Does TikTok annoy you? Or do you find it fun?
If you think that it’s a great app that provides entertainment for free, think again.
For nothing is free.
Read on to find out if TikTok is really worth your time as users.
What is TikTok? (For those who are not on TikTok but are curious anyway.)
TikTok is a video sharing app that has gained a lot of attention recently. It’s owned by the Chinese ByteDance. While it’s not available in China, it’s gained over 1.5 billion users since the time it was launched in 2017.
The app is used for sharing funny videos across categories like:
- Comedy / Jokes
If you’ve seen the TikTok videos, you’re likely to have 3 responses to it:
- This is exactly like America’s Funniest Videos!
- This is nonsense!
- This is exactly like America’s Funniest Videos! Which was nonsense!
Or you might be thinking, “Please don’t bring America’s Funniest Videos into this! I love the show!”
There are 2 formats to the videos you must have seen on TikTok: 15 seconds or 60 seconds.
Content creators are expected to do something “light” in the video they upload.
The videos can be as simple as performing to a piece of music by lip-syncing or dancing. They can be as complex as pulling off a stunt by mimicking someone else’s actions or adjusting your video as a response to another video.
Influential influencers, in general, have not taken kindly to TikTok.
Which is very, very unexpected.
In the history of all the social networks, influencers have leveraged each and every platform to increase their popularity. But they haven’t seen any great potential in TikTok.
But you might be thinking, that’s the influencers’ problem. What does it have got to do with you? You, as a user, are here for some harmless fun.
Let me show you two examples regarding how watching TikTok videos can be dangerous to your well-being.
TikTok Content Example 1: The Fake Gary
There’s an influencer on TikTok who literally copies Gary Vaynerchuk. He stands the way Gary does, talks like him – all his gestures mimic Gary’s.
So what? Let him do that. Imitation is the best form of compliment, you might be thinking.
But hold on.
Gary Vaynerchuk is a charismatic man. He is very knowledgeable. Behind every statement he makes, there’s a tremendous amount of experience with marketing and consulting.
This fake Gary, on the other hand, has been misleading his viewers on the app. For instance, he says that college degree is not important in life.
Now, we’re not being paid by educational institutions to promote education. But that statement by the fake Gary is downright false. He’s saying it to copy Gary. Not thinking about why Gary says it (that is, if he says it so bluntly).
When Gary declares that college education is not important, his context is that of US where education is very expensive. And it’s not just him. There are several who are questioning the education system there because the graduates don’t end up getting jobs that the expensive courses promise them.
In India, thankfully, education, even in its most basic form, is still within the reach of many students. And we’re not talking about education in terms of attending lectures. We’re referring to the whole deal.
Inter-collegiate festivals. Competitions. Other extra-curricular activities. Special talks/workshops by the professionals from the industry.
You might think that your average Indian marketing prof is obsolete. And that’s true to a great extent. Most business schools do not teach efforts to understand and teach digital marketing.
But inability to teach the digital doesn’t indicate that learning marketing as a whole is not worth it!
Surely one can learn SEO or “Facebooking” on one’s own. There may not be any college degrees required for doing these.
But you do need to learn stuff like:
- Marketing Rules
- Branding Rules
- Dynamic marketing trends
- Operation management
- People management
- Consumer / trade/ dealership
- B2B, B2C, B2B2C and more models
- Design thinking
- Various proven marketing theories / models
- Pricing theory
- 4 Ps of marketing
- Consumer behavior
- Perceptual mapping… etc
How will you strategize your digital marketing without knowing the fundamentals of marketing?
Yes, you can read about these and more on your own. But you still need a structure to make sense of how these parts make a whole.
You need to give these individual parts the time that they deserve. Some you must digest well. Some you might want to merely skim.
Watching videos and reading blogs about these basics might not give you that structure.
If you listen to the fake Gary, you’ll be making a huge mistake. And that’s why EduTok dangerous!
Would you expect a heart surgeon to say it’s no longer necessary to go to college?
You might think that digital marketing is nothing but looking at analytics that tools generate. Yes, it’s possible to monitor the performance of each of your digital assets. But there’s something else too.
You need a lot of intelligence, experience and training to understand what the analytics say.
But the fake Gary won’t tell you that.
TikTok Content Example 2: The English Teachers
Influencers in some domains have been mushrooming. Teaching English is one of these.
The influencers have been sharing language “tips” in 15 seconds’ videos. But knowledge or language learning don’t come in bits of 15 seconds.
You might be able to understand a few words you can use as a tourist somewhere. But not learn a whole language!
Even if you watch 500 videos of such 15 seconds bits at a stretch.
If you’ve been following and learning from these influencers, you will end up thinking that learning a language boils down to such “trivia”. You’ll think of enrolling for proper classes not as an investment but as a waste.
And trivia cannot help you speak fluently. Short sentences and phrases like “thank you very much” do not count as language learning.
Have you been consuming content by the fake Gary and these other coaches or teachers who offer you tips on every random thing possible?
So what? That’s how TikTok works!
To a very great extent, the problem is the way TikTok works.
You might be thinking, this is the problem of some content creators. That doesn’t mean something is wrong with TikTok as a platform.
Let me show you how that’s wrong.
Building a huge following has been easy to do on TikTok because it is a platform for immediate gratification. Give people the promise of learning something quickly or effortlessly and you’ll do well. That’s how these influencers manage to get so many followers so soon.
Gary Vaynerchuk has said that even if you have less than 1000 followers on TikTok, you can still get a million views!
That’s the power of the promise of immediate gratification. Every time you give a like to these fake influencers, you might be granting them undeserved popularity.
Once the influencers begin to do well, Tiktok leverages their popularity, pays them endorsement fees and puts them on the signboards. What do you get out of this arrangement?
Moreover, the TikTok influencers manage to get invited to conferences to give talks. That’s extra income.
Do you think TikTok has been doing something about this?
We’ve been there with WhatsApp too in its earliest days. Earlier, there was a lot of misinformation on WhatsApp. Users have become cautious before forwarding any messages. WhatsApp has also started marking forwarded messages as forwarded.
TikTok too has started implementing certain kinds of restrictions. Content creators have to be careful about sensitive issues like showing obscenity, violence, or religious sentiments.
That’s how it has risen from being an app for escorts to being adopted by the mainstream.
But it still has a long way to go.
What TikTok Can Do
TikTok hasn’t been able to filter content and content creators/influencers well. They don’t seem to know the difference between genuine people and fake ones. They should.
I’m not talking about limitations on free speech. We’re saying that the bar is quite low on TikTok.
Here are some of my thoughts regarding how TikTok can try to limit the damage the fake influencers are causing:
It could put disclaimers on the videos. Like saying that the English being taught here is basic and is not a substitute for advanced learning. There should be some prompt that tells you that in order to know more, the followers should opt for a full time or part time course by the content creator.
But, again, the chances are high that such scope for further action won’t be seen on TikTok because the content creators do not have the in-depth knowledge to make the relationship with the consumers last beyond the short form video.
What you can do
Therefore, the ball is in your court as a user. Here’s what I think you can do:
- While consuming any content, first think and then hit the like button. Is the content creator saying something you didn’t know before?
- Look for the person’s credentials. I’m not asking you to go by degrees or famous names. Some people can be very new to their field but can still be very knowledgeable. And yes, this strictly applies to subjects that require expertise.
- Find out if the “educational” is limited to just one video. If a content creator is giving you value in 15 or 60 seconds, you might anyway want to look for more. Following more content will be able to tell you if this content creator is worth your time.
Your understanding will depend on how you answer this question: how will you, as a user, learn more if there’s nothing to teach more? Or, if there’s no more value to give?
In that case, don’t show your appreciation to this content creator. Your “like” is not cheap!
Will the content continue to be so careless on TikTok?
The format of 15/60 seconds video is quite challenging. It’d be interesting to see how TikTok would course-correct.
While consuming content on Quora, you can check the credibility of the individuals answering the questions. Could TikTok perhaps introduce such a feature? We don’t know.
Content creators producing entertainment and pranks videos on TikTok in themselves may not be a great problem.
The influencers attempting to teach something – digital marketing, languages – or imparting “tips” on occult, haircare, skincare can pose a serious threat to the well-being of you, the users.
If TikTok has been using such influencers to increase its popularity, it may not do much to help you identify good influencers from bad ones.
In the end, TikTok videos are intended to kill boredom. When they don’t pretend to be educational, they’re fine. After all, we can’t expect TikTok to become another YouTube in its support of the long form.
This extremely short form of content is new. It needs to be seen how the various stakeholders (content creators, users, marketers) will respond to it.
My simplest advice to you is: Consume content on TikTok responsibly.
Not all the influencers you follow on TikTok are worth your time. Not all of have them any credibility.
In fact, by liking their videos, you’re helping such fake people reach far more people than they would normally reach.
By all means, enjoy funny videos. But be extremely careful with the “educational” ones.
And yes, I am on TikTok too. I create content and I also consume content. I have experienced both sides. In spite of being a content creator, I’m not talking in support of all creators. Because I don’t stand up for bad work.
I’ve shared what I think. Now, it’s your turn. What have you been thinking about TikTok as users?
And as always, see you on TikTok.