About this time last year, I downloaded TikTok, created an account, and dove into uncharted social media waters. I wasn’t sure what I would find, but I knew I was curious. I viewed my decision to join TikTok like a fact-finding mission. I wanted to explore the landscape, experience the app first-hand, and observe what would unfold. A year later, I am here to report my personal findings, and I think you might be surprised by my assessment.
First, a few disclaimers.
I will never try to talk you into consuming more social media. Lord knows most of us can barely manage our current media load. No need to add on just for the sake of adding on. If anything I say on the topic seems to be selling you on TikTok, please know that is not my intent. I want to share my experience and encourage you to consider the assumptions we all make about new things from time to time. You do not need TikTok, but, if you are curious about TikTok, I hope my words will offer some points to consider.
In that same vein, I do not consider myself a typical social media consumer. Social media is a powerful tool I use daily in my businesses. I can say with confidence if I were not a small business owner, my social media consumption and posting would be drastically reduced.
Where do I stand with other social media platforms?
I have essentially signed off of Facebook (I have to keep my account in order to maintain my business Instagram accounts since they are now owned by the same company. Rude.).
I have a Twitter account that I never check. I don’t like Twitter, and I’m not sure why, but I don’t care enough to find out.
I love and use Pinterest frequently, but only personally, not for business.
I enjoy Instagram, even though I miss the old days. The Instagram grid feels laughable at this point seeing as no one sees ninety percent of what gets posted there. Instagram Reels are now a necessary evil as a content creator, but I feel like Instagram adopted them in a move of desperation to keep up with and copy TikTok. I particularly love Instagram Stories because I feel like it is the closest I can come to personally connecting with you without being in person. Stories has always been a natural fit for me. I enjoy being on video, and my brain naturally thinks in stories, if that makes sense. I can instantly see the progression of slides and what I want to say. So, for me, it’s fun to post. And for my business, a very effective marketing tool.
So why TikTok?
Great question. I am naturally curious, but also naturally a bit rebellious by nature. You would probably never guess this, but it’s true. I love rules and order and routine, but there is something inside me that questions norms and loves to deconstruct assumptions to get at the heart of what is going on. And this is how it was with TikTok. I knew the app was popular, and I knew it was a video-sharing app. But other than that, the only thing I knew was what I overheard people my age or older saying about the app, and none of it was positive. So I decided to find out for myself.
I told no one I joined the app except for my daughter Annie and my friend slash social media fairy godmother, KP. I wasn’t trying to keep it a secret or hide anything, but I was interested to see what would happen organically if I told no one I was on the app. I also wasn’t in a place to integrate posting on TikTok into my business marketing strategy, so I remained quiet.
Here is my TikTok experience.
When you join TikTok, there are two feeds you toggle between on your home screen. The first is called Following, which includes a stream of content by creators who you have chosen to follow. I began by following a couple of bloggers I knew who were on the app, a couple of celebrities who I followed on IG, and of course, my daughter Annie and my friend KP.
The second screen is your For Your Page (commonly referred to as your FYP), and this is where TikTok delivers content it thinks you will enjoy based on your preferences, or content that is trending or going viral. It will also from time to time deliver unexpected content to test the waters and see what you think.
TikTok, like all social media apps, is run by an algorithm which means you train it on what kind of content you want to see more of. When you first open your account, your FYP will deliver a smattering of lots of different kinds of content. It is your job to like and engage with the content that appeals to you and to quickly scroll past content you don’t care for so the app will know what you like and what you don’t. It took about a week for my feed to start to reflect what I liked.
With my account up and running, with my FYP taking shape and reflecting my interests, I decided to start posting. I wanted to post something different from the content I post on Instagram, so I decided to only post outfits. I started posting what I wore every day. Each video was less than a minute, and I found the process easy to maintain and fun to execute.
One of the biggest differentiators between TikTok and other social media platforms is the ethos of the app. If the vibe of Instagram is curated perfection and engineered authenticity, the vibe of TikTok flies in the face of this and embraces a gritty, imperfect, and off-the-cuff ethos. To me, TikTok feels like the afterparty, the place where people let their hair down, kick off their shoes, and let it fly. Sure, there are creators who curate their TikTok feed, but it’s different. Depending on who you follow, TikTok houses a lot more cussing, a lot more raw and real content, a lot more in-the-moment videos. I personally enjoy this aspect of TikTok.
TikTok is also the place where cultural touch points and viral moments are born. If you are viewing a trend on Instagram, it is old news. I saw this phenomenon at work multiple times over the year. I would see a viral trend on TikTok, and then it would die down, only to pop up on Instagram. People who are active on TikTok roll their eyes at this and the net result is not good for Instagram. I hate to say it, but Instagram is losing it’s edge due in part to TikTok.
My final verdict? I really enjoy TikTok. Here are four reasons why.
Connection with my adult children.
I cannot emphasize this enough, but if you are a parent of older kids (emphasis on older), TikTok is a great way to build bridges of connection with them. My two college kids are on TikTok, and they each regularly send me videos they think I will enjoy for one reason or another. I do the same with them, and it has become a fun mode of communication and connection between us. I enjoy seeing what they like, seeing what they think I will like, and turning a social media app into an avenue for connection.
Knowing what’s culturally relevant.
This won’t matter to everyone, but I like to know what’s going on in pop culture. I want to know the references, the quotes, the songs, the scandals, the funny moments, the trends, the discoveries, the opinions, the outrage, the movements, and all of this is on TikTok, presented in a way that feels of-the-moment. When I compare TikTok to other apps, I feel like TikTok allows me to be on the cusp of culture instead of behind the times. This isn’t inherently virtuous, but it delights me, and I find it fun. Full stop. If this isn’t fun for you, then let it go.
Hearing lots of different voices.
I have become more acquainted with a variety of viewpoints and voices on TikTok. When a social media feed on any app reflects one view, one type of person, one style, one approach, or one response, you are in an echo chamber, and that is never good. TikTok serves up a beautiful serving of different beliefs, approaches to life, viewpoints, opinions, and responses to the world, and consuming this variety forces me to stretch and grow in my assumptions. I love challenging norms for the sake of growth and expansion, and TikTok provides an arena for this process. If you go in only wanting to bolster your current views, you can. The algorithm will make sure that happens for you. But if you want to learn more about the world outside of an echo chamber, I have been stunned by the vulnerability and raw expression I have seen on TikTok that has caused to me pause and consider my own assumptions about many topics.
So much learning!
I want to burst the bubble that I hear all the time from people who are not on the app. TikTok is not just “a bunch of kids dancing.” Yes, there is dancing, but there is so much more. If you love to learn, TikTok is for you. I follow a load of different accounts and have learned everything from etiquette (from the Queen’s former butler), the science of beauty, how to paint acrylic furniture from IKEA, the best way to apply foundation, fitness tips, recipes, cleaning hacks, art history, how to wear a scarf, music theory, how the legal process works, how to polish silver, where to eat in Paris, how to make green juice, and, of course, what Lizzo eats for breakfast. Seriously, there is so much information available on this app, and I learn something every time I log on.
If your’e still reading, wow. Thank you. This post ended up being longer than I planned, but I have been storing these thoughts up for a year, and I didn’t want to leave anything out!
If you have questions about TikTok, I am all ears. If you are on the app and have favorite accounts, send them my way! And if you’d like to follow me, my handle is @katherinesasser. See you on the app!