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TikTok: How Engagement Translates into Data

By: Elisabeth Butler

It's a no-brainer that TikTok has grown to become one of the most used social media platforms in the past few years, stealing the spotlight from Mark Zuckerberg’s Instagram and Facebook. With millions of users present on the app, TikTok’s endless stream of 15-second, all the way up to three-minute long, videos have hooked along a huge population of both creators and viewers worldwide. These clips presented to viewers through the application consist of all kinds of genres whether they be tricks, jokes, pranks, aesthetics, dance and all sorts of entertainment.

In the first quarter of 2020, TikTok became the most downloaded app in the world, with around 315 million downloads just in that one segment of time. Considering the world pandemic and other circumstances arising from this, TikTok did not stop gaining popularity since then and has over a strong 1 billion users to this day.

Taking a further look into the world-known app, TikTok’s users currently spend around 52 minutes on the app per day and a solid 90% of those users revisit the app more than once in the same day. The user’s average session duration is 11 minutes, which is equivalent to 26 videos with them being around 25 seconds each.

Though TikTok may be a resource to entertainment and virtual joy, it is concerningly addictive to the vast majority of users. Multiple studies made on children using the app have shown that they may use it as a way to escape the real world; since they love the feeling they get when on the app, they never want to leave it, therefore becoming addicted. This can steer users the wrong way into experiencing serious mental health issues for the future.

Another important factor to analyze when it comes to social media platforms like TikTok is how it observes a user’s activity and creates an algorithm out of it. Any sort of action carried out by the user in the app, involving swiping past a video, pausing it, re-watching it, liking or commenting on it, sharing it, following a creator, and even the duration of time watching a clip before moving on, is all intensively monitored by the data miners of TikTok. This extraction of information from a user’s TikTok activity then translates into the user opening up the app to see new videos that would most likely be interested by them, known as the For You page.

The more users on any app = the more granular data that can be retrieved, which is exactly what these companies need to get ahead in the social media game. Since TikTok is constantly on the rise in its user engagement and numbers overall, it is spiraling in success in comparison to other social media platforms. As The Guardian puts it, “If data is the new oil, then Tik provides sweet crude like the world has never seen, ready to be algorithmically refined into rocket fuel.”

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