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TikTok Trends of 2021

Posted 22.02.21

TikTok is a relatively young platform but has exploded over the last couple of years. Its usage has more than tripled since 2018. From being a platform I thought was for kids, and would fade away as soon as it came, it’s become a place I spend a shameless amount of time every day – but there are absolutely no regrets here. TikTok wouldn’t have succeeded as much as it has if it hadn’t quickly learned from and adapted to audience demands and constantly delivered exactly what its target audience wanted to see.

Here are a few of the key TikTok trends to keep in mind for your 2021 strategy on the platform:

For the whole family
Whereas initially TikTok was known to be aimed at the younger end of Gen Zs, it is now appealing to a broader, and older demographic. According to GlobalWebIndex, across the board, all age demographics are uploading more video content on social media since the start of the pandemic.

Family content featuring parents, siblings and grandparents around the house got over 11 billion views last year and is likely to continue into this year. Some of the top hashtags in this space were #MumsOfTikTok (1.9 billion views); #DadsOfTikTok (12 billion views), and the viral #ImJustAKidChallenge (544.4 million views) where people would recreate childhood family photographs as adults. Content that includes the whole family – including pets – is a big win on TikTok.

Keep it real
You can’t hack it on TikTok without authentic content. In this way, it’s the antithesis of what Instagram is perceived to be. This need for authenticity has likely been born out of the influencer boom rife on Facebook and Instagram, with people now seeing past the hyper-edited facade. As a result of this, influencers are also being forced to reconsider their approach if they want to stay relevant.

Across the board, especially with younger audiences, there’s a craving for content with substance. Videos on TikTok don’t need to be post-produced or edited, they just need to feel real, fun, unpolished and meaningful. This will continue to be important in 2021 – perhaps even more so than before.

Community & Storytelling
Over the last couple of months, there has been a rise in content that calls for videos to be stitched with replies, and storytelling. Most recently you’ll have seen strands where content creators post videos where they ask people to ‘tell them about a time when’, and TikTokers across the platform stitch it with their own stories. This community storytelling piece is not unique to this platform, but TikTok just does it better because it combines voice with authenticity and makes it bitesize.

TikTok took the short-form vertical format of Instagram Stories and added a community (and creativity) layer to it which makes it much easier to share stories. This community campfire story sharing angle will be big in 2021 and the key is to engage people with open questions they will want to share responses to and to kick them off with a story of your own. For brands, it will be a tricky job of finding where they fit in but if they can figure out a natural way to share fun human stories in a way that makes sense to their brand identity it’ll be a winning plan.

How-to & learning
Late last year, TikTok tested a new ‘learn’ tab which followed a hashtag campaign they ran called Learn on TikTok, encouraging creators to produce educational content. Creators such as doctors, scientists, and psychologists (among others) created tonnes of content to the point where the hashtag now has over 63 billion video views. The push behind this was to satisfy the desire from Gen Z and older generations alike to learn new skills and tips and tricks in a bitesize way. For 60% of Gen Zs in the UK, learning new skills is super important to them.

Additionally, UK Gen Zs are 24.4x more likely than the general public to want to see more how-to and tutorial content on social media since the start of the pandemic – in fact this is the type of content they want to see most of. This approach has also helped TikTok shake off its reputation for being the home of dance challenges alone and is a big step forward in its bid to be taken more seriously as a platform.

Since this rise of this how-to and educational content, there’s especially been a noticeable increase in recipes and food videos. TikTok has recently also started to roll out recipe cards, which improves this functionality a little more. For brands in the food or wellbeing space, there’s infinite potential to tap in with fun and simple food tutorials in 2021.

Additionally, showcasing behind the scenes content and some fun informative content is also going to be a big win.

Episodic content
Along with storytelling, there has been a trend in content that fits into clear topical strands and that is evidently part of a series. Videos split over parts posted over a period of time are generally regarded as a bit annoying on TikTok – if they’re not done right. That said, if it’s done well, and is not baity, then content that fits into a larger series can get incredible engagement and follower growth, and can really pay off.

People in the UK spend an average of 85 minutes scrolling through TikTok each day – which is longer than they spend watching TV. There is an appetite for episodic entertainment, and if done well brands can create a sense of loyalty and fandom – much like TV series have done when dropping episodes on a weekly basis for instance. Since the maximum video length on TikTok is 60 seconds, often content creators are forced to split their videos into parts.

When creating episodic content though it’s super important to ensure your content is self-contained as this audience can quickly sniff out anything that’s obviously designed to be baity, or leaves a cliffhanger.

What it’s most important to keep in mind when creating TikTok content for your brand is to keep it light, fun and authentic and to ensure you understand your audience and how they communicate. It’s also crucial to stay on the pulse and up to date with trends as they change so rapidly on this platform, and there is very little worse than an out-of-date reference from a brand trying to shoehorn itself into relevancy. That said, if you can create content that genuinely entertains, it can do wonders for your brand over time.

Zahra Hasan – Insights Lead

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