What is TikTok?

By Tinuiti Team

If you’ve heard that catchy “Baby Shark” tune, then you’ve got TikTok to thank (or blame?) for it.

Though the tune’s been around a while — popular at Girl Scout camps and other youth events for the last few decades — the TikTok app, formerly known as, is what brought it to the silly, toddler-friendly song to the forefront of pop culture in recent years.


Credit: YouTube


That’s not TikTok’s only claim to fame, though. The app is also one of the fastest-growing and most popular digital platforms out there, claiming 30 million active users every single month (in the U.S.) and more than 150 million users worldwide.

It was the second-most downloaded app in both Google Play and the Apple Store in November, and its downloads have jumped 25% in the U.S alone — no easy feat considering the millions of apps today’s smartphone users have access to.

In fact, as of January 7, TikTok is even out-besting Instagram, Snapchat and Messenger, in terms of downloads.



But what exactly is this rapidly growing app? And is it something you should consider adding to your repertoire of social media accounts? Let’s dive right in.


What is TikTok?

TikTok is sort of a social media meets video meets music platform.

Users can choose from thousands of audio clips, and record videos of themselves lipsyncing, dancing, parkouring or even acting along to the sound bytes.

Videos can also be edited, sped up, or slowed down, and users can add stickers, activate a special effect or use filters to change up the video’s look.

All in all, videos can only be 15 seconds long, though users can create longer “stories” by stringing up to four 15-second segments together.

On the social side, users can “react” to videos, filming their reaction when watching something, or “duet,” instead filming a side-by-side video along with the existing content. Duet videos are often used in challenges or competitions (the #WrapBattle challenge is a great example!) Users can also interact with content, “heart” videos, leave comments and send messages to others within the app.


How TikTok Works

At its most basic, TikTok is for promoting short-form video content, so when you log in, a recommended video will start playing right away.

You can also follow other users to stay up to date on their content, or use the search function to look up specific challenges, keywords, hashtags and more. There’s also a trending area to find up and coming videos.



The TikTok app isn’t just for individual users though. Some media companies use the app to create shorter “shows” (similar to the news stories shown on Snapchat), mostly aimed at teens and younger users. Seventeen’s “Seventeen in the City” show is just one of these offerings (and part of why the brand has more than 2 million followers on the app).


What is TikTok’s Reach

TikTik, in some version or another, is currently available in 150 markets across the world and in 75 unique languages.

Its most popular posters have millions of followers and billions of views per month.

Currently, the top-ranked channels are Lisa and Lena, with over 32 million followers, and Loren Gray, with 29 million. Both have launched successful YouTube channels as a result of their TikTok fame.


BERLIN, GERMANY – MAY 14: Lena Mantler and Lisa Mantler during the premiere of the film ‘Hanni & Nanni – Mehr als beste Freunde’ at Kino in der Kulturbrauerei on May 14, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Franziska Krug/Getty Images)


Why Is It So Popular?

There are likely many factors at work here. First, there’s the already existing popularity and knowledge of similar platforms like Dubsmash (lipsyncing with video) to consider, and there’s also a whole load of publicity.

In fact, Jimmy Fallon has often challenged his viewers to create TikTok videos for a chance to be featured on his late-night show. (See this tumbleweed challenge as an example — and for a good laugh).

TikTok / Musically, however you want to slice it, is also popular with all age groups. Though teens were the original cohort to catch on, according to the Washington Post, TikTok app videos are now taking off with medical professionals, police officers and even members of the military.  


A GIF showing a clip from one of Michael Eckert’s TikToks. Credit: Washington Post


The platform offers these high-pressure individuals a nice mental break, a good laugh and, thanks to its interactive features, a little camaraderie with like-minded souls.

With the rate at which the freebie app is growing, they’re likely not the only adults hopping on the bandwagon.

Considering a TikTok download? Want to learn more about the TikTok app? Email [email protected].

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