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TikTok overtakes YouTube in some countries, what of Zimbabwe?

TikTok job

I am a millennial by every definition of the word. This means I know TikTok exists, I have it installed on my phone and even have an account. I occasionally scroll through the feed, hiss under my breath a couple of times and then exit to return weeks later. Yet, I don’t really get TikTok.

I guess for someone who is old enough to know what, ‘Do it for the vine’ means, I had my fill of short form videos on Vine. TikTok feels like a ‘been-there-seen-that’ kind of app for me. However, as it has continued to gain popularity, bafflingly, it’s become harder to ignore.

The latest on its upward trajectory is that TikTok has overtaken YouTube in the US and the UK. Granted, it is only in average hours watched by a single user and not the total number of hours watched by all users. Also, this is only on Android but that’s our OS of choice this side, so no complaints.

YouTube retains the throne for total hours watched thanks to its over 2 billion monthly active users. TikTok has been downloaded more than a billion times on just the Play Store but has around 700 million monthly active users.

The biggest YouTube stars still earn considerably more than their TikTok counterparts. The highest earners on TikTok earn around $5m annually compared to around $30m for YouTube stars. However, $5m is nothing to scoff at and the figures are trending upwards as the app gains even more traction. Older users are joining the app.

TikTok in Zimbabwe

Let us first look at what a content creator on Tik Tok can expect and then look at business and those looking to promote their products/services on the platform.

The creator

TikTok videos are much shorter than YouTube videos and so the broadband requirements to post to TikTok is lower.

There is a lot of Zimbabwean content on TikTok and I assume there are many users as well. While a creator on the platform is not limited to Zimbabweans, that core of local users is important. Any global ambitions start with a local following. 

Going viral though is not dependent on having a large following. TikTok’s algorithm is famous for its effectiveness in recommending content to its users. A creator with no followers can have a post reach tens of thousands of users much easier than it would be for a YouTuber.

That usually helps in getting new followers, who will be crucial for any monetisation efforts later on. What monetisation efforts?

Audio sponsorships 

The beauty in Zimbabwe is that we have a large proportion of musicians. Every other person you meet has a couple of ‘hits’ you should definitely hear and share with your friends. Because of this saturation, upcoming musicians are forced to promote their material. 

The current climate allows musicians to record and distribute their music all without being signed to record labels. So dealing with the musician is often directly, no record executive in-betweeners. This means the musicians are approachable and ready to engage anyone promising to provide better discovery for their music.

TikTok is great for this. Many globally famous musicians have had careers launched on TikTok. The platform is music heavy. So convincing a musician to pay for promotion on TikTok is much easier.

Selling own products / services

If you have your own merchandise for sale, the TikTok platform can be a good marketing tool. It’s simple, build a following, an audience and advertise your wares directly to them.

Once you have a connection with your followers, they can become fans. Fans are wonderful creatures, sometimes, some of them may support you even when they don’t really need your wares. Some fans may already have suppliers for the wares you peddle but may switch to you just to support.

Promoting other people’s products / services

No matter how large or small a company/brand is, if you can provide eyeballs, there is business to be done.

The brand looking to advertise on TikTok

The eyeballs are there. The only thing to consider is the demographic you are targeting because TikTok users are mostly teenagers and young adults. If that is the target audience, the challenge becomes how to go about getting your product/service in front of them.

TikTok advertising

You are used to this. It’s exactly the same as placing ads with Google or Facebook. In-feed video ads, branded hashtag challenges (asking users to record themselves performing something and posting it with a specific hashtag), full screen ads and the like.

Influencer marketing 

Working with select TikTok creators for promotion. There are some creative TikTokers who can come up with catchy and viral posts on your behalf. This strategy, with just a tiny bit of oversight, results in more effective promotions. The TikTok creators know TikTok better than your marketing department. The creator is better able to create a viral ad.

These influencers are quite influential and their influence can be harnessed for relatively way less money than other channels. Note however that TikTok’s Creator Marketplace which helps connect creators and brands is not yet available in Zimbabwe. You have to approach the creators directly.

In closing

When it comes to video streaming sites, YouTube and Facebook remain top dogs in Zimbabwe.

However, TikTok has become quite the alternative to YouTube and Facebook. This has opened new opportunities for Zimbabweans who have found the going tough on the longer form video content site YouTube. The combination of an algorithm that rewards engaging content regardless of follower counts and lower data requirements bodes well for Zimbabweans starting out.

With viewership comes marketing and advertising opportunities and it would be criminal if these were not exploited.

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