What TikTok’s Explosive Growth and Advertising Innovations Mean for Marketers and Advertisers


What TikTok’s Explosive Growth and Advertising Innovations Mean for Marketers

May 25, 2021

Kristlyn Lyons
VP, Business Development & Partnerships

Of all the media trends that rose and fell during the past year-plus of life during coronavirus, TikTok deserves special mention for its explosive growth and popularity as a social medium. And now it is commanding brands’ attention as an emerging advertising platform as well.

TikTok influencer

Why are we hearing so much about it?

The New York Times recently offered several reasons for why we’ve heard so much about the platform over the past year.1

According to the Times, TikTok has:

  • Turned entertainment on its head by reinvigorating the music industry
  • Shaped shopping behavior, especially clothing trends
  • Offered a view of the front lines, giving users a glimpse of service and healthcare workers’ lives  
  • Helped people organize and speak out including groups like BLM supporters and politically-minded users
  • Helped people stay connected—schoolmates, teachers, friends, parents
  • Gave us life-affirming trends such as viral food culture (which migrated from Instagram in 2020), the cranberry juice-drinking skateboarder who cruised to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” and so many more.

The fastest-growing app in the world

The world’s most downloaded social media app in 2020, TikTok is a way to make and share short form mobile videos. How short? Initially, videos recorded using TikTok could only be up to 15 seconds long, but now you can string together up to four 15-second segments and create a 60-second video. If you upload a video that was created elsewhere, it can be longer than 60 seconds.2

According to TikTok, there are 805 million monthly active users worldwide who view an average of 185 billion videos per month on their mobile devices.

The global audience skews young and female. The same can be said for the US, however, the 35 years and older audience is projected to grow from 25% to 38% of the TikTok user base over the next five years.3

In just a couple years, the percentage of the US population using TikTok has grown to more than 25%, and is expected to surpass 28% by 2025.4

Among US teens, only SnapChat was still slightly more popular as a social media app in 2020. In fact, according to mobile usage data from AppAnnie, US consumers spend more time on TikTok per month than Facebook or Instagram.5

TikTok is the fastest growing app in the world

The rise of social entertainment

Analysts suggest that part of the reason for TikTok’s success is that people use it differently than other social media—I.e., they use it more as entertainment than as a way to connect with family and friends.6

TikTok is social entertainment

Other apps have emerged that mimic TikTok, indicating that the “social entertainment” might be the next big thing for social content and communication. For example:

  • YouTube’s Shorts
  • Instagram’s Reels
  • Snapchat’s Sounds and
  • Triller.

While traditional social media may have been diminished by increasing controversy and disinformation the past couple years, social entertainment apps like TikTok mainly offer lighter, fun fare that has tended to bring people together, as mentioned in the New York Times article cited above.

‘For You’ algorithm drives engagement

TikTok has two main user modes, ‘Following’ and ‘For You.’ The Following mode includes all the videos of TikTok creators you follow. The For You mode is built on TikTok’s groundbreaking algorithm which employs user interaction, information about the video (and especially, the audio) and account/device settings such as location, language preference, device type, etc. to begin showing the video to users who are not followers of the creator.7 Depending on response—completion rate, and whether users like, share or comment—TikTok shows it to more and more like users.
For You algorithm drives engagement

Brands balancing opportunities and risks

Why should you consider advertising on TikTok? Aside from its explosive growth and popularity, particularly among 34 years old and under audiences, the platform’s advertising offerings continue to expand, including:

  • Targeting options, e.g., demographics, customer data files, content engagement, interests and behaviors
  • Variety of ad formats align with different outcomes8
  • Creator Marketplace offers brands access to influencers
  • New ecommerce features like Dynamic Product Ads and Collection Ads to drive seamless in-app purchases for brands

For one real-world example, check out how top beverage brand Vita Coco capitalized on a viral TikTok trend to engage its audience via a focused ad campaign. Or contact our TikTok experts with any questions.

Get the full size Power of TikTok infographic

You’ve seen snippets of the stats and data from our Power of TikTok infographic throughout this article. Now download the full size version and get all the inside information on TikTok!

Get your copy of the full size
The Power of TikTok Infographic

High Engagement Opportunities


  1. This Is Why You Heard About TikTok So Much in 2020 https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/31/style/tiktok-trends-2020.html
  2. TikTok Video Length & Video Formatting Guide https://boosted.lightricks.com/tiktok-video-length-video-formatting-guide/
  3. TikTok User Share, by Age, eMarketer, April, 2021. https://forecasts-na1.emarketer.com/5e4c6b5ec56a401090de843e/60895b2d0b2f28075cb1a57d
  4. TikTok Users, US, 2021-2025. https://forecasts-na1.emarketer.com/5e4c6b5ec56a401090de843e/5e4c6a29c56a401090de843b
  5. US consumers spend more time on TikTok per month than on Facebook or Instagram, says App Annie, by Daniel Carnahan, Jan 15, 2021. https://content-na1.emarketer.com/us-consumers-spend-more-time-on-tiktok-month-than-they-do-on-facebook-instagram
  6. eMarketer’s key digital trends for 2021 [Part 2 of 2]: Disney+, event transformation, ‘brandstanding,’ social commerce, and social entertainment, Dec 15, 2020. https://content-na1.emarketer.com/emarketer-s-key-digital-trends-2021-part-2-of-2-disney-event-transformation-brandstanding-social-commerce-social-entertainment
  7. How the TikTok Algorithm Works in 2020 (and How to Work With It), by , July 29, 2020. https://blog.hootsuite.com/tiktok-algorithm/
  8. Everything You Need to Know About TikTok Ads, by Jessica Worb, June 12, 2020. https://later.com/blog/tiktok-ads/

Will 2021 Be The Year Of YouTube CTV Advertising?


Will 2021 Be The Year Of YouTube CTV Advertising?

February 4, 2021

eMarketer/Insider Intelligence’s Latest US YouTube Advertising Analyst Report Provides a Deep Dive and Answers

Couple watching YouTube on TV

NEW YORKFeb. 4, 2021 /PRNewswire/ – Marketers looking either to extend the reach of TV campaigns across digital video or simply leverage the pandemic-accelerated shift of digital video viewing to connected TV (CTV) screens are finding likely solutions in eMarketer/Insider Intelligence’s most recent “US YouTube Advertising 2020” report and forecast.

From now through March, Sightly, a long-time certified YouTube and Premier Google Premier Partner, and one of only 11 members of the YouTube Measurement Program, is sponsoring the report so all marketers can access the $895 report for free.

The report highlights YouTube’s position as both the most-used digital video platform in the US and the single biggest source of supply in the US for CTV advertising.

It also provides an in-depth look at the shift in YouTube viewership to CTV during 2020. This shift has major implications for outcome-focused marketers looking to extend the reach of TV campaigns or follow their digital video audiences to the so-called “first” screen. 

Key Findings and Take-Aways

  • During 2020, 95.4% of US OTT video viewers watched YouTube at least monthly, surpassing even Netflix (74.9%).
  • In 2020, more than 104 million US households– nearly 81% –had connected TV. This represents an 82% increase from 2016.
  • When people watch YouTube on CTV screens, viewing session lengths are longer compared with other devices. In Q3 2020, YouTube view time on CTV was 7.3 minutes vs. 3.6 minutes on mobile and 5.7 minutes on desktop.

The key implication of the report is the accelerated growth of YouTube viewership on CTV screens opens up an enormous opportunity for both TV and digital video advertisers via the platform and its variety of ad formats that cater to a multitude of campaign goals.

Download a free copy of eMarketer/Insider Intelligence’s “US YouTube Advertising 2020” here.


So are we!