What is TikTok?
Short-reel video-sharing platform TikTok surely has to be the most entertaining as well as the most annoying app to have graced the internet in recent years. Annoying because every time you open Facebook, YouTube or just about any shareworthy website, there’ll be that one TikTok video gawking at you, nudging you to click on it?
Entertaining because…well, you know why. No matter how irritating people may find these short reels, curiosity almost always gets the better of us, as the sheer number of views and likes force us into submission and we finally click on that damned video we were initially throwing shade at.
Which is one of the things that made TikTok’s parent company ByteDance Ltd. one of the fastest growing unicorn companies in the world today. How fast? Even in the midst of a raging pandemic, ByteDance recorded a 69% growth from 34.4 billion USD in 2020 to 58 billion USD in 2021. That’s beyond impressive in my humble opinion.
But, what else is behind the meteoric rise of TikTok other than the entertainment quotient? What makes TikTok so uniquely special that it surpassed Facebook and Google as the most popular web domain in the world, while speeding past Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp as the most downloaded app in 2022 so far.
Why is TikTok so popular?
A little background story first. ByteDance was founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming, a 39-year old Chinese internet entrepreneur who sought to be different and step beyond the traditional Chinese market, venturing into the US, European and Japanese markets with TikTok, which, by the way, is known as Douyin in China.
So, when TikTok was introduced to the world in 2017 after its Chinese version’s release in domestic market in 2016, it was so warmly welcomed by young netizens worldwide that Zhang went ahead and purchased lip-sync video-sharing platform Musical.ly for US800 million in 2018 so he could integrate it with TikTok.
That single-most audacious move led to the app raking in almost 800 million monthly active users worldwide in 2020 and Zhang earning accolades like being listed in the 40 under 40 by Fortune magazine in 2018 and the 100 Most Influential People of 2019 by Time magazine.
TikTok is particularly popular among the Gen Y and Gen Z users who now have an app through which they can do two things mainly - (a) make their video content go viral without amassing a huge follower base (b) receive video suggestions every time they log in, based on their viewing choices.
The latter is a result of TikTok’s algorithm, which works on a principle that factors in your choice of videos to present you with suggestions that could be of your interest on a personalized feed called For You. What you like is what you get. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?
This style of video curation makes it very easy for users to find the videos that they would like to watch, saving them considerable time otherwise spent on hours of searching through the millions on the platform.
That’s just one of the benefits that users derive out of TikTok though, even as the makers of the app were opening up to newer possibilities and ways that they could serve the users better. For instance, creating the opportunity for TikTokers to make a living out of posting videos that gained massive popularity among viewers; and not just some modest amount of money as well.
So, how much money are we talking? Let’s take a look.
How much do Tiktok stars make?
Much akin to Instagram, digital influencers with a sizeable number of followers can earn a modest to a crazy amount of money through their short-reel videos. Here are a few TikTok money calculator videos showing how much you can earn from TikTok. You see what I did there, didn’t you?
While the idea of making money through videos may sound encouraging and simple, it’s not exactly as simple as that though. Unlike YouTube, content creators do not get a slice of earnings from ad revenues on TikTok, although according to their latest announcement a new program for advertisers to run ads alongside top videos by popular TikTokers will entitle creators to a share of ad revenue.
As for these popular TikTok stars with videos that have millions of views, their earnings could put even top earning professionals to shame.
18-year old Charli D'Amelio is a competitive dancer from Connecticut. She is also the highest-paid TikTok personality with 141.2 million followers and 10.9 billion likes till date, ever since she joined the video-sharing platform in 2019. Her income? Charli cashed in a cool $17.5 million in 2021, making her TikTok’s biggest star.
Her older sister Dixie D’Amelio is the second highest-paid TikToker, with 57.4 million followers, 3.2 billion likes and a $10 million paycheck in 2021.
My personal favorite is 22-year old Khabane Lame, a Senegalese living in Italy who goes by the profile name Khaby Lame. Khaby is the second-most followed TikToker in the world with 139.9 million followers and 2.3 billion likes to date.
His claim to fame? A series of funny and snarky videos that “uncomplicate” the overcomplicated life hack videos - something most of us would relate to - and earning him $6 million in 2021. We hear you Khaby!
Third on the list of the most followed TikTok influencers is 25-year old Filipino-American singer and social media personality Bella Poarch, who rose to fame through videos of her lip-syncing to popular songs, one of which holds the record of the most likes at 50 million.
With 89.9 million followers, 2.1 billion likes and a paycheck of $5 million, Bella is also the fourth highest-paid TikTok star as of 2022.
Some of the other popular TikTokers worth mentioning are Addison Rae, Josh Richards, Kris Collins, Avani Gregg and Zach King, each of them packeting millions every year through their videos.
How do you make money on TikTok?
So, how is it that one can make money on TikTok? Evidently, there are four basic ways of earning money over the video-sharing platform, although there seem to be other possibilities as well, which we’ll share with you here.
1. Creator Funds
What is Creator Fund? As a way of rewarding video content creators for making the platform so popular and raising its entertainment value, TikTok started a support system in 2021 to compensate the creators for their creative content, provided they met certain conditions.
Creators had to be 15 years or older with original video posts adhering to the community guidelines, be a legal resident of one of the 50 states of the USA, have minimum 10,000 verified followers and have collected 100,000 video views in the last 30 days.
Those were the conditions when the fund was first launched in spring 2021. As of March 2022, TikTok’s Creator Fund is now live and open for application in the UK, Germany, Italy, France and Spain. Kickstarted with a fund of $70 million, it is projected to swell up to $300 million within three years, even as they plan to venture into other regions across Europe.
How much one can make through Creator Fund depends on factors like view views, video engagement and adherence to community guidelines. As for the payout, some of the creators have claimed making two to three cents per thousand views, which doesn’t look so dismal when the view count rises to a million.
Funds are visible on the dashboard three days after the required view counts are achieved and can be withdrawn 30 days after the end of the month when the views were collected, with a minimum withdrawal amount of $10 that can be transferred to your PayPal or Zelle account.
TikTok has a feature called LIVE Gifts, which when activated can allow viewers of your videos to react to them and respond with gifts. These gifts can then be used to collect Diamonds from TikTok, which can the be redeemed for money.
To be eligible to collect Diamonds from TikTok, the following conditions have to be fulfilled:
Creators have to be a part of the Creator Next Program.
Creators need to fulfil an age criteria of 18 years or older (Funnily, it’s 19 years in South Korea and 20 years in Japan like they take a bit longer to handle their own finances, HUH).
The LIVE Gifts feature needs to be available in your region or location.
Your TikTok account must be at least 30 days old and have at least 1000 followers.
Your account must be clean with a good reputation when it comes to community guidelines.
Sadly, this feature is not available for Business Accounts.
Some of these gifts are Panda (worth 5 coins), Italian Hand (5 coins), Love Bang (25 coins), Rainbow Puke (100 coins), Concert (500 coins), I’m Very Rich (1000 coins) and Drama Queen (5000 coins), although there are a lot more out there and expanding.
These gifts can be converted into Diamonds, which in turn can be redeemed for cash. For every coin you receive you can convert it into a diamond that is half (50%) its value followed by a further 50% cut as commission that goes to TikTok. Each Diamond is worth five cents, by the way.
So, if you receive a Concert, you end up getting 125 Diamonds, which would be equal to $6.25. Not by a long shot something that one could call a useful gift, but then you could receive these gifts from several viewers and that could sum up to a decent amount.
3. Brand partnership
Partnering with brands to promote their products is a great way for influencers who have big followings on TikTok. This means that even if you aren't part of the Creator Marketplace (where most TikTok partnerships come from), there's still hope.
The more popular your account gets, especially if they have mass followings on other social media channels like Instagram or Facebook, more opportunities will arise for partnerships with big brands looking for an edge over competitors by having someone already established promoting their products.
Charli D’Amelio is known to charge $10,000 for every sponsored post, while her sister Dixie is said to have earned $2.9 million from multiple partnership deals with brands like Hollister, Morphe and Taco Bell. Here are more details on how to post branded content on your TikTok account.
Brand partnership also makes it inversely possible for businesses to gain out of deals with popular TikTok stars, especially if the influencer posts videos related to your product niche. Not only will your product receive more exposure by riding on the video’s popularity, it’ll connect better with your audience thanks to the connection that the influencer has with their followers.
4. Sell/Promote your products
Creating videos that show off your products can be an effective way to generate more sales because video marketing is a great way to get your name out there and grow fans on social media. In fact, consumers are twice as likely to share video content than they would other types of posts on social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook.
Post TikTok videos that highlight your products, including details such as how they're made or where their ingredients come from. Make sure to not only include links in bio, but also tag people who enjoy watching videos so it could potentially lead down into their feed (and maybe even share some with friends).
TikTok’s engagement rate, according to this study, was found to be 15% higher than any other platform, with most influencers showing an average engagement rate of 4.96%. That’s a much higher engagement rate than platforms like Instagram.
A staggering 45% of brands used TikTok for their influencer marketing campaigns in 2021. These brands are established names and understand the massive outreach that TikTok provides them with to promote and sell their products.
For eCommerce businesses, TikTok’s partnership with Shopify is the perfect and the fastest way to sell your products, with a purchase or research ratio of one in four viewers. With an extremely high percentage of viewer spending time on TikTok, it couldn’t be a better time for marketers to take their products to the millions of users through advertisements that don’t really come across as traditional ads due to the engaging and entertaining nature of the videos.
Here’s a TikTok marketing strategy that could help you promote and sell your products in 2022.
TikTok for marketing
With 1 billion monthly active users and a market penetration of 4.8 billion internet users globally, TikTok has proved to be the mightiest social media platform for marketing purposes today. In the US market itself, TikTok has over 100 million users, which translates to 37.36% of the 267.6 million mobile internet users across the country.
In the US, the most active users by age group as of September 2021 were between the ages of 10 to 19 at 25%, followed by those between the ages 20 to 29 at 22.4%, while those in the age group of 30 to 39 occupied 21.7%.
It’s clear that while the majority of users are younger than 35, there is still a significant following for this app among older demographics. So long as you fall within your appropriate demographic's desirable range and have access to advertising on other platforms like Facebook or Instagram where people spend more time browsing retail items rather than consuming short video content, then it shouldn’t be a challenge to get them into the fold.
Also, here's why you shouldn't ignore older generations when it comes to TikTok. Numerous studies have shown that as people get older, they're likely going on social media sites like TikTok more often than ever before, especially those who reside outside of younger demographics. The reason for this rise could simply be accessibility, with some having easier access due their homes being close to shops, which sell electronics or gadgets that they generally search for.
The platform is still relatively new and many businesses have yet to take advantage of this marketing opportunity. It could be because they feel that the user base for TikTok mainly comprise young people. However, business experts now know that this platform can be used successfully by all sorts of companies, especially those with young customers who would otherwise not visit your website or go into stores.
Here are a few benefits that businesses can derive out of using TikTok.
TikTok influencer marketing is a great way to create trust with viewers and convince them to buy your product or service. This type of campaign comes across as an authentic recommendation from someone you trust and respect, rather than just another advertisement that’s trying too hard to grab user attention.
TikTok is a new platform with interesting and unique features that make it stand out from other social media sites. The personalized nature of this app makes for great content, as businesses can still connect one-on-one without having too many followers or likes on their posts, just like Instagram did before its popularity rose due to being used heavily in marketing campaigns.
Unlike general online ads that you see on Social platforms like Facebook, TikTok Ads are a fun and creative way to present your brand to the world. Plus you can take a cue from the success stories of businesses from your industry (and even country) who tasted success and learn a few tips from them.
The only caveat is that these ads are comparatively more expensive than Facebook or Instagram ads, with a starting fee of $500 to run an ad campaign using TikTok for Business.
High user engagement
As I mentioned earlier, the high engagement rate of TikTok, which can only go up, coupled with the platform’s algorithm, poses a unique opportunity for creators to enjoy a higher chance at going viral with their posts.
You don't need a million followers on TikTok to get popular. In fact, the opposite is true. With no follower counts in sight and nothing but pure creativity at play here, you can have as much success posting one video than someone who has managed multiple hits over time with their music or performances.
Micro-influencers are the new celebrities on TikTok. These are the creators from small towns with over 10,000 followers and a lot of creativity and spunk that can bolster your brand. They are identified as micro-influencers because of their niche content that resonate with fans in those areas.
They are the influencers that can help brands run marketing campaigns for local businesses by creating posts about products within close proximity to where you live. Here’s a useful guide on how to find TikTok micro-influencers that can help your brand.
As I said earlier, TikTok’s algorithm has been devised in such as way as to present only the most relevant and desirable content to users. This idea was what led to TikTok’s Infinite Loop, a highly engaging online retail system that makes it possible for brands to “build engaging consumer experiences that make shopping exciting and entertaining” (sic).
The rise of short-form video apps like TikTok has been meteoric. This is an example that shows how important it can be for businesses and marketers to work hand in glove with designers who have a clear idea about what they want from these types of marketing tools, as well as knowing when enough's enough.
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