Marketing on TikTok

Separating Fact and Fiction About This Buzzy Short-Video App

Executive Summary

There’s no question TikTok is enjoying a lot of buzz right now. But there are a lot of uncertainties about how many people use the short-video app, what advertisers can do with it, and what the opportunities and risks are.

How many people use TikTok and its Chinese version, Douyin?

TikTok and Douyin had 625 million smartphone monthly active users (MAUs) worldwide in August 2019, according to App Annie. A leaked pitch deck from TikTok puts the global user base even higher, however, at 800 million as of June 2019. The majority are in China, where Douyin had 500 million MAUs as of January.

Where is TikTok most popular?

India is the largest market, with 120 million MAUs in June 2019. The app is much smaller in the US, with 30 million MAUs in Q2 2019. It isn’t widely used in Europe or Latin America yet.

How are marketers using TikTok?

Businesses targeting the youth audience or that operate in the entertainment or consumer packaged goods (CPG) categories are the most active. Partnering with creators is a common activity. Some marketers have their own accounts, but the app’s unique tone and aesthetic make it challenging to develop appropriate content.

What ad formats are available on TikTok?

They include sponsored hashtag challenges, homepage takeovers and in-feed video ads. TikTok also has a third-party mobile ad network in some markets. Early advertisers have seen strong engagement from users, likely due to first-mover advantage.

What are the challenges and concerns for TikTok?

There are many, and they are wide-ranging. Because it is a Chinese-owned app, TikTok is facing questions about censorship and data privacy. Brand safety is another concern. And the app may struggle to keep users in the coming year if Instagram or Facebook start to offer similar features.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report discusses the growth of TikTok around the world and what marketers should know about the Chinese-owned short-video app.

KEY STAT: In a September 2019 survey of US teens by YouGov, 2% said TikTok was the social platform they used most often.

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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. TikTok in a Minute: Why It’s Getting All the Buzz
  3. Who’s Using TikTok?
  4. What Makes TikTok Tick as a Marketing Vehicle?
  1. How Is Advertising on TikTok Evolving?
  2. Advice and Best Practices for Using TikTok
  3. Key Takeaways
  4. eMarketer Interviews
  1. Read Next
  2. Sources
  3. Media Gallery

Charts in This Report

Interviewed for This Report

Emily Anthony
Senior Director, Media Services
Interviewed September 19, 2019
Daryl Butler
Head of Marketing, US Consumer Personal Systems
Interviewed September 24, 2019
Dan Calladine
Carat Global
Head of Media Futures
Interviewed September 11, 2019
Liz Cole
Digitas North America
Vice President and Group Director, Social Strategy
Interviewed September 12, 2019
Alvin Foo
Reprise China
Managing Director
Interviewed September 16, 2019
Kory Marchisotto
e.l.f. Cosmetics
Interviewed October 3, 2019
Noah Mallin
Wavemaker US
Head of Content and Experience
Interviewed September 9, 2019
Simona Marmina
Senior Director, Paid Social
Interviewed September 12, 2019
Janica McCool
Region Lead, Americas Social Marketing
Interviewed September 24, 2019
Haley Paas
Carat USA
Senior Vice President, Head of Strategy and Insights
Interviewed September 10, 2019
Juhi Pikale
TechStyle Fashion Group
Senior Manager, Paid Social
Interviewed October 1, 2019
Caroline Smith
Seeker Media
General Manager, Chief Content Officer
Interviewed September 25, 2019
Casey Smith
Social Media Manager, Influencer and Publisher Marketing
Interviewed September 26, 2019
Matt Steele
San Diego Zoo Global
Social Media Supervisor
Interviewed September 27, 2019
Arman Walia
Complex Networks
Director, Social Media
Interviewed September 18, 2019
Alex Weinstein
Senior Vice President, Growth Marketing
Interviewed September 20, 2019
Alysha Yuille
Carat USA
Vice President, Content
Interviewed September 10, 2019
Patrick Basler
Genius Media Group
Associate Social Editor
Interviewed October 16, 2019
Teresa Fardella
Genius Media Group
Head of Social Media
Interviewed September 16, 2019

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Debra Aho Williamson


Alina Brentnall
Researcher, Europe
Matteo Ceurvels
Research Analyst
Man-Chung Cheung
Research Analyst
Blake Droesch
Junior Analyst
Jasmine Enberg
Senior Analyst
Jeane Han
Senior Researcher
Jennifer Pearson
VP, Research
Chuck Rawlings
Senior Researcher
Yoram Wurmser
Principal Analyst

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