China's TikTok video app takes off in Southeast Asia

PHOTO: Aaron Yoo / Flickr

Actress Yap Hui Xin, 28, may be better known for her roles on local TV shows. But in the past year, viewers around the region may also have seen clips of her dancing to K-pop hits by Blackpink or lip-syncing to comedic audio tracks on social media.

The videos, typically 15 seconds to under a minute long, are made with Chinese-owned app TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance was valued at US$75 billion (S$102.6 billion) last year - and has been building up its Singapore presence as it expands globally.

Already, TikTok in its current form - launched last year after ByteDance acquired short video platform Musical.ly in late 2017 - was the Android and iPhone stores' most downloaded app in the United States in January, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.

 

In Singapore, its WeWork office in Cross Street, set up in December last year, serves as a hub for its regional operations.

"Across South-east Asia, we have offices in every key market," ByteDance global communications director Belle Baldoza told The Straits Times in a recent interview.

These include Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, she said, adding that ByteDance has offices in more than 50 countries.

"We're growing the teams, the business… The people here also look after the region," she added of its Singapore presence.

While she did not give figures on how quickly the company is expanding here, a check on LinkedIn showed about 17 positions that ByteDance is looking to fill in Singapore, including roles like legal counsel, director of media partnerships for TikTok, and security engineers.

Ms Baldoza did not reveal how many users TikTok has in Singapore when asked, but Sensor Tower said there have been about 1.5 million installations of TikTok in Singapore. This accounts for only 0.1 per cent of its worldwide downloads.

But the total unique installations of TikTok in South-east Asia are much higher, at an estimated 190 million. A spokesman for Sensor Tower said Indonesia, the country with the highest number of installations in the region, has approximately 81 million downloads or about 42 per cent of the total downloads in South-east Asia.

TikTok, said to have 500 million users across 150 countries, prides itself on localisation to gain popularity in markets where it operates.
The app has been compared with photo-and video-sharing app Instagram and messaging app Snapchat, which feature visual effects via in-app filters for videos.

TikTok taps users' data such as location and viewing history to recommend them an endless stream of 15-second clips.

It also allows in-app purchases of coins that can be used for gifts for content creators.

In Singapore, TikTok's user and content operations manager Doreen Tan said the firm works closely with local content creators to spot trends, improve their creations and help them make videos of various genres. The most popular tend to be food, sports and comedy.

Ms Tan added that on a weekly basis, staff from different markets exchange content with the potential to go viral in other areas, promoting material to viewers overseas who might not see it otherwise.

Content creators are also encouraged to make videos based on themes of three to four weekly challenges, such as that of life in Singapore - #thisisSingaporelah - or their pets' lives.

TikTok users here include actress Yap, who started using the app after seeing videos made with it on her Facebook and Instagram feeds.

"I thought this would be a good platform for me to showcase other talents such as dancing and singing," said Yap, who has been acting since she was 10. "TikTok is a pure video platform... You're watching videos continuously. I thought this would be a better platform, especially for dance videos."

Another user is national taekwondo exponent Ng Ming Wei, 24, a bronze medallist at the 2015 SEA Games, who picked up the app due to the ease of making videos with just his mobile phone.

"I love fitness and flexibility and of course, taekwondo. I want to... share my sport with the general public," said Ng, who hopes to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

In particular, he wants to get more young people interested in taekwondo and other sports.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

Purchase this article for republication.

VIDEOS YOU SHOULD WATCH

  • #Joeyjios: We try bubble tea mala hotpot and bubble tea toast

    Full story: http://www.asiaone.com/food/we-try-bubble-tea-mala-hotpot-and-bubble-tea-toast-guess-which-ones-got-us-hooked Mala and bubble milk tea within the same hotpot? What about bubble tea on toast? Who even comes up with these ideas?! This week on #Joeyjios, we give these dubious food creations a taste-test to see if they're worth your time, money and calories. #bubbletea #bbt #boba --- Read more: http://www.asiaone.com/ FOLLOW us on - Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/asiaonecom - Twitter: https://twitter.com/asiaonecom - Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/asiaonecom/ EMAIL: For story leads, business enquiries, contact asiaone@mm2entertainment.com
  • Thirstdays: Where we talk weird dates and wild fantasies

    Full story: https://www.asiaone.com/entertainment/thirstdays-where-we-talk-weird-dates-and-wild-fantasies Ooo, it's been a hot week and the thirst is real at AsiaOne. Join Le En and Bryan as they chat about weird dates, constant 'cravings', and Beyonce's thigh gap! And they are quenching that thirst with a cup of root beer float to celebrate the return of a certain fast food restaurant. Thirstdays is a fortnightly AsiaOne #entertainment series where our hosts Le En and Bryan give you a peek into their personal lives while they satisfy their thirst over a drink, have a no-holds-barred chat, and do fun things. #gossip #confessions #realness --- Read more: http://www.asiaone.com/ FOLLOW us on - Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/asiaonecom - Twitter: https://twitter.com/asiaonecom - Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/asiaonecom/ EMAIL: For story leads, business enquiries, contact asiaone@mm2entertainment.com
  • Don't Say Cannot Ep4: He beats people up, but for the country

    Full story: http://www.asiaone.com/singapore/dont-say-cannot-delinquent-national-wrestler He used to beat people up, simply because he had "too much energy" to expend. Now, he still beats people up - but for the country. Meet 24-year-old #Singapore national wrestler Toh Xin Ran. Seeing the number of medals that he has been awarded and the respectful manner in which he now interacts with his wrestling coach, it is hard to imagine that Xin Ran used to be a troubled kid in his younger days. #wrestling #sportsman --- Read more: http://www.asiaone.com/ FOLLOW us on - Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/asiaonecom - Twitter: https://twitter.com/asiaonecom - Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/asiaonecom/ EMAIL: For story leads, business enquiries, contact asiaone@mm2entertainment.com
  • #Joeyjios: Taste-testing The Alley Luxe and CHICHA San Chen

    Full story: https://www.asiaone.com/food/alley-luxe-and-chicha-san-chen-opens-week-heres-what-try A Michelin-standard bubble tea for $4.70? A drink that looks like the Northern Lights? This week, #Joeyjios her colleague Le En to check out two new bubble tea (BBT) stores that are opening along Orchard Road. Which will they prefer? Watch to find out. #Thedeerishere #TheAlley #Chichasanchen #Boba --- Read more: http://www.asiaone.com/ FOLLOW us on - Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/asiaonecom - Twitter: https://twitter.com/asiaonecom - Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/asiaonecom/ EMAIL: For story leads, business enquiries, contact asiaone@mm2entertainment.com
  • Office Tea Episode 5: Bosses and Things

    It’s been a few weeks - let’s find out if the higher-ups of AsiaOne have any regrets about hiring Le En. Efforts were made to make nice, charity is involved and work is never-ending still. Follow and subscribe so you won't miss a single episode of our new series, Office Tea! To catch more of her antics, follow her @goofy_feline! --- Read more: http://www.asiaone.com/ FOLLOW us on - Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/asiaonecom - Twitter: https://twitter.com/asiaonecom - Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/asiaonecom/ EMAIL: For story leads, business enquiries, contact asiaone@mm2entertainment.com
  • #Joeyjios: DIY your way into mum's heart this Mother's Day

    Full story: https://www.asiaone.com/women/joeyjios-diy-your-way-mums-heart-mothers-day Mother’s Day is this Sunday! Have you gotten mum a gift yet? This week on #Joeyjios, Joey tries her hand at DIY projects that’s thoughtful, useful and inexpensive. #Mothersday #DIY --- Read more: http://www.asiaone.com/ FOLLOW us on - Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/asiaonecom - Twitter: https://twitter.com/asiaonecom - Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/asiaonecom/ EMAIL: For story leads, business enquiries, contact asiaone@mm2entertainment.com
  • Don't Say Cannot Ep3: He 'sees' the world with the help of tech

    Full story: https://www.asiaone.com/singapore/dont-say-cannot-he-may-be-blind-he-can-text-faster-you Edwin Khoo, 43, surprises friends with the speed at which he types on his phone. The reason? He's been blind since birth. But #technology has been the game-changer for Edwin in navigating the world around him despite his #disability, allowing him to #travel and even host his own online #podcast. --- Read more: http://www.asiaone.com/ FOLLOW us on - Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/asiaonecom - Twitter: https://twitter.com/asiaonecom - Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/asiaonecom/ EMAIL: For story leads, business enquiries, contact asiaone@mm2entertainment.com
  • Office Tea Episode 4: The Dress Code

    It’s in the employee handbook - but does ANYONE actually read and follow the dress code? Are calves too scandalous? Le En puts on Athleisure and tries to get away with it! Follow and subscribe so you won't miss a single episode of our new series, Office Tea! To catch more of her antics, follow her @goofy_feline! --- Read more: http://www.asiaone.com/ FOLLOW us on - Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/asiaonecom - Twitter: https://twitter.com/asiaonecom - Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/asiaonecom/ EMAIL: For story leads, business enquiries, contact asiaone@mm2entertainment.com
  • Caryn Cheng finds the best deals at IMM's Greater Savings Home and Furnishing Sale

    Full story: https://www.asiaone.com/singapore/5-couples-share-most-expensive-items-they-have-ever-bought-their-home AsiaOne challenges Caryn Cheng to find the best deals at the upcoming #IMM Greater Savings Home and Furnishing #Sale. IMM's Greater Savings Home & Furnishing Sale will start May 13 to 19. With 20 per cent off storewide at Best Denki and discounts of up to 50 per cent at stores such as INKAGU Outlet by Picket & Rail, Linen Gallery Outlet and Red Apple from May 17 to 19, this epic sale is not to be missed. Address: 2 Jurong East Street 21, Singapore 609601 Opening hours: 10am to 10pm #brandedcontent --- Read more: http://www.asiaone.com/ FOLLOW us on - Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/asiaonecom - Twitter: https://twitter.com/asiaonecom - Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/asiaonecom/ EMAIL: For story leads, business enquiries, contact asiaone@mm2entertainment.com
  • #Joeyjios: I try a ballet-inspired workout despite my two left feet

    Full story: https://www.asiaone.com/singapore/joeyjios-i-try-ballet-inspired-workout-despite-my-two-left-feet Tendu, Arabesque and Grand Pliés? This week on #Joeyjios, I found out that these are in fact, not edible food dishes, but dance moves in ballet.  Watch as former professional ballerinas and co-founders of #BalletBody, Lisha Chin and Alison Carroll, take me through a snippet of their hour-long ballet-inspired workout while I try my best to keep up.  #Ballet #Barre #Fitness --- Read more: http://www.asiaone.com/ FOLLOW us on - Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/asiaonecom - Twitter: https://twitter.com/asiaonecom - Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/asiaonecom/ EMAIL: For story leads, business enquiries, contact asiaone@mm2entertainment.com

SERVICES