TikTok’s rise in popularity has been nothing short of phenomenal, as creators get around to developing all types of content, and audiences spend more time watching virtual unknowns dance, sing, eat and game their way to fame.
But what is this weird app that everyone is so enamored with? Should you download it? Is it worth the hype? Why is every other video of some girl gyrating to the camera? Maybe it’s a waste of time like Twitter and other weird social media apps that shouldn’t be downloaded.
Well, not all of TikTok is busy worshipping dance trends. There’s so much more to the app than expected, and not all creators on the app are 15-year-olds trying to go viral.
TikTok is owned by a Chinese company Bytedance. It has a sister app, Douyin, which is an app identical to TikTok but native to China only. The app was launched in 2018 when it merged with Musical.ly, an older version of the video-sharing platform that, as the name suggests, focused on singing.
TikTok has been a sensation since then, where in the United States, has been downloaded more than 130 million times.
Globally, the app has been downloaded 2 billion times, crushing the installs for other popular apps including Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram on the Apple App Store for a straight two years, from 2018 to 2019.
What is TikTok?
Unlike other social media channels out there, TikTok is first and foremost, a video-centric platform, and what content creators have done on the platform draws from many sources, and that ultimately makes it unique.
With users only being able to make videos that are 15 - 60 seconds long, there’s a good depth of creativity within this limitation, and creators have made TikToks on just about anything and everything, we guarantee you that anything you can think of, someone has already created a hashtag, and there already are a few videos talking about it.
The focus of TikTok is its For You Page (or FYP) and the one reason why TikTok is so popular is that its viewing algorithm is optimised for anyone that uses the app. The FYP is customised by you choosing topics of content you are interested in seeing.
Every time you use TikTok, it will track every move you make on the app. In app development parlance, this refers to interactions and users liking, commenting, and sharing anything that will notify TikTok that you like the video, and the algorithm will bring similar TikToks to your FYP for you to enjoy.
With over a billion users, TikTok is a welcoming community that opens conversations about a plethora of topics, as it brings people all over the country and world in a quicker and easier way than ever before.
As long as the algorithm knows you like something, it is impossible for you to not meet people with the same thoughts.
It is so popular that familiar faces have jumped on the bandwagon, showing a different side of themselves that they do not show on other social media platforms.
You can find pop stars and actors like Will Smith, Kevin Hart, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson on it, if TV shows are more your thing, Ellen DeGeneres, Kylie Jenner, and Gordan Ramsay are also creating content on the platform app as well.
Why is TikTok so popular?
So, you know the basics of what TikTok is all about, but why is it blowing up the internet? Here are some reasons.
Shorter videos mean shorter attention span
We all know that Gen Z kids do not have the longest attention span. Long Youtube videos are a pain to sit through and don’t get us started on the advertisement that plague the video platform, so what better way to capture their attention than to create short videos that entertain them before getting bored.
Because the videos can be as short as 15 seconds, viewers are too busy catching what creators are trying to say rather than waiting for the video to the end.
Since every new video refreshes viewers’ attention span, it is pretty normal for people to scroll on TikTok for hours on end before realising they have been in bed all day.
The for you page algorithm
As we explained earlier, the FYP is an essential part of TikTok’s success. Since every person’s TikTok is tailored to their preferred topics and interests, it is unlikely that you will want to exit the app after seeing something you didn’t want to see on your timeline.
The more people scroll through their FYP, using the interactions, TikTok can better determine other types of related content and creators for your viewing pleasure.
So it is a definite win-win when using TikTok, better-suited content for every viewer, while still enjoying the current content that they are presented with.
“Easier” for creators to have their content seen
With the FYP algorithm, people who create videos about a certain topic will go to the FYPs of people who are interested in the same topic. It is quite common for small creators to go viral overnight after a sudden surge of views thanks to the FYP.
So unlike other social media platforms, it doesn’t really matter how many followers you have. As long as your content is relatable and entertaining, the FYP will boost your video with views, likes, and if you continue the great content, followers will ensue.
Easy to make
Since a TikTok can be 15 - 60 seconds long, it does not take that long to film a video. Most of TikTok is filled with casual videos that probably took less than five minutes to make.
Even if you are going for a large-scale production TikTok, the editing software for TikTok is extremely user-friendly. This allows anyone of every age and editing skill to be able to create content on the app.
Main source of entertainment
Most of the demographic that uses other social media platforms also use TikTok. Now that all the trendy, funny content is on TikTok, other apps like Instagram and Twitter are filled with TikTok videos.
So since every app is filled with TikToks anyway, users usually just download the app to watch the original content and send TikToks through the app itself.
A plus of downloading the app would be that you can follow accounts you like, while being able to watch all of the creator’s content, and directly share these TikToks with your friends, which is not possible on other platforms.
Trends on TikTok
TikTok might offer you some trending videos just in case you like them. Aside from the regular teenagers dancing on camera, there are some other trends that may interest you. If you detest the mainstream TikToks, just skip the video and the FYP will take note you will not watch any trending TikToks.
A crucial part of trends is the soundtracks used. Most of the time, a trend is dictated by the sounds the creators use. So when a trend is born, the name of the trend is usually named after the soundtrack name.
Creators can do their own mix of a soundtrack to make it their own, but for the most part, people doing the same trend will be using the same track.Aside from their own audio, trends also have dedicated hashtags.
So trends mentioned can be found by the hashtags if you’re interested in listening to a repeat of the audio over and over again.
Well, this trend type blew TikTok up, so we have to cover it. Dance trends. If you have heard the audio ‘Renegade’ reverberate through your house, it’s definitely your kids doing a TikTok. The song ‘Renegade’ was arguably the song that attracted most of TikTok’s younger generation onto the app.
Big TikTok dance stars like Charli D’amelio and Addison Rae often start trends by posting their choreography with a trending or new song that has just been released.
Then after their millions of followers see their TikTok, users will attempt to copy or create their own using the trends as inspiration.
Trends that are really popular right now are #renaicirculation, #SugarCrash, #viraldancechallenge. More on how to find these trends in the section below.
Some creators choose to share about their lives on TikTok. There are two types of storytimes. One of which would be a vlog style, where creators film themselves talking. The other would be the creator doing a voiceover over a video of them doing something.
It could be them cooking, doing their make-up or nails. When creators film their own audio, they create a new soundtrack.
These soundtracks can be reused by anyone. Some creators tend to reuse other creators’ sounds to paste them over their own videos.Most story soundtracks are funny or interesting, so viewers would watch the entire TikTok to find out what happens.
Of course, some stories cannot be wrapped up in a minute. So TikTokers will spread their story over many videos, hooking people on to stay followed so viewers can keep up with the story.
You can look for #storytime to find trending stories. Storytimes can sometimes appear on your FYP since the topics are broad and can likely entertain anyone.
Special features & effects
Recently, there has been a rise of people who use different TikTok effects to film their TikToks. The most popular would be the text-to-speech effect, where users can type out what they want a Siri-like voice to read out for them as their soundtrack.
The effect is used not because people are too lazy to voiceover, but more so because of how the voice is trendy and it would be easier to edit after filming the TikTok. Another type of effect would be filters, more specifically, face filters.
There is one trend that is particularly popular right now, called the psychedelic clown. People place the filter on themselves while using the text-to-speech feature or caption their stories of how they have been ‘clowned’.
The trend is often associated with a certain soundtrack, that mocks the TikToker while they sit in shame with the filter on.
Categories of TikTok
As mentioned earlier, we explained how TikTok is a place for everybody in terms of similar interests and hobbies. TikTok is a tremendously large platform that there are categories to split the big platform up.
There is no official name for these categories by TikTok, it is more of a fan-based name for the category. The different topics are labeled with their title and a suffix ‘-tok’ behind them.
So for example ‘Technology-Tok’ or ‘Fashion-Tok’. These labels have hashtags linked to the most of the time. There are other ways to search for specific TikToks you want to see, but you will have to wait till the end of this article.
Here are some of the areas of interest you might want to adventure into when you finally download the app.
One of the popular TikTok categories is Foodtok. A whopping 2.7 billion views under the hashtag to tag their food creations, recipes, what they eat in a day, and many other video concepts. There is a mix of professional and amateur cooks to help you decide what to eat for dinner today.
Even in one category, there are many other subcategories where you can find videos that will not only entertain you but will make you hungry and motivated to cook quality food. For example, there is a #dinnerideas tag for a plethora of videos at your disposal.
You can search for specific cuisines like Korean, American, or Indian as well.
If you are interested in Chinese food, you can watch how Diana Mengyan (@diana_mengyan) comes home from work to cook home-cooked meals for herself with simple ingredients and utensils.
Or if you are into healthy vegan dishes, look no further than Tabitha Brown (@iamtabithabrown) to teach you some quick and easy recipes.
If you are on this website, you definitely have a little geek in you. If you want to join a community that shares your love for Star Wars, Marvel, LEGO, and more, head to NerdTok.
Join people who are as excited as you when it comes to fan theories, unboxing of new toys, and many more. You can chat with creators and other viewers in the comment section as well.
Well, of course, a channel we definitely recommend is Geek Culture’s TikTok (@geekculture)! We post a load of content any geek would enjoy. From game recommends, or trending soundtracks, join us as we start to make more funny skits to entertain the geek fam.
It’s a Sunday. You have zero motivation to go to work or school tomorrow. What are you going to do? Head to ProductivityTok, where it will make you feel like you need to wake up at 5 am for a run and start work before the sun rises.
This side of TikTok is extremely efficient in pushing you to strive for greatness with its abundance of subgenre TikToks. One of them would be study-tok.
Students film their productive study routines while teachers and professionals give out tips on how to work smarter or proper study methods for the youngsters.
Another popular hashtag would be university-tok, where creators share hacks on how to write a superb personal essay, or building an all-rounded portfolio for applications.
These platforms are extremely beneficial for students struggling to find support and company while also being entertained.
It does not matter whether you are an amateur or pro, photographytok is a helpful community that gives out tips and tricks to anyone who needs it. From editing tips, or how to start your photography business, TikTok is a great place to connect with others that can help you or need your help.
#photography and #photographyhack are popular hashtags that you can check out for some inspiration for your next photo shoot.
A fan of cleanliness? There is a place for you on TikTok too. With over 10.6 billion views under the hashtag’s belt, do not feel ashamed when you join the clean side of TikTok.This hashtag is filled with home cleaners or housewives doing domestic work, mostly washing toilet bowls.
But this sounds more interesting than you think. With a plentiful supply of cleaning products, one in every colour, many have used colourful cleaners to create patterns in the toilet. You can watch creators scrub a dirty toilet clean and flush the soapy goodness down the drain, to reveal a squeaky clean bowl.
It’s not always toilets. TikTokers also give out cleaning tips, how-tos to clean a specific part of your home. Similar to you, we were skeptical and confused, but the magical wonders of someone tidying up their home gave us peace and calm, alongside some motivation to scrub down the entire house.
Short for education TikTok, the side of TikTok is for people to share life hacks, professional tips, and general facts that creators wanted to share. EduTok is a great way to learn about things you would never know if you didn’t watch TikTok.
Professionals like engineers, zoo-keepers, scientists, and investors are all on the app and readily teach and advise the younger generation on everything they need to know about adult life and what to expect in the industry.
There are also physically and mentally disabled creators that create an inclusive community within TikTok.
They teach other disabled and abled people alike about how they survive with their disability, along with tips that make life easier for them.
Other creators tend to share general knowledge facts that the general public might not know. For example, creators answer questions like what would happen if the Queen of England died, or how to cure a headache. A sub-branch would be the LearnOnTikTok hashtag.
You can follow creators like @Dr Karen Raj for advice and reaction videos to other doctors TikTok
How to navigate TikTok
As we said, TikTok is extremely simplified. So in theory, the app will be quite easy to navigate through. But for the ones that prefer a tour, here we go.
So first, we have the home part of TikTok. There are two sections here, the Following and For You Page. As the name suggests, the Following page is for you to see content that only people you follow have created.
The glorious FYP is the infinite source of entertainment that finds you content they think you will be interested in, which we have already explained.
TikTok also has a special section for Covid-19 information. You can keep track of the number of daily cases and feature TikToks that talks more about Covid-19 and preventive measures you can take.
On the right side of the screen, you will see the creator’s profile picture of the TikTok you are currently watching. There will be a like, comment, and share button. You can either share the video with your friends on TikTok or send the link to other social networks like Whatsapp and Telegram.
Along with the sharing features, you can also report, save, duet, stitch or add the video to your favourites.
Another interesting feature of TikTok is that you can indicate to the FYP algorithm your dislike for the TikTok you are seeing by clicking the “Not Interested” button. The algorithm will then know now to show you videos of that type or topic anymore, curating your FYP better to your taste.
To clarify, a duet is a TikTok function where the TikTok you make will be put beside the TikTok you chose to duet with. This function is similar to stitch, where you can use an introduction of another TikTok as your own and the video will cut to your continuation of that stitch.
Three is also react, where you can add a camera to a TikTok to film your reaction. These tools are mainly used for replies or where creators ask a question for the community to reply.
Recently, there was a trend that popularized the stitch. The creator asked something along the lines of “Tell me how you know your boyfriend won’t cheat on you, without telling me how you know your boyfriend won’t cheat on you”.
People stitched and dueted the original videos thousands of videos, also coming up with different variations of the trend. The hashtag is #tellmewithouttellingme if you want to check out the trend.
Below the share button you have the soundtrack of the TikTok. You can see the title, along with other TikToks that have used the same soundtrack. On the left, you see the caption and username (or @) of the creator which you can click on to explore more of their content.
Next on the toolbar, we have the discover page. This is where you can find anything and everything TikTok has to offer, Before you search anything, you can see the list of current trending hashtags. You can also check out what’s trending on TikTok this week.
The trending page tracks different hashtags, music, and sticker effects that people in your region have been loving recently.
So remember all those hashtags and categories we were talking about? Go to the search bar and search up anything you would like to find. You will see options if you want to filter your search to a user, a certain video, soundtrack, or hashtag.
If you ever have a calling to create your own TikTok, press on the plus to discover different types of effects and sounds that you can use to spruce up your masterpiece of a TikTok.
After the plus button, you have your inbox. You will be able to see live streams and other trending TikToks like on the discover page. Here, you can see how people have interacted with the comments or TikToks you have made.
On the top right-hand corner, you have a direct messages page where you can chat and send funny and relatable TikToks to your friends.
Lastly, you have the account page, where you can see the number of followers, following, and total likes you have on all your combined TikToks. Here is where you edit your profile, have access to your favourites and manage any privacy settings. There is also a folder for all the TikTok drafts you are currently editing.
We tend to stay away from things we know little about. But now that you know the true wonders of TikTok, there is more to explore than these trends and categories mentioned here. We can thank TikTok for its algorithm that brings people from all over the world together on one platform.
Who wouldn’t want to find an inclusive community that shares the love you have. But with every social media platform, it can get toxic and drama-filled from time to time (*cough* Meghan Markle *cough*).
If used responsibly and respectfully, this app is a great invention to bring communities closer than ever before.
This article was first published in Geek Culture.