The world of social media is a constantly changing ecosystem that is at times as unpredictable, shifting, and dynamic as its users. Just as people become accustomed to the current trends, such as the seemingly monopolistic level control held by Facebook (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp) and Google (Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, AdSense), the landscape shifts unexpectedly to accommodate new needs for self-expression, interaction, and engagement.

The Music Industry and Social Media:

The music industry, perhaps more than any other, is nearly always on the cutting edge of the latest apps, social networks, and technological advancements, especially those pertaining to engaging with fans and creating new forms of content. As an industry focused primarily on youth culture, music professionals must always be on the lookout for the latest trends, as that is the only way to ensure engagement from the newest cohort of potential fans and listeners.

Most recently, Beijing-based ByteDance acquired and rebranded the wildly popular social media platform which began as and is now known as TikTok. With over 1 billion downloads worldwide, TikTok was by far one of the most popular apps of 2018 – it clocked in as the #2 most downloaded app on the App Store, and claimed the #1 slot on Google Play.

Why Is TikTok So Popular?

It’s never easy to pinpoint exactly what makes one platform explode with truly viral growth when other similar platforms fail to garner any traction; that being said, the idea behind, as well as the recently rebranded TikTok, is certainly not hard to understand. Similar in concept to the previous short-form video app Vine, TikTok (often referred to as Vine 2.0) is a video-sharing mobile platform driven almost entirely by a community of young, creative and eclectic users – users that have grown up entirely within the era of social media, and who witnessed firsthand the rise and fall of the aforementioned video platform.

Unlike previous iterations of the mobile video-creation concept, ByteDance’s TikTok also includes built-in sounds and pre-cleared song snippets [no copyright strikes!], as well as filters and augmented reality effects. All of that said, another strength of TikTok is how inclusive it is of various different niche interests and social groups – there are thousands of thriving communities on TikTok focused on a diverse array of verticals such as dance, beauty, sports, food, fashion and even comedy.

While much the video content emerging from these interest groups is certainly not specifically focused on music, they do often include the previously mentioned music snippets, thus exposing the songs to an entirely new, non-endemic market that would likely have been incredibly different to reach under any other circumstances.

Based on the idea that every user can be a creator and the star of their own ongoing video series, TikTok offers users a clear picture of the future of video on social media – quick, memorable and easily consumable content that is addictive, relevant, and highly entertaining. TikTok parent company ByteDance recently claimed that its videos garner 17 billion monthly average views with users spending an average of 46 minutes per day in the app. That’s an absolutely massive level of reach for such a new platform, and certainly brings to mind the concept of influencer marketing, a buzz term that has become incredibly pervasive across all established forms of social media.

What Is Influencer Marketing on TikTok?

To answer this question, it’s first important to understand who the typical TikTok user is. “Made up primarily of Gen Z users who are no longer attracted to the "big players" of social media and seek spaces more in line with their interests. (Forbes)” Unlike millennials, who while very much tech-savvy and intimately familiar with the social media landscape, Gen Z users have quite literally spent their entire lives within the social media ecosystem. This increased level of immersion naturally implies that newer, forward-thinking strategies and technology will be needed in order to reach and engage this young audience.

While influencer marketing is not yet as commonplace on TikTok as it is on established platforms such as Instagram, many brands have already realized its explosive potential for viral marketing. Global fashion brand Guess recently launched the first-ever U.S. brand collaboration with TikTok with its #InMyDenim campaign, partnering with relevant influencers to promote its new denim. Other popular brands such as Google, Coca-Cola, the NBA, and Chipotle have already worked on major TikTok campaigns to raise brand awareness.

How does Influencer Marketing work on TikTok?

It’s clear why brands would want to tap into a platform that is so deeply engrained into youth culture, not to mention it’s nearly unrivaled ability to quickly create content that is easily consumable, highly relatable, and so closely interlinked with the rapidly shifting trends of pop culture. In order to understand more about exactly how brands go about tapping into this content-creation goldmine, we spoke with Influencer Marketing expert Devain Doolaramani, who has developed his own Influencer Network around leveraging TikTok (and other forms of influencer marketing) as the ultimate music marketing platform: - How did you get into TikTok marketing?

Doolaramani – “I first started to realize that the platform would be powerful in the digital music marketing space back when TikTok was - I used to manage some of the higher tier audio accounts back then that were pulling hundreds of thousands of likes per post and directing traffic to the song outside of the app because of the amount of people that would take the time to look up the songs or SHAZAM them.”

When did you see the potential of TikTok?

“I saw the potential in the app a few months before the Old Town Road break-out. After that, I think that everyone started to jump onto the platform to market their music.”

How did you get in touch with these influencers?

“I honestly have had relationships with a lot of them for years back when TikTok was and decided to start managing a ton of them after I saw the potential in TikTok as an app. I think that the team behind the app is very strong and smart too.”

Can you spot a trend on TikTok, if so, how?

“I personally have noticed trends start to pop up. The easiest way is to look at the number of videos made with the song.”

What should musicians and artists know about TikTok for marketing their music?

“I think that it’s a powerful platform and all of the trends on TikTok start organically. It’s honestly a luck of the draw, but definitely start marketing music on the platform if you haven’t.”

The Growth of TikTok in the Music Industry:

Since it’s official rebranding in August of 2018, TikTok has massive cultural force that attracted the attention of Mike Caren, CEO of Artist Partner Group, who likened TikTok to “the short-form version of YouTube.” “It’s too big alone to be the spark for a song,” Caren says. “Now it’s the wood in the fire.” “If you think of the music consuming demo as 11-24, you reach the bottom half of that audience through two platforms: YouTube and TikTok,” adds Jeff Vaughn, Senior VP of A&R at APG (Forbes).

It’s unclear exactly what catapulted TikTok to such a massive level of success, but what is clear is that when ByteDance, a massive corporate entity already valued at over $75 Billion acquired, which claimed to have a user-base in excess of 500 million at the time, a match made in heaven was created, and the online marketing space will never be the same. 

While benefited from high user retention and explosive, scalable growth, they did not have nearly the same marketing capabilities that the ByteDance behemoth has access to. With this massive influx of capital, as well as the additional experience and infrastructure of the already established ByteDance brand, evolved from a clever lip-synching video platform to the all-encompassing, cross-industry, international short-form video platform that it is today. No longer a niche platform for a specific community, TikTok has become a vaunted marketing platform just waiting to be explored.