The last decade has seen Instagram become the most popular network of choice for brands to market their products. With around 32% of internet users on the app and 1 billion monthly users worldwide, its influence is unparalleled. However, with Gen Z now insisting on brand authenticity, less photoshop and more grounded, relatable influencers, brands have had to start getting creative when it comes to marketing towards the younger demographic through digital channels. Queue TikTok. TikTok was first launched in China by start-up, ByteDance, under the name Douyin. ByteDance then bought out the popular, American lip-syncing platform,, and merged the apps together to make the Westernised TikTok platform we know today. In just three years, TikTok has gained a staggering 1 billion users and continues to grow at an exponential rate. Brands such as Gymshark, Elf Cosmetics, Too Faced and even the likes of Chipotle have already seen much success on the platform, with seemingly minimal effort. So why is it such a great opportunity for brands? 


Due to TikTok starting its journey in China, brands who are present on the platform have the opportunity to access the untapped Chinese markets (where Instagram is banned), giving those brands with a presence on the app the potential to have their content and influencer campaigns noticed by any number of the sister app, Douyin’s, 400 million monthly users. With 70% of TikTok users aged between 16-24, the app is perfect for brands wanting to engage directly with young consumers. Beyond this, the addictive algorithm is very beneficial for digital marketers. TikTok’ers spend an average of 52 minutes a day on the platform whereas the average time Instagram users spend scrolling their feeds is 28 minutes a day. 

User-generated content

On TikTok, anyone can be an influencer. Their algorithm gives every content creator the potential to go viral, whether they have 50 followers or 500,000 followers. This makes it one of the most accessible platforms for influencer marketing. These short, addictive videos tend to take the form of dance challenges, make-up transformations or lip-syncing performances. This content engages an audience, and creators encourage fans to recreate their video with the brands’ hashtag attached, sending the trend viral. And consumers are eating it up.In addition, with TikTok known for its ‘Do-it-Yourself’ attitude when it comes to content creation, you don’t have to spend a bulk of your budget collaborating with creators to get your brand seen. 

Viral challenges

TikTok’ers are perceived as more relatable and authentic compared to the perfect ‘lifestyle’ influencers and celebs of Instagram. And seeing ‘real people’ using the products creates a great level of trust between brands and consumers. By teaming up with savvy TikTok’ers, companies are able to gain a lot of exposure on a small budget. Hashtag challenges’ have become the most popular method for brands who work with the creators to gain a stronger following. Gymshark is a prime example of a brand getting it right on TikTok. Since joining the app in 2018, they have perfected hashtag challenges and have a thriving profile filled with content created by popular TikTok’ers. After collaborating with TikTok star, Demi Bagby, their most recent tag, the ‘stand up challenge’ has had over 280 million views on the app after thousands of accounts recreated the viral video. Gymshark has reached 1.6 million TikTok followers in just under two years. However, some brands haven’t experienced the same success. For example, Calvin Klein joined the app in early 2019. At a glance, with just over 10,000 followers on TikTok compared to 20 million fans on Instagram, their content simply isn’t hitting the spot. Calvin Klein is still utilising famous faces such as Kendall Jenner, Shawn Mendes, and Bella Hadid. The same faces that Gen Z have seemingly flooded to TikTok to avoid. Additionally, Gen Z are famous for having low budgets to spend on high-end products. This isn’t ideal for aspirational brands such as Calvin Klein, who may be looking to drive sales through the app. 

Instagram vs TikTok

So how does TikTok compare to our go-to, Instagram? Well, Instagram is still holding onto its place above TikTok in the ‘world’s most used social media platforms’ ranking. Overall, Instagram is a much more demographically balanced platform too. With a near enough 50/50 split between genders and 49.5% of users aged 25-44, brands can easily find the right influencers to promote their products too. When testing began for Instagram’s shoppable tags back in November, 2016 they changed the digital marketing field cementing their position as a market leader. Fast forward to March 2019 and shopping through Instagram was made available for 20 brands in the US, and we’re eagerly awaiting a further roll-out globally. For the time being, most consumers still can’t buy directly through the app itself, however, it’s a great method to drive consumers to a brand page and then on to their e-commerce stores. Whereas there are no plans for TikTok to follow in Instagram’s footsteps any time soon., which could affect the choice brands make when it comes to where to spend their marketing budget. 

The verdict

TikTok shouldn’t be underrated by marketers. If you truly understand the platform and its users, it can be a fantastic, low-cost way to promote your products to the next generation and therefore future-proof your brand. It is, therefore, an exciting opportunity for brands, content creators and influencers with an eye to the long-term needs of marketing. Instagram, however, has been establishing its role in digital marketing, and building its reputation within the industry for more than a decade and so is still the platform to beat for short-term marketing ambitions. With its shoppable features on the verge of mass roll-out and vast demographics across age groups, it still offers huge potential for brands to get right into the palm of their current target audiences’ hands. 
Share this post