Why is TikTok so popular? That was the question rattling around in my head over the last few months. Before TikTok became a political beachball, it was already one of the most popular social media apps. They design an addictive experience that transcends generations and one full of lessons for other companies.
The first thing that stands out about Tik Tok for me is how positive the videos are. I’m sure there are sad or weird videos somewhere in the platform, but the ones recommended to me after installing the app were all feel-good videos.
This is in sharp contrast to what we see on other social media platforms. Facebook can surface harmful or hateful conversations, while Instagram can fall prey to whatever your follows are posting.
Tik Tok also uses challenges that spread through the platform. These challenges can be simple prompts like “tell your husband that you love him” or more elaborate ones like dancing. Challenges are another example of positive and harmless pranks being the dominant force in this ecosystem.
I think users have come to appreciate the positivity angle. Tik Tok can be one of the few places where they won’t run into politics or bad news. In that sense, it might be a bubble out of touch with reality, but you suspend belief for a few minutes.
Short and Addictive
TikTok videos are concise. Most videos seem to be 5 – 10 seconds in length, which makes them easy to consume. In just a few minutes, I went through 5 – 10 Tik Tok since they keep auto-playing
This reminds me of books that utilize short chapters of just a few pages. You can easily read 5 – 10 chapters in one sitting and feel immensely rewarding. This “hack” is what Tik Tok is using to get people to consume more content.
We know social media can be addictive, and Tik Tok is no exception. Like sugar, the more Tik Toks that you watch, the more you want to keep engaging. You never know what’s coming next, and that’s the fun part.
The music also deserves a shout out. Most Tik Toks had a piece of some sort, and this added another layer of interactivity. It’s no surprise that dance moves to music are one of the things that Tik Tok is known for.
Last year, I was staying at a Hilton hotel in Miami. After walking into my room, I got a text message from the front desk or someone asking if everything was right. As it turns out, I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lights. For the life of me, I couldn’t find the correct light switch. I texted this back, and they respond with an unhelpful response.
This felt like a great idea (SMS after checking in) appropriately executed. If someone responds to the text message with an issue, the least you can do is call them in their room and work through it.
Tik Tok had a great idea, executed even better. In comparison, Quibi, another short-form video streaming service, had a great idea, executed poorly.
You Can Express Yourself
Tik Tok has made it even easier to express yourself. Unliked Youtube and Instagram, you don’t need professional-looking photos or videos. That would be suspect in Tik Tok. Videos are filmed with your phone while you’re at home in your pajamas.
This is the lowest barrier to content creation in the social media world. There’s something authentic, too, especially compared to the hyperproduced world of Instagram and Facebook.
Like other social media channels, you can quickly rack up followers, likes, and comments as rewards for your content.
Three Lessons for Your Product and Company
What are the lessons for other businesses? You might not use Tik Tok regularly, but there are three ideas that you can take back to your product.
Lesson #1: What positive emotions can you tap in and reward?
Positive emotions can be just as powerful as negative ones. You don’t have to get people riled up through controversy. Instead, there’s value in helping people feel good about themselves.
Lesson #2: How do you make it easy for people to accomplish tasks?
Make it easier for people to get value out of your product. If you have a 5 step process for ordering food, can you add an option that lets you reorder previous food selections? Having shortcuts for the essential tasks is helpful for any product.
Lesson #3: Can you lower the barriers to entry to start using your product?
Removing the barriers to entry is helpful for any product. I have spoken before about increasing obstacles, especially for B2B products, but you should experiment with both. Consumer products, in particular, benefit from less friction, which is what Tik Tok has done.
I would also add a final point to consider here. In WWII, both sides bombed each other extensively. After the war, we discovered the most of these bombings didn’t have the intended effect. Both sides overestimated the value of targets, which led to the loss of life and wasted resources.
As you build your products and companies, you need to aware of the assumptions your team is making and how you may be overvaluing or undervaluing certain aspects of your business.
Don’t dismiss TikTok as another social media. There’s always 1 – 2 ideas that you could apply to your business from anything, and TikTok isn’t the exception.