Let’s Talk About TikTok

How was this app able to grow so quickly in such a short amount of time?
How was this app able to grow so quickly in such a short amount of time?

It seems like that in the past year, everyone has been talking about TikTok. In fact, TikTok is one of the few companies that has grown like crazy during the COVID-19 pandemic, considering that it was downloaded over 351 million times in the first quarter of 2020 – the largest number of downloads for an app ever; well, in a single quarter, at least.

Why is this the case? There are a few things to consider, but first, let’s talk about what the heck this app even is:

So, What is TikTok?

TikTok, to put it simply, is a short form video mobile app. What does that mean? Users can share 15 second long videos on TikTok’s mobile app.

TikTok is owned by a private Chinese company called ByteDance. ByteDance launched Douyin in 2016 which is the Chinese version of TikTok – meaning that it complies with China’s strict censorship laws. When ByteDance wanted to expand Douyin outside of China, they created a new product called TikTok. At the same time as ByteDance was launching TikTok, Musical.ly was blowing up in the U.S. It had over 200 million users! 

Back up…what’s Musical.ly? It was a popular app, also based in China, that allowed users to share 15 second videos of themselves lip-syncing. In order to successfully grow TikTok in the United States, ByteDance acquired Musical.ly in 2017 for one billion dollars. A year later, all Musical.ly accounts were merged into TikTok and the former was shut down. 

Since the acquisition of Musical.ly, TikTok has experienced exponential growth:

  • TikTok has been downloaded more than two billion times on both iOS and Android devices in 150 markets. 
  • According to CNBC, TikTok and Douyin have 800 million monthly active users, more than Snapchat or Twitter! 
  • According to Forbes, there are 60 million monthly active users of TikTok in the US who spend roughly 45 minutes every day using TikTok. 
  • Nearly half of TikTok’s users (40%) are between the ages of 16 and 24 (the tail end of the millennial generation + Gen Z) – which means there is room for even more growth!
  • TikTok is valued at nearly $100 billion dollars.

Why is It So Popular?

The billion dollar question is why is TikTok so popular. They have done a lot of subtle yet strategic things that made them takeoff like a rocketship. TikTok’s user experience is phenomenal. It is completely different then all other traditional social platforms. 

Now this may not sound that big, but let me explain why:


Similar to how you can spend hours watching videos here on YouTube, TikTok has employed technology that makes the app really hard to put down. For example, when you open TikTok instead of seeing a feed of people you follow like on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram you’ll see a page called “For You” with videos picked for you based on TikTok’s algorithm. Download TikTok and take a look – it is very addictive. In fact, you don’t even have to login to view For You. No other social platform other than YouTube let’s you do this. Plus TikTok allows you to share its content very easily across social platforms.

Speaking of addictability, remember Vine? It was an app with a similar concept: short-form videos that could keep someone distracted for several minutes, if not hours. After its shutdown in 2017, TikTok was also able to build upon the success of Vine and ultimately take its place. 

The Current Generation

TikTok can trace its growth to the increasing use of their app by celebrities and influencers who can create challenges that encourage users to make their own videos. TikTok is fun and great for collaboration – in fact many of the TikTok stars are duos. Gen Z, which is their target audience, really like doing things with their friends which helps explain why TikTok has grown like wildfire. 

And why is TikTok growing now? Even during the COVID-19 pandemic? Their target audience, Gen Z, has been home from school for several months and has more time than ever to spend on apps and it allows them to easily connect and collaborate with their friends. TikTok’s platform has continued to evolve over the past few years – bringing with it more and more new users. For example, TikTok started as a lip-syncing app, evolved into a dancing app, and now is even tackling issues of social justice. 


As you can see TikTok has obtained incredible growth in such a short period of time.

Perhaps this is solely due to the pandemic.

Or, maybe, just maybe, it was meant to blow up at one point or another regardless of what else was going on in the world.

Thanks for reading,

Deepak Devjani