In this article, I will cover TikTok’s:

  • Background
  • Value Proposition
  • Measured Results
  • Target Market
  • Customer Personas
  • Brand Voice & Sentiment
  • Competitors
  • Future Direction


TikTok is an entertainment application that is home to short-form video content, designed to bring joy to its users and inspire creativity.

TikTok was initially launched by its Chinese parent company ByteDance in 2016 after acquiring U.S. based rival in 2017. TikTok quickly grew to 800 million MAU (monthly active users) by 2020. The app showcases short videos generated from people all over the globe, from lip-syncing and dancing, to educational tips and life lessons. TikTok offers various tools to make video creation, sharing, and consuming content easier.

Value Proposition

TikTok has several unique attributes that help it stand out among a seemingly endless list of entertainment apps. Upon using the app, TikTok begins the immediate delivery of content in a page called “For You,” a feed of full-screen videos. These 15-second videos begin to automatically play and loop without any input from the user. Unlike other social platforms, TikTok doesn’t require the user to pick interests or designate categories in order to show content right away. Over time, the user will begin to see more personalized content as the algorithm learns what the user enjoys watching based on their actions in the app. If desired, users can also choose to only watch videos from accounts they are following in a feed called “Following.” There is no pause in between videos so the user doesn’t have to think about what content to watch next. The delivery of entertainment to the consumer is instantaneous and endless.

To help users create content, TikTok makes it relatively straightforward to produce videos. Traditional video editing requires dedicated software, often needing to save multiple video files, find various audio clips, and compile the pieces together using separate programs. TikTok simplifies this process for content creators, as they can easily record a video, pause it, continue it, and combine it all together in one application. TikTok also allows overlay of filters, speed adjustments, transitions changes, and music/sound additions to give their users more creative liberties. Aside from typical editing tools, TikTok also has unique “react” and “duet” features. In response to a video, a user can “react” to which the app will film and overlay the user’s reaction to the original video in a small window, so both the original and the reaction can be watched together. The “duet” feature is more collaborative in nature, allowing users to also film their response to another video but have it placed side by side so both can be watched simultaneously. Typically, a duet is a response to or a collaboration with another creator’s physical feat or dance moves.

The simplification of video creation isn’t new to the scene, as evidenced by various apps (i.e. Apple’s Clips and Vimeo’s Slice app); however what sets TikTok apart is its ability to integrate streamlined video production with social media.  TikTok makes it easy for users with minimal experience to begin creating content and removes the traditional high-barrier of entry to the world of video-editing.  A user can borrow the sound/music from another video and supplement their personal content with their own flair and interpretation.  The user can also produce a duet as mentioned previously. Furthermore, users can also respond to challenges, a call to action that encourages users to create or recreate content and use the associated hashtag to add to the trend, directly with reactions or duets.

On the consumer end, TikTok offers various ways to find, watch, and share content. A user can still search by the standard text or hashtag, or they can search by music or sound. The ability to search by music and sound is quite unique to entertainment apps. If a clip, or “sound bite,” is inspiring, a user can easily utilize that sound to create their own video, share it to their followers, and start or perpetuate a trend on TikTok. Since sound can be interpreted in many ways, it allows creators more freedom to express themselves and contributes to the abundance of user generated content.

The more people that create humorous, relatable, or inspiring videos, the more their friends and followers can watch and enjoy. In turn, those friends and followers will be inspired to become active participants and create their very own content. This sharing and engagement creates a positive feedback loop that grows the TikTok community.

TikTok is also unique in the type of content it encourages its creators to produce. Unlike other platforms where content is carefully curated and shown professionally (like Instagram with its photos and videos or LinkedIn with the professional context), TikTok has habituated its platform to be an environment that is unapologetic. Although videos can be edited, the prevailing videos tend to show users in a more authentic fashion. In a world where there is certain societal expectation to uphold, content that shows a user not taking themselves too seriously can be refreshing. As long as the user can entertain, i.e. through videos of voice impersonations or ridiculous dance moves, there is no expectation to have professionally shot content.

Measured Result Milestones

Since TikTok’s launch in 2016, the company has continued to see increases in app downloads and monthly active users worldwide, from 421MM MAU in December 2018 to 800 MM MAU in March 2020.


  • September: Duoyin (in China)/TikTok was launched by ByteDance


  • November: TikTok acquired US based rival for a little over $800MM


  • August: and TikTok merged user bases
  • November: TikTok reached 20MM MAU in the US
  • December: TikTok grew to have 421.76MM smartphone MAU worldwide & reported 32.38B hours global time spent in TikTok


  • November: TikTok was the was the second most downloaded app in the US with 4MM downloads (trailing behind only Disney+)
  • December: TikTok had:
    • 717MM smartphone MAU worldwide, up 70% YoY,
    • 68B hours global time spent, up 210% YoY
    • Q4 Revenue grow over 300% from the same period last year


  • March: TikTok was downloaded over 1.9B times worldwide (reported 3/12/2020)
    • TikTok has nearly 1 billion MAU worldwide
      • 30MM MAU in the US according to TikTok
    • TikTok users in the US spent an average of 858 minutes (14 hours, 18 minutes) on the app according to Comscore, up 26.2% over January of this year and up 93.70% since October 2019.
      • To compare, US visitors on Instagram spent an average of 319.5 minutes (roughly 5 hours) on the app and websites combined in March
(Above: a snapshot of TikTok’s total unique visitors and average minutes spent per users in the last couples months)

Target Markets

TikTok is available in more than 150 countries, with India having the largest user base to date. With respect to the US, usage is quickly growing as app downloads and brand sponsorships continue to increase.

The majority (80%) of TikTok’s user demographics are between the ages of 16-34. 60% are Gen Z (ages 16-24 years old), with a 60:40 female to male ratio. The average user opens the app 8 times a day, and spends roughly 46 minutes a day on it per user. According to App Annie data, when looking at the reasons why Gen Z use social media, top reasons found were:

  1. Filling up spare time
  2. Finding entertaining content
  3. Staying in touch with friends

With spare time occurring intermittently through the day, TikTok helps fill those moments with seemingly endless entertainment as soon as the user opens the application. There is virtually no delay from one video to the next by a different creator. TikTok affords an effortless way to stay in touch with friends. Creators can share their own content, which helps facilitate connection with their friends because it’s more personable and can give an outsider a look into their lives. Or they can be a consumer, and share other creator’s content that they find relatable and brings entertainment value to their friendship. For these reasons, it is easy to understand why TikTok appeals to Gen Z.

Customer Personas

There are several personas TikTok reaches:

  • Artists & Creators: they include talents such as dancers, comedians, voice actors, fashionistas, singers, educators, etc. They may not be well known, but they have something to show. The ones that grow their following or “stardom” are the ones that receive positive feedback from the community and continue to consistently create videos.
    • Examples: voice actor @heyberg (Evan Berger), comedian @joonleecomedy (Joon Lee), or dancer @sammysteads (Sam Steadman)
  • Challengers: people who go on solely to create challenges (such as the “push up” challenge) or participate because they have seen others do it and they want to be included.
  • Established Influencers & Celebrities: those that want to showcase a less polished but authentic version of themselves. They are already established in movies, shows, or other platforms like Instagram or YouTube and are often more casual or intentionally comedic to show off their goofy side. They can be filming content in a less professional area or showing behind the stage material. These people can also fall into the performing Arts & Creators category.
    • Examples:
      • @chrisellelim (Chriselle Lim): a successful lifestyle and beauty influencer and entrepreneur. She poses as “Your Rich Mom” on TikTok to give amusing advices
      • @therock (Dwayne Johnson): a famous actor, producer, businessman, and former athlete. He leverages many of TikTok’s sound clips to create funny videos, especially about Kevin Hart
  • Passive Consumers: these users make up the majority of TikTok’s audience. They see TikTok videos, find them entertaining, and move on to the next. They consume and possibly share, but they don’t create.

Brand Voice and Sentiment

TikTok wants to position itself as an entertainment company, rather than a social media company.

Strategically this makes sense as there appears to be growing demand for entertainment apps. Globally, consumers spent 50% more sessions in entertainment apps (i.e. Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, etc.) in 2019 than in 2017 (source: App Annie). There are also many highly successful companies already dominating the social media space, such as Facebook and Instagram. With large networks and communities like these that are already established, TikTok’s market entry into social media would be quite difficult. Instead, TikTok’s unique value proposition is that it marries ease of creative video creation, ability to watch entertaining content, and connectivity with users all around the world.

The brand voice in media reflects the same lightheartedness as its platform. Although content with a purpose is often written with a serious tone, such as this Twitter tweet by TikTok on National Doctors Day amidst the COVID-19 crisis:

Today is #NationalDoctorsDay, so we’re taking a moment to thank them for their incredible work during this difficult time. If you can, please join us in donating to @WHO as they provide essential supplies and services to fight COVID-19.

Most content by TikTok on social media is written authentically with a more humorous tone, like this tweet when describing what it’s really like to have friends that underestimate how long they take to get ready:

friends: i’ll be ready in 5

me 15 min later: [insert GIF]

TikTok’s ability to provide high quality yet personal content is difficult to replicate and appeals to many creators and consumers in the younger demographic. With all the catchy songs that TikTok has, many users have described it as “cool,” “fun,” “entertaining,” and admitted to spending hours on end on the app, based on TikTok reviews in the iOS app store. Perusing TikTok is made even easier by the fact that all the content is concise and limited to 15 seconds. TikTok has built a community with its own jokes and references that only members of the community would understand. Although the app brings welcomed entertainment and connectivity, many have expressed concerns over the high usage of TikTok. For example, some parents have stated that their children are addicted, observing their inability to close the TikTop app for long periods of time.

To address this and to promote the digital wellbeing of its users, TikTok partnered with several top creators to make short videos encouraging people to take real breaks. TikTok  also implemented a “Digital Wellbeing” feature in their app where users can opt into setting themselves a screen time limit, with a password required in order to continue using TikTok once the limit has been reached.

Another issue TikTok has faced is the issue of child safety. Since a significant percentage of TikTok’s demographic are younger consumers (27% aged 13-17 years old), parents are concerned about more opportunities for strangers to use this visual platform to send unwanted messages and do inappropriate duets. The content themselves by other creators may also not be appropriate. TikTok addressed this by allowing users to turn on “Restricted Mode” in the app, which helps to limit the appearance of questionable content. To combat child exploitation or predatory behavior, they’ve written articles on how to make a user’s profile private, how to block other users, how to filter comments, etc. In addition to user interface changes, TikTok has actively included contact information on who to reach out to if inappropriate behavior is observed and has partnered with several leading organizations in efforts to protect children both online and offline. One notable organization is the Five Eyes alliance, a collaboration between intelligence agencies in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. They adopted Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, a “high-level framework that can be consistently applied across sectors and services to respond to changing societal and offending behavior and reduce risks for users” (source: TikTok Newsroom). As with most major platforms that involve the community, online safety is almost always a concern, but the efforts TikTok has placed in addressing these concerns are not insignificant.


TikTok is not without competitors, as its growing popularity has attracted the attention of many others. Some competitors & it’s highlights include:

  • Byte
    • About: a looping video app created from a Vine cofounder. Byte rose to the top of the Apple’s app store on January 24, 2020
    • Differentiator(s): aims to help content creators earn money
      • TikTok currently does not offer monetization incentives
      • Videos are only 6 second max, compared to TikTok’s 15 to 60 second videos
      • Does not currently have features such as remixability, augmented reality filters, transition effects, etc like TikTok offers
  • Google’s Tangi
    • About: a short-term video app created from Google’s in-house incubator, Area 120. Tangi focuses on the do-it-yourself space.
    • Differentiator(s): aims to help people learn creative subjects such as crafting, painting, cooking, and fashion
      • Unlike apps like TikTok or newly launched Byte, which are more focused on entertainment
  • Kuaishou
    • About: a Chinese video sharing app launched in 2011 and backed by Tencent in Asia. It’s similar to Duoyin/TikTok, and reached 200MM DAU in 2019. To compare, Snapchat just reached that number in Q3 2019 as well, which shows how fast Kuaishou is growing
    • Differentiator(s): places “great importance on equality and inclusiveness to give every content creator an opportunity to shine” according to Yang Yuanxi, the cofounder of Kuaishou
  • Dubsmash
    • About: a video messaging application with similar features to TikTok. It reached #1 in Germany in app downloads within the first week of launch in November 2014. As of 2015, it has been downloaded 50MM times in 192 countries. Dubsmash self-categorizes as an “Entertainment” app and dictates its product development philosophy of “leading from behind,” building only what’s proven to deliver genuine added value for users
    • Differentiator(s): to foster community engagement, a core strategy is helping power users learn how to be “business savy,” by telling them to think about how much they should charge Dubsmash commission for their video content. On the music side, Dubmash is also trying to position themselves as a tastemaking platform for dancers, like SoundCloud is for music (source: Forbes)
  • Triller
    • About: an AI-powered entertainment platform built for creators to make professional-looking full-length videos quickly. It has more than 60MM downloads ( and has celebrities such as Kevin Hart and Chance the Rapper using the app
    • Differentiator(s): very similar to TikTok except someone can set up their account as a user or a creator. Creators have crowdfunding features so they can raise money for a specific cause (most are using the money to pay for college). They also boast an extensive music library and 100+ video filters
  • Firework
    • About: launched by Loop Now technologies in March 2019 and as of October 2019, is a purchase interest for Google. Firework allows users to find, create, and share homemade 30 second videos
    • Differentiator(s): focused on professionally generated content with higher quality and adult users. Vincent Yang, the CEO, said its content is less about selfies and more about instructional or inspirational videos. Firework is different from TikTok in the following ways:
      • While most of TikTok’s user base skews to the younger side, Firework’s audience is older, ranging from 18-30 years old
      • Intentionally focuses on content that are 30 seconds are longer, deprioritizing 15 second content (the main content length on TikTok)
      • Has a unique patent pending feature called Reveal, that lets users both shoot a video content horizontally and vertically. A user can rotate their screen 360 degree and see all angles of the video. As soon as Reveal was launch, they got featured by Apple in the US and received the award of the most inventive app on Google Play (source:
      • Has “Firework Originals,” similar to Snapchat Originals where the platform hosts its own original programming
  • Facebook’s Lasso:
    • About: launched a quiet release 2018 and is presently only available in the United States. It is a “standalone app for short-form, entertaining videos- from comedy to beauty to fitness and more,” said a Facebook spokesperson. Lasso allows the user to shoot 15-second long videos (no uploads allowed) and overlay popular songs (source: techcrunch). Like TikTok, it opens to a full-length video based on an algorithmic feed of recommended videos
    • Differentiator(s): does not have features such as augmented reality effects or filters like TikTok

Future Directions

No company is without room for improvement. To continue its growth, TikTok would greatly benefit from offering top creators ad share incentives. Without financial opportunities for creators, these users may be motivated to move to a different platform that encourages partnership, such as YouTube and Twitch. Learning from Vine, the inability to monetize a popular video was a major factor that led to the demise of that company, as popular creators left for platforms where they could earn money from their content.

Although financial incentives can encourage popular users to create more videos and stay within TikTok, the company must remain vigilant to avoid making it an influencer saturated market. Influencers are already abundant on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram, where professional or semi-professional users seem to create most of the popular content. The user experience on those platforms encourages more passive viewing. Instead of marketing to a select few, TikTok should continue to reach and consider its “average user,” as the beauty of TikTok is that it simplifies the creative process to give anyone’s imagination free reign, unencumbered by traditional limitations of video editing. As mentioned previously, TikTok marries ease of creative video production, ability to watch entertaining content, and connectivity with users all around the world. It’s that trinity that makes TikTok unique. And in order to keep growing, TikTok must continue to stand out and stand strong in their mission to inspire creativity and bring joy to everyone.


Bump, Pamela (18 Feb. 2020). “How 7 Brands are Using TikTok” Hubspot ktok. Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Byte. Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Constine, Josh (24 Jan. 2020). “Vine reboot Byte officially launches” TechCrunch Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Constine, Josh; Hatmaker, Taylor (9 Nov. 2018). “Facebook launches Lasso, its music and video TikTok clone” TechCrunch  Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Deng, Iris; Hu, Minghe (12 Dec. 2019). “Tencent said to invest US$2 billion in short-video app Kuaishou as competition heats up with ByteDance” South China Morning Post Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Doyle, Brandon (20 Apr. 2020). “TikTok Statistics – Updated April 2020” Wallaroo Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Goodfellow, Jessica (5 Feb. 2020). “TikTok launches search ad offensive as Byte surges past 1m downloads” Campaign Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Dubsmash. Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Firework. Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Hu, Cherie (19 Feb. 2019). “Dubsmash Is Far From Dead- But Can It Really Survive Its Second Life?” Forbes Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Katie Sehl (2 Mar. 2020). “Everything Brands Need to Know About TikTok in 2020” Hootsuite Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Liao, Shannon (9 Nov. 2018). “Facebook quietly launches a TikTok competitor app called Lasso” The Verge Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Mazouri, Heliz (24 Feb. 2020). “What Brands Are Missing By Sleeping on TikTok” Sprout Social Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Perez, Sarah (29 Jan. 2019). “It’s time to pay serious attention to TikTok.” TechCrunch Retrieved 16 Mar. 2020.

Perez, Sarah (29 Jan. 2020). “Google’s Area 120 launches Tangi, a short-form video app focused on creativity and DIY” TechCrunch Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Perez, Sarah (14 Mar. 2019). “Firework officially launches a short-form video storytelling, backed by Lightspeed” TechCrunch Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Perlberg, Steven; Shields, Mike (13 May 2016). “Vine Stars Are Leaving for Facebook and Other Platforms” The Wall Street Journal Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Tangi. Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

@tiktok_us. “friends: i’ll be ready in 5 me 15 min later:” 28 Mar. 2020, 11 a.m.,

@tiktok_us. “Today is #NationalDoctorsDay, so we’re taking a moment to thank them for their incredible work during this difficult time. If you can, please join us in donating to @WHO as they provide essential supplies and services to fight COVID-19.” 30 Mar. 2020, 6:05 p.m.,

Triller. Retrieved 28 Apr. 2020.

Williamson, Debra Aho (27 April 2020). “US Consumers Are Flocking to TikTok”eMarketer Retrieved 2 May 2020.

Back To Top