A Publisher's Guide to TikTok


2 min read

TikTok has taken the world by storm in the last two years sending songs to the top of the charts and even sabotaging a Donald Trump rally. But for anyone over the age of 25 TikTok can seem mystifying.

person holding black iphone 5

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social networking app that lets you share short form video recorded from your mobile. The most popular videos feature lip syncing, dancing or comedy skits overlaid with a soundtrack from the app’s sound library. TikTok is a hotbed of trends, memes, viral videos and challenges that influence wider pop culture. It is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance who acquired Musical.ly in 2018 and merged it with their existing app TikTok.

Why should publishers care about it ?

TikTok has 3.7 million users in the UK who are on the app for an average of 41 minutes a day. 41% of its global users are generation Z (ages 16-24) and the gender split is 60% females and 40% males. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to particularly dramatic growth with 115.2 million installations in March 2020 as the world went into lockdown. Incredibly the top 50 influencers on TikTok have more followers than 16% of the world’s population. For publishers this is a chance to reach a younger and highly engaged audience.

How can publishers use TikTok?

Publishers are picking up influencers for book deals and offering advice on how to get TikTok Famous Fast. Charli D’Amelio became the first TikTok star to have more than 100 million followers and her book Essentially Charli was an instant New York Times bestseller. In the UK the British Library has brought forward the publication of a Sea Shanty guide due to a meme that originated on TikTok.

The appeal of TikTok comes from the authenticity of its content and viral success on the app is mostly organic. Publishers therefore need to be careful to understand the culture of TikTok and to participate in the community, not just use it as an advertising channel. BookTok - the corner of TikTok where influencers create funny and fun videos with a bookish edge - is a great place to start.