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By Lorna Moss, Strategy Director TikTok: The New Epicentre of Gen Z Culture?


It’s easy to assume Tik Tok is all about dancing and the likes. But beneath the surface is an experience that taps into core needs we see Gen Z craving from brands – imperfection, creativity and expression. The antithesis to the now polished, aesthetic driven world of other platforms. Its grip on Gen Z has only just begun.

Found yourself making Kombucha Girl’s face on first hearing about TikTok? Very confused….but also intrigued?

Kombucha Girl

Wait, what is TikTok? And who is Kombucha Girl?

In its short 2 year lifespan, TikTok has taken over. With over 500 million active users worldwide, it was the third most downloaded app in 2019. Move over Snapchat and Instagram, there is a new social media app in town capturing the hearts, minds, and ALL of the daily bitesize media moments of Gen Z.

We talk a lot about brands competing for one thing when it comes to Gen Z. Time. And TikTok is taking a lot of it. In fact TikTok claims the average user session lasts about 9 minutes, and users open the app 8 times a day. That’s almost 2 episodes of Riverdale, and 3 games of Fortnite! You get the jist.

Don’t believe us? Even Instagram and YouTube influencers are migrating to reach the billions of users now hooked on its content. (See David Dobrik break world records here!)

TikTok has even been credited for fuelling the viral success of new songs in the UK and US charts, with popular artists launching their songs on the app (like Camilla Cabello’s ‘My Oh My’). It’s the new news capital.

So why the appeal?

As we start to see energy shifting away from the polished, best presented version of yourself, photos and feeds (even Insta is now all about the Finsta!), TikTok provides a remedy. Championing imperfection, humor, all in a rough cut candid way. The motto – imperfection is the new perfection.

Now this is not to say it’s without its flaws, with both US and UK investigating data use and its parent company Bytedance, but exploring its appeal with Gen Z highlights key values we at TPL continue to talk about when it comes to engaging this emerging generation. And while we don’t know how long the hype will last, it’s definitely worth paying attention to TikTok in 2020.

5 Reasons Gen Z Love TikTok

1) At its core, it’s all about creativity

Gen Z are seeking limitless expressive and creative experiences. And TikTok does just that.

It gives users total freedom to create content however they want and everyone has the same tools at their disposal. No expensive cameras or editing software necessary.

As TikTok’s tagline says, ‘Make every second count’. Users only have 15 seconds (the most popular length of video) and your success comes from being able to tell an interesting / funny / unique story in the shortest possible time. And everyone is invited to try.

2) It doesn’t take itself too seriously

In fact, the more imperfect the better.

As Anna O’Brien, a TikTok creator, describes –
Viewers and creators share a camaraderie which is connected via imperfection. The new generation has created a new system wherein the content creators are rewarded for their imperfections as we are more relatable and real that way.
[TikTok, at the 66th edition of Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity #Nofilter]

TikTok isn’t about following friends and having networks of people you know. There isn’t the pressure for Gen Z to put themselves out there amongst IRL friends. As a result you can be more self deprecating, more absurd, and truly let your guard down. Indeed, the more you do to break the mold, the more viral your content will be.

3) It’s all about the LOLs

The majority of content is centred around humor. The more absurd and silly, the better. For Gen Z this is the perfect antidote to their over-scheduled, pressured days. TikTok has made escaping the mundane even easier with their own YouTube channel celebrating the daily weird and wonderful LOLs.

4) It embraces the niche

TikTok celebrates a hyper-diversity of interests and hobbies.

The more niche the humor and content, the more likely you are to succeed. And there is everything from Harry Potter, cosplay, social justice, politics, and even biochemistry.

As Andrea Okeke, a TikTok creator, describes –
“It’s an open platform where no one puts you in a particular box. In fact, the box just doesn’t exist”

For the LGBTQ+ community, TikTok has also been cited as a new haven for self-exploration and autonomy. In a recent article, young people have cited TikTok as the space where they feel they can be their most authentic selves.

Why? No parents.
“TikTok is my favorite platform because my parents don’t know how to use it. On Instagram, they follow me. But TikTok feels like my place. In even just one scroll, I can easily scroll through so many amazing and dynamic queer stories. It inspires me.”

5) It prioritizes content over following

The potential for TikTok engagement doesn’t hinge on how many followers you have. Anyone and everyone can see it, like it, share it.

Woah – that might sound scary right?

Not really, because validation on TikTok comes from your creative output, not aesthetics. The potential to go viral is anyone’s for the taking, regardless of who you are and what you look like.

The magic of TikTok is the creative possibilities it opens up to users. And you can’t really enjoy the same freedom anywhere else…yet.

There are levels and layers to how you create your story, and endless entertainment to engage with. For everyone.

Its innate autonomy for self-expression, diversity of content, and constant push of what is possible can make competing social media experiences feel constrictive in comparison.

What will 2020 bring for TikTok? Stay tuned.

To chat more about all things Gen Z, drop Lorna a line: