like it’s a search engine? Whether people are looking for inspiration on their next holiday, a workout regime, the best eateries in area, or tips for their career, TikTok will deliver the answers. Forever, Google has been the go-to for these questions. So, why the shift? TikTok is not serving you answers from a brand’s website, the videos are made by real-people and all organic videos are made with no alternative motive. Therefore, users feel they can get more trusted and relevant information. Many people are more likely to trust a recommendation of the best restaurant in the city from someone’s TikTok, rather than a search on Google that brings up a list of restaurant websites.

In fact, 18–24-year-olds are turning to TikTok as their first port of call for queries, with 40% now using the platform as a search engine. This is not only because they feel they can trust the information. Importantly, using videos to consume content is considered by many as more accessible than text. Watching video content that delivers answers quickly and concisely, is an easier method in learning a topic than reading a whole webpage.

Between the entertaining factors and the educational factors of TikTok, you can see why people are using it daily.

Global “inside” jokes

Friendship groups love having an inside joke. Something you can laugh with your mates about that feels exclusive and personal to you. Well, TikTok has been built on global “inside” jokes. We saw a similar occurrence with the app Vine in 2013, but the platform didn’t last. TikTok took a similar concept and turned it into something that became globally used and loved. Transforming short-form video content into addictive and viral entertainment that everyone with a phone can access.

On TikTok, funny trends and viral content are being recreated across the globe. There is a revelation that collective humour can be found between users across the world. Think about the comedic trends we’ve seen over the years; berries and cream, the boat filter, the “this is you as a baby” trend, the violin sound, I could go on. (PSA: If you don’t know what I’m talking about, get yourself on TikTok and you’ll find out pretty quickly). Capitalising on universal humour, has made TikTok what it is today.

The reality is TikTok videos are not ‘inside’ jokes. However, because they are delivered to your personal feed, it feels as though they are. It makes those who are not already on the app, want to join to understand the jokes. Plus, it gives existing users something to laugh about together in real life when discussing the video content with their friends. Importantly, as the app is used predominantly by Gen Z’s, it gives that generation jokes that feel exclusive to them because their parents don’t understand them. What’s more crucial to a teen than being cooler than their parents?

The TikTok phenomenon

Thanks to its accuracy in delivering relevant content, it’s uses as a search engine, and its ability to create “inside” jokes through trends, TikTok has capture this generation of tech-savvy individuals. Short-style video content has burst wide open across all social media platforms over the last few years, as TikTok kickstarted this new way to consume. We already had the existing success of YouTube, but TikTok has finished what Vine started. Now we see reels on Instagram and shorts on YouTube, as well as TikTok’s themselves.

TikTok has done video content right. That’s why it’s being used individually and by businesses across the globe. It’s growth and continued progression sees it dominating the social media world, and we’re not expecting that to drop off any time soon.


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