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Why Is TikTok So Successful?

Feb 13, 2023

In this blog we’ll explore the reasons behind the unprecedented success of social media platform, TikTok.

What Is TikTok?

Back in 2014, TikTok was originally launched as a lip-syncing platform called

By 2017, was claiming to have roughly 60 million active users when it was purchased by Chinese tech firm, ByteDance. The buy out, estimated at one billion dollars, was actually subject to a Regulator Review by The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States in 2019, who claimed that the deal was not scrutinised when originally signed and therefore gave them scope to investigate, in the interests of US national security. However this investigation was later thrown out by the Biden administration.

After overcoming a potentially problematic hurdle in terms of international scope, ByteDance then merged with their original iteration of TikTok, and the now consolidated apps went forward using the name of the latter, which we have all come to know as the new king of short form content. Sorry, Vine.

Person using TikTok on an iphone

Prepare For Blast Off

Since its humble lip-syncing origins, the rise of TikTok as a platform is truly astronomical.

After developing its feature capabilities, such as enabling videos up to 10 minutes long from the original 15 seconds, funny camera filters and the ability to live stream, the monthly active user base on TikTok has risen from 133 million at the time of introduction in 2018, to a mind blowing 1 billion in 2023.

More notable numbers include –

  • Approximately 30% of the world’s internet users now use TikTok.
  • Its monthly active user stats exceed the likes of Twitter, Reddit and Snapchat.
  • On average, TikTok users spend 90 minutes daily on the app.

In fact TikTok is rising so rapidly, and continuously, that even juggernauts such as Facebook, Instagram and Youtube are looking nervously over their shoulders.

And so they should.

In the years 2020, 2021 and 2022, TikTok was the most downloaded App. With the highest yearly downloads of over 800 million, coming in 2020 during the pandemic, when most people were stuck home, pining for a source of entertainment and interaction.

The Rise Of TikTok Mega Influencers

In the early days, when TikTok was still predominantly awash with lip-syncing content, an overnight star was born, named Addison Rae Easterling. Regarded as one of the first TikTok mega influencers, she is currently sitting at 88.9M followers.

Since Addison, however, TikTok continues to churn out extremely popular influencer celebrities, with the current most popular account on the platform belonging to Khaby.lame who has a staggering 152.6M followers.

This conveyor belt of overnight viral stars is no coincidence, it is largely due to the fact that content creators now have much more freedom to well… create. Although singing and dancing content is still extremely popular on the platform, users can now find a seemingly limitless range of content, covering everything from the brilliant to the bizarre.

With a simple swipe of the finger, you can go from watching a food review, to sports highlights and then swiftly transition to the latest popular gimmick of the time (usually a dance routine).

See the top 20 most followed TikTok accounts here

Woman using TikTok to create content

Is TikTok Just A Phase?

Anyone suspecting that TikTok would simply be a temporary fad whilst people were trapped at home could not be more wrong. Unlucky Zuckerberg. 

The App continues to evolve and grow, the software and editing tools have been fine tuned to make them perfectly simple and intuitive, which in turn means the range of content is wider than ever as people with all levels of experience can try their hand at content creation.

Even major brands are getting in on the act, recognising it as a crucial platform for their marketing and promotion, especially those targeting a younger audience. 

And it isn’t just the big brands that are benefiting from utilising TikTok, many smaller businesses and start ups have realised great success after going viral on the app, for example thep00lguy, who started simply uploading content of himself cleaning peoples swimmings pools and now has nearly 8M followers and over 132 million likes.

Why Is TikTok So Beloved By Businesses?

In terms of why businesses love TikTok, the answer boils down to one thing, reach.

The biggest brands are constantly trying to stay relevant, and right now, TikTok is exactly that. It provides their brand image and even products, exposure in a virtual shop window that has over a billion people looking in.

Alongside TikTok’s ever evolving trends, its intuitive algorithm helps put a business’s content in front of the relevant audiences. And yet, this has become about more than just relentlessly pushing people to buy, it gives brands an opportunity to convey authenticity and relatability.

For smaller businesses, most of these same principles apply. However, TikTok can provide an even greater opportunity to lesser known businesses. This is due to the fact that every business has a level playing field to succeed on the platform. All it takes is one piece of well crafted content, released at the right time, perhaps using a trending song, or something that is simply very funny and memorable, and your business can be a viral sensation literally overnight.

Such a huge boost in brand awareness can ordinarily take years to achieve.

Another major appeal of TikTok, compared to other social media platforms that are used by businesses, is the engagement rate. TikTok has an average engagement rate of 5.95% compared to:

  • 0.13% on Facebook
  • 0.83% on Instagram
  • 0.41% on Youtube

When you consider that all of the above platforms have a higher number of average monthly users, the figures are mind boggling.

This high engagement rate is largely down to the fact that people are simply more willing to engage with fun and fast paced content and TikTok makes it seamless to do just that.

With all of that considered, it’s no surprise that businesses of all sizes are taking their marketing efforts to TikTok.

What About Casual Users?

Firstly let’s get an idea of who the average TikTok user is.

The largest demographic of TikTok users at 34%, are in the 16-24 age group with the majority being female. 25-34 year olds take second place with 32%. 

With that in mind, we can start to understand why TikTok is so popular. Firstly, the content is short form, meaning it can be consumed anytime and does not require much focus. There is content on the platform that covers many of the topics that younger audiences tend to be interested in such as pop culture, gaming, fashion and movies. Moreover, the audience TikTok mostly targets are the same age group that spend the most time on the internet, and more specifically using social media.

It is designed to be a light hearted pass time and serves that purpose so excellently because of one key thing… The “For You” page.

The ‘For You’ page on TikTok is the first thing you will land on when opening the app, and the content displayed is personalised to every individual based on previous user interactions, likes, shares, comments and time spent watching different types of content.

Compare this to Instagram, when you open the app, you will land on the ‘Following’ page and not the ‘Explore’ page.

TikTok has turned this approach on its head by offering users the chance to see interesting content without actually making it a requirement to follow, or be followed by anyone.

They simply use your behaviour patterns within the app,  judge your responsiveness to different content, whether that be music, subject matter or video length and location, to determine what type of content you should be served.

It is this personalised, unlimited scroll feed that keeps users hooked, based on what TikTok learns about us through our use, it is able to serve up endless relevant content to every user.


Although in terms of algorithms and digital real estate, TikTok really has raised the bar, just like everything else on the internet, it isn’t without its critics.

There are those that say that it is intentionally, and dangerously addictive. The ‘For You’ page has been compared to a slot machine, where every time a user scrolls onto something they enjoy, the rush of endorphins is the same experienced by a gambler.

TikTok’s snappy format has also been linked with shortening the attention span of young people.

And some questioned just how extensive and potentially privacy breaching its ‘Terms of Use’ actually are. 

Love it or hate it though, TikTok’s unprecedented rise has certainly caused a stir, both with users, and with other social media platforms. Most of which have tried to adopt their own version of short form content, Youtube Shorts and Instagram Reels for example.

TikTok is proving to be a mainstay on the social media platform podium, which is certainly no easy feat given the previous stronghold on the market that the big three have previously enjoyed.

For now, all we can do is sit back and watch how this battle of social media giants plays out.

Group of friends interacting on social media