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TikTok has experienced significant growth since first launching in 2016. For the first few years of its existence it was associated with lip sync videos and dance trends, mainly thanks to its merger with in 2018. Since then it has attracted a much wider audience and has grown significantly, especially amongst the 18-24 and 25-35 age groups.  

TikTok as a News Source 

Last year Ofcom found that TikTok was the fastest growing news source for UK adults with 7% using TikTok for news in 2022 compared to 1% in 2020. In the US, Pew Research Centre reported around 10% of adults regularly look to TikTok for their news, and for adults under 30 this increases to 26%.  

TikTok’s rise as a news source was highlighted by the White House’s decision to brief 30 TikTok creators on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, showing how governments are recognising the significance of TikTok.  

This does contrast with the decision of the US to look into banning the app due to concerns over user data being obtained by the Chinese government, with the state of Montana already going ahead with a ban. 

How I use TikTok 

As well as its rise as a news source, TikTok is now competing with Google with 40% of Gen Z preferring to use TikTok over Google, according to Google’s own internal data. Many young people see how it can help with learning new things and developing yourself and it seems that TikTok and Google realise the potential of this given the recent news that TikTok is testing Google Search results within its own search function. 

I looked to TikTok when I was looking for my first job after graduating. From searching for CV and interview tips to discovering the best ways to find opportunities, TikTok was great for helping me develop my skills and understanding.  

When I found out I had an interview for my job at Social one of the first things that I did was go onto TikTok and search for PR interview questions. I found so many videos giving advice based on personal experience within the industry, what kind of questions to prepare for, and useful things to consider.  

Even though I could have just used Google I liked the fact that I could get useful information from people who are knowledgeable about the sector in short-form content and in a way that felt more personal and genuine. I still used Google, but my first instinct was to look to TikTok, and this seems to be the case for many within my age group.  

Whilst I still frequently use Google many of my searches have moved over to TikTok. If I want to find somewhere to go out for food or get my hair cut I am much more likely to look on TikTok for recommendations.  

I think this is mostly due to recommendations feeling more genuine as the video element makes you feel more connected with the creator and trust them more. It is more comparable to getting a recommendation from a friend. Also, you can often see with your own eyes what it was like through the video. It makes sense that Gen Z are moving towards this style of content for recommendations when you consider that they highly value transparency and authenticity. 

Why is TikTok so Successful? 

The content on TikTok is incredibly diverse. Not only is it good for memes and keeping up to date with trends but you can find places to go and things to do and it is great for finding tips and tricks for almost everything.  

TikTok gives you access to tips and advice from legal professionals, dermatologists, doctors, chefs, florists and so many others, but in a personal and easily digestible way. The algorithm cannot be underestimated in this, it learns your likes and interests and is constantly tailoring your for you page to your tastes, which is why it is so successful. It knows both how to keep you on the app and how to keep you going back. 

How can businesses use TikTok? 

TikTok is clearly a valuable tool to educate and inform and this is especially true for those under 30. However, many underestimate how useful it can be due to a lack of understanding of the platform. Due to its roots in dance routines and lip syncing many see it as exclusively a tool of entertainment. Yet, there is so much more to it than that.  

Many businesses now dedicate resources towards TikTok and understand that there is an opportunity to connect with a younger audience. Yet, it is important to remember that Gen Z are more sceptical and place more value on authenticity than other generations, the way in which brands communicate on TikTok needs to consider this.  

Brands tend to jump on trends in the hopes of going viral in order to make sales. Rather than just jumping on every trend, as many have done with the Roman Empire trend, it is important for businesses to recognise what matches their brand and voice and only jump on trends if it fits with this. This stops you from just becoming like everyone else whilst making sure you remain authentic. Essentially, only jump on the trend if it fits with your brand and provides your audience with value.  

More importantly, whilst many brands understand TikTok as an entertainment platform, few realise the potential of it as a space to inform and educate, it provides a great opportunity to become a thought leader in your field amongst a younger demographic, and very few businesses are making use of this. The impacts of this approach will be much more sustainable than the five minutes of fame going viral will bring, as it builds trust and long term brand awareness.