The pandemic has created profound social, economic and technological changes. While some of the trends that emerged were short-lived, bottlenecks and social distancing acted as a catalyst to accelerate behaviours that were already underway. The pandemic coincided with the market emergence of the social network TikTok, which substantially changed consumers’ view of many aspects of our lives, from entertainment to educational elements.
The changes brought about by the pandemic coincide with the coming of age of a controversial generation, Gen Z, which shares with the previous generation the openness and need for freedom combined with digital. It is clear that much of these changes are here to stay, generated and carried forward by a new generation of consumers. What does the emergence of the TikTok network and its success in the market tell us about the consumption habits of digital youth, or Gen Z for short?
TikTok is still undiscovered territory for most people over the age of 25, but extremely popular with Gen Z. TikTok is a look at what it means to grow up in today’s hyper-connected world. The vast majority of Facebook users today are in their 30s and 40s, while Instagram is more popular for users in their 20s and 40s, TikTok is becoming the platform for the younger generation. Over 60% of TikTok users are made up of Generation Z, which refers to users born after 1996.2 Generation Z is one of the most diverse generations to date, with high levels of education, digital nativism, social and cultural awareness, and a strong inclination to be more expressive.
What this tells us about the world today, in my view 3 important directions stand out, which can benefit brands and marketers alike.
1. Video content, engaging, dynamic, energetic – Gen.Z specific
First of all, the popularity of the platform, with its platform features, embodies a trend that has long been noted and discussed, namely the future of video content. For years, attention has been drawn to the low interest of content consumers in written content, such as articles or case studies. Those days of reading the newspaper for the day’s news, whether physical or digital, remain specific to generations X and Y. What makes TipTok obvious is the rise of interest in video content, whether we’re talking about video content dedicated to entertainment, educational video content or informal courses.
First and foremost, the popularity of the platform, through the platform’s features, embodies a trend that has long been noted and talked about, namely the future of video content. For years, attention has been drawn to the low interest of content consumers in written content such as articles or case studies. Those days of reading the newspaper for the day’s news, whether physical or digital, remain specific to generations X and Y. What makes TipTok obvious is the rise of interest in video content, whether we’re talking about video content dedicated to entertainment, educational video content or informal courses.
What this says about digital experience and marketing strategies. If it was considered until recently that Generation Z, the digital natives, are immune to marketing strategies and don’t like to be marketed to, TikTok has shown that the way content is created and the emotion it conveys are key to attracting the interest of Generation Z and beyond. They already know the old tactics, and these don’t attract their interest. They are attracted to anything that brings innovation and novelty in approach, whether we are talking about marketing or advertising, such as authentic, creative, interactive and dynamic videos. That’s exactly what attracts them to TikTok. TikTok videos are usually characterized as raw, high-energy and engaging because TikTok offers advanced yet easy-to-use tools for users to incorporate music and visual effects on videos. This makes content in TikTok more engaging, dynamic and contrasts the monotonous and polished feed of Instagram. This is why expressive Gen Z users of TikTok tend to have significantly higher engagement rates compared to users on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
2. The need for diversity, acceptance and understanding.
Generation Z, the digital natives, populated TikTok out of their need for diversity, acceptance and understanding of other cultures. A study by McKinsey & Company shows that one of the defining characteristics of Generation Z is the expressiveness of individual truth. Across different socio-economic backgrounds, members of this generation value individual identities, reject stereotypes and view non-expressiveness with pragmatism. They are more open to change and fluidity and are willing to connect with people from different groups on similar causes and interests. For them, borders have disappeared and travel is online.
How do these generational characteristics highlighted by the popular network translate? First and foremost by highlighting and growing unique, innovative and personalised and personal brands and brands. The way Generation Z is fueling this growth trend is substantially changing the way industries and companies are looking at their consumers, forcing marketers to find creative, unique and innovative ways to draw attention to their brand and products. Meanwhile, TikTok is thriving with its diverse content and an algorithm that offers personalized selections.
3. The need for free expression, stereotypes and social marginalisation
The importance of social engagement, acceptance, eliminating racism and embracing multiculturalism. These are the values that dominate Generation Z. And TikTok gives them a bridge of expression, the opportunity to be part of the content that is being consumed and created. According to Connor Blakley, a recognized Generation Z marketing consultant:
“Generation Z understands that social media plays an important role and they choose to show what makes them feel best. It’s less about insecurity and more about being a confidence booster.”
Thus we note the 3rd trend of change generated, or rather identified, as a result of the rise in popularity of the social network TikTok, namely, the need for free expression in any form possible or desired. While millennials seem to prefer to consume content, Generation Z prefers to create content.
With this generation, stereotypes will disappear, any form of social marginalisation related to race, gender, sexual orientation or other biological and physiological elements will no longer be accepted. TikTok proves the need and emerging trend of acceptance, free expression of your desires, beliefs and way of being by creating dedicated and tailored content.
At first glance, these are the 3 elements noticed with the growth in popularity and success of TikTok’s app. Indeed the success of this network may be due to several factors, no doubt, but one in particular is the way the app empowers self-expression, this seems like it could be the key element to attract and win over generation Z. The growth of these networks, is not simply a success of one economic agent, but gives us a whole agenda on the behaviour of a new generation of consumers. TikTok, through its content, through the way the platform’s consumers interact, gives us insights into the interests, likes, problems and behavioural characteristics of the next generation of socially aware and digitally savvy users who differ in depth from the habits, inclinations and likes of previous generations.