Rise of TikTok: How the app made it big in the eyes of Gen Z’ers

If you’re reading this, you probably remember the good ol’ days of bootcut jeans, high angled selfies, velour tracksuits, and state-of-the-art flip phones. Back when Myspace and Facebook were the trendy new upbringings, paving the way for what was about to be a massive social media breakthrough.

In more recent years, TikTok has been the gateway to all sorts of viral sensations, life hacks, trends, dances. You name it, TikTok users have done it. The younger generation has adapted to a new world of technology and social media sites, as we’ve come to realize the major impact Gen Z has on the uprising of social media.

As a Gen Z student and media user myself, I write this article from my perspective and experiences that I share with my Gen Z peers. Join me as I provide insight as to what exactly this platform is, its rise through the pandemic, its foothold on the Gen Z audience, and tips for how you can utilize this app to reach the Gen Z population.

TikTok at a Glance

For those who don’t know, TikTok originally emerged from Music.ly, a music-centered lip-synching app that gave users the ability to share and create short clips. The basic makeup of Music.ly carried on through the buildup of TikTok and became the first network of its kind, where creating videos of any type become easier than ever with the help of the app’s content creation tools. This generated substantial popularity with users, especially young teens, as they took part in becoming self-taught videographers.

The transition from Music.ly to TikTok made it one of the most dominant media sites, as it quickly became the new way of keeping in touch with all things trendy and relevant. Logistically speaking, the structure of the app is quite simple. You start with one video, you like the video, and BAM your five minutes of screen time soon turn into five hours as you scroll through a series of never-ending videos designed to directly appeal to your interests and preferences. In short, the app becomes familiar with you by learning your interests, and we can thank this unique feature of the algorithm for TikTok’s mass appeal.

The TikTok Covid-19 Experience

As we all know, the Covid-19 pandemic came with unexpected circumstances, forcing us to adapt to a new way of living. We stayed in our homes and isolated ourselves from the masses. With an overload of banana bread baking and home improvement projects, many quickly shifted their attention to other forms of quick, easily accessible entertainment.

TikToks’ spike in popularity occurred simultaneously with the pandemic, as many latched on to the app for all their cooking, DIY, and educational needs. Most students like myself spent the majority of our 2020 Summer vacation in our rooms, not only creating TikTok videos but learning useful facets of pop culture through engagement with the platform.

How TikTok affects Gen Z today

I’ve experienced firsthand the growing effects these dances, life hacks, and insights have had on myself and other Gen Z TikTok users. It doesn’t matter how far-fetched the content is, if it has my attention within the first two seconds, I’ll either stay and watch or mindlessly scroll until I’m finally intrigued by something else. The same holds for Gen Z content creators. There’s pressure for us as a generation to create the next viral sensation and increase the number of people that view and like the content we put out.

The end goal you ask? It varies. It’s more about the opportunities that arise from creating these videos that weigh heavy on the minds of Gen Z as we’re shifting our focus and energy toward creating content that leaves lasting impressions on new and existing users.

Tips on how you can use TikTok to target the Gen Z audience…

 1. Don’t make Tik Toks that blatantly promote a product or service

If there’s one thing we all despise it’s being in the full swing of a video and getting hit with an ad that no one asked for. The same is true on TikTok! Gen Z’ers aren’t on TikTok to be amused by a product, so smart brands will consider how their product is being presented and by who.

Instagram, for example, is losing favor with Gen Z, in part because of how inundated the app has become with ads. The only downside is that these ads seem to be heavily pushing products, which isn’t appealing to users. There’s a casual appeal to TikTok that has given it the advantage here and has helped with its rise. The simpler, funnier, and more interesting a video is, the better your chances are for the young-ins to stick around.

There’s no instruction guide on how to make the perfect TikTok, but I would advise you to stay in the loop and take advantage of relevant trends, tutorials, and reenactments that you could somehow integrate and make your own depending on what product or services you’re trying to deliver.

2. Sometimes it’s best if you leave the content making to us

Relatability within any sense is huge, to say the least, predominately among Gen Z. The same applies to what your average Gen Z’er likes to see on their For You Page (FYP). FYP’s contain a series of never-ending, curated TikTok videos that the app selects based on your existing interests and videos you’ve liked (or paid attention to) in the past. A lot of what you see on a person’s FYP is a reflection of who that user is.

For example, a college student who loves fashion and exercising will likely be shown content from a student TikTok’er who promotes health and wellness and posts periodic clothing hauls as compared to a student who holds interest in other categories like sports or personal finance.

One of the beautiful things TikTok provides users is the ability to go viral without requiring a large following. It doesn’t matter how many followers a TikTok user has, so long as they create good content for the right audience.

Given this context, TikTok presents brands with the perfect opportunity to hire students to share relatable content on behalf of your brand to their like-minded peers. You might consider curating a student internship role, allowing that student to create TikTok videos that attract other students or the specific demographic you’re trying to reach rather than traditional ad style content or large-scale influencers.

Now that you know the inside scoop on the rise of TikTok among Gen Z’ers, go forth and take matters into your own hands! Expand your brand or company by catering your content to be more Gen Z friendly. If you find yourself still needing further insight or assistance on how to reach students or understanding your college audience, head on over to our website and find out more about all the college marketing services we offer.