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It’s Official: TikTok is the New King of Social Media Platforms

YouTube and Instagram are all good but you cannot afford to ignore this new birthplace of digital superstars and content creators

Jessica Xalxo Feb 05, 2020

As the world applauds and makes sense of the platform, TikTok has checked off some landmark moments in the past few months. 

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TikTok is taking over the Internet, fast becoming a place where creators unheard of are going viral and giving rise to a new generation of social media stars. The short-form video platform has become incredibly popular globally for its snacky viral videos, which range from 15 second to a minute. 

According to San Francisco-based tech company Sensor Tower, TikTok crossed 1.5 billion downloads on the App store and Google Play, becoming the third most popular non-gaming app of 2019, sitting atop Facebook and Instagram on the app chart. India clocked in the highest amount of downloads for the app, making up for 31 percent (466.8 million) installs world-wide. The other countries where TikTok accounted for its surge in downloads were China (11.5 percent) and the U.S.A (8.2 percent).

Digital media honcho Samir Bangara (co-founder and MD, Qyuki) believes TikTok has redefined social media in India. He says, “TikTok has crossed 100 million monthly active users and given us new-age super stars like Mr Faisu, Jannat Zubair, Sameeksha Sud, Avneet Kaur who have established their clout not only on TikTok but also on Instagram thanks to their TikTok growth.” Turns out the action is not just online — last month, Qyuki partnered with Paytm Insider and hosted India’s first fan festival focusing on TikTok and Instagram stars in Mumbai. At the hugely successful event, over 4,000 fans mostly between the ages of 12-25 flocked to the JioWorld Garden in BKC to chill with the aforementioned names, paying anything between 2,999 to 7,999 rupees for an exclusive meet-and-greet.

However, TikTok hasn’t thrived without incident in India. Last April, the app was banned for a brief period of time  (three users died after suffering injuries while filming content to post on the app), returning towards the end of the month after TikTok’s parent company ByteDance announced that they would hire local content moderators, increase investment in India and launch more in-built safety features. According to a Reuters report, ByteDance, in a court filing, cited experiencing financial losses of up to $500,000 a day during TikTok’s ban in the country. It’s no bold guess to say that India truly made the app tick. 

As the world applauds and makes sense of the platform, TikTok has checked off some landmark moments in the past few months. 

1. TikTok has given us Grammy-winning breakout musicians

Photo: Christaan Felber for Rolling Stone

How can we talk about viral and chart-topping music in recent times without mentioning Montero Lamar Hill aka Lil Nas X’s hip-hop-country crossover “Old Town Road”? The Atlanta rapper made the track at a whopping cost of $30, releasing the song in December 2018, while also using a snippet of it as a meme on social media. The snippet particularly caught traction on TikTok where people drank ‘Yee-Juice’ and took part in the ‘Yeehaw’ challenge. The song then went viral, witnessing an incredible ascent in views and streams. The result? Lil Nas X was signed by Columbia Records and the single was re-released in March 2019, peaking the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 19 consecutive weeks, rocking expectations and redefining what it takes to make a blazing debut and not-so-sleeper hit. The rapper went on to win two Grammys in 2020, one for the Best Music Video and the other for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. He said in a statement, “TikTok helped me change my life. [It] brought my song to several different audiences at once.” 

@thelawyerLawyer by day, cowboy by night.  #cowboy #urbancowboy♬ Old Town Road – Lil Nas X

Closer home, songs that went viral recently on TikTok were Punjabi musicians Jass Manak’s “Lehanga”, Guru Randhawa’s “Slowly Slowly” and Millind Gaba’s “She Don’t Know” among others, while artists like Neha Kakkar, Randhawa and Arjun Kanungo emerged as the top 5 music artists on the platform, using TikTok to promote their music, post comedic skits, take part in challenges and more. 

2. TikTok ushered in social media game changers 

@gima_ashibohot hard w/rugeesvini #gullykalakar #myoutfit #bohothard #emyway_bantai #featurethis♬ original sound – gima_ashi

Just when we thought Instagram’s social media influencers were going to take over the world for good, there emerged a new fold of social media stars through TikTok and this time around, they were a tad bit more relatable. With over 200 million active users spread out over Tier I, II and III cities and the undeniable ripple of the ‘Jio effect’, everyday people turned content creators through the platform. Among those who found a kickstart on the app were TikToker and actor Garima Chaurasia and dancer/choreographer Awez Darbar who made it to TikTok’s top 5 creators list. Chaurasia also posted the most popular video (India) on the platform this year, a dance cover of Mumbai rappers Emiway and Thoratt’s “Boht Hard” which accumulated 120 million views. 

@theofficialgeetWatch Until End 🔥 #anger #edutok #edutoklifetips #expectationvsreality #blacknwhite #kayapalat #storytime #mytiktokstory♬ original sound – Geet

Lawyer and social sector professional Sangeeta Jain too found herself on TikTok’s top creators list, with her videos on motivation, self-care, social justice and English speaking skills gaining her almost 8.3 million followers across two accounts. 

@ammama_kochumonഅമ്മാമയെ ഞാൻ ഇതൊന്ന് എങ്ങനാ പറഞ്ഞു മനസിലാക്കുക എന്റെ ദൈവമേ.#1millonaudition #1mvinesedination♬ original sound – jinson5436

Cutting across the age demographic, India’s senior citizens too took to the platform, often encouraged by family members. One such octogenarian is Mary Joseph Mampilly, who after posting videos displaying her comedic timing and acting chops to TikTok, landed a role in a Malayalam film titled Sundaran Subash

TikTok has opened the floodgates for a new crop of talent to showcase their respective arts. The popularity of TikTok influencers changed the way brands, professionals and organizations approached the platform and how these social media stars leveraged it. 

3. Music labels are casting TikTok stars

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Major music labels YRF, T-Series, Saregama, Sony Music India and more are seeking TikTokers to star in their artist music videos, bringing in both the views and the engagement that these social media stars’ massive fan bases span. Last year, social media star Faisal Shaikh aka Mr Faisu and Jannat Zubair starred in Ramji Gulati’s music video for “Fruity Lagdi Hai” while popular TikTok group Team 07 comprising Mr Faisu, Hasnain Khan, Adnaan Shaikh and Faiz Baloch (who all go by their first name) and Shadan Farooqui aka Saddu starred in Gulati’s video for “Nazar Na Lag Jaye.” Garima Chaurasia featured in multiple Punjabi music videos (Nawab’s “Tattoo Song”, Ravneet Singh’s “Mashallah” and “Ranjheya”, Madhur Dhir and Shazi Ahmad’s “Munda Baimaan”). 

4. Bollywood has joined the bandwagon

@riteishd#6secchallenge @nagmaa @awezdarbar #comedу #marjaavaan15nov♬ Tokyo Drift (remix) – 💎꧁န❤️ល័ក្ខណ❤️န꧂💎

The Indian TikTok wave has been so infectious that it brought even Bollywood stars to the new social media shore. Actor Jacqueline Fernandez topped the app’s year-end list of top 5 celebrities on the platform, with her video for the makeup-centric #TakTakTak challenge amassing 112 millions and holding the number two spot in the top 5 videos listing. She was followed by actor Riteish Deshmukh (who even collaborated with fellow TikTokers Nagma Mirajkar, Faby and Awez Darbar), comedian Kapil Sharma, actor Madhuri Dixit and cricketer-musician DJ Bravo (who collaborated with popular TikTokers Bhavin Bhanushali, Sameeksha Sud, Vishal Pandey and others), taking part in challenges, uploading comedic skits and more.

5. TikTok cements covenant with India through specialized challenges and festival moments 

@monikundu4maa daant daiti hai but ander se man pyar ka hota hai #2ofme #tiktok_india #babylove #foryou♬ original sound – monikundu4

One great way TikTok is pushing its creators to engage with the community is through challenges that span the gamut of self-evolution and image, and comedic comparisons. The #2OfMe challenge saw creators use everyday life situations to show the difference between appearances and reality, often comically and topped the list of top 5 viral challenges (all clocking in views in the billions) in the country in 2019. It was followed by the visually evolutionary #MyJourney challenge. Challenges that also made it to the top 5 were the #TakTakTak challenge which took the Beauty Vlogger persona to another level and the #PlayCool challenge which featured hilarious extremities. 

@madhuridixitnene#myjourney #stargazing♬ Akhiyaan Milaoon Kabhi (From “Raja”) – Alka Yagnik & Arvind Hasabnish and Udit Narayan

@noman_officialWait for the end😜 returnoftiktok SwagStepChallenge shareandwin @tiktok_india♬ mohammad_ismail – mohammadismailmas

Diwali, the ICC Cricket World Cup, Independence Day, Holi and Mother’s Day, a weird combo if anything, seemed to bring all the creators to the fore with these festival moments going viral on TikTok. Creators took to the platform to share their own interpretation of these occasions. Fun Fact: Education was the top genre for TikTok India with around 13 million videos being posted on the topic. TikTok also sought to engage its users with social change through campaigns such as #EduTok, #PetBFF (with views going towards donations for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), #SafeHumSafeInternet (which saw users engage with the topic of safe content creation, cyber bullying and more), #WaitASecToReflect (which advocated for responsible content) and more.

@ayan_tiwariBe safe while Creating tiktok videos ☺️ don’t hurt yourself #safehumsafeinternet @tiktok_india♬ original sound – ayan_tiwari

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