11 TikTok Trends You Need to Know in 2021

We recently published our State of Influencer Marketing 2021: Benchmark Report. One of the most notable changes compared to our 2020 Benchmark Report was the increase in influencer marketing on TikTok. 45% of our respondents now use TikTok for influencer marketing. Last year, we didn’t even include TikTok as a separate category – lumping it into the Other category.

TikTok has exploded in popularity over the last few years, and while COVID-19 probably helped this in 2020, TikTok is still likely to increase its user base over the next year. And this is despite being banned in India and threatened with banning by the Trump administration in the USA.

We see the TikTok trends for 2021 to be predominantly positive. And it is crucial for brands, particularly those targeting the younger demographic, to recognize TikTok’s possibilities for marketing.

11 TikTok Trends for 2021:

1. More Brands and Influencers Will Use TikTok for Marketing in 2021

TikTok has grown in popularity so rapidly that many brands have yet to understand or even recognize the platform. However, this is changing, particularly now that TikTok has a formal advertising network. Expect to see a sizable increase in the number of brands marketing on TikTok this year, particularly those targeting Generation Z or Millennials.

Likewise, as TikTok numbers have risen, so have the number of influencers on the platform. In the early days, TikTok was mainly known for people making their versions of music videos. Now, however, people upload a much more comprehensive range of videos to TikTok, allowing more people to become recognized as experts in different fields. Also, quite a few influencers on other platforms have created a TikTok presence to widen their exposure. Thirty-five percent of influencers say they have started to use TikTok more frequently over the past year, according to a Tribe Dynamics survey.

The increase in influencers will also help increase the number of firms marketing on the platform. Many firms work with influencers to help sell their products to their numerous followers. TikTok has an intelligent algorithm that accurately presents suggested content to viewers. This makes it easier for brands to reach their target customers through paid ads or influencer marketing.

2. Until COVID Relents, More TikTok Videos Will Emphasize What You Can Do At Home

The use of TikTok was already rising before COVID; however, the pandemic has dramatically accelerated the number of people downloading and spending time on the app. The various lockdowns across the world have given people much more leisure time, and they have had to find something to do with their time while remaining at home. For many people, watching and making TikTok videos filled this void.

Unfortunately, COVID has continued into 2021, and depending on your location, you are still likely to spend more time at home than usual. Therefore inevitably, you will make more videos of you doing things home-based than you would have pre-COVID. While many people will continue to make simple music videos at home, others are trying other video genres. Home fitness videos are becoming particularly popular, as people demonstrate how they can still keep fit despite being stuck at home.

With schooling disrupted for many, we are likely to see more “how-to” and educational videos, albeit short and to the point. More people are experimenting in the kitchen now, rather than having takeaways, and some will make TikTok videos demonstrating recipes and their cooking endeavors.

3. TikTok Will Replace Television for More of Generation Z

TikTok has always appealed to Generation Z. If you were to listen to many teenage conversations, you would hear them discussing the app. Indeed, many use the phrase “to TikTok” as a verb, describing the time and ways they spend using the app.

According to Statista, US TikTok users average nearly 500 minutes per month on the app. However, this figure covers ALL TikTok users. Many from Generation Z spend considerably more than that watching and making short videos on TikTok. 

98% of Generation Z own smartphones, and many have used their phones and tablets since they were toddlers. While the older generations still amuse themselves by watching television, Generation Z takes less interest in the big screen, particularly disdainful of watching scheduled content. 

IBM surveyed Generation Z and found that 75% consider their mobile/smartphone as their device of choice. A mere 3% preferred an interactive/Smart tv, with none considering a traditional tv to be of great value. When asked how they spent most of their time outside school or work, by far the largest answer was spending time online (74%). 87% claim to have access to high-speed internet at home.

TikTok encourages episodic content. You can look at each episode as being equivalent to a (very) mini television episode. Some TikTokers make longer episodes, made up of multiple TikTok videos.

4. More Celebrities Will Use TikTok to Reach Their Young Fans

It has taken a while, but celebrities are now heading to TikTok. Some of the younger stars probably had TikTok accounts well before they gained their fame.

Cosmopolitan lists 96 celebrities on the platform and they are definitely not all Generation Z. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger (former Mr. Olympia, Conan, Terminator, and Governor of California) has a TikTok account. 

5. Certain Songs Will Become Exceptionally Popular and Used to Back Multiple TikTok Videos

This trend probably applies every year on TikTok. Although music isn’t essential for a successful TikTok video, many videos feature a soundtrack. TikTok has arrangements with most major music studios, permitting short clips from songs, and music has become an integral part of many TikTok videos. Indeed, you can search for videos featuring popular music.

Certain songs go viral on TikTok. In some cases, this is often years after the track initially gained popularity. This will continue in 2021, and many people will make videos backed by these popular tracks.

In some cases, these tracks will become popular because people use them for dance challenges.

6. Hashtag #memes Will Increase in Popularity

Memes are becoming increasingly popular across all social media, particularly with Millennials and Generation Z. Even though video makes a less obvious medium for memes than still images, they are still common on TikTok. TikTok filmmakers create short videos highlighting their favorite memes, and the more people who share these videos on TikTok, the more people become inspired to make similar videos themselves.

7. Brands and Influencers Will Create More Episodic Content

Videos on TikTok are short, at most sixty seconds. Indeed, the most common video length on the platform is still the original length of 15 seconds, and much of the music on TikTok is limited to that brief timeframe. However, both brands and influencers have discovered they can hook their audience by producing episodic content, i.e., a series of videos that follow on from each other.

If you manage to hook an audience with the first video in your sequence, people want to see what follows. This is how some people tend to share in-depth videos on the platform – they simply split them into small chunks.

You can’t just break up a long video without thought, however. You need to create a cliffhanger at the end of each episode to give the viewer a reason to carry onto the next video. 

8. Branded Hashtag Challenges Will Become Even More Popular on TikTok

Hashtag challenges have been popular on TikTok since Jimmy Fallon set the #TumbleWeedChallenge during an episode of his show. In that case, the challenge was for people to roll on the ground like a tumbleweed while music from an old western plays in the background.

Brands are taking more notice of the popularity of hashtag challenges and creating ones that will appeal to their target audience. With a branded hashtag challenge, a company creates a hashtag and asks its followers to create videos related to that hashtag and possibly their product. TikTok has encouraged this and made it easy, although relatively expensive, for brands to advertise their hashtag challenges.

The important thing is that you make your branded hashtag challenge fun for your followers. You don’t want it to look too obviously like an example of marketing.

9. User-Generated Content Will Become Increasingly Important to Marketers

User-generated content (UGC) is becoming valuable for many brands across most social network sites. It can be challenging for brands to make fresh content continually, and if they can benefit from content created by others, then that makes their posting easier. 

User-generated content is any type of content that fans or customers create for a brand – videos in the case of TikTok. Brands can use UGC to turn customers and supporters into brand advocates. Brands are now encouraging their customers to make and share videos on TikTok of them using their products, ideally using a branded hashtag.

10. Brands Will Use Duets More to Interact With Their Fans

One of the more popular features of TikTok is Duets. Duets allow somebody to make a video and then encourage others to create a video to play alongside their original. It provides a way for TikTok followers to interact with other people’s or brands’ videos. You can make a duet with any TikTok video from a brand, influencer, friend, or even yourself, as long as the original video’s creator allows it.

Brands can also use Duets as a challenge. They are a clear example of user-generated content, potentially leading to massive engagement by your potential customers. If you’re working with influencers, you have the potential for considerable viewership of your video, as your video will be visible to the followers of anybody who makes a Duet containing it.

11. Social Commerce Will Become More Common on TikTok

We’ve previously written about how we expect social commerce to grow in 2021. Notably, the earliest advances in social commerce have been in China, the home of TikTok. Also, it is the younger users who are most likely to engage in social commerce –the same demographic that TikTok targets.

TikTok’s Hashtag Challenge Plus lets brands set a sponsored hashtag challenge. TikTok users post videos of themselves using a specified product or doing something else relevant to a marketing campaign. The difference between this and a regular hashtag challenge is that the Hashtag Challenge Plus adds a shoppable component to the hashtag. The app includes a tab where the user can purchase the product from within TikTok.

TikTok has also announced a partnership with Shopify, and this should make it easier for Shopify’s merchants to reach TikTok’s young audience. Shopify brands can create, run and optimize their TikTok marketing campaigns directly from their Shopify dashboard after installing the new TikTok channel app. Merchants can create native, shareable content, turning their products into In-Feed video ads.

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