What Is TikTok's Shelf Life, Considering Vine Withered And Died?
TikTok, the entertaining short-form video app, grew massively last year and is well-positioned for a strong 2020. But it's hard not to compare and contrast that with Vine, the other short-form video app that Twitter purchased in 2012, only to shut down a few years later.
The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall
That such a rapid flameout could happen to TikTok is easier to imagine having seen it happen to Vine. Vine appealed to young people, many of whom rapidly created a following on this new platform. In the same way, TikTok is dominated by young people, and so many new celebrities have been created on the platform that some of them even live together in mansions throughout Los Angeles.
When you're on-trend and appeal to notoriously fickle teens and young adults, the risks to long-term success are significant. Witness retailer Forever 21's meteoric rise followed by Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. But that's too broad a brush. Here are four reasons that TikTok could crash and four reasons why TikTok could thrive. Take a look and then make your own prediction.
Why TikTok Could Crash And Burn
Formulaic Content Won't Amuse For Long
Spend a lot of time on TikTok and you start to see a pattern to the videos. While some are fantastically clever/musical/amusing, many others fall short. On the positive side, it's very easy to flip to the next video, but once users start to feel like they're not seeing truly new material often enough, the dropoff could be rapid.
Copyright Claims Could Kill The Fun
One of the nice parts of TikTok is that audio from one creation can be "remixed" into another creation quickly and easily. You see a lot of people lip-syncing songs, acting out scenes and sketches from shows, comedians, etc. When it comes directly from an artist's TikTok, copyright claims won't be a problem as the artist has control over sharing, but if people illegally use a lot of copyrighted material and there's money to be had, look for the takedown notices to show up. Music labels could come in looking for big dollars as well.
Brands Might Not Support It Or Support It Too Much
TikTok could die from lack of financial support if advertisers stay away. That's unlikely given the current level of brand interest, but if brand safety becomes an issue, as it did briefly on YouTube, and the platform doesn't reply quickly, dollars could stop. Or Chinese trade issues could keep brands away. More likely, though, brands will throw a lot of money into TikTok to reach this coveted demographic, and TikTok plans to unveil a self-service ad platform this year. Too many ads could hurt user growth by damaging the experience.
Data Security And Chinese Ownership Could Rattle Users
U.S. military personnel already can't use TikTok because it's owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance. New security flaws are being revealed as well. Continued tension in U.S.-China relations could lead to penalties or banning of the app in the U.S. potentially.
Why TikTok Could Thrive And Change Social Media
Easy To Try
TikTok works "out of the box" even if you never sign up or follow another account. It doesn't demand a lot of effort and welcomes lurkers just as much as content creators. That frictionless start is a good way of bringing in new users at a time when nobody is looking for "another Facebook." While you can share privately with friends, a lot of the consumption seems to be more about taking an entertainment break by watching public videos that are trending after gaining huge volumes of views.
More Modern TV Than Social Network
The gap between creators and consumers is wider on TikTok than on any other platform. As the algorithms reward creativity, creators are quickly becoming minor celebrities. In fact, 19 of them are living in Hype House, a mansion in Los Angeles solely for TikTok creators. It consistently reminds me of a post-television American's Funniest Home Videos, and it's purpose-built for modern, snackable entertainment.
Evolving Constantly, A La Snapchat
TikTok is backed by Chinese powerhouse ByteDance, and they've shown themselves willing to create a steady stream of effects that users can apply to their videos. While duets were a game-changer, the new effects bring in users regularly who want to try new things, just as the lenses do for Snapchat.
Easy To Share
One thing TikTok's done well from the beginning is making it easy for users to share TikTok videos to other platforms. You can share videos you made, or, if the creator allows it, others' videos as well on other social networks. This allows users of all the other social channels to effectively market for TikTok to their friends and followers, in part contributing to its 1.5 billion downloads.
What's Your Prediction?
Which is the more likely path in 2020 for TikTok? Barring any security or international relations issue between the U.S. and China, I think TikTok will continue to grow rapidly this year. After all, as of July 2019, only 6% of TikTok users were from North America. There's a lot of room for expansion yet in this country. While it's dominated currently by younger audiences, the ability to simply watch will soon likely bring in an older demographic as well, which in turn will increase brands' desire to reward the company through advertising dollars.
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This article originally appears on Forbes.com.