US Consumers Are Flocking to TikTok

The short-video app added 12 million unique visitors in March, up nearly 50% since January

TikTok is experiencing a substantial boost during the coronavirus pandemic. It added more than 12 million US unique visitors in March, reaching 52.2 million, according to data provided to us by Comscore. Between January and March, its US unique visitor count rose 48.3%.

Comscore’s figures include desktop visitors ages 2 and up and mobile visitors ages 18 and up. The figures also cover TikTok’s app, mobile website and desktop website. For the app alone, unique visitors rose 30.1% from January to March, to 28.8 million.

TikTok has been on a growth spurt for several months, even before the pandemic. As of October 2019, the app and websites combined had 27.0 million unique visitors, with the app alone accounting for 18.6 million. But the month-to-month growth between February and March was particularly notable in comparison with previous monthly gains.

Research by CivicScience also shows strong growth for TikTok. Among US respondents ages 13 to 35, 27% said they used the app in April 2020, up from 19% in January.

Another highlight is the huge amount of time spent on TikTok. US visitors to the app spent an average of 858 minutes (14 hours, 18 minutes) on it in March this year, according to Comscore. That was up 26.2% over January 2020 and 93.7% since October 2019.

Average time spent per visitor for the app and websites combined was 476 minutes (nearly 8 hours) for the month of March. That marked a 10.8% increase over January and a 55.6% increase since October. By comparison, US visitors to Instagram spent an average of 319.5 minutes (roughly 5 hours) on the app and websites combined in March.

What’s driving TikTok’s recent increases in visitors and time spent? There are three factors:

  • Teens and young adults spending more time at home. With schools and colleges shut down, students have more time to spend on apps, and short-video apps in particular are benefiting. The Kantar "COVID-19 Barometer"—a global study of consumer attitudes and media behaviors—found that from mid-March to mid-April 2020, usage of TikTok was up 33% for Gen Z respondents and 27% for millennials.
  • Broad distribution of TikTok videos. TikTok videos can easily be shared to other websites and apps, such as Twitter or Instagram. That drives brand awareness and traffic back to TikTok. Since there’s no need to create an account or log in to view a video, the number of visitors can easily add up.
  • Live streaming. TikTok has started putting more muscle into its live stream capabilities; in late March, it introduced #HappyAtHome: LIVE!, a nightly (Monday to Friday) series available only on the app. In its first week, the programming featured creators, actors, musicians and others. More recently, the content was prom-inspired. Live streams have the potential to greatly increase time spent on social platforms.

Per our February 2020 forecast, we estimated that TikTok would have 45.4 million monthly US users in 2020, up 21.9% from last year. Our forecast includes only internet users who access their own TikTok account, which was a smaller number than the unique visitor figures Comscore provided.

Furthermore, the gains in usage may help drive more advertisers to experiment with TikTok. As a relatively new ad platform, it hasn’t yet emerged as an always-on media channel for most marketers. But TikTok believes that its mix of fun, humorous videos can be a welcome respite from the relentless news cycle surrounding the coronavirus.

“TikTok has always been a place where people can be their authentic selves,” said Katie Puris, managing director and global head of business marketing at TikTok. “Brands have helped people stay safe by communicating ways to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 in fun and viral ways, allowing them to join in on some lighthearted fun.”

Companies are also using TikTok to do cause marketing. In April, Mondelez International’s Oreo brand launched a hashtag challenge campaign, #CookieWithACause, asking TikTok users to place a cookie on their forehead and then creatively demonstrate how they get it to their mouth. As part of the campaign, Oreo said it would make a donation to the charitable organization Save the Children after 1 million challenge videos were uploaded.

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