Released in 2016, TikTok is still considered something of a newcomer to the world of social media platforms. However, statistics show that it shouldn’t be underestimated – in fact, it may well be on its way to outgrowing the competition, including Instagram.
The rapid growth of TikTok
In a way, TikTok filled the empty space left behind by Twitter’s Vine app, disabled in December 2016. The simple format of users sharing short, often humorous videos has proven highly successful – so much so, in fact, that in 2019, TikTok was third on the list of most-downloaded mobile apps outside gaming. It outperformed both Instagram and Facebook – and fell behind only WhatsApp and Messenger. In November, it reached 1.5 billion downloads, accounted for partly by the platform’s sudden rise in popularity in Indian and Chinese markets.
It’s therefore understandable why both Instagram and Facebook marked TikTok as a potential threat. Both platforms introduced new features intended to fulfil the same purpose as TikTok – Lasso for Facebook and Reels on Instagram. Unsurprisingly, this move didn’t do much to slow down the growth of their new competitor.
TikTok vs Instagram
If TikTok has consistently received more downloads that Instagram since Q1 2019, doesn’t it mean that it has already outgrown it?
As a matter of fact, not necessarily. Note that these numbers relate only to the number of downloads, not the number of overall users. On this level, Instagram is still considerably larger than TikTok. Instagram has approximately 1 billion monthly active users – meaning users that log in at least once per month. For TikTok, meanwhile, most estimates put this statistic at 500-800 million.
The fact that TikTok is outperforming Instagram in the number of downloads could be explained by TikTok’s novelty factor. Instagram has been around for much longer – in fact, it’ll be celebrating its 10-year launch anniversary this October. Although it’s still gaining new users, it’s doing so at a slower pace as an established platform.
TikTok, meanwhile, is still reaching new markets and new audiences, accounting for the high number of downloads. The COVID-19 pandemic also majorly contributed to TikTok’s popularity, elevating it to the number one position in the most-downloaded non-gaming apps during March 2020.
It’s fairly certain that TikTok will continue outperforming Instagram in the number of downloads and, eventually, likely match or outgrow Instagram’s user base. However, this doesn’t mean that Instagram is going to suddenly disappear. Instagram has a solid user base, with thousands of established influencers, who are not likely to abandon the platform in favour of TikTok or any other social media app.
What does this mean for marketers and influencers?
In short, it means that influencers and brands would do well to consider building a presence on TikTok, if they haven’t already. Though Instagram is here to stay, there’s no denying that TikTok has become a major player on the social media field.
If nothing else, it’s well worth leveraging TikTok’s popularity and increase in the number of users to your advantage. This is especially true given that Instagram’s user base largely doesn’t exactly overlap with that of TikTok. Admittedly, both platforms are popular with similar age groups, with 18 to 24-year-olds making up the majority of TikTok’s and Instagram’s audiences. However, there is a major difference in geographical user statistics. Instagram is most popular in the United States, with 12% of all users residing there. TikTok, meanwhile, is most popular in India and Brazil – and only 3% of its users are American. This is particularly significant for brands and influencers looking to target particular countries and regions, and could inform your market-specific promotional strategy.
Keep in mind that depending on your brand and style, TikTok will likely require a slightly different approach than Instagram. Though the basic functionalities of the two platforms are broadly similar, there are some differences. For example, unlike IGTV, TikTok doesn’t allow videos longer than 15 seconds.
The communities are also somewhat different, with TikTok’s focus often being on entertainment rather than style or fashion inspiration. This is also something that brands can use to their advantage, though – branded hashtag challenges with a comedy element, for instance, have proven incredibly successful for the likes of Chipotle or Dove.