TikTok plans to grow content creator base.

Adopts from YouTube playbook, bets on user-generated content to grab advertisers’ attention.

TikTok, the short-video app owned by China’s ByteDance, is trying to grow and diversify its content creator base in India as a part of its monetization strategy.

While TikTok’s primary identity continues to be of an application for creating, sharing and discovering short music videos — a kind of karaoke for the digital age — it’s currently making an attempt to evolve.

And, TikTok is hoping that advertisers will notice and bring in more business.

On Sunday, TikTok launched a campaign, #MyTikTokStory, on the platform to encourage more Indians to make 15-second videos on cooking, do-it-yourself, sports, pottery, dancing and singing. The campaign followed a ‘Creators Lab’ event it arranged for more than 500 people in Mumbai on Friday. The social media company is hoping that diverse content will attract more advertisers to the platform.

“We are very clear that creators are an enormous backbone. We believe that we have to invest in this creative community,” Sachin Sharma, head of ad sales at ByteDance India, told ET. “They are a vital element to the business. Without them there’s no TikTok. We are committed to diversify content. It’s not just for brands, however we are hopeful brands will take notice of that.”

TikTok isn’t the first platform to up the user-generated content game to draw in advertisers. In 2011, YouTube wanted to attract more premium advertisers and raise the standard of its programming. To do that, it introduced grants for creators, opened creator hubs, studios and even acquired a company that helped creators go viral. In the next 5 years, efforts paid off and YouTube and creators earned millions.

TikTok claims to have 200 million users in India, of which 120 million are active monthly. Its monetization efforts picked up pace once an interim ban on the app’s downloads was lifted by the Madras high court in April. Premier brands like Pepsi, Snapdeal, Myntra, Shaadi.com and Shopclues have lined up to advertise.

The app’s India user base is primarily teens residing in small towns. It overtook Facebook as the most downloaded social networking application globally in the first quarter of 2019. “There is research which says peer-generated content is stickier, relatable compared to just brand-generated content. Lot of leading brands and marketers recognize that fact. Plenty of interest we are seeing is because brands understand a user’s imagination of what the brand stands for is as relevant as brands’ own narrative,” Sharma said.

Sharma cited the example of Pepsi’s #SwagStepChallenge on TikTok which was kicked off with a few celebrities beginning of a dance challenge on the platform in May. The promotional videos resulted in TikTok users making thousands of their own #SwagStepChallenge dancing videos, leading to 8.6 billion views.

The campaign spilled over to Instagram and YouTube later. “There is a lot of talent in India that needs to be known. We are aiming to try more engagement with the video format, we are going to reach out to users to express themselves,” Sharma said.

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