Over the past year, the global TikTok community has outgrown many of its Gen Z stereotypes.
It has created new genres of entertainment, shared authentic stories that have brought communities together, and even helped other people discover new ideas.
This has prompted brands of all sizes around the world to either create new types of content on TikTok to engage these communities or sponsor TikTokers who can create engaging content for them.
These shifts are documented in TikTok’s What’s Next 2023 Trend Report, the social video platform’s third annual trend forecast.
It’s a resource that can help both digital advertisers and social media marketers understand how consumers’ wants and needs may change in the coming year.
And that should change their digital marketing strategies, both on and off TikTok.
The latest report not only unpacks several long-term TikTok-first cultural forces, from fun to functional, but also illustrates the underlying signals that show how each of these has shaped trends that provide a roadmap for brands to follow on the platform.
Sofia Hernandez, TikTok’s Global Head of Business Marketing, said,
“2022 was the year people realized they didn’t have to live their lives as they always have done – with different points of view and ideas transcending cultures on TikTok.”
“Against the backdrop of the increasing cost of living and its associated challenges, our What’s Next report indicates people will be seeking new ways to achieve success, happiness and wellbeing – and TikTok will be a tool to help them find it.”
I agree, but I would add that people will also watch a lot of YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels next year, for a variety of similar and different reasons.
Three Key Forces Are Reshaping Our Culture
TikTok’s trend report focuses on three key forces that illustrate how TikTok is transforming culture.
Based on its research and the behaviors it has observed on TikTok, the social video platform predicts that these are the relevant signals for each of these forces that reveal emerging behaviors and interests across vertical sectors:
- Providing actionable entertainment.
- Making space for joy.
- Building community ideals.
Providing Actionable Entertainment
Four out of five users say TikTok is very or extremely entertaining, according to TikTok Marketing Science Global Entertaining Ads Study 2022 conducted by Marketcast.
So, it is not surprising to learn that the social video platform’s algorithms curate content based on what TikTok communities find entertaining.
This also means that brands can see incredible business results – if and when their content or advertising delivers messages that are watched and loved as much as other entertainment content is.
Is that even possible? Well, according to the report, e.l.f. Cosmetics was able to provide this type of entertainment to capture the TikTok community’s attention in the U.S.
The brand did this with in-feed advertisements that felt fun, engaging, and native to the TikTok community.
Working with Tinuiti, its agency and TikTok marketing partner, e.l.f Cosmetics doubled its spending month-over-month but was still able to lower its acquisition costs by 56% for its add-to-cart strategy.
For other brands, TikTok’s report indicates that the most effective messages on their social video platform appear to be uplifting, funny, and personalized.
And the social video platform says brands can use editing techniques like adding text overlays or syncing sounds to transitions to hold viewers’ attention and build on the entertainment value of their video content.
Making Space For Joy
Now, social media marketers and digital advertisers know that there is already a ton of self-care advice and related initiatives out there – but people are still burning out.
So, it appears that the TikTok community is seeking meaningful self-care amidst a sea of public health issues, The Great Resignation, and personal burnout.
According to the company’s report, TikTok fosters “endless opportunities to spread joy.”
That’s a good thing, right?
And among TikTok users who took an action “off” the social video platform as a result of what they saw “on” TikTok, 90% said the platform “makes me happy” and “never gets boring,” according to TikTok Marketing Science US TikTok Made Me “Blank” It Research 2022, conducted by MarketCast.
This is also a key insight for brands that are looking to make more meaningful connections with their audiences in 2023.
They will want to align their messaging with the TikTok community’s desire for levity and empower them to make a little more room for joy in their lives.
(Actually, a couple of other surveys spotted a similar trend back in April 2020 and I wrote about this in an article entitled, Consumers Seeking Uplifting YouTube Content During the COVID-19 Pandemic.)
But whether this is a recent trend or a long-term trend, it is now driving:
- The growth of meme culture, which provides a way for people to bond over humor.
- The increase in sharing life hacks and well-being strategies that empower people to make space for themselves whenever they need it.
- The underlying reason why the TikTok community is dedicating more space and time for joy in ways that best suit them.
According to TikTok’s report,
“BMW captured this brilliantly with its drive for creativity on the platform.”
The global automotive brand worked with Henry, a K-Pop musician, and TikTok creator, to create a custom song that used authentic sounds from the BMW eDRIVE, like tapping on the hood and even plugging in the electric charger.
This served as a creative framework for encouraging TikTok users to get silly and have fun making their own content with the music that Henry had created.
And the TikTok community went wild with a cool tune and a blank creative slate.
More than 3,400 Tiktokers made videos for the BMW hashtag challenge, which got over 45 million views and close to 6.3 million engagements.
So, brands and their agencies may want to add creating more TikTok content for their editorial calendars in 2023.
(The alternative, of course, is to identify the right TikTok creators and influencers to work with next year.)
Building Community Ideals
The report also says that TikTok communities are “a cut above the rest” of the social video platforms because they are hyper-niche – and this is what, counter-intuitively, helps them to thrive at scale.
In other words, sharing special-interest instead of general-interest video content helps people bond with each other. From there, they often broaden each other’s horizons.
Now, no matter what anyone claims, TikTok is not a town hall meeting.
(I know this for a fact. Back in 1980, I was elected to Acton’s Select Board and had to present a batch of controversial warrant articles at annual and special Town Meetings over the next three years.)
So, if you are looking for an appropriate metaphor, then think of TikTok as a collection of small clubs, where members can find new ideas on how to explore their passions and live their lives.
According to the report,
“TikTok is 1.8x more likely to introduce people to new topics they didn’t know they liked compared to traditional social platforms.”
(Enquiring minds want to know how the “traditional social platforms” actually scored, and if the comparison was with YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels, or other forms of content.)
According to the report, people use TikTok to begin conversations in their community and discover unique answers that satisfy their curiosity.
People also watch videos on TikTok because it helps individuals from around the world to build a like-minded community that is based on shared ideals and interests, as well as the inspiration that comes from seeing others like themselves.
For example, the report says,
“eBay leaned into this by cultivating a strong following with sneaker-heads as the ultimate destination for buying and selling the coolest shoes.” Now, eBay used Voting Stickers to ask the TikTok community to show some love for their favorite kicks in their annual #SneakerShowdown.”
How did this turn out? Well, 1.2 million users participated in eBay’s #SneakerShowdown and the campaign delivered more than a 54% lift in comment rate. So, I’d say that turned out well.
Oh, and the #SneakerTok community – which generates over 1.1 billion views globally, according to TikTok internal data – is just one example among many that illustrate the value and engagement of niche marketing.
Of course, content creators and influencers play a big role in community-building and pioneering new forms of engaging content.
But, after watching this content, more than two out of five people on TikTok agreed that it made them feel like a part of the brand’s community, according to TikTok Marketing Science Global Creators Drive Commerce Study 2022 conducted by Material.
So, brands and their agencies should consider targeting niches and addressing their special interests to connect with TikTok’s viewers.
In other words, the key to success is market segmentation.
Once a brand understands what a key segment wants and needs, then it can create content, craft advertising, or partner with the right influencers to change hearts, minds, and actions.
However, with Congress about to ban TikTok from U.S. government phones because of national security concerns, it may be good for digital advertisers and social media marketers to have a “Plan B.”
Likely options are YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels.
But it is worth noting that both of these bigger social video platforms launched these alternatives after watching TikTok’s explosive growth.
So, as Damon Runyon once said, “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that is the way to bet.”
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