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  • Oliver Sotirios Bourne

TikTok is not a Social Network.

TikTok is not a social network. yeah, you heard me.


I understand why people keep calling it that, it seems to make sense! At this point we are familiar with social media, we know what it looks and feels like and it is a major part of all our daily lives. The most familiar ones to us are Facebook and Instagram (likely depending on whether your over or under 35) but social media is not always a social network even though it might feel like one. This is an important distinction to make, especially for marketers.





Let me explain:


A social network can be defined as ‘a dedicated website or other application which enables users to communicate with each other by posting information, comments, messages, images, etc.’ So you might be thinking, well that qualifies, right? Wrong.


The most important perspective to consider on social networks is the defining feature that it is a network of "social interactions and personal relationships."





TikTok is not meant for, nor is it designed to facilitate personal relationships, unlike Instagram and Facebook. These are spaces where most people (other than businesses and Influencers) follow their friends and family to see what they’re up to. Users may also follow some people of interest to them, but that's not the primary purpose for most.


TikTok is what I describe as a P2P entertainment platform. Sure, its powered by social users and it’s a form of media so it's certainly ‘Social Media’ but its purpose is not to develop or maintain relationships between users but instead to entertain. Everything from the user experience to the algorithm that presents the ‘for you’ page facilitates a feed that maximises exposure to unfamiliar users and only forms a one-way communication; outward to the audience.


That's exactly why users love it! It's all geared towards virality!





A visual representation I made quickly between the two is here:




As you can see in my diagram, TikTok is not an environment where personal connections are out of the question (although I am being generous in my depiction), it is just not designed for them. Influencers and TikTok royalty may duet each other and form connection bubbles to 'share' followers as seen in the teams like the 'hype house', and rarely they may know someone from real life and throw them a duet, but that's about it.




TikTok isn't the only platform that we use in this manner though, in fact, many social media platforms aren’t social networks. The term has simply become eponymous from that with which we are most familiar: Facebook - The social network. Just like how not all cabs are Ubers and not all vacuums are Hoovers!


Platforms like Twitter, Youtube, and Clubhouse are all P2PEPs.






I leave you with a side-by-side list and some marketing wisdom: P2P entertainment platforms are great vehicles to use when your intention is to expose your brand/product/service/idea to a sheer mass of eyeballs, but the control of who these people are and the value they have to you is limited. If you use them, keep it simple and understandable by all and if you spend some time looking for the right content creator within your niche then you may even be able to transpose some authenticity onto your promotion.





But if you want a precise and certain entry point into a specific and dedicated audience, social networks are the only option. The specificity and detail with which you can promote is unmatched and by virtue of the personal and deep connections between users, you are able to promote in a real and genuine manner that benefits from the authenticity of the real relationships between them.



At WYSPR we know how to utilize these deep and authentic connections to create digital word of mouth. As a result, we create game-changing engagement results through our signature Friendvertising service – to learn how we do this or to find out more just email me at oliver@wyspr.co.uk.


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