While TikTok’s growth is unprecedented, and its ad business is growing in-step, where TikTok’s still struggling to establish firm footing is in creator monetization, and ensuring that its top stars are able to maximize their popularity through direct income from their TikTok clips.
Which is a major concern. Vine, for example, which many consider to be the predecessor to TikTok, was eventually forced to shut down because it wasn’t able to establish a creator monetization pathway that was on par with competitors.
At some point, the biggest stars will focus their energy on wherever they’re going to make the most money, and right now, for most, that is not TikTok, which has already seen a lot of its biggest names switching over to YouTube and Instagram instead.
So what can TikTok do?
Apparently, guiding creators towards longer-form content is TikTok’s next step in this push.
As reported by The Information:
“In late October, TikTok invited dozens of creators to its New York office for a private event aimed at mobilizing them to create more videos at least a minute long. TikTok executives told the creators that by embracing longer videos, they can make more money and have more time to get their messages out.”
That would address YouTube’s biggest advantage over TikTok in this respect, with YouTube creators able to earn revenue from ad share based on pre and mid-roll ads. Which, with primarily 30-second clips, TikTok cannot do, so it’s now seemingly trying to re-shape user behaviors in order to further align users, and creators, around longer form content, with a view to building out its ad options in more ways.
Whether that’s actually what users want from TikTok remains to be seen, but conceptually, it could get TikTok onto more comparative footing, in a monetization sense.
And already, TikTok does seem to be prompting a gradual usage shift:
“TikTok told creators that users are now spending half their time on the app watching content that’s longer than a minute. And over the past six months, creators who post videos longer than a minute have five times the growth rate in followers of those who post only short videos.”
Maybe, TikTok’s ultimate destiny is to become a long-form content destination, which would also better align with its own definition as “an entertainment app” as opposed to a social network.
Really, TikTok has already sparked a paradigm shift in this respect, in terms of making entertainment the key focus of social apps, gradually removing more and more of the “social” element.
Meta has since adopted the same, with popular Reels now taking over your feed, as opposed to posts from people and Pages designed to prompt more engagement.
TikTok has led the way in algorithmically-defined feeds, in order to maximize engagement. Now it just needs to expand that to longer clips.
It’ll take some time, and adjustment, for TikTok to add in more direct ad options based on this, but that appears to be the focus moving forward, as it guides creators towards longer form trends.
And while TikTok’s also still pushing its in-stream commerce initiatives, which have been its key earner in its Chinese homeland, Western audiences remain lukewarm on in-app shopping options, prompting this new shift.
As such, this could be a major expansion, while the fact that more users are now watching longer content in the app would suggest that this is already happening to some degree.
Another consideration for your 2024 planning.