The Youth Lab


It doesn’t look like everyone’s favourite app TikTok is losing momentum any time soon. It’s predicted that by the end of 2022 they will have 1.8 billion users. For this week's 52INSIGHTS, we’re exploring TikTok’s continued influence on their social media platform rivals, entertainment in general and what that means for brands and businesses. Note: not our first time looking at the channel, and it won’t be the last.


In an attention economy, you want to be where the people are - they’re on TikTok, collectively spending 197.8 million hours in the app. 60% of Gen Z use it with 16% of US teens saying they use it almost constantly, using it more as an entertainment source than a social media app. For Gen Z, Google is no longer the first place to search for something -“If there’s something in the news or happening, I’ll go to TikTok and “google it” there first”, says Keith via The Love Network.

They must be doing something right - every time TikTok introduces a new feature, Meta (Facebook), YouTube and Twitter have been quick to create their own iteration, even Amazon with a shoppable feed. While imitation can be the highest form of flattery, it can feel a bit like that scene in Mean Girls. An internal report from Meta on their short-form video medium, Reels, was leaked and revealed that trying to replicate their rival has not paid off, saying "Creators still think of TikTok as being synonymous with SFV [short-form video] and prioritise it for the broad discoverability it brings them.” The risk with cloning the app can mean losing credibility with younger cohorts, especially if there’s no added value. Youtube Shorts is hoping to keep creators there with a more lucrative revenue stream in monetizing videos. Not to say that this copycat behaviour is exclusive to mimicking TikTok - TikTok itself took inspiration from BeReal with a new feature called TikTok Now, with a user experience that’s all about a real moment.


As TikTok keeps gaining traction within the advertising world, brands are coming to grips with creating content that will deliver success in a new way. TikTok ads have the potential to deliver great ROI for brands, while gathering consistent audience insights that allow for each ad’s targeting to be more precise than the last. Looking comparatively at TikTok ads versus their Instagram counterpart, Reels, the results vary. One comparison found their Instagram Reel ad proved best value, but in the same breath, the whitepaper also mentioned that maybe a completely different piece of creative could have impacted the campaign, after seeing a ripple effect of wider reach on their other organic TikTok content.

THINKHOUSE’s experience has been focused on nailing the creative has proven successful - TikTok content on TikTok outperforms Instagram content on Instagram. In other words - like for like, with all anomalies accounted for, TikTok has been slightly outperforming the META suite of platforms, especially around performance marketing, especially when you do it right. TikTok’s magic is in building brand awareness that is converting consumers in a new way to classic success metrics. The app broke records in Q3 2022 grossing approximately $914.4 million in consumer spending. A spokesperson for TikTok made a statement to Business of Fashion saying “brands that have found success on TikTok are the ones that think beyond traditional, antiquated marketing tactics, and instead make the most of the opportunity to leverage the participatory, engaging, and diverse nature of the TikTok community.”

Why Does Everyone Spend So Much Time On TikTok?

People love to tell me TikTok is a brainwash app and it’s like duhh, but I’m here for a good time not a long time…let me have a little giggle.” @ahyesiamfunny

TikTok is synonymous with being a platform that almost anyone can be a creator on, and can feel a bit like an endlessly entertaining stream of knowledge sharing. It’s influenced politics and is a safe space for sharing tips on climate anxiety. If you ask people why they love (or hate) the app, it tends to come down to three core things - 1. the most entertaining algorithm, 2. niche becoming norm, and 3. anyone can go viral. As users discover content, the algorithm is super quick to learn what you want to see. Scott, from our Love Network said “they’ve perfected supplying me content that I will be interested in without me showing much intent through search or follows.” This in turn can make niche interests feel like the norm. Similarly Marc from our Love Network highlighted, “There's a variety of people on there making their own content regardless of shame and just being themselves, especially the weirder side of TikTok”.

Embrace the weird - anyone for some jewellery made from bacteria? From the creators perspective, TikTok feels more casual and almost anyone can go viral, giving you a moment of fame. Creator @katiefeeney said “whoever gets on a trend first, that’s the content that will scale really well.” Of course, plenty of people find Tiktok’s algorithm creepy, and for those who are endlessly scrolling on TikTok, it isn’t always healthy.


TikTok Is Here To Entertain - For brands there can be limitations with finding success on TikTok, given it is considered more of an entertainment source rather than a social media app. Brands like Frank & Honest are winning by making sure their content is always entertaining. The advice across the board is to ‘make TikToks, not ads’ - join the conversation, the trends etc rather than use it as another place to sell your product.

Frank & Honest’s approach to TikTok is like our approach to coffee - we're not just showing up as another brand. We’re here to deliver the best, from our great-tasting coffee to content that entertains. As we grow on TikTok, we’re finding great success through teaming with content creators, increasing our presence online and prioritising our relevance with trending content - all with a ‘Frank & Honest’ take.Rosemary Walsh, Frank & Honest, Marketing Manager

Take Inspiration From Your Creative Fans - Before showing up on the platform there’s an opportunity to investigate how your brand is being co-opted by TikTok users, so that when you do show up you know how best to plug in. By analysing user-generated content created by fans, THINKHOUSE worked with fan favourite Barry’s Tea to ensure it showed up with relevance.

Integrated Into 360’ Thinking - It’s still early days for TikTok ads, but not one to ignore. Considering TikTok creative as part of a more robust digital marketing funnel across all channels can help with brand awareness. To create a winning launch strategy for Lucozade’s new Alert drink in 2022, THINKHOUSE identified TikTok as the perfect cultural platform to reach young energy-seekers across the UK. Exciting quick-fire content made specifically for TikTok’s 60 second video format was created to test the alertness of the nation.