What’s different about TikTok content that makes the app so popular?

In the past few years, video consumption on mobile phones has become mainstream as broadband mobile internet is readily available. Although all of the social media channels now support video, what makes TikTok content so popular that TikTok videos make their ways to other channels?

The difference with TikTok is that TikTok shifted video production into being a social activity, blurring the line between the consumer and the producer.

Getting More Users to produce Video Content

A popular term with social media is User Generated Content (UGC). All social media channels are made up of content that’s generated by its users, just like TikTok. The difference with TikTok’s user generated content lies with the way the content is produced. TikTok allows users to co-create, allowing users to create their own media where other users can produce their own pieces of content on. This encourages more users to produce on the channel and it’s reshaping the video sharing market by encouraging more and more users to be video producers. So how does TikTok achieve this?

User Generated Content vs. User Generated Media

TikTok is made up of User Generated Media (UGM) along with User Generated Content (UGC). User Generated Media are pieces of content with a low imitation threshold.

You may be asking; what are examples of UGM’s on TikTok and how do they encourage more users to produce content?


The above is an example from the collection of thousands of pieces of content that were created in the same format – the album cover challenge. Each of these videos shows users recreating an album cover photo in their own way, using apparel they already owned (easy production). They all use the same music and the same transitions. Each user adds their own spin by adding some on-screen text, associating that with the name of the album.


Lip-syncing is huge on TikTok. Many users just shoot their version of a video by using the same audio and lip-syncing over it. Above is a popular example of a user, whose account is made of videos of her lip-syncing excerpts from President Trump’s speeches. One of her videos even reached over a million views.

Themed audios

Many pieces of audio on TikTok help users create content. Users are inspired by watching what other users created with the same piece of audio, and so they create their own.

The audio functions as a placeholder for adding the pieces of video, marking the change of emotions in the storytelling of the whole piece.

Users tell their stories by adding on-screen text and acting in the video. These audio pieces allow users to add over a certain number of video clips. Users can easily express themselves by adding the video associated with the emotion conveyed by the audio and adding on-screen text on the videos.

Above is an example from a collection for a popular TikTok audio with over 90,000 pieces of content and millions of views.

How does this make TikTok different?

The UGM culture in TikTok allows a much higher percentage of users to be producers, compared to other video-only platforms such as YouTube. When compared to Instagram, Instagram users are much more likely to post carefully edited images rather than the much raw-looking videos on TikTok. The UGM culture also increases engagement in terms of likes, comments and shares. Many users, who are also producers themselves, take joy in engaging with other producer users.


TikTok’s User-Generated Media culture allows more users on the platform to be producers rather than just staying as consumers. The same culture also increases the engagement of users with each other and increases the likelihood of the virality of the content. For this reason, the time spent on the app increases and it may likely steal screen time from other social media platforms.

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