The Youth Lab


TikTok generated "the most downloads for any app ever in a quarter" in Q1 2020.

This 52INSIGHTS explores the latest TikTok evolutions and how Covid-19 has helped the app refine its voice and appeal.


  1. Social media use is up across the board (with the biggest increase in usage in the 18-34 year old age bracket), but TikTok has grown substantially amid this coronavirus pandemic. It hit 2 billion downloads in March 2020 where the app saw a 27% increase in the first 23 days of March compared to February with 6.2 million downloads. In Ireland, TikTok account ownership stands at 6% but 43% of account owners use it daily. This represents over 90,000 Irish adults aged 15+ (as of 2019).

“TikTok beat records for mobile downloads, according to the app analytics firm Sensor Tower, which found that in the first quarter of 2020, the platform “generated the most downloads for any app ever in a quarter,” with more than 315 million installs globally across the App Store and Google Play.” Adweek

2. Critical mass is starting to pour in. TikTok has predominantly been used by teens, but its user base is expanding rapidly. There are a growing number of 24+ year olds, as millennials and older audiences are getting in on the fun.

    3. Young people who are missing out on experiences are using TikTok to create positive content moments. It has evolved as an empathetic brand from a youth perspective - a place to mark missed proms and graduations through the virtual content. The hashtag #happyathome has seen more than 16.7 billion views.

    "And with all of the negative news that people are hearing on a daily basis from other media, TikTok is something different, and I think that people need that right now." Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer

    4. TikTok has its own subcultural codes - the joke is not always accessible to all. But it’s embedded in the DNA of internet culture.

    “It’s sort of about finding the template, but pushing the meme as far as it will go, making it weirder and weirder, until it gets to a point where it doesn’t make sense unless you’ve seen everything else before...It spirals down into something else… It’s the meme culture of Gen Z. There’s so much background to memes. You need to have lived through them.” TickTocker John Palmer

    On Instagram, we are primped and preening, on Twitter, loudmouthed and strident, but on TikTok, we can just be weird.” - The Guardian

    5. The app is fuelling authentic creativity through connection. TikTok members are 1.35 times the global average to say meeting new people and making new connections is an important reason for them using the internet.

      “Personally I love the creative ownership element of TikTok. It allows everyone to be a creator. I love how it's participatory art - people are involving others and trends are born from people having fun. It's very inclusive, whether as a creator or a spectator. Humour and creativity is at the forefront.” Siobhan, Social and Digital Innovation Team, Thinkhouse

      6. Brands are getting on board, seeing it as a critical channel for communicating to a growing audience in these times, while young creators are getting more organised.

        Some teens are thriving in lockdown, making the most of the increased online traffic on platforms like TikTok, to grow their following and gain clout (52% of TikTok users can be categorized as status seekers, 1.3 times the global average). The rise of collab houses like Hype House (LA) isn't new, but the pandemic has given young ambitious creators an even more captive audience. For the most part the (shared) home is where those at the top of the TikTok game had planned to work anyway. TikTok teens quarantine bubbles formed in places like Hype House are serving up much-needed content for the rest of the world.

        7. #blacklivesmatter has 589.3 million views and counting on TikTok. As George Floyd protests continue in the US, some US-based TikTok users are jumping to Twitter to highlight that the platform has blocked hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd. The app has been similarly criticized in the past for having restricted LGBT content.

          8. Users are spending, on average, 52 minutes a day on the app. That’s a lot of screen time.


          TikTok, for now, seems to be one of the most positive places in the social media world. While it’s a space that optimises the opportunity to be silly, young people are also encouraging peer support and collaboration on this platform. Spend some time on the app and see for yourself!

          TikTok is not all dance challenges. All brands can find a place on TikTok - there are a variety of categories of activity to establish or find your niche in... all you need is the creativity to get stuck in. Young people themselves are collaborating more with brands on the platform.

          See also


          This 52INSIGHTS delves into the world of social media platform TikTok. It is brought to you by Katie, a 16year-old student and TikTok user, part...