The world of social media has changed drastically in the last few years, with the rise of TikTok. It’s no secret that more and more people are using the app to share creative content and connect with friends. What may be less known, however, is the extent to which TikTok has become a cultural phenomenon.
TikTok users are part of a distinct subculture that is constantly evolving. By understanding the trends and behaviours of TikTok users, brands can create content that resonates with this audience and builds meaningful connections.
In this article, we’ll explore TikTok subcultures and how companies have shaped their brand strategy around TikTok to great success.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a social media app that allows users to share short videos with friends and followers. The global app was launched in 2018 and quickly became popular, especially among teenagers and young adults. As its reach expanded, it spawned a distinct subculture that has largely been defined by the content shared on TikTok. TikTok’s current user base of roughly 1 billion active monthly users is fourth in the world, after Facebook (2.9 billion), YouTube (2.2 billion), and Instagram (1.4 billion).
Several factors contribute to the popularity of TikTok. First and foremost, the app is fun and easy to use. It’s simple to record a video, add effects and music, and share it with friends. In addition, the app is constantly evolving and introducing new features that appeal to users, such as its “Creator” program, which helps the platform’s influencers monetize their posts.
The COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns that began in early-2020 also helped TikTok become more popular with wider audiences as people turned to the app for entertainment and a sense of community.
The sense of isolation during the pandemic drove many TikTok users to group together into different subcultures. Through the use of hashtags, users were able to seek out content and communities that aligned with their interests. Some of the most popular TikTok subcultures include:
- #BookTok- This subculture is devoted to reading and sharing book-related content. Comprised mainly of young women (from teens to twenties), #BookTok has over 16.3 billion views and is one of the most popular subcultures on TikTok.
- #SpiritualTok- With astrology, witchcraft, essential oils, and tarot cards gradually becoming more mainstream, the #SpiritualTok subculture is devoted to sharing content that aligns with these practices.
- #SkinTok- “Skinfluencers”—a mix of aestheticians, dermatologists, and amateur enthusiasts—share tips and advice on skincare, makeup, and hair in this subculture. This subculture is a juggernaut on TikTok, with users treating it as a skincare brand of sorts. The cottagecore makeup trend, for example, emerged from this subculture.
How Can Brands Leverage TikTok Subculture?
Here are just some of the ways that brands use TikTok for marketing purposes:
Prioritize Organic Posts
TikTok users are less likely to be drawn to polished, super-edited content. Rather, they prefer videos that feel genuine and organic. This presents a challenge for brands who want to create content for TikTok, as the editing process can often make videos feel too staged, turning users off.
Unlike Instagram users, who generally prize a painstakingly curated feed, TikTok users are more likely to be drawn to videos that feel authentic, with a nonchalant “dashed off” quality. Shorter videos that feel more unpolished often do better on the app.
Rather than just focusing on selling their products, brands can build a community of followers and fans who go beyond just viewing content—you want fans who comment and share your posts. Engagement from your fan base helps to enhance the credibility of your content and expand the number of people who view it.
One way to begin building this kind of community is by leaning into the communities that have already been built on other platforms. For example, a brand could join an existing book-related hashtag chat on Twitter. This way, users can easily find and follow the brand’s TikTok account.
Always Use Hashtags
TikTok users typically use the “For You” page more to view content. This contrasts with users of other platforms, who usually use the “Following” feed to view content from the users they follow. Because of this, using hashtags to make your videos more visible is critical for brands on TikTok.
To ensure that your brand’s videos are being seen by the right audience and in a relevant context, always include hashtags when you post content.
Users will often search for a specific hashtag before following an account or checking out its feed. If there’s no relevant tag attached to your video it may never even be seen by those who are searching for it.