Why are People on TikTok and What do They do?

TikTok has taken over the scene of social media apps in 2020, with the best quarter for any app ever in Q1 2020 and surpassing 2 billion downloads globally. So, what is TikTok, who is on it and exactly what do they do?

As an overview, here are some important TikTok statistics you need to know:

  1. TikTok is now the sixth largest social network in the world. It has 800 million monthly active users.
  2. India, China and the US are the top three countries that account for the 2 billion downloads.
  3. Monthly active users in the US were reported to be 28 million in November 2019. We estimate this amount to be over 80 million after the surge in the app’s popularity during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
  4. According to a leaked TikTok pitch deck, the average American user opens the app 8+ times and spends over 46 minutes on the app daily.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a short-form mobile video sharing app, as described on their website. It allows users to record, edit and share videos while watching what other users created.

 Who are on TikTok?

Although vastly dominated by Gen-Z, TikTok is increasingly becoming more mainstream with millennials and even older generations have begun to join the platform.

The last reported number of active users in the US was 28 million in November 2019. Based on the number of downloads, we are estimating that the number of active users in the US exceeded 50 million by May 2020.

TikTok didn’t disclose number of active users in the UK, however, there are several TikTok influencers in the UK that have follower counts of over 10 million.

What are the User Motivations on TikTok?

The use of all social media channels can be based on 5 basic motivations:

  • Social interaction
  • Self-expression
  • Archiving, following trends
  • Entertainment
  • Peeking into private lives

Each social media channel lures its users with one or even a combination of these motivations. Most users of Instagram frequent the app for checking up on their acquaintances (peeking into private lives) or the influencers they follow (following trends). Pinterest, however, works mostly as an archiving tool and for finding fashionable products or DIY projects (following trends). Twitter is a platform for discussing politics and other subjects (self-expression and social interaction).

For TikTok, the main user motivation is entertainment. TikTok is a platform that doesn’t tolerate negative issues, such as politics or hate or fights. An endless stream of entertaining short videos turns TikTok into an escapist’s paradise. Users who would like to take a break from their stressful lives and struggles go on the app to watch short-form entertaining videos.

The main difference between Tiktok and other platforms is the glorification of virtual and reality. Tiktok is in the opposite position of real life with all of its content, effects and background music. Since people use Tiktok content for escape from real life, Tiktok is the hub of content that complies with these codes.

What are the User Behaviours on TikTok?

Although the quantitative data available is limited, user engagement on TikTok is crazy! Videos that are considered viral on TikTok easily get millions of views and thousands of comments. The video above by the TikTok star James Charles got 1.7 billion views and 70 thousand views.

The user behaviours in social media can be classified into three classes:

  • Consuming behaviour
  • Participating behaviour
  • Producing behaviour

Consuming behaviour:

These are users who use a social media app to only consume content and do not produce or participate.

Participating behaviour:

These are users who consume and content as well as like, share and comment but does not produce their own content.

Producing behaviour:

These are users who produce content and interact.

The Content Democracy

TikTok’s For You Page (FYP) makes it possible for any creator’s video to go viral, regardless of past performance or follower count. That is possible by the engagement of users, encouraging participating behaviour on the platform.

Low Imitation Threshold Content

Most content on TikTok works as User Generated Media (UGM), where other users can create their own content by imitating or recreating the original piece. Giving users a chance of self-expression, users are more likely to create pieces of video content compared to other video platforms such as YouTube.


TikTok is a platform with very high engagement rate with a democratic algorithm that allows any user with good content to go viral. For many users, TikTok works as an entertainment app where users can watch an endless stream of humorous videos and interact with others socially.

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