The Secret to Success: How TikTok Can Last The Long Haul

Jul 02, 2019

A recent article announced that TikTok was the most downloaded app on the planet last year, overtaking Facebook and Instagram. This surprised me as I’d only just become familiar with the app – I’m not exactly its target user. Turns out, TikTok has been downloaded over a billion times, and is slated to be the first major social media contender since Snapchat. 

With video becoming one of the fastest growing channels for content consumption amongst American internet users, this app seems to have been introduced at just the right time. However, the only way for TikTok to remain successful and stand the test of time, is to provide a seamless user experience, which includes providing its users with full control over their data. 

It’s still early days for TikTok in the US, but privacy compliance is already proving to be a challenge. Earlier this year, TikTok encountered a publicized mishandling of data, impacting user trust, and resulting in a $5.7M fine. 

With the app’s rapid rise in adoption, TikTok has the potential for long-term success. But only if it obtains user consent, and abides by global consumer privacy legislation. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are both applicable here. But also the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This puts parents of children under the age of 13 in control of personal information. Compliance here will go a long way to support TikTok’s app dominance.

Judging by the app’s adoption, it’s heading in the right direction. But only knowing app downloads isn’t enough. To become permanent real estate on a user’s mobile phone, TikTok needs to understand its users’ mobile journeys, outside of its own app. To reveal additional findings, I took a look at Active Insights, Ogury’s insights solution which revealed some interesting findings.

Mobile journey data reveals true activity outside of only app installs

When doing my research on TikTok, all I learned is that it’s overtaking the big players in terms of app downloads. But what about app activity, user engagement, and the number of sessions per user? I chose to compare TikTok to four other popular video-sharing social apps as you can see below.

You can see that despite a smaller market share, TikTok has the highest amount of active users (89.8%), as well as the most sessions per user (174 sessions). What’s more, the possession growth of the TikTok app is 150% higher than the watchlist average. Although users may not spend as much time on the app compared to other video streaming apps (likely because videos are super short), these users are highly active.

TikTok grabs users’ dwindling attention spans

So why is TikTok so popular? Because it’s built its user experience based on the preferences of the user of the future. TikTok’s platform is built to share 15-second long videos. As users, we’re becoming more and more impatient. We want rich, free content, on-demand, from wherever we are in the world. 

As mobile speeds continue to increase dramatically, so does the consumption of video content. Compared to just 59% in 2017, 79% of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2022. And in recent years, attention spans have continually been decreasing, for which technology has often been held accountable. 

The evolution of a user’s ability to engage with content is an indication of their ability to engage with marketing messages. Attention spans are becoming shorter, and marketing messages need to become more concise, personalized and relevant if marketers have any hope in reaching the next generation of mobile users. Something TikTok appears to be doing effectively. 

Long-Term Success is Reliant on User Respect

The user experience of the TikTok app is catered towards the next generation. But in order to stand the test of time and become a beneficial utility to this generation, they need to be treated with respect. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said in a statement that TikTok’s fine for its recent data breach is a record for a child privacy case. Despite this breach, app installs, possessions, and activity is increasing, but will only continue doing so if TikTok remains compliant, and truly understands its users’ needs. 

Understanding these needs and staying a step ahead of the next viral video sharing app can be achieved by seeing a user’s mobile journey, leveraging quality consented first-party data to identify TikTok’s cross-app usage, such as the behavior of users who also engage with Snapchat and Facebook.

At Ogury, we are committed to a user-first ecosystem and are GDPR and CCPA compliant. We believe in empowering end users with data control, only generating data that users have explicitly opted-into sharing. Mobile journey data will allow apps like TikTok to truly understand who its users are, outside of only installs. To become a significant contender to the other social apps in our space, TikTok needs to see this journey, and they need to remain compliant.

Evan Rutchik, CRO, US