Quickly rising up Japan social network charts is Tik Tok, a social music video app whose main tune is 15-second videos based around music and comedy. 

In many countries, San Francisco/Shanghai-based Musical.ly dominates the space with 200 million plus users. In Japan, however, people are beginning to use Tik Tok more.

The Chinese app which is owned by ByteDance, the same parent company that owns its bigger brother, Musical.ly, was founded in September 2016 and has become a hit with Japanese high schoolers and younger.

Tik Tok had more than 1 billion daily views as of August 2017 and hit 100 million monthly active users in December 2017 [J], with more than 66 million of them active daily as of February 2018. [CN] It finds itself sitting in the top 20 free apps in the Japan App Store on any given day.

So what is Tik Tok actually like?

Tik Tok Overview

The app's navigation is relatively easy to understand. It's separated into 5 main screens (from L to R):

  • Feed: You can see videos from people you follow, popular videos and new videos
  • Search: Search for users, music, hashtags - see what hashtags are popular, how many uploads there are for them, how previews of videos using them
  • Post: There is an option to record or upload, and choose what song to use
  • Messages: Shows messages, likes, mentions and comments in separate tabs
  • Profile: Your personal profile showcasing your uploaded videos and the videos you've liked
Tik Toker @芋 who has over 30.4k followers. This video has received 3.2k likes.
Tik Toker @せ い は who has over 42.1k followers. This video has received 69.6k likes.

Why is Tik Tok popular?

There are many reasons why Tik Tok is becoming popular. It's short, vertical, mobile-first video that is based around music - all of which are deeply engrained in young peoples' lives.

Giving likes also doesn't require an account, making it easier for users to acquire them.

The music available also matches Japanese more. By contrast, Musical.ly is full of global hits but lacks in J-pop and other Japanese music. 

Due to its growth in popularity, Japanese celebrities like Nozomi Tsuji have opened accounts, and the app has been discussed on TV.

But brands are also helping grow the app's popularity.

What brands are doing on Tik Tok

While brands have yet to really jump in on Tik Tok in Japan, we can take a look at what's going on in China.

Brands in China like adidas NEO (now known as Sport Inspired in the US) and international hot pot chain Kaiteirou Hinabe are just a couple using the app for creating awareness and branding.

Designing custom stickers and face filters a la Snapchat that utilizes the app's dynamic facial recognition feature has helped brands create a buzz. Using influencers also helps brands like these connect with the network's young users, 90% of which are under 35. [CN]

There are also interactive challenges and battles, some of which are in fact started by brands, that inspires users to create videos. Burger King, for example, connected with Tik Tok to promote a limited time burger. The result was a "lick your elbow" challenge, leading users to post videos of them trying to accomplish it.


Tik Tokers at Burger King in China (Image: DigitalIng)

What businesses should keep in mind

Tik Tok is an app that brands should keep their mind on when marketing their products to the younger demographic in Japan. Like all social networks at their early stages, it has yet to become overcrowded.

What this means is that users are looking for people to follow, and interesting accounts get a lot of attention. People and brands that go all in on an account there can get this attention easier than on networks that have become already become flooded.

Reaching out to influencers on Tik Tok, many in Japan who already have hundreds of thousands of followers, may allow brands to reach a lot of eyeballs for a price that's cheaper than others like Instagram.


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