TikTok Revenue and Usage Statistics (2021)

Mansoor Iqbal

Updated: March 31, 2021

TikTok, known as Douyin in its home market, was launched in China in September 2016. It was pushed out globally as TikTok the following year.

The TikTok app allows users to create 15 second videos, soundtracked by music clips. Sounds simple enough, but it’s a wildly popular concept. Depending on who you ask, the app was the world’s second-most or fourth-most downloaded non-gaming app of 2019 (only behind various Facebook entities in either case). By 2020, it was comfortably number one.

Get the full TikTok premium report here with curated graphs, data and analysis

TikTok/Douyin parent company ByteDance also owns hugely popular Chinese AI-powered news aggregation platform Toutiao, created by CEO Zhang Yiming at the age of 29 in 2012. Notably, he was not backed by either Alibaba or Tencent. TikTok has succeeded where the latter failed with WeChat – success beyond China.

This was a strategic triumph. In November 2017 ByteDance acquired the popular (also China-based) would-be rival app Musical.ly app for a reported $1 billion. TikTok was merged with Musical.ly in August 2018, with app users’ accounts migrated to their TikTok accounts. This was seen as a way for the Chinese app to enter the US market – with Musical.ly already boasting a considerable American audience.

TikTok/Douyin (and formerly Musical.ly) users use the app largely to create, share, and view content based around lip syncing, dancing, comedy skits, and other physical activities. Clearly, this is something that appeals to young people (and quite a few older ones) around the world, with app snowballing in popularity over 2018 and 2019. Despite only being released in 2016, it was one of the most-downloaded apps of the 2010s.

As of 2021, TikTok is one of the world’s best-loved apps (for those under a certain age at least), its success powered by some of the world’s most sophisticated AI.

That said, it has not been without its controversies. In 2019, it was briefly banned in India for “morality issues”, with pornographic content and predatory behaviour a concern. It has been accused of not adequately safeguarding young users’ data. It was banned again in June 2020 alongside a spate of other Chinese-based apps as tensions between China and India heightened. This was upheld in January 2021, leading TikTok to begin reducing staff in the country.

It is has been investigated in the US over national security concerns and user privacy. ByteDance has released a transparency report to deal with these accusations, and has moved to ringfence TikTok from the rest of its operations. This did not stop President Trump from issuing an executive order in August 2020 against any firms doing business with TikTok.

Nonetheless, as of early 2021, TikTok seems like the app to beat. Scroll on to read our collection of TikTok stats from around the web.

Table of Contents

TikTok Overview and Key Statistics

TikTok User Statistics

TikTok Download Statistics

TikTok Usage Statistics

TikTok Revenue Statistics

TikTok Overview and Key Statistics

LaunchedSeptember 2016 (China); September 2017 (International)
Parent companyByteDance
HQBeijing, China; Culver City, California; London, UK
Key peopleZhang Yiming (ByteDance CEO and founder), Kevin Mayer (TikTok CEO)
Company typePrivate
  • 689 million TikTok users internationally (monthly) (official stats)
  • 600 million Douyin users in China (daily) (official stats)
  • 100 million TikTok users in the US (monthly) (official stats)
  • 100 million TikTok users in Europe, with 17 million in the UK, 11 million in France, and 11 million in Germany (official stats)
  • 6 billion lifetime downloads of TikTok on iOS App Store and Google Play as of December 2020 (Sensor Tower)
  • TikTok 2020 downloads estimated at between 850 million and 987 million, excluding Chinese third-party downloads (Apptopia/Sensor Tower)
  • TikTok global penetration estimated at 18% of global internet users aged 16-64 (GlobalWebIndex)
  • TikTok 2020 revenue estimated at $1 billion (Reuters)
  • TikTok valued at $50 billion (Reuters)

Key TikTok User Statistics

TikTok users, exc. Douyin, millions

DateMonthly active users, millions
Jan-1854
Dec-18271
Dec-19508
Jul-20689

Source: TikTok via CNBC

Douyin users (China only)

DateDaily active users, millions
Jan-19250
Jul-19320
Jan-20400
Sep-20600

Source: TikTok via CNBC

Douyin users vs Chinese competitors, March 2020

AppUsers, millions
Douyin518
Kuaishou443
Bilibili122
Little Red Book77

Source: QuestMobile via WalktheChat

Proportion of global internet users who use TikTok

YearProportion of TikTok users (16-64)
20185%
201911%
202018%

Source: GlobalWebIndex

TikTok users in the US

DateMonthly active users, millions
Jan-1811
Feb-1927
Oct-1940
Jun-2091
Aug-20100

Source: TikTok via CNBC

European monthly users by country (over-18s)

Country Users, millions
Europe total100
UK17
France11
Germany10.7
Italy9.8
Spain8.8
Norway1.2

Source: Bloomberg

TikTok users by country, August 2020 estimates

CountryUsers, millions
US65.9
Indonesia22.2
Russia16.4
Japan12.6
France9.3
Germany9.1
UK8.5
Italy8.3
Spain7.5
Netherlands3.8
South Korea3.3
Australia2.4
Norway1

Source: eMarketer

TikTok user growth over 2020, by country

CountryEstimated user growth
Norway248.7%
Russia140.9%
Italy104.5%
Netherlands94.2%
France88.7%
US85.3%
Germany79.7%
Spain78.1%
UK75.2%
Indonesia57.5%
Australia52.5%
Japan32.3%
South Korea20.9%

Source: eMarketer

Predicted US TikTok users and penetration (internet users)

YearUsers, millionsPenetration
201935.610.8%
202065.919.8%
202173.722%
202279.623.6%
202384.424.9%
202488.726%

Source: eMarketer 

Predicted TikTok US penetration (social media users) vs Instagram and Snapchat

YearTikTokInstagramSnapchat
201917.3%52.6%39.8%
202031.1%53.9%40%
202134.2%54.9%40.1%
202236.3%55.9%40%
202337.9%56.8%39.8%
202439.3%57.5%39.6%

Source: eMarketer

Predicted UK TikTok users and penetration (internet users)

YearUsers, millionsPenetration
20194.912.4%
20208.521.1%
202110.926.4%
202211.727.8%
202312.128.3%
202412.528.5%

Source: eMarketer

TikTok users in Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, millions

DateUsers, millions
Jul-195
Jan-2015.8
Jul-2064.4

Source: eMarketer

TikTok users by gender, percentage

GenderPercentage of users
Male53%
Female47%

Source: Hootsuite/We Are Social

Douyin users by gender

DateMale usersFemale users
Mar-1958.7%41.3%
Mar-2043%57%

Source: QuestMobile via WalktheChat

Douyin users by age

Age% Users, Mar-19% Users, Mar-20
under 1810.5%10.1%
19-2418.7%13.3%
25-3018.8%16.6%
31-3515.6%20.6%
36-4013.2%13.3%
41-4510.1%11.5%
46+13%14.5%

Source: QuestMobile via WalktheChat

US TikTok users by age and gender

AgeMaleFemaleAll genders
10-1914.3%18.2%32.5%
20-2911.2%18.3%29.5%
30-396.5%9.9%16.4%
40-496.7%7.2%13.9%
50+2.3%4.8%7.1%
All ages41%58.4%

Source: App Ape via Statista

How many US Teens are TikTok users?

Time periodPercentage engaging monthly
Spring 202062%
Fall 202069%

Source: Piper Sandler via MarketingCharts

US teens electing TikTok as favourite social media platform

Time period Teens choosing as favourite
Fall 20194%
Spring 202013%
Fall 202029%

Source: Piper Sandler via MarketingCharts

European TikTok users by gender

CountryFemaleMale
UK65%35%
Spain75%25%
Norway/Sweden56%44%

Source: Bloomberg

Proportion of European TikTok users aged under 18 by country

CountryUsers under 18
UK18%
Germany24%
France33%
Italy33%
Spain33%

Source: Bloomberg 

Chinese Douyin users by city tier (QuestMobile)

City TierDouyin users, 2019Douyin users, 2020
Tier 15.7%5%
Tier 213%11.2%
Tier 316.1%13.3%
Tier 425.1%27%
Tier 522.6%26.1%
Tier 617.5%17.4%

Source: QuestMobile via Youxituoluo

Chinese Douyin users by city tier  (Coresight Research)

City TierProportion of Douyin users
Tier 111%
Tier 241%
Tier 323%
Tier 425%

Source: Coresight Research

Most-followed accounts on TikTok*

Account ownerFollowers, millions
Charli D’Amelio105.8
Addison Rae74.3
Zach King54.5
Bella Poarch52.4
Spencer Polanco Knight50.9
Loren Gray50.6
Dixie D’Amelio47.9
Will Smith46.8
Michel Le44
Riyaz Aly43.8

*January 2021, official TikTok account has 50.2 million followers

Source: SocialBlade

Most-followed celebrities on Douyin

Account nameFollowers, millions
Chen He69.96
Dilraba Dilmurat55.6
Show Lo40.39
Angelababy39.46
GEM39.26
Tu Lei37.5
Guan Xiatong33.48
He Jiong31.41
M Brother29.79
Feng Timo28.91

Source: Statista

Key TikTok Download Statistics

TikTok downloads by quarter*

QuarterDownloads, millions
Q2 201621.3
Q3 201621.8
Q4 201624.8
Q1 201722.7
Q2 201728.4
Q3 201733.6
Q4 201746.8
Q1 2018110.3
Q2 2018156
Q3 2018183.8
Q4 2018205.7
Q1 2019187.3
Q2 2019155.9
Q3 2019175.9
Q4 2019199.4
Q1 2020315
Q2 2020306
Q3 2020189
Q4 2020177

*Sensor Tower stats refer to downloads made through Google Play and iOS App Store; third-party Android download stats not included (i.e. Chinese downloads). Applies throughout.

Source: Sensor Tower

TikTok downloads by month

MonthDownloads, millions
November 201865
December 201872
January 201972
February 201968
March 201958
April 201943
May 201956
June 201957
July 201954
August 201963
September 201960
October 201966
November 201972
December 201983
January 2020105
February 2020113
March 2020115
April 2020107
May 2020112
June 202087
July 202065
August 202063
September 202061
October 202066
November 202055
December 202056

Source: Sensor Tower

TikTok downloads by year*, millions

YearDownloads millions
2019682
2020850

*Apptopia stats refer to downloads made through Google Play and iOS App Store; third-party Android download stats not included (i.e. Chinese downloads). Applies throughout.

Source: Apptopia

TikTok lifetime downloads, billions

DateDownloads, billions
Feb-191
Nov-191.5
Apr-202
Dec-202.6

Source: Sensor Tower

Top countries for TikTok downloads, by month

MonthCountryPercentage of total downloads
August 2019India44%
China8%
September 2019India40%
US8%
October 2019India41%
Brazil7%
November 2019India43%
Brazil7%
December 2019India37%
Brazil14%
January 2020India34%
Brazil10%
February 2020India41%
Brazil9%
March 2020India30%
Brazil9%
April 2020India22%
US9%
May 2020India20%
US9%
June 2020India19%
US9%
July 2020US10%
Indonesia9%
August 2020Indonesia11%
Brazil9%
September 2020Brazil11%
US9%
October 2020China12%
Brazil10%
November 2020China12%
Indonesia8%
December 2020China11%
US10%

Source: Sensor Tower

Top countries for TikTok downloads, by year

YearCountry Downloads, millions
2019India190.6
US41
Turkey23.2
Russia19.9
Pakistan19.5
2020India99.8
US45.6
Brazil34.7
Indonesia30.7
Russia25
Mexico24.2

Source: Priori Data

Key TikTok Usage Statistics

Monthly time using TikTok, per US users

DateWeb minutesApp minutes
Oct-19305.9442.9
Nov-19366.7526.1
Dec-19383.8561.2
Jan-20429.8680
Feb-20425.6731.6
Mar-20476858

Source: Comscore via eMarketer

Daily usage in select European markets

CountryDaily usage time, minutesDaily app opens
UK6013
France60
Norway7417

Source: Bloomberg

Daily TikTok usage in children aged 4-14

CountryMay-19, minutesFeb-20, minutesIncrease
US3882116%
UK356997%
Spain2460150%

Source: TechCrunch

Percentage of users sharing content types on Instagram vs other platforms

Content typeTikTok usersInstagramFacebook
Funny videos48%42%36%
Personal news/updates47%43%40%
Memes39%34%29%
Coronavirus news28%26%25%
Influencer posts24%16%13%
Brand posts21%14%11%
Non-coronavirus news21%21%19%
Brand/product recommendations21%15%12%

Source: GlobalWebIndex

Coronavirus sentiment expressed on Douyin

Word/sentiment Instances in 2020, million
Doubt2.2
Giving up7.61
Too difficult14.91
Persistence69.13
Believe130
Encouragement1800

Source: ByteDance via Jing Culture & Commerce

Douyin retention rate vs Chinese competitors

AppOne week retention rate
Douyin86.8%
Kuaishou83%
Bilibili72.8%
Little Red Book53.4%

Source: QuestMobile via WalktheChat

TikTok influencer marketing stats

Marketers planning to use TikTok for influencer marketing over 2021 vs other platforms

PlatformMarketers planning to use
TikTok35%
YouTube58%
Instagram55%
online ads43%
Tv ads29%
OOH ads20%
Twitch20%
Triller10%

*in the US, UK, and Germany

Source: Takumi

Marketers who believe TikTok offers best influencer marketing ROI vs other platforms

PlatformPercentage of marketers
TikTok6%
Online ads21%
Instagram18%
YouTube18%
Tv ads10%

Source: Takumi

Percentage of influencers active on TikTok vs selected other social channels, by country

PlatformUSUKGermany
Instagram100%97%100%
TikTok14%33%
Pinterest38%9%
Twitch19%17%23%
Triller10%8%11%

Source: Takumi

Percentage of consumers who use TikTok to engage with influencers vs other social channels

PlatformUsers engaging with influencers
TikTok14%
YouTube47%
Instagram37%
Pinterest17%
Snapchat15%
Twitch8%
Triller2%

*in the US, UK, and Germany

Source: Takumi

Proportion of users who engage with influencers weekly, by platform*

PlatformUsers engaging with influencers weekly
TikTok95%
YouTube95%
Instagram94%
Instagram94%
Snapchat92%
Pinterest87%
Twitch83%
Triller75%

*in the US, UK, and Germany

Source: Takumi

TikTok influencer engagement rate by follower count, vs other platforms

Follower countTikTok engagement Instagram engagementTwitter engagement
<10009.4%7.2%1.4%
<50008.6%5.3%1.2%
<10,0008.1%3.7%0.6%
<100,0007.2%2.1%0.4%
100,000+5.3%1.1%0.3%

Source: Influencer Marketing Hub

Proportion of consumers* who think TikTok influencer marketing is most likely to lead to a purchase vs other channels

PlatformPercentage of consumers
TikTok4%
Tv ads21%
YouTube16%
Instagram11%
Online ads8%

*in the US, UK, and Germany

Source: Takumi

Key TikTok Revenue Statistics

TikTok revenue by month*

MonthTikTok revenue, USD millions
Apr-197.8
May-199.0
Jun-1910.9
Jul-1911.9
Aug-1914.0
Sep-1916.5
Oct-1918.5
Nov-1933.2
Dec-1943.0
Apr-20**78
May-2095.7
Jun-2090.7
Jul-20102.5
Aug-2088.1
Sep-20130.5
Oct-20115
Nov-20123
Dec-20142

*iOS and Google Play revenue only, excludes Chinese third-party revenue

**figures for January-March 2020 unavailable

Source: Sensor Tower

TikTok revenue by country by month, top markets
ChinaUS Turkey
MonthRevenue, USD millions% global revenueRevenue, USD millions% global revenueRevenue, USD millions% global revenue
Apr-2067.586.6%6.48.2%
May-2085.289%5.96.2%1.11.2%
Jun-2080.789%5.46.0%
Jul-2091.289%6.26.0%
Aug-2074.985%6.97.8%1.21.4%
Sep-20112.286%7.86.0%1.31%
Oct-2098.986%9.28.0%2.32%
Nov-20104.685%9.88.0%2.52%
Dec-20122.186%9.97.0%2.82%

Source: Sensor Tower

Other Key TikTok Statistics

  • TikTok MAUs expected to reach 1.2 billion in 2021 (App Annie)
  • TikTok the seventh-most downloaded app of the 2010s (App Annie)
  • TikTok’s 315 million downloads in Q1 2020 is a record for quarterly downloads (figure excludes Chinese third-party downloads) (SensorTower)
  • TikTok rated the most-downloaded app of 2020, and the second-highest for consumer spend after Tinder (App Annie)
  • 46 million US TikTok downloads in 2019 (Sensor Tower)
  • 89 million US TikTok downloads in 2020 (Apptopia)
  • India top market for TikTok downloads in 2019 (if we exclude Chinese Android downloads), with 323 million (App Annie)
  • Before ban, it was estimated that TikTok user numbers in India would rise to 125 million in 2020, from 80 million in 2019 (eMarketer)
  • Musical.ly counted 100 million users at time of August 2018 merger with TikTok (TechCrunch)
  • Over 50 million daily TikTok users in the US as of August 2020 (TikTok via CNBC)
  • US TikTok penetration at 13%, rising to 27% of under-35s (CivicScience)
  • Four in 10 adult European TikTok users aged 18-24 (Bloomberg)
  • In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, US TikTok users were marginally more likely to lean Democrat than non users; 55% vs 51% (CivicScience)
  • In 2019, only 9% of US internet users had used TikTok, with 5% more interested in using it; this rose to 49% for teenage users (eMarketer)
  • Android TikTok users spent 68 billion hours using the app in 2019 (App Annie)
  • China accounts for eight out of every 10 minutes viewed on TikTok (App Annie)
  • Average daily time on TikTok estimated at 45 minutes (Fast Company)
  • 400 million searches take place on Douyin each day (ByteDance)
  • Average Douyin usage time per day was logged at 88 minutes per day in March 2020 (Newrank & Guosen via WalktheChat)
  • A November 2020 analysis found daily Douyin usage time of 91 minutes (QuestMobile via Bloomberg)
  • Monthly Douyin usage time in March 2020 was pegged at 1,709 minutes – a 72.5% increase, year-on-year (QuestMobile via Youxituoluo)
  • US users opened TikTok an average of eight times a day in 2018, with sessions averaging just under 5 minutes (TikTok via DigiDay)
  • Indian users spend 38 minutes daily using TikTok (The Economic Times)
  • 16% of US/UK users turned to TikTok to feel more connected to others during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic (GlobalWebIndex)
  • Videos related to coronavirus prevention and control received 42 billion plays on Douyin over 2020 (Jing Daily)
  • 20-21:00 most popular time for users to shoot Douyin content (ByteDance)
  • A late 2018 Global Web Index study found 55% of TikTok users uploaded a video in the last month, compared to 68% who had watched one (GlobalWebIndex)
  • TikTok the most positively reviewed app in the US in 2020, with 88% positive reviews (SensorTower)
  • 60% of TikTok users feel a sense of community while using the app (Nielsen)
  • 14% of marketers planned to up their TikTok spend over 2021 (HubSpot)
  • Only 3% of marketers chose TikTok as one of the most effective social media channels (CivicScience)
  • 61% of TikTok users feel ads on TikTok are unique, compared with other platforms (Nielsen)
  • 43% of TikTok users feel advertising on the platform blends in with native content (Nielsen)
  • 52% of users say they discover new products on TikTok (Nielsen)
  • 42,000 merchants shifted $633 million worth of goods in Hubei province (Jing Culture & Commerce)
  • TikTok 2020 revenue came to $540 million (excluding Chinese third-party revenue), making it the top-grossing app of the year (Apptopia)
  • Global TikTok revenue for 2020 estimated to reach $1 billion (Reuters)
  • TikTok 2019 revenue came to $176.9 million (excluding non-iOS Chinese revenue) (Sensor Tower)
  • Other estimates put TikTok 2019 revenue at between $200million and $300 million (The Information)
  • Insiders estimated that TikTok would generate $500 million in US revenue over 2020 (The Information)
  • One third of Douyin users use the app for live streaming, generating $18 million daily The Information)
  • 22 million content creators made a collective $6.15 billion on Douyin over the course of 2020, according to ByteDance (Jing Daily)
  • TikTok announced $200 million Creator’s Fund in July 2020, set to rise to $1 billion in the following three years (TikTok)
  • In the UK, TikTok posted losses of $120 million in 2019, driven by $109 million sales/marketing expense, with sales coming to $20 million (Bloomberg)
  • ByteDance generated RMB 40 billion in Chinese revenue in Q1 2020 ($6.2 billion), leading the company to target RMB 200 billion ($31 billion) over the full year (Straits Times)
  • ByteDance reported to have brought in RMB 180 billion ($27.2 billion) in Chinese ad revenue by November 2020; 60% of this revenue is generated through Douyin  (Reuters)
  • TikTok valued at $50 billion by investors (Reuters)
  • ByteDance 2020 revenue stood at $35 billion (Bloomberg)
  • ByteDance 2019 revenue stood at $16 billion (Reuters)
  • ByteDance controlled 23% of the Chinese digital app market in H1 2019 (CNBC)
  • ByteDance became the world’s most highly-valued private startup, with a valuation of $78 billion after a SoftBank-led $3 billion investment round (CNBC)
  • Highest 2020 valuation of ByteDance at $140 billion (Reuters)
  • It has been predicted that ByteDance could raise $180 billion in an IPO (CNBC)

TikTok User Statistics

TikTok is available in over 150 markets around the world, in 39 languages. The latest available official statistics from July 2020 show that there are 689 million TikTok users around the world (monthly active users).

This updates stats from 2019, which gave us a figure of 500 million. Excluding Chinese apps, this puts TikTok behind only the Facebook family of apps, and YouTube, in terms of user numbers.

These figures do not include Chinese Douyin users.

TikTok users (MAUs), millions

TikTok use growth

Source: TikTok via CNBC

App Annie expect total TikTok user numbers to reach 1.2 billion over 2021.

TikTok global penetration 

GlobalWebIndex stats from 2020 peg global TikTok penetration among internet users aged 16-64 at 18%, up from 11% a year prior, and 5% in 2018.

This means that nearly one-in-five global internet users were TikTok users in 2020, likely to have crossed that threshold by 2021.

TikTok global penetration, percentage of internet users aged 16-64

TikTok global penetration

Source: GlobalWebIndex

TikTok (Douyin) in China

The above figures do not include users of the Chinese version of TikTok, Douyin. Separate official figures pertaining to this app from September 2020 give us a figure of 600 million users.  This is up on 400 million in January 2020. These are daily active users – meaning that the monthly figure is likely to be even higher than the TikTok figure above.

This would make it one of China’s most-used apps. The latest stats at the time of writing give QQ 617 million monthly active users, and WeChat over 1.2 billion. We can assume, therefore, that Douyin probably occupies the number two spot.

Previous figures set Douyin’s monthly active user count at 300 million in June 2018, with 150 million of these logging into Douyin on a daily basis. This increased to 400 million monthly active users, and 200 million daily active users by November of the same year, according to Chinese media reports.

Douyin users (DAUs), millions

Douyin users (DAUs), millions

Source: TikTok via CNBC

68% of Chinese social media users use Douyin, and 59% of smartphone users said ByteDance back in 2019.

The short video format as a whole is big business in China, accounting for 9% of online time in the world’s most-populous nation as of late 2018.

According to Miaozhen data published by WalktheChat, Douyin overtook Kuaishou in Q1 2018 to become the most popular short video app in the country.

It has maintained this lead. As of March 2020, when Douyin daily users were estimated at 518 million, we can see that Kuaishou remains the biggest threat to Douyin’s pre-eminence. It’s not just a battle for users. It is thought that the February 2021 Kuaishou IPO will offer a financial threat to ByteDance. ByteDance rival Tencent has a 21.6% stake in Kuaishou.

Douyin users (DAUs) vs Chinese competitors

Douyin users (DAUs) vs Chinese competitors

Source: QuestMobile via WalktheChat

Casting our eyes back, QuestMobile data from June 2019 shows Douyin’s then monthly user count of 486 million well in excess of Kuaishou’s 341 million users. We should note that ByteDance’s dominance does not end with TikTok. Its Xigua (more focused on search, allowing for videos up to five minutes) and Huoshan (livestreaming) apps, with 131 and 106 million users respectively were the third and fourth most-used short video apps at this point. Both are, however, were some distance behind Kauishou.

Media titans Tencent and Baidu filled in the bottom places, with their apps some distance behind in terms of active user count. The exception is Tencent’s Weishi, which is not far behind ByteDance’s apps. The standout feature of Weishi is its lyric and subtitle matching, and access to the sizeable QQ Music library.

From left to right this graphic shows ByteDance’s Douyin, Xigua, and Huoshan; Kuaishou; Tencent’s Weishi and Huoguo Shipin; and Baidu’s Haokan Shipin and Quanmin Xiao Shipin.

Top short-video apps in China, MAU, hundreds of millionsMost popular short video apps in China

Source: QuestMobile via Pandaily

eMarketer predicted that the total number of active Douyin users in China will rise to 556 million by 2023, accounting for 60% of mobile users in the country. As above, this ended up being well short of the mark – though in fairness, these estimates did not take into account the year that 2020 was set to be…

Douyin users in China, 2018 – 2023

Douyin users in China, 2018 - 2023

Source: eMarketer

The combined level of penetration of ByteDance’ video apps in China stood at 72.1% in September 2019. This compared to 42% for Kuaishou. For more specific Douyin stats, we can refer to ByteDance’s penetration figures of 59% of smartphone users and 68% of social media users, as above (allowing for the fact that these are drawn from different datasets).

The Miaozhen data to which we referred above put Douyin’s level of market penetration at 30%, as of June 2018, compared with Kuaishou’s 25%.

Short video apps are massive in China; 810 million users of such apps were counted in Q3 2019. This represents a 25% increase year-on-year.

TikTok users in the US

TikTok’s official stats released in the second half of 2020 showed the app had more users than was previously estimated, including in some specific markets.

In the US, for instance, it was revealed that there were no fewer than 100 million users in August 2020, a  bump up from 91 million in May 2020. This is over twice the October 2019 figure of 2019.

Clearly the unique events of 2020 drove substantial quantities of new users to TikTok.

TikTok user growth in the US, MAUs, millions

TikTok user growth in the US

Source: TikTok via CNBC

Other TikTok user figures revealed there were 50 million daily TikTok users in the US, as of August 2020. The app was the most positively reviewed of 2020 in the US, logging 88% positive reviews, according to Sensor Tower.

eMarketer’s projected figures for TikTok user growth in the US saw a figure of 88.7 million being reached by 2024, based on an expected pattern of slowing growth. This would see penetration (among internet users) increasing from 20% in 2020 to 26% over this same period.

Predicted US TikTok users, millions, and penetration, percent (internet users)

Precited US TikTok users and penetration

Source: eMarketer

Other figures, from CivicScience, pegged US TikTok penetration at 13% in March 2020, rising to 27% of those aged under 35.

In terms of how it compares with its chief rivals, Snapchat and Instagram in terms of penetration, these figures estimated that TikTok would reach 31.1% of social media users in 2020. This would increase to 39.3% by 2024, at which point it would catch Snapchat, predicted to hold its current market penetration, more or less.

In 2020, Snapchat counted a little over 100 million daily users in the US, so TikTok did indeed remain a little way behind.

It would still lag well behind Instagram (an estimated 140 million US users in 2020), which is predicted to reach 57.5% penetration by 2024, up from 53.9% in 2020.

Predicted TikTok US penetration vs Instagram and Snapchat, percent (social media users)

Predicted TikTok US penetration vs Instagram and Snapchat, percentage of social media users

Source: eMarketer

eMarketer is not alone in underestimating TikTok’s potential. Reuters reported a figure of 26.5 million back in November 2019 – though this also did perhaps seem a little bit on the low side (the actual figure was 40 million in October 2019).

Going back a little, the August 2018 merger with Musical.ly provided a substantial boost to active users of the platform – particularly in the US. Musical.ly, it should be noted was a hugely popular app, which had topped iOS free download charts in 19 countries and counted 100 million monthly active users. This was a clear part of TikTok’s strategy to grow its overseas userbase to over 50% of total users.

As a side note, this was not just powered by pure excitement over new functionality for Musical.ly users; Apptopia reports a significant increase in advertising spend by ByteDance in the months following the merger (something not unnoticed by the online commentariat).

ByteDance advertising spend following TikTok/Musical.ly consolidation

ByteDance advertising spend following TikTok/Musical.ly consolidation

Source: Apptopia

This investment into advertising was maintained. In a June 2019 analysis, the Wall Street Journal reported that TikTok was the largest advertiser on Snapchat, running an app-install campaign worth $1 billion. Advertising on rival platforms has been a key strategy for TikTok. Indeed, a slowdown in download growth was ascribed to a decline in Facebook ad spending.

The merger with Musical.ly has not been without its challenges, however. The ByteDance’s failure to seek from the US Committee on Foreign Investment forms the basis of current American concerns over national security, and a resultant investigation. Divestment from these assets has been suggested as a possible solution.

Back in 2019, despite the hype surrounding the app, only 9% of US internet users had used the app, as of October of that year, with a further 5% stating an intention to use it. 49% remained unmoved by the app’s appeal, with a further 37% reporting that they had never heard of the app.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that this simply represented a huge potential market into which TikTok could grow. We would dare say now that a good deal more US Americans have heard of TikTok, and – as with all social trends – many more will have become interested in using the app.

What percentage of Americans have used or plan to use TikTok as of December 2019?

What percentage of Americans have used or plan to use TikTok?

Source: eMarketer

Figures are, of course, stronger among teenaged users, 49% of whom had used the app in the month prior. This, however, is someway inferior to the 67% who had used Snapchat, 74% who had used Instagram, and the 90% who had used YouTube.

TikTok users by country

TikTok user figures pertaining to certain European markets were obtained by Bloomberg in September 2020. These figures indicate a total of 100 million TikTok users across Europe.

The UK was the leading market by some way according to these stats, with 17 million monthly active users. This is a considerable increase on the 10 million reported in Q1 2020. France and Germany, on 11 million apiece follow, with Italy (10 million) and Spain (9 million) not far behind.

Bloomberg notes that aspects of the presentation from which this information was obtained pertain only to adult TikTok users; the wording is not entirely clear as to whether this applies to total user numbers.

Given the app’s popularity with teenagers and even pre-teens, this means that these figures may be well below the total figures. Of the adult users covered, four in 10 were aged 18-24.

See TikTok demographics for the percentage of teens found in each market.

TikTok users in European markets, MAUs, millions

TikTok users European markets

Source: Bloomberg

The official TikTok users figures blew previous estimates out of the water.

As of August 2020, eMarketer by country stats estimated that there were 65.9 million TikTok users in the US. As we cover above, these stats were quickly shown to be 50% too low. We include the below by country stats to both emphasise how much higher user numbers were than expected, and to give estimates for markets for which we do not have official figures.

Indonesia and Russia, with 22.2 million and 16.4 million users respectively, are next in this ranking with Japan (12.6 million) and France (9.3 million) rounding out a diverse top five.

TikTok users by country, August 2020 estimates, millions

TikTok users by country, August 2020 estimates

Source: eMarketer

If tempted to suggest that eMarketer’s figures failed to account for TikTok’s explosion in popularity, we might note that they were built upon substantial user growth.

Norway led the way, with a predicted 250% increase in user numbers over 2020. Bigger markets, such as Russia (141%), France (89%), and even the US (85%) also were predicted to log phenomenal growth in TikTok user numbers over 2020.

2020 user growth by country, August 2020 estimates, percentage growth

User growth by country, August 2020 estimates, millions

Source: eMarketer

eMarketer’s UK figures are even lower than the US figures seen above, with the estimated figure of 8.5 million TikTok users at half the 17 million official figure (potentially 20 million with users aged under 18). This was predicted to rise to 12.5 million by 2024, taking total penetration to 28.5%, up from 21.1% in 2020.

Naturally, we will have to up these estimates according to the real figures, but we perhaps can an idea of the predicted pattern of growth. In this, 2020 stands out as a year of rapid growth, before more steady user growth in the following years.

Predicted UK TikTok users, millions, and penetration, percent (internet users)

Predicted UK TikTok users, millions, and penetration, percent (internet users)

Source: eMarketer

TikTok in Asia

Global Web Index stats from Q2 2019 showed TikTok penetration was then highest in Asia, where over a third of users aged 16-64 had an account. There wasn’t much to split the rest of the world, with penetration of between 12% (North America) and 10% (Latin America and Europe).

TikTok penetration by region, Q2 2019

TikTok penetration by region, Q2 2019

Source: Global Web Index

As of June 2019, it was estimated that there were 120 million monthly TikTok users in India. But pre-ban India was/is not the only prominent TikTok market.

A more conservative estimate from eMarketer, true to form, had Indian TikTok user numbers reaching 125 million in 2020 (pre-ban). It estimated 2019 user numbers at 80 million.

App Ape Lab gives us a slightly more conservative figure for India, at 75 million users (Android only), as of December 2019. This is actually down a little on the year’s peak for TikTok users in India, with nearly 80 million monthly active TikTok users logged in September. Growth in Indian TikTok MAU for the year comes to around 50%, despite this.

Its figure of 6 million MAU in Indonesia and 3 million in South Korea also seem on the low side. Whether or not we can take these TikTok user numbers as representative, we can at least chart user growth over the course of 2019.

These figures are Android only, though this is only likely to have a significant impact on South Korean MAU.

TikTok users in India, Indonesia, and South Korea, Android, 2019

TikTok users in India, Indonesia, and South Korea, Android

Source: App Ape Lab

The region is clearly an important one for ByteDance. TikTok announced a partnership with on-demand video player iFlix in 13 countries in Southeast Asia. This would make a selection of TikTok clips available in the iFlix ‘Snacks Library’. This is TikTok’s first attempt to reach an audience through an over-the-top video player. TikTok compilations are common on YouTube however.

In November 2019, TikTok ran a talent contest entitled All-Star Southeast Asia. 302,000 entrants entered the competition, with judges including a range of singers, actors, and TV personalities from the region. Awards were handed out over three categories: Acting, won by HT Channel, talent, won by Yanyan de Jesus, and lifestyle, won by Dao Thi Quynh.

A marketing conference focusing on the region was held in Singapore in July 2019.

TikTok users in Latin America

The final set of the eMarketer by country stats to which we referred above  pertain to the Latin American markets of Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina. In these markets, it is estimated that TikTok user numbers reached a collective 64.4 million in July 2020. This represents a huge leap from January 2020’s 15.8 million, which itself is some way up on July 2019’s 5 million.

We have no official figures by way of comparison, but given the keen app adoption we have previously seen in Brazil and Mexico, the figure could well be higher.

TikTok users in Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, millions

TikTok users in Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, millions

Source: eMarketer

TikTok demographics

Hootsuite/We Are Social TikTok figures from late 2020 give us a gender split of 53:47 in favour of male users.

TikTok users by gender, percent

TikTok users by gender, percent

Source: Hootsuite/We Are Social

App Ape figures from June 2020 show a distinct tilt towards female users in the US, accounting for 58.4% of TikTok users, to 41% male. In terms of age, it is a simple downward trend as we go up in age. Teenage users account for a nearly a third of the total, with a further 30% in their 20s, falling to 16% for users in their 30s.

60% of US TikTok users were aged between 16-24, according to a November 2019 release from Reuters.

US TikTok users by age and gender, percent

uk tiktok users by age and gender

Source: App Ape via Statista

A biannual survey conducted by Piper Sandler found 69% of US teens used TikTok in fall 2020, up from 62% in spring.

Percentage of US Teens that use TikTok 

Percentage of US Teens that use TikTok 

Piper Sandler via MarketingCharts

The same survey found increasing numbers of teen choosing TikTok as their favourite app – 29% in fall 2020. The emergence of TikTok has served to threaten the long established duopoly of Snapchat and Instagram in this long running survey.

Percentage of US teens electing TikTok as favourite social media platform

Percentage of US Teens that use TikTok 

Piper Sandler via MarketingCharts

ComScore TikTok data (March 2019) found over 50% of TikTok users in the US are aged 18-34 – with a nearly even split between 18-24 year olds and 25-34 year olds. Interestingly though, we still saw a quarter of US TikTok users were aged 45-64. Its appeal, therefore, is not simply limited to kids…

We should note that this data does not include those under 18 years of age, which is clearly a key TikTok demographic, as we see above – and certainly may significantly reshape this data.

We also get a snapshot of TikTok user income. We find a preponderance of usage among those with household income in excess of $100,000 bracket (37% of users). TikTok, then, seems to be an app for the comfortably off – which certainly makes a compelling case to would-be TikTok marketers.

On the other hand, 30% of US TikTok users report household income of $40,000 or less. We might assume some quantity of these would be students, not yet earning an income – or those at early stages of their career.

US TikTok user demographics

US TikTok user demographics

Source: ComScore via MarketingCharts

One more thing we know about TikTok users in the US: they were more likely to lean Democrat than non-users: 55% compared to 51%.

The Bloomberg data to which we refer above also gives us a gender split for select European markets. This also shows a distinct inclination towards female users. This is most pronounced in Spain, where three-quarters of TikTok users are female. It’s a bit more balanced in Scandinavia, where 44% of TikTok users are male. The UK lies in the middle, with a roughly 2:1 gender split in favour of female users.

This data seems to refer only to adult users – we may see a more even split among teens.

European TikTok users by gender,  percent

European TikTok users by gender

Source: Bloomberg

The source from which the Bloomberg obtained its European user numbers (a TikTok for Business presentation) gives us a proportion of under-18 TikTok users in the aforementioned European markets.

This ranges from a third in France, Spain, and Italy, to 24% in Germany, and only 18% in the UK. If the Bloomberg figures referenced above do not include teenage users, this gives us an idea of what the total userbase in each country might be.

Proportion of under-18s in European markets, percent

Under 18 TikTok users in Europe by country

Source: Bloomberg

App Ape also gave us a demographic breakdown of TikTok users in India, Indonesia, and South Korea, though these date back to 2019.

As with so many apps, India’s TikTok user base is heavy skewed male, a ratio not too far off being 10:1. In South Korea and Indonesia, we see a slight tilt towards female users.

In India, usage is most prevalent among users in the their 20s. Interestingly, we see users in their 30s outnumbering teenage users. The landscape here, then, is different.

Indonesian TikTok users show a more typical pattern, with usage declining as we go up through the age groups. In South Korea, the pattern in anything but typical. Users in their 40s are the biggest demographic, followed by 30-somethings.

The app sees its lowest levels of usage among users in the their 20s, with male users in their 20s the smallest demographic, followed by male teenagers. The latter are outnumbered by users in their 50s or over of both genders.

Indian, Indonesia, and South Korean TikTok demographics

Indian, Indonesia, and South Korean TikTok demographics

Source: App Ape Lab

We are also given a demographic break down of users in Japan. This is a relatively small sample of 6 million users, though this affluent, highly-digital, Asian can perhaps give us an indication of TikTok’s success in particular market conditions.

Here we see a near-perfect gender split. Interestingly, usage seems relatively evenly split through various age groups, with only a slight weighting towards younger demographics. Interestingly, there are nearly as many 40-something users as there are 20-something users, with usage trailing off very slightly among presumably career-focussed 30-somethings.  Teenage users, are however, the largest constituency.

Teenage users also show one of the strongest gender imbalances, skewing significantly female. Among older demographics, we see the opposite trend.

Japanese TikTok demographics

Japanese TikTok demographics

Source: App Ape Lab                                                                                                                          

In Brazil and Germany (both reckoned at around 3 million Android TikTok users at this point), TikTok users skew female. This is particularly pronounced in Brazil, where the ratio was close to 2:1.

Brazil and Germany TikTok demographics

Brazil and Germany TikTok demographics

Source: App Ape Lab

While TikTok users are typically teenagers in the popular imagination, this is coming to be less the case in many markets. In China, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the UAE, 25-34-year-old users outnumber 16-24-year olds.

Douyin demographics

QuestMobile data shows a shift in Douyin demographics between 2019 and 2020, with an almost complete reversal of the gender split.

Female users now account for 57%, having previously only made up 41% of the user base. It is unclear what may have led to this drastic shift, that came along with a significant increase in users over this time.

Interestingly, this closely matches the gender split we saw for the US.

Douyin users by gender, percent

Douyin users by gender, percent

QuestMobile via WalktheChat

This suggests a trend, however Jiguang/WalktheChat Douyin stats showed a greater proportion of female users in China, around two thirds, all the way back in 2018.

Gender breakdown of Chinese Douyin users

Changing age demographics of Douyin Users in China

Source: WalktheChat/Jiguang

We also saw an upward shift in terms of the age of Douyin users between 2019 and 2020, with users in their early 30s coming to account for the biggest demographic (20.6%, up from 15.6%). We also saw small but noteworthy upward shifts among older demographics.

On the other hand, the share of 19-24-year-old users fell to 13.3% from 18.7%, while 25-30-year-old users fell to 16.6% from 18.8%.

Douyin users by age, percent

douyin users by age

QuestMobile via WalktheChat

According to Global Web Index TikTok stats (published in August 2019), Chinese Douyin users were a little older than TikTok users from elsewhere. Outside of China, 43% of TikTok users were aged 16-24, whereas in China over 60% are 25-44.

2018 stats show that this shift upwards through age categories seems to be a long term trend. Then, the highest preponderance of users fell into the 20-24 age group (around a third), followed by 25-29, accounting for a little over a quarter. One in five users was yet to reach to their 20th birthday.

Age of Chinese Douyin users

Age of Chinese Douyin users

Source: WalktheChat/Jiguang

We can trace the above trends further back still. As of July 2017, users under the age of 25 represented just over half of users. By February of 2018, this had dropped to 32% – which still leaves it as the largest age demographic, if not by so generous a margin.

The greatest growth over this period came in the 25-30 demographic, which has more than doubled to come to account for nearly a quarter of users, overtaking the 31-35 bracket of users in late 2017.

The latter has also grown, though not quite as dramatically and from a much higher base. It did, however, draw level in February 2018 (the end point of this analysis) with the 25-30 bracket.

Changing age demographics of Douyin Users in China

Changing age demographics of Douyin Users in China

Source: WalktheChat

The app’s creators also confirm the trend: as of early June 2018, 40% of users fell into the 25-30 bracket – overtaking 18-24 year olds as the most numerous users of the app.

A full demographic breakdown from iResearch gives us a snapshot of Douyin users as of September 2019.

According to these stats, male Douyin users narrowly outnumber female, 52% to 48%. We might bear in mind that this is slightly less pronounced than China’s birth ratio, which currently stands at 115:100 in favour of males.

In terms of age, the best represented age group here is the under 25s, who account for nearly a third of users. 31-35 year olds outnumber 25-30 year olds, though not by a huge distance (26.1% to 24.8%). We see a distinct tail off among older users, with over 40s (a low cut-off point) accounting for a mere 5.4%.

In terms of ‘city tier’, Douyin usage is concentrated among the larger urban areas, with Tier 2 cities accounting for nearly a quarter of Douyin users. These are closely followed by new Tier 1 and Tier 3 cities. The three, between them, account for over two thirds of Douyin users.

The biggest Tier 1 cities (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou) account for only 11% of Douyin users. Only a handful of cities qualify as Tier 1, so this is actually closer to representative of the wider population. This reveals that Douyin is a country-wide phenomenon, not limited to early adopters in technologically-progressive big cities.

This, however, has its limits. Usage levels are significantly lower in less-developed but highly-populated bands of Tier 4 and 5, while Tier 3 cities’ numerical advantage presumably contributes to its large share of Douyin users.

We might add that we are looking at an unannotated dataset here. The city tier system is an informal one, with cities moving between bands depending on who you ask. The number of tiers varies too – often ending at Tier 3. The data we have here is at slightly more granular (albeit completely unscientific) level. Lower bands tend to contain more cities, and more people as a consequence, despite being smaller individually.

Douyin demographics, September 2019

Douyin demographics, September 2019

Data Source: iResearch

More up-to-date data from QuestMobile shows a distinct tilt toward lower tier cities, with both Tiers 4 and 5 accounting for over a quarter of Douyin users in 2020.

The ‘top’ three tiers account for 19.5% between them, with Tier 1 only accounting for 5%. Once again, pointing to a truly nationwide phenomenon.

This seems to have become more pronounced between 2019 and 2020, with Tiers 4 and 5 gaining at the expense of the top-three.

Douyin users by city tier, percent (QuestMobile)

Douyin users by city tier, percent (QuestMobile)Source: QuestMobile via Youxituoluo

Coresight Research stats are split into four tiers, so some of the above categories will be merged or chopped in half. As such, Tier 1 accounts for 11% of users, and Tier 2 here becomes the biggest by far, with 41%.

Nonetheless, Tier 3 and 4 by this analysis contain a quarter (more or less) apiece of Douyin users. Again, the takeaway is that this is not an app aimed only at urbanites.

Douyin users by city tier, percent (Coresight Research)

Douyin users by city tier, percent (Coresight)

Source: Coresight Research  

The proportion of Douyin users living in the biggest cities also seems to have fallen significantly between March-May 2017 and March-May 2018. Smaller cities, on the other hand, saw growth in Douyin usage over this period. The percentages listed here are drawn from another data set and do not quite tarry with those above.

Shift in Douyin users’ geographical base

Shift in Douyin users’ geographical base

Source: WalktheChat/Miaozhen

Older data from Jiguang, published by WalktheChat, breaks users down by individual city. The most populous cities topped the list, as we’d expect, with Beijing leading Shanghai.

Top Chinese cities for Douyin usage

Top Chinese cities for Douyin usage

Source: WalktheChat/Jiguang

Douyin publisher demographics

In terms of who publishes content on Douyin, we saw the same gender split we saw above, with female Douyin users far more active than their male peers. Of these, the 21-25 year old grouping were by far the most active, accounting for half of the content posted by women or girls.

The same applies on the male side, though not quite so starkly, with older male content posters more active (in proportional terms at least).

Douyin content publisher demographics

Douyin content publisher demographics

Source: WalktheChat/Miaozhen

If we break down content posters in a different way, we see that regular users accounted for just shy of 50% of content posted. Internet celebrities post another third, offline celebrities and brands (a piffling 4%) the rest.

Who publishes content on Douyin?

Who publishes content on Douyin?

WalktheChat/Miaozhen

According to Tencent Market Insight, cited by Sean Wang on Medium in May 2018, 82% of TikTok/Douyin users were looking for funny videos, with talent (56%) and daily life (54.1%) the next most popular categories. The same study shows that a greater proportion of creators were interested in trying the app out for themselves (78%) than were trying to get followers (16%) – don’t forget the requisite pinch of salt to season this self-reported data. This was, however, early days for the app.

In terms of content, the app prioritises an in-house curated feed over an accounts-followed feed. Accordingly, only 23% of users use the latter function at the point at which this data was collected – something which might be of note to brands or other users trying to gain traction on the platform.

TikTok users’ values

TikTok users are conscious of status, reveal Global Web Index stats. They are 1.5x more likely to promote a brand online if it would enhance their status online – which chimes with the fact that they are 1.3x more likely to be categorised as status seekers.

Below we can see some of the most-distinctive values of TikTok users, measured by the proportion of users ascribing to each value and how this percentage compares to the average internet user.

TikTok users value product-centric communities; they are 1.4x more likely to buy a product in order to feel part of their community associated with said product. They are open to advertising (1.35x) and can be swayed by others’ opinions (1.34x) – ergo open to influencer marketing.

They seem fairly relaxed about things, with a majority feeling comfortable about the global economy, and the environment alike – levels 1.32x and 1.31x greater than average. They are also confident about their own personal economies, with 41% – 1.33x more than global average – reporting that they were comfortable borrowing money.

And finally, we see that they are brand conscious people: 1.27x more than average.

TikTok users’ most distinctive values

TikTok users’ most distinctive values

Source: Global Web Index

These users are keen to express their opinion, with one third saying their opinion was the main reason for using the internet. Two-thirds had posted a review of a product or service.

Top TikTok users

As with any viral app, TikTok can count a number of celebrity users. In the US, these include comedian and Tonight Show presenter Jimmy Fallon and pro-skateboarder Tony Hawk. The former’s videos have been viewed over 10 million times. Fallon’s #tumbleweedchallenge asked viewers to roll along on the floor like tumbleweed accompanied by music; in the space of a week, the challenge attracted 8,000 submissions and 10.4 million engagements. This was the greatest level of engagement generated by any such ‘challenge’ on the platform recorded up until this point.

The accolade of most-popular user – or users we should say – on TikTok was formerly held by Germany’s Lisa and Lena, with 32.7 million followers. The twins (also big on Instagram) were known for their lip-synced clips, and even released a single of their own in July 2017.

They, however, left TikTok in March 2019, claiming that they did not want to support a site that wasn’t safe (thought to be in reference to the platform’s failure to meet child protection guidelines, and usage of minors’ data). The pair are still active on Instagram and YouTube, and have even crossed over to television, doing work for children’s television network Nickelodeon.

The most-followed account belongs to young voice actress and influencer Charli D’Amelio, with 105.8 million followers, as of January 2021. In true social media dynasty style, her singer sister Dixie also makes the top 10, with 47.9 million followers.

In second, however, is dancer Addison Rae – dance being a format perfectly suited to TikTok. She has 74.3 million followers. Third is Zach King, with 31.9 million followers, who specialises in digital sleights of hand.

Jumping down to the sixth most-followed TikTok account, we find American singer and social media personality Loren Gray, who formerly held number one. She still counts more followers than the official TikTok account – 50.6 million to 50.2 followers.

The list is made up nearly entirely of young creators who have made their name on social media. The sole exception being the original rapper-slash-actor Will Smith, whose 46.8 million followers get him into eighth-place.

The top-10 is dominated by US Americans. Impressively-bequiffed Indian teenager Riyaz Aly, with 43.8 million followers, comes in 10th, however – showing the power of TikTok in the Indian market. The absence of other Indian names reflects the impact of the ban.

Baby Ariel no longer makes the the top-10, though was chosen as one of Time magazine’s most-influential people on the internet in 2017, and one of Forbes’s top influencers the same year. As with Loren Gray, she also a singer, having crossed over from lip-syncing.

It seems as if many TikTok users who gain fame view the platform as a springboard to more conventional types of fame, which is probably linked to the superior earnings potential on offer. On the other hand, there is no questioning the levels of screaming fandom that are possible for those using TikTok, and previously Musical.ly, as their medium.

A host of names who first made their names on Musical.ly (Loren Gray and Baby Ariel for example), confirms how significant this takeover was in terms of gaining a foothold in the West.

Most-followed individual accounts TikTok (January 2021), millions

most-followed on TikTok

Source: SocialBlade

The biggest Douyin celebrity accounts once dwarfed TikTok. With TikTok’s huge increase in users over 2020, however, this is no longer the case (though we are comparing June 2020 stats with January 2021 here). This list looks at traditional celebs – we couldn’t find data that referred to influencers so it is unclear whether there are any with more followers than the below.

The biggest Douyin account belongs to actor Chen He, aka Michael He, with 69.96 million followers. Fellow actor Dilraba Dilmurat comes in second with 55.6 million, and singer Show Lo comes third with 40.39 million.

Most-followed celebrities on Douyin, June 2020, millions

Most-followed celebrities on Douyin, June 2020, millions

Source: Statista

An Indian TikTok collective called Team 07 were followed by 40 million users collectively, with most-popular member Mr Faisu counting 21 million. Three of its five members were, however, banned from the platform in July 2019 for posting content warning of possible repercussions after an Indian Muslim man was lynched the previous month. The three were referred to the police for promoting enmity between different groups.

TikTok, naturally wanting to stay on side in its second-biggest market, banned the users. Previous Team 07 content had featured the usual benign TikTok content, such as lip-syncing and dancing.

Outside of the ranks of the rich and/or famous, the app is also reportedly popular among nurses, firefighters, and members of the US army – albeit it has been banned by the US Navy over security fears.

An analysis from Jing Daily looked at the most popular users on Douyin in China in March 2019, analysing some key trends. Among these was a trend towards comedy, with three of the top-10 accounts classifiable in this category. These include the top account, an account featuring comedian Guo Donglin, which at this point was growing by 8 million followers per month.

Another popular theme was videos focused on one single area (beauty, pets, food, etc), around which relatively formulaic videos are produced. These ‘single-vertical’ accounts made up four of the top-10 at this point.

The article also points to the popularity of mini-TV shows on Douyin, with one example clocking up 6 million followers after posting a mere 14 videos.

TikTok vs Facebook

Instagram’s parent company, Facebook – never known to rest on its laurels in the face of competition – announced it was building a standalone app known as Lasso, which aims to directly challenge TikTok for a share of the Generation Z market. Lasso launched in November 2018.

As of October 2019, Lasso had logged 425,000 installs – not in TikTok’s league.

A leaked recording from July 2019 revealed that Mark Zuckerberg’s strategy was to first target markets in which TikTok has as of yet failed to gain a foothold. Although sources have also indicated that Facebook is aiming to go head-to-head with TikTok in its biggest market outside of China, India, in 2020.

It was reported in November 2019 that Instagram was also trialling a suspiciously TikTok-like function in Brazil. This short video platform will reportedly be known as Cenas (Portuguese for ‘reels’).

This would not be the first time Facebook has attempted to parrot the functionality of another app – it remains to be seen if TikTok can as easily be brushed aside as Snapchat was with Instagram Stories.

The choice of Brazil is interesting – it is a market which looks set to be a battleground for app developers. Indeed, it’s not just Facebook TikTok needs to fight off. Brazil has been targeted by TikTok’s biggest domestic rival Kuaishou – known as Kwai in international markets. As of early November 2019, Kwai had the momentum, ranking second in Brazil in terms of Google Play downloads, having held the third spot in late October.

TikTok had fallen to seventh, having occupied second at the start of the period.

As of November Kwai counted 7 million daily active users in Brazil. This compares to 18 million active TikTok users (this is a slightly older figure – it is unclear whether this is daily or monthly).

Kuaishou/Kwai has a second app in the Brazilian market: VStatus – ranking first in late October and second in early November in terms of downloads. With 120 million active users, this app – which allows users to make short profile videos for their WhatsApp profile – is one of the most popular in Brazil.

Kwai, it should be noted, is backed by Tencent.

TikTok vs Kwai in Brazil, Google Play ranking Oct-Nov 2019

TikTok vs. Kwai in Brazil, Google Play ranking Oct-Nov 2019

Source: EqualOcean

TikTok Download Statistics

A year before the latest update of this article, we wrote that, unequivocally, 2019 was TikTok’s year. After 2020, it seems we may have jumped the gun. Perhaps at this stage it will be safer to say that the end of the 10s and beginning of the 20s belong to TikTok. Perhaps even longer.

TikTok reached its peak for downloads in Q1 2020, when it was downloaded 315 million times, according to Sensor Tower – more than any other app in history over a single quarter. TikTok downloads exceeded 300 million in Q2 2020. It should be noted that Zoom (Q2 2020) and Pokémon Go (Q3 2016) are the only other apps to register over 300 million downloads in a quarter.

TikTok downloads dropped off in the second half of the year, due to the ban in India, dropping year-on-year. Nonetheless, it remained the most-downloaded app in the world, and was the most-downloaded app in the world over the course of the year. Facebook’s long dominance was finally broken.

These stats, dating back to 2016, show us the incredible rise of TikTok in 2018, and equally incredible sustaining of this peak over 2019. Who knows how big 2020 TikTok download figures could have been had the India ban not occurred.

These stats pertain only to downloads made through the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store, so don’t include Chinese third-party downloads. We presume they do include Douyin downloads made on iOS, as TikTok is blocked in China. As we will see later, download stats from China are included.

This means, however, that they do not include Android downloads of Douyin. For reference, Android has a 78% market share in China.

TikTok downloads by quarter, millions

TikTok downloads by quarter, millions

Source: Sensor Tower

We can see the same trends as above if we look at TikTok downloads by month. Here, we see a peak in downloads in March – the first month of widespread coronavirus lockdowns. TikTok downloads numbered 115 million in this month alone.

This was the middle month of a longer five-month peak in TikTok downloads that ran from January to May 2020, each month seeing over 100 million downloads. We can see the India ban bite in July, after which point downloads ranged from 55-66 million per month. Year-on-year, this represents a decline.

TikTok downloads by month, millions

TikTok downloads by month

Source: Sensor Tower

Apptopia TikTok download stats come in a little lower than Sensor Tower’s, finding 850 million downloads to the latter’s 987 million. The same applies in 2019, with 718.5 million compared to 682 million. Nonetheless, the figures are undeniably impressive, and establish TikTok as by far the most downloaded app of the year – ahead of WhatsApp, with 600 million.

TikTok downloads by year

TikTok downloads by year

Source: Apptopia

Sensor Tower lifetime TikTok downloads stats show that TikTok crossed the 2 billion and the 2.5 billion thresholds over 2020, finishing the year on 2.6 billion downloads. Between February 2019 and April 2020, 1 billion TikTok downloads were registered.

TikTok lifetime downloads, billions

TikTok lifetime downloads

Source: Sensor Tower

TikTok download ranking

We can mark TikTok’s ascendancy in its download rank. According to AppTrace, TikTok ended 2018 ranked #278 in terms of global downloads. By October 2019, it had reached #3 – a position it hasn’t fallen below since February 2020. In December 2020, according to this analysis, it finally reached #1.

TikTok tops App Annie’s list of the most downloaded apps of 2020.

Most-downloaded apps of 2020, iOS App Store and Google Play Store

App Annie most downloaded 2020

Source: App Annie

According to the same source, TikTok was the top app in terms of download growth in 2019 in Canada and India, and came in second-place in the US and the UK.

Overall, TikTok ranked fourth in terms of global downloads in 2019. Only Facebook properties (Messenger, Facebook, and WhatsApp) were downloaded more often. These stats refer to the Google Play Store and iOS App Store – so will exclude most Chinese downloads, which are third-party Android.

Most-downloaded apps of 2019, iOS App Store and Google Play Store

Most-downloaded apps of 2019, iOS App Store and Google Play Store

Source: App Annie

We don’t get the full picture of just how big an impact TikTok has made, however, until we look at the most downloaded apps of the 2010s. TikTok, despite being only released in China in 2016, and internationally the year after, still somehow managed to be the seventh-most downloaded app across the 10-year period.

Only the four apps that make up the Facebook stable, Snapchat, and Microsoft’s Skype feature ahead of it. And behind it? Twitter and YouTube, no less.

Again these figures won’t include Chinese third-party downloads – who knows how high TikTok might have featured if so (as might’ve some other Chinese apps, particularly WeChat).

Most-downloaded apps of 2010s, iOS App Store and Google Play Store

Most-downloaded apps of 2010s, iOS App Store and Google Play Store

Source: App Annie

Sensor Tower TikTok download stats also put the app out in front in 2020, with nearly 1 billion downloads. This puts it at between 250-300 million downloads ahead of WhatsApp.

TikTok download ranking in 2020

TikTok downloads 2020 vs other apps

Source: Sensor Tower

Going back a little, TikTok was well on the way to global success over the course of 2018. Sensor Tower reported that 2018 downloads were in excess of the 444 million reported by Instagram. Total TikTok downloads crossed the 1 billion mark in early 2019.

According to this app download data, TikTok was the single most-downloaded non-game app on iOS in 2018, and the fourth-most downloaded on Android (Google Play Store only). Its overall global positioning reflects the latter, which accounts for a far greater percentage of users than the former.

Most-downloaded apps 2018

Most-downloaded apps 2018

Source: Sensor Tower

App Annie also places TikTok in fourth position overall in terms of total 2018 global downloads. Apple’s own most-downloaded apps of 2018 list, however, puts TikTok a little lower – in 16th position. In the 2019 official iOS download chart, TikTok ranks fourth, with the chart limited to free apps. It made it to second in 2020.

TikTok downloads by country

The below graphic shows us the top two markets for TikTok downloads in each month, and the percentage of total global TikTok downloads they accounted for.

This highlights the size of the Indian TikTok market, which accounted for 34-44% of the global total from at least August 2019 up until February 2020. That it lost some share after this point is perhaps more indicative of widespread uptake of the app following the outbreak of coronavirus.

By June, India’s share of total downloads had fallen to 19%. Nonetheless, this is more than twice as much as another nation.

Other nation’s that feature regularly include Brazil, whose share went as high as 14% in December 2019; the US, which hovers at 9-10%; and Indonesia in roughly the same range, which seems to have seen a surge of downloads in the second half of 2020.

Interestingly, in the last months of 2020, China features consistently as the leading county for TikTok (Douyin) downloads, with a share of 11-12%. This comes in the context of reduced global downloads, so it may be that Chinese downloads remained more consistent during these months.

Top countries for TikTok downloads by month, percentage of global total

Top countries for TikTok downloads by month, percentage of global total

Source: Sensor Tower

Apptopia peg 2020 US TikTok downloads at 89 million.

India was the number one market for downloads in 2019 (only counting iOS App Store and Google Play Store downloads), with 323 million downloads, accounting for 44% of the total figure, according to App Annie TikTok download stats.

This is despite the fact that TikTok was temporarily banned in the country, for two weeks in April 2019. Legislators believed the app would expose children to pornographic content, sexual predators, and cyberbullying.

TikTok managed to persuade the authorities that it had tightened regulations and the app duly found its way back onto the iOS App Store and Google Play Store. The ban cost the app an estimated 15 million new users in what looked set to be TikTok’s best month to up until that point in the South Asian mega nation.

The importance of the market to TikTok is clear. In October, it launched an education program in India – the first such initiative from the app. Certainly this suggests an app wanting to stay in a nation’s good books. It was banned again, however, in June 2020, with political tensions escalating between India and China. In February 2021, TikTok reduced its staff in India, suggesting growing impatience with the Indian government’s stance.

Despite the fact that third-party Android downloads, which are not included in these figures, are by far the biggest channel for downloads in China, TikTok’s home market still logged around 52 million downloads (7% of the total). The US is in third with 6%, or 46 million.

A different set of TikTok download statistics, from Priori Data, show slightly lower figures than above. These show India still leads by some distance, logging 190.6 million downloads in 2019. The US, in second, logged 41 million TikTok downloads. This puts it someway ahead of the cluster of Turkey (23.2 million), Russia (19.9 million), and Pakistan (19.5 million).

In 2020, we can clearly see Indian TikTok downloads ceased halfway through the year, with a figure of 90 million. Again, this is still over twice as many as the next country down, again the US, on 45.6 million downloads. Brazil (34.7 million follows, then Indonesia on 30.7 million. Russia remains in fourth and Mexico completes the 2020 top-five for TikTok downloads.

A total of 44 countries are covered by these stats. It is unclear whether these include China.

We might note that App Annie pegs US TikTok downloads in 2020 at 80 million.

TikTok downloads by country, 2019

TikTok downloads by country by year

Source: Priori Data

The Straits Times reported in May 2019 that Southeast Asian downloads of TikTok numbered 190 million. Of these, Indonesia led the way, with 81 million downloads at that point – around 42% of the total.

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TikTok Usage Statistics

According, to App Annie’s State of Mobile 2020 report, Android TikTok users spent in excess of 68 billion hours using the app in 2019. This represents a stunning 210% increase over 2018.

The app seems to have taken off in a big way in South Asia, with India and Pakistan the biggest markets outside of China in terms of viewing time, with the US coming in a distant third (in fairness, Pakistan is a distant second behind India). The time spent on TikTok in the US grew 375% year-on-year. TikTok sage exceeded that of Amazon Prime in the US in 2019.

No market compares to China, however – eight out of every 10 minutes viewed on TikTok is viewed in China.

Global time spent on TikTok, Dec 2017 – Dec 2019, excluding China, Android

Global time spent on TikTok, Dec 2017 - Dec 2019, excluding China, Android

Source: App Annie

Comscore stats show us the average time spent with both the web and app versions of TikTok by US users per month. Here, we see a clear upward trend from October 2019 to March 2020, for the app in particular. By March, we were looking at 858 minutes for the app – just short of 28 minutes per day. This compares to 443 minutes in October 2019 – around 14 minutes per day.

No doubt the following months would have seen a further upward trend, with lockdown conditions imposed in the US.

Average monthly time spent using TikTok by US users, minutes

US TikTok usage time

Source: Comscore via eMarketer

The Bloomberg stats give us an idea of daily TikTok usage in certain European markets – an hour apiece in the UK and France, but up to 74 minutes in Norway.

These are high figures, and we should recall they come from a TikTok for Business presentation.

Daily TikTok usage time in selected European markets

Daily TikTok usage time in selected European markets

Source: Bloomberg

An analysis reported by TechCrunch found that usage among children aged under-15 increased significantly between May 2019 and February 2020 in selected markets. This was most pronounced in the US, where daily usage increased to 82 minutes from 38 minutes.

Again, we can expect that these would have climbed even higher over 2020. A potential cause for concern, but also an extension of YouTube’s role as digital babysitter.

Daily TikTok usage time in children aged 4-14

TikTok usage among users under 15

Source: TechCrunch

In its 2021 Douyin report, ByteDance revealed that Douyin users conducted 400 million searches per day between them.

Estimates on daily Douyin usage time give us figures from 88 minutes in March 2020, according to Newrank & Guosen, to a not too distant 91 minutes, according to QuestMobile in November 2020.

Other QuestMobile Douyin usage stats, from March 2020, estimate average monthly time of 1,709 minutes – around 56 minutes per day. The represented a 72.5% year-on-year increase.

In China, in terms of time spent, ByteDance apps account for 66.5% of time spent with short video apps. This compares to 26.6% for Kauishou (2019 stats).

Average daily time spent on Douyin, accordingly to Trustdata TikTok stats increased from 17 to 27 minutes between September 2018 and September 2019. This pales in comparison to Kuaishou/Kwai, according to this data, which saw average daily usage increase to 48 minutes from 36 minutes year-on-year.

This saw it pull ahead of even the mighty WeChat, which saw daily usage fall from 40 minutes to 31 minutes. Indeed, the time spent using short video apps has to come from somewhere – and time spent using WeChat is no doubt the richest seam for this precious resource…

Daily time spent on Douyin, vs other popular Chinese apps, September 2018 vs September 2019

Daily time spent on Douyin, vs other popular Chinese apps, September 2018 vs September 2019

Source: eMarketer

An analysis of the 2020 Chinese New Year period, with added consideration of the increase in seasonal confinement due to the coronavirus outbreak, saw average daily time spent rising to 122.3 minutes (this pertains to users of the Jiguang/Aurora Mobile network – so not perfectly comparable to other datasets we’ve looked at). This represents close to double 2019’s figure of 68.8 minutes. Daily active Douyin user numbers increased by 19.4% over this period.

RMB 2 billion ($287 million) in red envelopes (money parcels sent during the Chinese New Year period) was also sent over Douyin over this period. Money transfer is an increasingly central part of the Chinese social app landscape, so it will be interesting to observe whether ByteDance takes any further steps in this direction.

According to venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, TikTok users spend 52 minutes per day using the app (a figure that dates back to September 2018). Fast Company reported a figure of 45 minutes nearly one year on.

TikTok itself has reported that US users open the app eight times a day in a bid to woo ad clients, with sessions averaging 4.9 minutes in length. This puts it in excess of Facebook (4.7), Instagram (3.1 minutes), and Snapchat (1.6 minutes).

The Economic Times reports that average Indian TikTok users spent an average of 38 minutes daily using the app (vs 44 minutes on Instagram, or 35 minutes on Facebook).

AppTopia reports that while TikTok may have been in a dominant position in the US in terms of download volume in October 2018, it was not competing in terms of engagement with its more established rivals.

TikTok’s daily engagement rate in the US at this point stood at 29%, which pales in comparison to Facebook’s 96%, Instagram’s 95%, or YouTube’s 95%. Indeed, even the ailing Snapchat posted a figure of 95%. The metric used here is the proportion of monthly users who are daily users.

An updated figure does not seem to be publicly available – thus we will have to settle for this for now. As the app has entered the mainstream we might assume that it is more a part of users’ daily lives – thus perhaps this figure could conceivably have crept upwards since.

TikTok engagement vs other social apps

TikTok engagement vs. other social apps

Source: Apptopia

The takeover and subsequent merging of Musical.ly and TikTok seems to have had a significant effect on daily usage of the app. Apptopia report that between early August and late October 2018, TikTok sessions rose from 58 million per day to over 70 million.

These statistics purport to show a global figure. Again, they do not seem to include China, however, where 200 million active daily users of Douyin at this stage would nearly quadruple this total.

TikTok daily sessions

TikTok daily sessions

Source: Apptopia

According to App Ape Labs, we saw that the proportion of US TikTok users who used the app heavily (more than two-thirds of days in month) stood at 22.6% at the end of 2019. Middle users, who used the app between one-third and two-thirds of the month accounted for 12.7%, and light users (less than that) for 38.5%.

These figures also take into account ‘inactive users’ – who account for 26.2%. The precise definition of an inactive user is unclear.

Apptopia also looked at user retention back in 2018. Here, TikTok fares well compared to social media averages, with 10% of downloaders continuing to use the app seven days after downloading. The social media average is 4%.

A study published by Tencent Market Insight (cited by Sean Wang on Medium) found 48% of users who stopped using the app did so because of the lack of variety in the content published.

TikTok user retention in the US

TikTok user retention in the US

Source: Apptopia

A different set of (clearly incomparable) TikTok user retention stats published by App Annie in June 2019 reported a one-week retention rate of 26%. This compared negatively to Facebook (45%), Instagram (44%), and Snapchat (32%). By September 2019, the TikTok retention rate had climbed to 39%.

2020 figures from QuestMobile compare Douyin retention rates with rival apps. Here, we can see the app’s one-week retention retention rate of 86.8% is a little ahead of Kuaishou’s 83%.

Douyin one-week retention rate vs rival apps, percent

Douyin one-week retention rate vs rival apps, percent

Source: QuestMobile via WalktheChat

TikTok content types

GlobalWebIndex stats from 2020 show us the types of content shared on TikTok, compared to Facebook and Instagram.

Here, we see that TikTok users are unsurprisingly the keenest sharers of funny videos and memes.

But this is not all they share. TikTok in fact tops every category, showing that its users are keen sharers of content of all types. This ranges from personal news/updates, to influencer and brand posts, to (perhaps concerningly) coronavirus news.

Content shared on TikTok vs other platform, percentage of users

Content shared on TikTok vs other platform, percentage of users

Source: GlobalWebIndex

Sharing content online is a way to stay connected with others. We might also note that 16% of TikTok users in the US and UK turned to TikTok during the coronavirus pandemic to feel more connected to others. Other stats, from Nielsen (commissioned by TikTok) found that 60% of users felt a sense of community while using TikTok.

Older GlobalWebIndex TikTok stats show that TikTok users are nearly as engaged in creating videos as they are in viewing them. In all, 55% of users had uploaded a video, compared to 68% who had watched one in the past-month.

These stats date back to late 2018, however – it is unclear if the ratio of creativity to spectating has remained in this proportion as the app has grown more popular. While the app already had a relatively large userbase at this point, these are relative early adopters.

They also refer to the US and UK. We may see differing results elsewhere.

In what activities do TikTok users engage?

In what activities do TikTok users engage?

Source: GlobalWebIndex

In favour of the above hypothesis, however, is a general feeling reported among video makers that TikTok could be the video platform of the future. eMarketer reports that at the annual VidCon convention in California in July 2019, YouTube creators bemoaned Google’s often mysterious Preferred system. Creators who are a part of this earn higher payouts than those not – naturally frustrating many users excluded from it. On the other hand, TikTok’s ease of usage earned praise.

While certainly it would be dramatic to declare YouTube’s dominance was under threat, certainly there is scope for TikTok to thrive in this environment. That is provided it resolves its own problems with unhappy creators waiting for their earnings…

What sort of content do Douyin users upload?                         

Courtesy of an annotated version from Katherine Wu, a New York-based investor at Notation Capital, we can glean a little bit of what ByteDance shared in its annual Douyin report for 2019. As you’ll see, it’s not necessarily the most deeply insightful – though please do have a look if you want to know what the most popular dog, cat, and…erm, duck breeds are on the platform.

(Okay, fine: husky, dragon li, call duck).

Ducks aside, these stats perhaps do give us a little window into how 400 million daily active Douyin users interact with the app.

They show us a strong family orientation. An app that we associate more with irreverence here is the tool through which key life moments are documented.

Here are some highlights…

  • 460,000 families used Douyin to capture moments with their entire family; family-related content received 2.79 billion views and 100 million likes
  • 6 million videos of parents and children uploaded to the platform
  • 76 million videos made to welcome newborns
  • 180,000 videos pertaining to university admissions tests and 380,000 videos pertaining to graduation uploaded
  • 7.09 million wedding videos
  • The most-liked profession was teacher, with 620 million likes, followed by nurse and firefighter
  • With 1.02 billion likes the ‘aging’ filter proved more popular than the ‘baby’ filter (210 million)
  • Charting the speed of the journey in-between were 30.71 million users who used the ‘time goes on’ video option
  • Most viewed/uploaded city was Beijing, followed by Liaoning (a northeastern province, largest city Shenyang), and Shanghai; Beijing was also the most-liked city, followed by Chengdu, and Shanghai; top travel destinations were Datang Everbright City in Xian, Disneyland Shanghai, and Chengdu Panda Base
  • Most viewed city outside of China was Bangkok, followed by Seoul, and Tokyo
  • 89 million ‘knowledge-based content’ videos uploaded; cooking content was the most-popular type of knowledge-based content, followed by foreign language education, and academic subject-based education; one creator’s chemistry videos were viewed by 130 million people, another’s ancient architecture lectures were viewed by 64.1 million, and biology courses from a third were viewed by 41.8 million
  • Culture-related content received 543.1 billion views

We also get a content breakdown of what people born in certain decades most like to upload and watch. The fondness of those born in the 60s for uploading dance videos is perhaps the highlight of this exercise…

Most-popular Douyin creation/watch categories, by decade of birth, 2020

Most-popular Douyin creation/watch categories, by decade of birth

Source: ByteDance/Katherine Wu

We don’t have an updated version of Wu’s very helpful translation in 2021, so no update on the dog stat, but we have an updated version of the above graphic. There are a few differences. A post-90s generation entering their 30s (and, let’s not forget, tightly locked down) have started to have and photograph babies. They’ve also moved from lifestyle/ecommerce to watching news.

Those born in the 80s have gone the other way, developing an interest in fashion, and have moved from viewing scenery to filming it.

Otherwise other trends remain. The youngest still love anime, the oldest still love to dance. We also see other evidence of aging – the love of watching wedding footage has moved to those born in the 70s from those born in the 60s, a broad shift from younger boomers to older members of Gen X.

Users of all ages like to shoot the most content between 8 and 9pm.

Most-popular Douyin creation/watch categories, by decade of birth, 2021

douyin most shared/viewed by generation

Source: ByteDance via Jing Culture & Commerce

We also get a snapshot of words related to emotions expressed related to coronavirus on Douyin in the 2021 report.

Here, we find 2.2 million instances of the word ‘doubt’, 7.6 million of ‘giving up’, and 14.9 million of ‘too difficult’. On the other hand, ‘persistence’ logged 70 million, ‘believe’ 130 million, and ‘encouragement’ 1.8 billion.

Perhaps there’s only so much we can read into this in an annual report designed to highlight the app’s merits as a space of civic duty rather than a space to express despair.

It’s interesting, however, that we got this edifying glimpse of negative sentiments – even if it was just to emphasise how much more positivity was being expressed…and how little doubt exemplary Chinese citizens were feeling.

It wasn’t just to express feelings that Chinese users turned to Douyin during the pandemic. Videos related to coronavirus prevention and control received 42 billion plays on Douyin over the course of 2020. This comes to around 30 videos per capita in the world’s most populous country.

TikTok devices

TikTok’s download rank featured highly in both iOS and Android download charts over the course of 2019. Therefore, we can assume the global ratio will be significantly tilted towards Android, given the much higher user volume of Google devices globally – representing the breadth of TikTok’s appeal.

Chiming with this, back in late 2018, Apptopia reported that 80% of TikTok sessions were on an Android device. More recent stats are hard to come by.

In the US, 52% of TikTok users are on iOS – though this chimes with the market’s preference for Apple phones.

TikTok marketing

TikTok, inevitably, has become a new influencer marketing platform. 35% of marketers were planning to use TikTok influencers as part of their 2021 efforts. It’s doesn’t compete with Instagram (55%), YouTube (58%) or online ads (43%) yet.

It does, however, lead Twitch, as well as old-school TV and OOH ads.

Percentage of marketers planning to use TikTok in 2021, vs other platforms

marketers planning to use tiktok vs other platforms

Source: Takumi

While a third of these marketers (from the US, UK, and Germany) will use TikTok for influencer marketing, only 6% currently believe if offers the best ROI. Online ads (21%) lead the way here, with Instagram and YouTube on 18% apiece. Even pricey TV ads featuring influencers, on 10%, are deemed to offer better ROI.

Percentage of marketers who believe TikTok offers superior influencer marketing ROI

tiktok roi marketing

Source: Takumi

Perhaps one of the reasons marketers remain unsold is the relatively low levels of active influencers active on TikTok compared to Instagram: 97% vs 15% in the UK, and 100% vs 33% in Germany.

In the UK, Twitch (17%) remains a more active influencer platform. Figures for the US were not available.

Influencers active on TikTok vs other platforms, in UK and Germany, percent

Influencers active on TikTok

Source: Takumi

Returning to the full three market view, TikTok lags behind other platforms in terms of engagement also, with only 14% of users interacting with influencers, compared to 47% on YouTube, 37% on Instagram, and even 17% and 15% on Pinterest and Snapchat. It is ahead of Twitch, however.

Percentage of users interacting with influencers on TikTok vs other platforms

Influencer interaction platforms

Source: Takumi

Of those who interact with influencers, however, 95% do so weekly – level with YouTube and Instagram. It seems, therefore, that once engagement occurs, it is regular. The hurdle remains fostering engagement in the first place.

Percentage of users interacting with influencers who do so weekly on TikTok vs other platforms

weekly influencer engagement

Source: Takumi

When it comes to the crunch, only 4% of consumers believed TikTok influencer marketing would be more likely to lead to a purchase than other platforms. This compares to 16% for YouTube and 11% for Instagram. In a result that will drive digital marketers to despair, TV ads lead the way here, chosen by 21% of consumers as the most effective influencer marketing platform when it comes to closing the deal.

Percentage of consumers who believe TikTok is most likely to lead to a purchase vs other platforms

Influencer marketing leading to purchase by platform

Source: Takumi

The above, however, is just one set of stats. Methodologies, samples, and all sorts of other factors mean that influencer marketing stats can vary wildly.

If we turn to Influencer Marketing Hub stats, we can see that TikTok influencer engagement rates are superior to Instagram and Twitter at all follower counts – suggesting the freshness of the platform is a considerable boon. Perhaps the new rising stars that have emerged with platform seem more accessible at this stage.

Indeed, influencers with over 100,000 followers on TikTok can boast engagement rates at the levels of Instagram users with 1,000-5,000 followers, according to this set of stats at least.

TikTok influencer engagement marketing engagement rate by follower count, percent

tiktok engagement by follower count

Source: Influencer Marketing Hub

HubSpot found that only 14% of marketers were planning to increase their TikTok spend over 2021; only 3% believing it was the among the most effective platforms. The disparity suggests that there is at least a small sense, however, that TikTok will become an essential marketing platform.

Going back to February 2019, 4% of marketers were using TikTok, making it the least popular platform in this regard. This is in excess of the 2% of internet users that were using the platform at this stage – though this is the case for all of the apps listed here.

Certainly we might expect TikTok to have become more prominent among both marketers and users in the intervening year or so.

US social media platform usage: marketers vs general public

US social media platform usage: marketers vs. general public

Source: eMarketer

In China Douyin seems to play a more notable role in marketing. An influencer marketing campaign ran by PROYA in support of its Bubble Spa Mask saw 1 million masks sold in a month, and RMB 300 million ($43 million) brought in over the course of three months.

In all the campaign utilised 200 influencers – one of whom brought in 70 million impressions. The below graphic shows search volume for ‘bubble mask’ on Baidu during August 2019.

Search volume for ‘bubble mask’ during PROYA Douyin campaign

Search volume for ‘bubble mask’ during PROYA Douyin campaign

Source: Walk the Chat

TikTok controversies

Two tourists got into hot water after posting clips of themselves damaging a 6,000 year-old landform in China’s Gansu Province. The videos went viral, resulting in the pair (aged 20 and 17) turning themselves into the police.

Chinese online media juggernaut Tencent has disabled linking to short video sites including Douyin on WeChat in what is claimed to be a move against the sharing of inappropriate content. This is something of a blow for TikTok, with 56% of new users reportedly downloading the app after seeing videos shared on other platforms carrying the TikTok watermark.

This is part of a wider battle between the two digital stables, both of which have filed lawsuits against each other for defamation and unfair competition. In April 2019, WeChat was sued by a lawyer named Zhang Zhengxin under China’s anti-monopoly laws. ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming was also involved in a public spat with Tencent CEO Pony Ma.

Allegations of inappropriate content can have serious repercussions in China: TikTok’s ByteDance stablemate Neihan Duanzi (a joke-sharing app) did not survive allegations of this nature. Toutaio was also temporarily removed from app stores in China after falling foul of censors.

State newspaper People’s Daily called for tighter regulations, after users were injured taking part in Douyin challenges. China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism also took issue with a comic series published by ByteDance, which they claimed distorted Chinese history (taken down with an apology).

It seems, however, that ByteDance is on the right side of the authorities at present, with Zhang Yiming featuring on the state-endorsed All China Federation of Industry and Commerce’s top 100 entrepreneurs of the last 40 years list.

That is not to say there are not considerable issues. While users are supposed to be at least 16, many younger users have been reported. Some, as reported in South China Morning Post, putting themselves at risk and creating inappropriate and/or worrying content. Vice also reports a culture of users searching for and soliciting sexual images of underage users.

With fears that young people might be spending too long using apps, TikTok contains a digital wellbeing component which warns users when they’ve been using the app for over two hours.

TikTok came under investigation in the UK for its handling of its young users’ personal data. Concerns were also raised around its open messaging system, which allows anyone to message anyone.

TikTok was banned for around two weeks in India in April 2019. Indian legislators cited fears around child pornography, grooming, and cyberbullying as being behind the ban. The ban was overturned after TikTok successful demonstrated that it had taken suitable measures to deal with these issues.

A more worrying ban was instigated in June 2020, with the Indian government declaring that TikTok and other Chinese apps were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”. This came in the context of violent exchanges along a disputed border between the world’s two most-populous nations (and the fourth and seventh-largest). TikTok starting pulling staff members out of country in late January 2021 suggesting growing impatience with the situation.

A similarly short-lived TikTok ban was enforced in Indonesia in July 2019. This ban was lifted when TikTok agreed to censor ‘negative’ content.

There were widespread rumours that the app was to be banned in Pakistan in January 2019. These turned out to be nothing more than rumours, though they gained significant traction. A lawyer approached the Lahore High Court in August 2019 seeking a TikTok ban in the country.

Its troubles extend across the Pacific Ocean also. The US FTC fined ByteDance $5.7 million for collecting data on users under the age of 13 without first seeking parental consent.

The US Navy banned the app in November 2019. This came in the wake of a Congressional demand for an investigation into the app, over fears regarding information sharing with the Chinese government. ByteDance has moved to ringfence TikTok from the rest of its operations in order to protect it from such charges. It was reportedly seeking a CEO for the separated-out TikTok operation in January 2020.

There have also been reports that TikTok is seeking a new global headquarters, outside of China (and the US it would seem). Dublin, Singapore, and London have been touted. At present TikTok’s main office is in Los Angeles, while the CEO is based in Shanghai. Commentators have suggested, however, that this would not likely do much to ease pressure on ByteDance from the US.

Indeed, in August 2020 President Donald Trump issued an edict demanding US firms stop doing business with TikTok within 45 days. It is expected that this will be contested in court.

TikTok Revenue Statistics

Apptopia TikTok revenue stats fix the app’s 2020 revenue at $540 million, excluding Chinese third-party revenue. Estimates made by investors quoted on Reuters estimated 2020 TikTok revenue of $1 billion (these same investors valued TikTok at $50 billion).

Incomplete SensorTower monthly TikTok revenue stats show that peak TikTok revenue (iOS and Google Play only – so not counting the vast majority of Chinese TikTok revenue was registered in second half of 2020. December’s $142 million represented the pinnacle. These figures would give us a much higher totals than above.

TikTok was the highest grossing app in the world during this period, which represents three quarters of 2020. These TikTok revenue stats seem to represent ‘user spending’.

TikTok 2020 revenue by month, USD millions

TikTok revenue by month, USD millions

Source: Sensor Tower

We don’t get a figure, but App Annie also record a strong year for TikTok revenue, putting it second after Tinder for revenue generation.

To get a picture of how TikTok revenue has grown, statistics from Sensor Tower show that TikTok brought in $176.9 million in revenue over the whole of 2019. Other sources put it higher: at between $200 million and $300 million.

If we look back over 2019 monthly revenue stats, we can see figures ranging from one-tenth to one-third of what they would be one year on, month-by-month.

TikTok 2019 revenue by month, USD millions

TikTok 2020 revenue by month, USD millions

Source: Sensor Tower

TikTok was (and is) still in the early days of revenue generation. 2019’s total, therefore, while relatively small, still accounted for 71% of all-time TikTok revenue.

Q4 2019 represented by far the best pre-2020 quarter for TikTok revenue, with quarter-on-quarter growth standing at 100%, and year-on-year growth at a stunning 500% (albeit from a relatively low base). TikTok is still in the early stages. If we look at equivalent stats for other apps that shared the same sense of global virality in the early stages, we see a similar story.

TikTok revenue 2018-2019

TikTok revenue 2018-2019

Source: Sensor Tower

These figures, however, doesn’t account for revenue generated outside of the app store (Google Play Store and iOS App Store) ecosystem. This means we’re not seeing the impact of third-party Android revenue – which would most likely account for lion’s share of Chinese TikTok revenue.

Nonetheless, China is still biggest source of TikTok revenue through iOS users alone. $122.9 million of TikTok 2019 revenue came from its home market; 69% of the total. The US came in second place, with its $36 million contribution accounting for 20% TikTok 2019 revenue. The UK, contributing 2% ($2.4 million), was in third place.

In 2020, China continued to dominate TikTok revenue generation, with a $122.1 million contribution in December 2020 accounting for 86% of the global total (on iOS only). In May to July, this was a high as 89%.

The US came second, accounting for between 6% and 8.2% of global TikTok revenue between April and December 2020. The highest figure was December’s $9.9 million. In third, we find Turkey, the contribution of which seemed to climb through the year, from 1.2% in June to 2% of global TikTok revenue in December 2020; $1.1 million to $2.8 million.

TikTok 2020 monthly revenue by country, USD millions

TikTok 2020 revenue by month by country, USD millions

Source: Sensor Tower

Other ‘insider’ sources estimate that US TikTok revenue would come to $500 million over 2020 – presumably this is ads and in-app spend combined.

We also found out, through Bloomberg, that TikTok posted losses of $120 million in the UK in 2019, driven by $109 million sales/marketing expense. This is against $20 million of sales.

Before introducing the ads, TikTok revenue was generated exclusively from in-app purchases, such as emojis and digital gifts. As of October 2018, these were bringing in $3.5 million per month. This represented a 275% increase over October 2017 revenue.

TikTok monthly revenue, October 2017 – October 2018

TikTok monthly revenue

Source: Sensor Tower

Around 42% of revenue up until this point – or $1.5 million – came from the US, where the increase in spending measures 144%. This just outstrips spending in China, which at $1.4 million represents 39% of the total. Notably, however, Chinese Android users were not included in the total, so we can safely assume that ByteDance’s home country is the number one source of revenue. In total, users had spent $50 million on TikTok as of the end of October 2018.

TikTok advertising revenue

Initially TikTok did not feature paid advertising. It has been slowly opening itself up. It was reported that ads were being tested by the platform in January 2019. A beta version of a ‘managed service platform’ – bringing TikTok into the biddable ads space followed in April 2019.

Notably, VP Blake Chandlee used to be head of advertising at Facebook. Chandlee has been working on building relationships with major US advertisers. Brands like the NFL, the NBA, Nike, Burberry, Samsung, HP, Chipotle and Walmart were mentioned by Chandlee in a public talk in September 2019.

The FT reports that one 24-hour TikTok campaign ran by Guess logged a CTR of 16% compared to a 4% average. The app was also reportedly introducing a service through which brands could be introduced to influence. Unlike other platforms, however, TikTok does not offer much by way of audience segmentation.

It may be one of the most effective platforms to reach its audience, however; 68% of TikTok users said they saw digital ads relevant to them in March 2020, compared to 28% of non-users. This was the most positive ratio for any app. A later TikTok survey conducted by Nielson found that 61% of users considered TikTok ads to be unique compared to other platforms, with 43% of users saying they felt ads blended in with native content. 52% of users said they discovered new products on the platform.

Back in November 2019, The Verge still described TikTok ads as the Wild West. Self-serve ads on the platform deliver CPM of $10 – which compares negatively to Instagram’s $8.

Back in February 2019, Digiday reported that in-feed TikTok ads were retailing at $10/impression, with a minimum campaign spend of $6,000. Brand takeover ads were available for $50,000 per day – with a guaranteed 5 million impressions.

In China, TikTok advertising has been available for much longer, though we do not have clear figures on revenue generated outside of the app store environment. Reuters reported that ByteDance was estimated to have generated RMB 180 billion ($27.2 billion) in 2020 (up to November). Around 60% of this is thought to have been Douyin advertising revenue.

Short-form video has been earmarked a key revenue generator in China. iResearch Consulting Group estimate that around $2 billion in revenue was brought in by these apps over 2018 (RMB 14 billion). This would represent 521% growth over 2018. They predict we’ll continue to see strong growth over 2019 and 2020, albeit at a more sustainable rate of 134% and 71% respectively. This would generate revenue of $4.8 billion and $8.2 roughly.

ByteDance commanded 23% of the Chinese digital ad market in the first half of 2019 – already making it the second-biggest player in the country.

TikTok shopping revenue

TikTok shopping functionality is also seemingly on the cards (something Chandlee is also working on), allowing brands to attach a shoppable component added to a sponsored hashtag challenge. This sees an added ‘discover’ tab added to the hashtag landing page. Clicking on an item here will lead directly to a shopping cart on a brand mini site.

The first brand to embrace this form of TikTok advertising was retail brand Kroger, who ran a #TransformUrDorm challenge. This attracted close to 477 million views across hundreds of videos over the course of a week or so.

Again, shopping functionality is further developed in Douyin, on which 42,000 traders from Hubei did $633 million worth of business over 2020, according to ByteDance.

Livestreaming on Douyin is another revenue source, used by one third of users, reportedly generating $18 million every day.

TikTok creator revenue

While ByteDance and TikTok have improved their generation of revenue, it might be noted that creators’ share of TikTok revenue has been judged to be unsatisfactory – with money often taking some time to materialise.

In 2020, 22 million Douyin content creators made a reported $6.15 billion between them, according to ByteDance.

Perhaps in response to previous criticism ByteDance announced a $200 million creator’s fund in July 2020, set to rise to $1 billion over the next three years.

ByteDance revenue

ByteDance generated RMB 40 billion ($6.2 billion) in Q1 2020, leading to a 2020 target of RMB 200 billion ($31 billion). As of November,  it was on target with RMB 180 billion generated. Reuters gives us a 2020 ByteDance revenue figure of $35 billion.

ByteDance’s revenue target for 2019 was to double 2018 revenue to $14.8 billion. In September 2019, it was reported that it was well on the way to meeting and beating this target, with revenue in the range of $7 to $8.4 billion (50-60 billion yuan) generated over the first half of the year.

ByteDance denied reports that it hit $20 billion revenue in 2019. Reuters gives us $16 billion.

ByteDance is reported have brought in $2.5 billion of revenue in total over 2017, rising to $7.2-7.9 billion in 2018 (around 50 billion yuan). This was the lower end of its revenue target for the years.

ByteDance valuation

As well as TikTok/Douyin, parent company ByteDance owns the Chinese AI-powered news aggregator Toutiao. Toutiao could lay claim to 120 million daily active users (as of September 2017), and is alone valued at $20 billion.

Accordingly, ByteDance earned the rank of the world’s most-highly valued private startup, with a valuation of $78 billion in late 2018 (creeping past Uber’s pre-IPO valuation of $72 billion). Speculation over 2020 gave us estimated ByteDance valuations as high as $140 billion.

An IPO was touted for some point in 2019. This did not materialise. Q1 2020 was rumoured to be the new target for a ByteDance IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. ByteDance itself  strongly denied (accurately) that this would be the case.

It remain to be seen whether Tencent-backed Kuaishou’s $160 billion IPO in February 2021 will move things along. It has been estimated that a ByteDance IPO could raise $180 billion.

ByteDance funding rounds

ByteDance’s huge valuation came on the back of a funding round which saw investors led by SoftBank invest $3 billion in October 2018. ByteDance was reported to get a syndicated loan worth $1.3 billion in April 2019, from a group dominated by Wall Street Banks.

Final thoughts

TikTok is one of those apps that separates the old from the young – one of those which inspires a spate of explainer articles. No doubt, many older users will have been left scratching their heads at the rise of this mysterious (to them) app.

While its appeal is not limited to younger users, this is a Generation Z app. The short format seems to lend itself perfectly to the irreverent sense of humour of the first generation of true digital natives. One commentator notes that this is part of the appeal of TikTok to these younger users. Tired of the perfect bodies and perfect lives as shown on Instagram, they are looking for something a little more down-to-earth, more, dare we say…authentic…

As we’ve seen with Snapchat – prior to its recent recovery – however, no bubble is immune to bursting – or having 10-figure sums wiped off its value following a celebrity tweet. Whether this momentum can be sustained in light of rivals that may not have even launched yet remains to be seen. TikTok will also have ensure that it avoids scandal. Addressing safety concerns will be paramount. This includes making sure to avoid any issues arising around the advanced AI that lies behind much of ByteDance’s success. Nonetheless, the app continued to grow and grow in 2020.

Regaining a foothold in India may also affect the future direction of travel, though it seems to have continued to grow irrespective of losing that market.

The other challenge, as with all highly-valued startups rated on growth and potential, is profitability. With no clear monetisation strategy in place, how ByteDance approaches this in the run up to any IPO will be of great concern to industry observers and potential investors. Fortnite has, however, shown that apps can thrive on essentially meaningless in-app purchases.

This, of course, will put it in direct competition with domestic rivals Alibaba and Tencent. With growth in the Chinese market slowing, this has the potential to severely damage the prospects of one of the three online behemoths.

ByteDance has one thing over its better-established rivals, however, and that is that it is the first to have succeeded in getting a foothold overseas. Acquiring a previously-established brand in Musical.ly looks like a masterstroke in this regard, and no small amount of credit is due for successfully consolidating the brands without losing users.

This internationalisation may prove a crucial advantage as well as a backup plan if it comes out of this contest badly – or, indeed, it falls foul of Chinese authorities.

Challenges are, of course, par for the course for any app that aspires to dominance. On this evidence, TikTok certainly belongs to that category.

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