🔒 TikTok is the app that has redefined social engagement. Everyone wants to be like TikTok. The ocean tankers of Facebook and Instagram are turning. But what's the secret? Why is TikTok so addictive? Why is it commanding so much attention? It comes down to 3 things...
This article is written exclusively for Premium Subscribers.Subscribe to Premium
Digital Crack Cocaine
Back Story: It's a fair assumption that most people have heard of TikTok. Probably as one of those apps that the kids are using. But do they really understand exactly how big TikTok is? How much it is used? What makes it so addictive and what's the science behind it?
In essence, the science behind TikTok can be condensed into these three attributes:
- TikTok knows exactly what you like and want to watch better than anyone, even your partner.
- TikTok has removed all decision-making. Open the app and away you go, no spending time deciding what to watch, the app already knows what you want.
- TikTok applies "random reinforcement" to keep you addicted and online for longer than on any other app.
Let me start by giving you some of the headline stats just to show you exactly how big and influential TikTok has become:
- the app has 1.6 billion monthly users, that's more than Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn combined,
- TikTok has been the most downloaded app for the past 5 quarters in a row, and downloaded more than any other app since 2020,
- its global advertising revenues are forecast to exceed $11 billion in 2022, that’s more than Twitter and Snapchat combined,
- the average user spends more time on TikTok than on Facebook and Instagram combined….and get this…
- US users spend an average 26 hours per month on TikTok..that’s equivalent to 36 working days a year scrolling through videos…4 years ago that was only 8 hours a month
- TikTok also reports that around a third of users (34.4%) watch longer videos at double speed.
- And to give you an idea of how much the other platforms are worried by TikTok, in the last earnings call from Meta Facebook, they talked about TikTok 5 times, that’s a lot.
"People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time, and apps like TikTok are growing very quickly," CEO Mark Zuckerberg told AFP News.
How Did TikTok Get So big?
Science: TikTok’s rise and ubiquitous appeal is based in some very simple science. Which breaks down into 3 things:
#1 - TikTok knows exactly what you like and want.
TikTok collects more signals about your preferences and personal interests than another social media platform. When you watch Netflix or listen to Spotify, those platforms get to know 1 or 2 things about you in half an hour, an hour or longer. Facebook and Instagram can work out alot about you based on who you follow and the posts you comment on and like.
But, in the case of TikTok, you are going to watch 100s of videos in a very short time. The videos you watch are not restricted or constrained by who is in your network.
On TikTok, if you like videos of cats going over obstacle courses, for example, the app will find that out and serve you up more of the same. And each time gives TikTok more signals about what you do and don't like.
TikTok is not like the other social media platforms. Until recently, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter et al relied on a user's 'connections' or list of 'friends' to serve up content. But TikTok is different because it does not rely on knowing who your friends in when deciding what content to put in front of you. That's why the likes of Facebook are shifting towards serving up curated content based on your likes, not your friends.
The TikTok algorithms figure out exactly what makes you tick. The AI is extremely adept at working out what you really want to see and then feeding it to you.
But more than that, the algorithms also recognise that a user can soon get bored with seeing the same stuff. So the algorithms will start to test out related but different content to see if you like that and to keep you interested.