Behind TikTok’s Success: AI, Product Management and Hustle

TikTok is the new Facebook (and is becoming bigger than that) and as of 2018, TikTok is now available in over 150 markets, and in 75 languages.

TikTok was downloaded more than 104 million times on Apple’s App store during the full first half of 2018.

Beyond the format (15 seconds video), what goes inside the product? Well, a lot of AI, hustle and product thinking.

ByteDance’s vice president says they’re able to process 50 million GB of data every day. And analyzing its 500 million users’ video clips has potential applications for content recommendation, object recognition, and, ultimately, surveillance. The website for ByteDance’s research lab boasts, “This virtuous cycle of AI has allowed us to venture into areas of machine intelligence the world has not seen before.”

Read on.

1. TikTok might just lead India’s first ‘Social Media General Elections’ in 2019

TikTok has been downloaded close to 260 million times in India and is now it is proving to be a bigger social media challenge for Election Commission of India, than the usual rogues.

The average number of videos being created by Indian users on TikTok is now between 20 to 25 daily.

With TikTok people have started creating an avalanche of political memes and short videos, using it's editing tools and library of prompts.

People lip-sync to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speeches, make a meme featuring Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s “Chowkidar Chor Hai” (the watchman is a thief) barb aimed at Modi, or just riff off Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s dismissive “Toh kar na” (then, why don’t you do it; a remark aimed at the Opposition in the Delhi assembly).

“TikTok has a lot of young users, including first-time voters who are the ones to be targeted. We do have a lot of our volunteers who use the app."

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2. With TikTok, Serendipity is 'in' again !

The number of friends or connections metric is slowly becoming obsolete. 

Having a lot of friends on your social network does not mean that, one would engage with them proactively. 

The reason is that, we basically know the outcome of those interactions, it is hard-wired mostly. 

Whom would like what?

The 'in thing' with TikTok, is 'in the moment' flings with people based on what you are currently doing.

“Imagine a version of Facebook that was able to fill your feed before you’d friended a single person. That’s TikTok.”

With TikTok, everything is extempore, from the creation to watching it's result unfold.

“You’re not actually sure why you’re seeing what you’re seeing,” said Ankur Thakkar, former editorial lead at Vine, the now defunct short-form video platform. “It [TikTok] is doing the thing that Twitter tried to solve, that everyone tried to solve. How do you get people to engage?”

 Serendipity is 'in' again.

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3. TikTok's Global Impact: Better Cross Border Relationships?

Moreover, TikTok has also achieved another result: as many big-time influencers on the app have become common icons among teenagers in Hong Kong and the mainland, it has helped reduce the sense of cross-border alienation between the youth, not to mention that it has also increasingly facilitated Putonghua proficiency among Hong Kong students.

The megatrend of TikTok reflects an objective reality: when the demand and push for integration truly begins to gain momentum, no government policy can stop it, and vice versa.

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4. Why India loves TikTok

The success of the app is primarily to do with how little text one encounters, and how cheap mobile data has become. TikTok is wildly popular across geographies and generations, with small-town kids – or even entire families – putting together videos for the platform.

Available in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Malayalam and Punjabi, the beauty of the app lies in the fact that  anyone with a basic smartphone and an internet connection can make a short music video of their own.

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5. TikTok Gets Richer, Artists are still counting pennies

Technology companies make their money from valuations on Wall Street or venture capital or private equity, which are based on market share, and that’s based on their number of users. They don’t actually have to make money off of music to make money. It doesn’t matter if they lose money. As a matter of fact, they all lose money.

TikTok is valued 3X more thatn Spotify, but the artists whose music powers the platform are seeing very little of that money.

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6. When AI is the Product: The Rise of AI-Based Consumer Apps

TikTok is fully reliant on AI, and that makes all the difference. Rather than asking users to tap into a video thumbnail or click into a channel, the app’s AI algorithms decide which videos to show users.

The full-screen design of TikTok allows every video to unveil both positive and negative signals from users (positive = a like, follow, or watching until the end; negative = swipe away, press down). Even the speed at which users swipe a video away is a relevant signal.

Instagram, on the other hand, uses AI as a tool instead of the actual product.

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