TikTok has seen a meteoric rise in popularity over the last several years. It’s left many to wonder if the popularity of this social media platform is a trending bubble ready to pop or if TikTok is so engrained in culture at this point that its staying-power is certain. Unfortunately, none of us have crystal balls, so it’s impossible to know the future of the TikTok saga. And, while the internet is rife with speculation about TikTok’s future, there is also a trove of data about TikTok’s download numbers and earnings. To help you make your own assessment of TikTok’s future, below we highlight some of the factors that may affect TikTok’s future prospects.
Before we delve into TikTok’s positive prospects, it’s relevant to note that TikTok has been steeped in very public battles with privacy advocates and law makers. Notably, last year the United States government nearly banned due to claims that the company wasn’t separated enough from the government of China. And, while the US government eventually backed down from their threat to ban usage of the app on US soil, TikTok subsequently became involved in a legal order from the Federal Trade Commission (along with other social media companies) regarding their data collection policices.
It’s also worth noting that the Indian government (whose citizens were once one of the biggest users of TikTok) banned the app along with many other Chinese-based mobile apps after a deadly border dispute with China. Subsequently, an Indian tech company called MX Player released an Indian competitor to TikTok called ‘TakaTak’. So, the numbers we lay out below describing TikTok’s popularity and profitability should be considered in the context that the whims of governments could affect the use of TikTok going forward; it’s just really difficult to say at the moment.
According to the app usage watchdog App Annie, TikTok is the number 1 downloaded mobile app worldwide in Q1 2021. It’s also number 2 worldwide in terms of consumer spending. This is obviously an impressive figure considering that an estimated 56% of consumers under 24 were on the platform in 2020 according to Forbes. And, it’s not just young folks using TikTok anymore. While the platform once was completely dominated by the younger demographic, there has been a swell of people from older demographics getting on the platform. Last year, it was estimated that 19.4% of TikTok users were 40-50+ according to Marketingcharts.
And, this is important to note when considering the staying-power of social media platforms in general. Facebook famously started out only serving college students on their platform, but they’ve diversified their audience age demographics to be relatively uniformly distributed. This has allowed Facebook’s usage to remain seemingly ubiquitous in our culture. Perhaps this is some sort of universal law for social media platform adoption; if it applies to TikTok, expect them to hang around for the foreseeable future.
Another aspect of our bullish stance on TikTok’s future prospects is the sheer number of users they have on their platform and whom they continue to attract. Part of what makes TikTok so popular is the app’s ability to connect users with other like-minded users. By matching users who swipe on various pieces of content with more content they’re likely to enjoy, the platform has enabled content creators to connect with other like-minded people with similar interests in a very granular way.
If you watch a video about tennis shoes for longer than you normally watch other videos, well, TikTok notes this and their algorithm is more likely to give you more tennis shoe content. This not only engages users for longer with the content they want to see; it also allows content makers to get their videos seen by only the folks who are interested in the content they’re making. This makes the processes of looking for what to watch and content creation much more efficient than it might be on other platforms. It also means TikTok is able to do targeted advertising in a very precise manner.
Now, the kicker is that their ability to do this targeting grows as the number of users on their platform grows. This creates a ‘winner take all’ situation where other similar potential competing platforms find it very difficult to compare with TikTok due to the extremely accurate way they can deliver content to their users and the precision with which they can deliver advertising content. This certainly bodes well for TikTok’s future prospects as a widely-used video content platform.
It’s hard to say whether TikTok will continue to grow, if they’ll simply remain as popular as they are now, or if their user base will decline. However, despite the political woes TikTok has had in the past, the app may continue to grow in popularity due to the current widespread usage of the app (and therefore the sheer amount of quality content on the platform), like its cultural ubiquity, and the amount of targeting data they’re amassing to offer an ever-increasing quality of service.