my name is Marcus, i am a journalist and consultant currently writing an analysis of political communication strategies on TikTok. Welcome to your weekly infusion of TikTok related news.
Today we talk about:
🚣 TikTok Fleets – and a narrative shift
📚 The Story of TikTok – and Facebook being “clearly desperate”
🍲 Reviews, ratings and recommendations – and Eric trying it
🚣 TikTok Fleets
Twitter has introduced a story-like feature called Fleets. It has been used by quite a bunch of people to upload TikToks to Twitter or as Jane Manchun Wong writes: “ started seeing TikTok fleets already / so it begins”.
If you are not yet 100 % sure what exactly is about to begin, let me guide you to a BBC article called How China could shape the future of technology. Quote: “Nowadays, you see the narrative shift towards how Western social media platforms are learning from Chinese social media platforms.” Read more about that in the interview with Matthew below.
📚Attention Attention – The Story of TikTok
Matthew Brennan knows a thing or two about Chinese mobile technology and innovation. He has been based in mainland China for over 16 years analysing the new wave of Chinese digital innovation as a speaker and writer. I saw one of his tweets shared by my friend Stephan and then we did an email-interview. Because Matthew has a new book out.
It is called “Attention Factory: The Story of TikTok and China's ByteDance”, it sounds interesting if you want to learn more about why TikTok and ByteDance became what they are. Or as a former employee of ByteDance wrote on Twitter: I have to admit I'm impressed by how much @mbrennanchina knows.
What is THE thing people in the west do not (yet) understand about the relevance of TikTok/Douyin?
The China market offers a clear window into the future of TikTok. The media buzz and discussion around TikTok in 2020 echoes exactly what Chinese were saying in 2018. Yet if we look at China, the local version of TikTok, Douyin, is still growing today (600 million DAU) which means we can be very confident that TikTok still has a long, long way to go in Western markets such as Europe / N.America. The rise of TikTok and other short video apps (think Likee, Triller, Dubsmash, etc.) represents a new paradigm of how we consume internet content.
What surprised you the most while writing the book? What is your biggest learning?
So many things. If I had to pick one, it would be discovering that the user experience that we know today as TikTok, (full-screen vertical video with a swipe up motion and music-driven content discovery,) came from France. It was a small app called Mindie, built in Paris in 2013 that were the first to bring together the interface and product elements that today we all think of as TikTok. I had never heard of Mindie before starting research and still today, there's almost nothing written about the app online. I felt I uncovered a hidden history of the internet as before everyone credited Musical.ly as being the original, in fact they cloned Mindie.
You write, that you dispelled a few myths. Can you elaborate on one or two?
Besides Mindie we dispel many myths about China and Chinese internet companies. There's this widely held perception that Chinese internet companies are shielded from competing with Silicon Valley giants by the great firewall of China which means they have it easy in this "sheltered market." In reality, the Chinese market is the most competitive in the world and the expectations of Chinese consumers with regard to internet services is the highest in the world. TikTok will not be the last breakout hit from China, this much I can guarantee.
What are the biggest difference between TikTok and Douyin when it comes to content, formats, usage and audience?
As someone who's extensively used both apps, I can confirm that Douyin and TikTok content has many differences and in many ways these differences are a reflection of the differences in society. There is a demographical difference, Douyin is more mature and so you will find more serious content on there, educational content, business-related content, e-commerce, and live stream sales, etc. TikTok content is in some ways more creative, I'm continually impressed by the creativity of young people in particular on TikTok.
How do you envision TikTok's near future beyond 2021 concerning the audience, relevance and possible features?
It will become more like YouTube in terms of audience and the broadness and depth of content, anything you want to find will be there in short form. There will be more e-commerce and live stream. At some point, they may integrate casual mini-games into the experience as they have done in China.
Do you see promising competitors concerning TikTok? New or old? What is your take on Insta Reels?
Facebook is clearly desperate. They recently redesigned the Instagram homepage to help promote Reels, which is a big deal. I'm not optimistic about their chances to supersede TikTok, having said that, Reels will have its place in the market along with the smaller players such as Triller and Dubsmash. The window of opportunity to compete and win has already passed, unless TikTok is banned, Facebook's Reels will always play second fiddle to TikTok.
What are your favorite TikTok/ Douyin accounts. Can you name three? Why do you personally like them?
So many, jeez.
On Douyin, there's an account called "Luoben" 罗本 which does short psychological mystery style videos with plot twists at the end. Amazing how they condense a plot into such a short time. Another one I like is 旧时代 "Old times" is an account that just shows clips of old historical footage of street scenes, personally I find that fascinating.
Account Check: Eric Tries It 🍲
Reviews, ratings and recommendations are a big part of TikTok. You can rate homes of celebrities like Samir. Or you can send all former hookups a Google Doc to rate your performance and produce TiksToks of the results like Syd. Someone who has been popping up on my For You page constantly is Eric Chou.
Who: Eric is a Vancouver native working in Berlin. He is a statistics graduate and works as a photographer. He has a website, an Instagram account (15.6K) and of course TikTok (44.2K 1.1M Likes).
What: Eric started using TikTok by the end of March, doing Oreo stuffed cookies. He travelled around Berlin and started to portrait his favourite bakery in Berlin (Albatros), a bubble tea franchise (The Alley), the place to get the best korean fried chicken in Berlin (Kokio) etc. during the summer. His restaurant review TikToks got around 60K - 570K views.
Why: There are many many TikToks. Some stand out. I could recognize Eric after having seen only two of his videos: A calm and pleasant voice, good quality photos, videos and despite the short length of the vidoes there was no rush and no problem following the clear storyline of arriving, explaining and of course eating. There was always some extra value due to Erics knowledge of asian cuisine. I have been eating Ramen here and there but i did not know about Calpico and Bonito flakes.
The videos had a good vibe. Or as Susan Dominus writes in the NYT: “What these creators have in common is the way they capture, fleetingly, a mood I want to be inside of right now — a vibe, to use a word that has recently come to define a substantial corner of the platform.”
I am curious to see how Eric continues his work on the platform. Currently he is working on a podcast and aiming for 50K. Here is his TikTok account.
Take Aways: In my opinion Eric’s account is successful because he adds real value on an emotional and a content level: Where to eat good stuff. You can use the knowledge to show off in front of your peers. There is a social aspect because you can join the discussion in the comments or just watch people order good looking food as a short relaxing pause from life in general. You can get inspired to try out a dish.
Eric brings in a very good combination: english-speaking expat with knowledge of asian cuisine, new in Berlin with a fresh perspective and a photographer that means professionell production too ✨. It obviously took some time for him to find the right tone and vibe. That is a take-away as well. Try, fail, fail better. But i guess you already knew that. Bon appétit!
🖐️ Do you have an account that you would like to get “account checked”?! Please let me know.
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That was that. Let´s see if Charli hits the 100,M followers by the time you are reading this.
Please feel free to give feedback or suggestions. And it would be great if you could recommend this newsletter to a friend, colleague or your parents. I just started this endeavour and the path is pretty long, rocky and winding too.
Thx. Take care 🥦