Category: TikTok

Big, huge, massive, surprising social media trends

surprising social media trends

Each year I enjoy digging into the Infinite Dial report, the longest-running social media study that is conducted by Edison Research. I always find a few surprising social media trends that raise an eyebrow and this year was no different.

It’s a Marketing Companion tradition to explore some of the big ideas from this research report and on the newest show, Brooke Sellas and I explore questions like:surprising social media trends 2

  • Why Facebook is seeing a rise in teen usage.
  • Why podcast listening us up, but the average number of shows consumed is down.
  • Why Pinterest is in an apparent nose-dive.
  • How the idea that older folks are taking over TikTok is a myth.
  • Why the war on smart speakers will have long-ranging eCommerce consequences.

Oh my gosh, this is a juicy episode. If you’re a social media geek like me, this will be your best content of the week. Enjoy!

PS Could this be the best Marketing Companion intro ever?

Click on this link to listen to Episode 186

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Winning the War for Attention: My talk at #SMMW20

winning the war for attention

Winning the War for Attention

I’ve been a speaker at all eight Social Media Marketing World events and it is always an annual highlight for me. It’s like coming home to family — so many wonderful friends to see! If you’ve never attended, you should give it a try and discover the fun.

winning the war for attention andy crestodina, rich brooks, brooke sellas mark schaefer, jay baer, dana malstaff, ian cleary, mike alton, mike kim

In the early days of SMMW, I spoke on Twitter and blogging, then I evolved into content and strategy. In 2016 I was asked to be the closing keynote speaker and I did it again in 2019. What a thrill to speak in front of 5,000 frenzied social media friends!

I think a key to my success at this event is that I always push boundaries with fresh, exciting content. My philosophy is that a great speech delivers insights, not just information. Information … you can get that in a blog post. But you’ll have a unique experience coming to one of my talks!

I pushed the boundaries again this year by doing something different. I spoke from my heart about the biggest problem facing social media marketers today — winning the war for attention.

I see that social media marketers simply try to keep up by copying others or following directions from their favorite gurus. This simply cannot work. Winning a war for attention means we can’t be conformists.

So let’s dig into the heart of the speech …

Winning the War for Attention

I started my speech with a funny story from the early days of television to illustrate a pattern that happens in every content channel.

When TV started in the 1950s, the programs were filled with local talent — singers, cooks, and anybody who could fill some time on the air. Almost anybody could get on the air and almost any business could buy advertising time.

Over the years, the channel “filled up,” and the content became more expensive and sophisticated. Local advertisers dropped out and network (and then cable) TV took over.

Today, what does it take to get your attention on TV? Game of Thrones. At $10 million per episode for a show like that, the content has never been better but if you’re trying to compete on the basis of content, bring your checkbook!

As I told this story, I asked my audience to think of the similarity of what is happening in their own favorite social media space. The same pattern will happen over time. The space fills up with content and it becomes more expensive and difficult to compete, an idea I first introduced in 2014 with an idea called Content Shock.

Now, what do we do about it?

I proposed that answering five questions can lead you to a strategy that helps you win the war for attention. Here they are.

1. Only we …

I asked the audience a simple question. Can you finish this sentence: “Only we …”?

This is a very important question because if you can’t finish that sentence, you don’t have a marketing strategy and if you don’t have a marketing strategy, you can’t have a social media strategy. You’re being set up to fail.

It may take you weeks or even months to figure this out. But you simply must find these special points of differentiation. If you’re stuck, go out and ask your customers what they think. You’ll almost always find the answer there.

2. Company culture

In my Marketing Rebellion book, I go deep into this idea of how company culture really determines how successful you’ll be with your social media marketing.

The company culture both enables your narrative and constrains your ability to win the war for attention. If you have a culture that is open, nurturing and fun … that will be your social media presence. If you’re uptight and controlling, you probably won’t get very far in winning the war for attention.

This can be frustrating because no amount of energy and talent can overcome a dismal company culture. Sometimes, an effective social media strategy has to start with executive education.

I made the point that sometimes social media success must start with executive education.

3. Are you a conversational brand?

I said that the business case for all social media is this: “Come Waste Time With Me.”

Nobody has to be on social media. So to succeed, you have to earn a place that makes people want to waste time with you. Why would they want to do that?

Not all products and industries have an equal chance to win the war for attention.

If you work for a university, a sports team, a pop star, or a professional athlete, you will naturally have a high level of attention and organic reach.

If you work for a bank, the electric company, or a company that makes appliances … well, these just are not going to make it to dinnertime conversations. You’re not that conversational and it will be much, much harder for you to win the war for attention.

You have to make yourself conversational. This does not necessarily have to be difficult or expensive, but you do have to stand out in some unique way.

I provided an example of a hand tool company in Lithuania that went viral over its videos that explored how the tools were hand-crafted.

4. How can you maneuver?

I explained to the audience that this was the most important part of the talk. My concern is that everybody leaves a conference like Social Media Marketing World and follows whatever the gurus tell them to do. I see this year after year.

If it is the year of Snapchat, everybody piles on to Snapchat.

If it is the year of video on LinkedIn, then that is what everybody does.

Marketers flock to whatever is popular until they ruin it.

And that’s no strategy. Winning the war for attention depends on non-conformity, not conformity.

I used an example of TikTok, which was a big piece of the conversation at SMMW20. There seems to be a frenzy to get every business on to TikTok. Research shows that indeed, there is a growing older audience there. But let’s take a closer look:

winning the war for attention tiktok

Did you know that about 94 percent of the content created on TikTok is by teenagers? This implies we have a lot of older people stalking TikTok (as they first did with Snapchat before dropping out). So do you really need to be building an audience of 12-year-olds for your business? Maybe.

I’m not against TikTok, I’m just saying, “THINK” and don’t spend budget on activities because some guru told you to do it (This part of my talk received applause!)

To be effective today, you cannot be guru-led and fall in line with a crowd. You have to zig when everybody else is zagging.

To illustrate this, I provided examples from three very saturated industries — real estate, food, and entrepreneurial content — and showed that a little simple creativity helped businesses stand out and create great success.

5. Human-centered content

In this part of my speech, I noted that every great social media success story has a human anchor providing some unique value. (I cover this in detail here: A simple theory of social media success).

I showed how many companies are missing out on opportunities to show real human smiles, personalities, and passion because they act like grape lollipops, which say they are grape but are not really grape at all!

This was the funniest part of my speech and I got the biggest laugh I think I have ever received as I covered a few big social media fails!

winning the war for attention

The point is, the most human company wins — it just does. I believe that with every fiber in my body. And you won’t be winning the war for attention with some fake and inauthentic presence.

Putting it into action

These are the types of guidelines I use with my clients, and they work. They’re not that hard. But they do take a bold willingness to not follow the crowd.

I ended my talk encouraging the crowd to:

  • Be a non-conformist.
  • Maneuver.
  • Be more human.

It seems simple, doesn’t it? How are you being a non-conformist in your industry?

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

The post Winning the War for Attention: My talk at #SMMW20 appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

Why there is no first mover advantage in social media

first mover advantage

One of my readers left this comment the other day as she advocated that you should establish a foothold in every emerging social media channel — a first mover advantage:

“If you’re among the first on a new social network, it will be easier for you to become big there, compared to arriving there after everyone else. Assuming the network survives, you’ll be set up for success.”

This seems to make sense, and we have certainly seen this “first mover advantage” play out in many marketing strategies over the years.

But today I will take a contrary position and offer a more realistic strategy when it comes to approaching social media channels.

The impossible risk of first mover advantage

Here’s the first challenge to a first mover strategy — finding the energy to do it all!

Here’s a popular chart that illustrates some of the most popular social media networks (please don’t strain your eyes!):

first mover advantage

Don’t even bother trying to read it or understand it. I’m just making the point that there is a lot of stuff out there.

Trying to keep up with it all and place the right business bet is hazardous duty.

An example … One of my friends bet the ranch on a streaming video channel called Meerkat. He became an advocate and spoke at Meerkat events. He wore Meerkat t-shirts. He pushed tons of content on the platform and indeed became the undisputed Meerkat stud.

In less than a year, Meerkat was dead. His content went poof. His status evaporated. He had dedicated a good portion of his life to a social media channel that is now a memory.

There are not too many people (or businesses) that can afford to make that mistake over and over with every new platform that comes along.

No focus equals no excellence

Challenge number two: If you’re trying to be everywhere, you will be great nowhere.

There is only one way to stand out on any social media channel — earn an audience through consistently valuable and entertaining content.

Unless you have a huge team of people working on that for you, there is simply no practical way to maintain an excellent presence everywhere.

A better strategy is to be superior in one or two carefully-selected places.

Nobody cares

Eventually, the best content wins, not the person who was there first.

Let’s look at TikTok as an example. This is the social media rage right now. Simply being first means nothing if you’re not relevant, interesting, entertaining and superior according to the high school kids who love it there.

Nobody cares that you were there first. Why would they?

Be a fast follower

Here’s a better strategy: Let other people be the pioneers and figure things out. Then, be a fast follower.

In the history of business, the first movers almost never win.

One small example — the Apple iPod.

The iPod was one of the most successful product introductions in history but it wasn’t the first portable MP3 player in the market, or even the second or third. Apple let the others make mistakes and build a market and then came in with something that was more relevant and superior.

I think this same philosophy works in the social media space, too.

Being a first mover and maintaing a presence everywhere on social media sounds like a good strategy, but honestly, I can’t think of any practical reason to do that.

Think of that Meerkat example — It would have been a lot smarter to wait to see if it actually worked out before going all-in!

So when it comes to social media, take the first mover advantage advice with a grain of salt. Be patient and place your bets in the channels that emerge as important and relevant to your customers. The fast follower wins.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy of

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China Roundup: GitHub’s China ambitions and WeWork rival’s big hopes

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch’s China Roundup, a digest of recent events shaping the Chinese tech landscape and what they mean to people in the rest of the world. This week, we are looking at how WeWork’s largest rival in China — UCommune — is pulling ahead with its initial public offering and GitHub’s potential big move in China.

GitHub turns to China

The world’s largest source code repository host GitHub is mulling to open a Chinese subsidiary, the company’s CEO told the Financial Times recently. The plan comes at a time when the technological rift between China and the U.S. is deepening. The U.S.’s trade sanctions on Huawei, which includes limiting the company’s access to certain Android services, has stirred concerns of further “decoupling” between the two countries. Since then Huawei has stepped up efforts to cut its reliance on American suppliers and develop its own core chips and software operating system.

American tech companies are feeling a similar chill from the trade war. Opening a China office could potentially help GitHub hedge against trade war bans and alleviate the company’s risks in its second-largest market. The demand for a China backup plan appears to have grown after GitHub restricted accounts of users in Cuba, Iran and a few other countries to comply with U.S. sanctions, a decision that sparked an outcry from open-source developer communities around the world and worried Chinese users that the same could befall them.

On the other hand, developers in China and overseas worry that maintaining a China-based operation might subject GitHub’s local projects to Beijing censorship as the country requires foreign companies operating in China to store users’ data locally. Though GitHub has previously been blocked in China seemingly for sharing anti-censorship tools, the restriction was usually temporary. As of now, the site remains largely accessible in China, according to, a website that monitors China’s online censorship. But the concerns are justified. LinkedIn and Bing, sharing the same parent company — Microsoft — with GitHub, have been roundly criticized for practicing censorship in China.

Big hopes and losses

China’s shared space provider UCommune is moving ahead of its rival WeWork as it filed with the U.S. securities exchange for an IPO this week. Like its American counterpart, UCommune — which rebranded from UrWork after a name dispute with WeWork — hasn’t yet found its way to profitability. The Beijing-based company posted a net loss of 573 million yuan ($80.13 million) for the first three quarters ended September 30, 2019, up from 271 million yuan a year earlier, shows its F1 filing.

UCommune founder Mao Daqing, a real estate veteran, has previously forecasted that China’s co-working industry would be valued close to 100 billion yuan ($14 billion) by 2030. The reality is a bit more dismal. WeWork is reportedly coping with high vacancy rates across major Chinese cities, although sources told TechCrunch that spaces could be easily filled up with one or two large corporate contracts per location.

Perhaps more notably, half of UCommune’s revenue is derived from so-called “marketing and branding services,” which include content design as well as online and offline advertising services it sells to customers. The marketing segment, curiously, is attributed to one single subsidiary, a digital marketing services provider it acquired in late 2018. UCommune warns in its prospectus that “the historical financial results of our marketing and branding services may not serve as an adequate basis for evaluating the future financial results of this segment” because revenue from the unit relies overwhelmingly on a small number of major enterprise clients.

Also worth your attention…

Despite Huawei’s push to build its own alternative operating system — HarmonyOS — the Chinese giant is sticking with Android for the foreseeable future. At a company event this week in Shenzhen, its home city, consumer software executive Wang Chenglu announced (in Chinese) that all of Huawei’s handsets, tablets and laptops will continue to carry Android-based OS in 2020. Meanwhile, Huawei’s other products, including a broad range of Internet of Things that make up a smaller chunk of its consumer revenue, will ship with HarmonyOS.

Kuaishou, the largest rival to TikTok in China has reached 100 million daily active users, the company announced (in Chinese) this week. Tencent-backed Kuaishou was one of China’s first short-video apps to have attracted a meaningful following, but it was quickly leapfrogged by a latecomer, ByteDance’s Douyin, which is TikTok’s brand in China.

Though similarly focused on bite-sized videos, the two apps differ fundamentally in the way they distribute content. Trending videos on Douyin tend to come from pedigreed influencers and professional creators; users are fed what Douyin’s complex algorithms determine as “quality” content. Kuaishou, in comparison, works to cultivate a sense of community as its users get exposed to a broader range of long-tail content — often from creators with insignificant followings.

That places Douyin closer to a form of “media” and Kuaishou closer to a “social network,” suggested (in Chinese) Liu Jianing, managing director of China’s top boutique investment bank China Renaissance, at a recent industry conference. For that reason, the two apps also monetize differently — while Douyin generates revenue mainly from ads, Kuaishou harnesses its social graphs to enable social commerce wherein shoppers leverage other users’ recommendations to make purchases.

All the cool kids are on TikTok. Here’s a plan for you and your business!


TikTok seems to be everywhere in the social media conversation … and with good reason. Today, let’s take a rational view of this fascinating platform and its role in building a personal brand and a digital foothold for your business.

TikTok is significant because it seems to be emerging as a “homeroom” for a generation. One of the interesting things about the evolution of social media is how the platforms are stratifying by age groups:

  • The only demographic growing on Facebook is 55+
  • LinkedIn is the place for business professionals
  • Snapchat is dominated by 18-to-30-year-olds.
  • Gen Z (people under 20) seem to be adopting TikTok as their social media homeroom.

I suppose some day the generation after Z will view TikTok as quaint and seek their own place. So we need to watch for that!

But for now, TikTok is the center of the social media marketing conversation.

Like any social media platform, TikTok is diverse and hard to describe in a sentence or two, but in general, it is primarily kids making humorous (and at times angsty) short video clips to earn likes and attention. TikTok is an exuberant celebration of youthful fun.

TikTok launched in China in late 2016 (where it is known as Douyin) and has gone international within the past two years. The app is currently the most downloaded social media app in the U.S. and its growth in the US quadrupled in just one year, according to comScore. So, as a marketer, this demands your attention.

Should you be there, too? Let’s look at TikTok from 1) a personal standpoint and 2) from a business standpoint.

TikTok in context

One of the interesting facts is that increasingly, non-teens are adopting the platform.


We see in the chart below that the age group with the largest number of unique visitors is 18-24-year-olds (3.7 million), which accounts for just over one-quarter (25.8 percent) of the total US adult visitors. Another one-quarter (25 percent) of the visitors aged 18 and older fell into the 25-34 age group.

tiktok income

However, these charts are missing something important. Neither chart accounts for users under the age of 18 … and that is a primary audience for TikTok. 

The significance of TikTok and the thesis of this article depends on the fact that this is a channel that is driven primarily by young people … even children. So let’s dig a little deeper. It was tough finding research that dives below the 18-year-old standard but here’s what I found:

tik tok demographics

Ah-ha! We see that about 40 percent of the entire population on TikTok is under 20 and 66 percent is under 30.

Conclusion one: TikTok is primarily populated by children and young adults.

The second question is: Who is CREATING content on TikTok? There is absolutely no data available on this so I did my own little experiment. I simply watched 200 straight videos in a random feed and recorded my estimate:

tiktok creators

This is not a scientific survey, but it’s probably a good indicator that almost all the content on TikTok is coming from teens and people in their 20s.

By the way … there were three celebrities on here that I did not include in the sample: Will Smith, Bob Saget, and chef Gordon Ramsey. I think that is sort of special category.

By the way, in my 200-video-jaunt, there were no ads shown to me. Currently, TikTok is rolling out sponsored video projects but I didn’t see an ad, which made the user experience really enjoyable.

So although the number of adults signing up to TikTok is on the rise, they’re not participating much. Perhaps this replicates the earlier Snapchat trend when adults pressed onto the channel out of curiosity and then dumped it when they didn’t fit in. Or maybe it’s marketers climbing on board to take a look. But the bottom line is, TikTok culture is for children and young adults.

Why is it important to establish this context? Because it’s going to dictate your personal and business strategy …

The personal brand on TikTok

So, should you be there? Is it a place to build a personal brand?

If you’re under 30 — sure. If you’re older than that — not so sure.

TikTok is a place where kids and young adults have fun. They’re posing, pranking, lip-synching, and doing dance challenges.

I think everybody should check it out. You never know. Maybe you’ll fall in love with it.

But from a personal standpoint, I can’t help but think as a 50-something, my presence on TikTok would be … invasive.

I mean, what does it feel like to scroll through dozens of videos of 13-year-olds lip-synching in their bedroom and then come across this:

gary v on tiktok

Despite the really cool cap, this just seems creepy to me. It screams “What am I doing here?”

I’m picking on Gary Vaynerchuk because he has recently been advocating that everybody pile on to TikTok. Like I said, go try it. But just because you can … doesn’t mean you should. Maybe we should just let the kids alone and let them have fun without us ruining it.

The problem with (most) adults inserting themselves into a place like TikTok is that they probably won’t be native to the platform.

It’s sort of like an Eskimo showing up on a tropical beach. You’d stare and wonder what’s wrong.


Digital Natives can sniff out a fake in a heartbeat. You only belong on TikTok (or anywhere) if you can be relevant in a way that is organic to the platform.

There is certainly a guru-led charge to TikTok. In the coming months, you’ll see tons of advice urging you to pile on … but that doesn’t mean they’re right. Marketers flock to the next cool thing until they ruin it. Why participate in that?

Here’s a more rational view of how a business can approach this platform.

The business case for TikTok

If you’re in marketing for a business, you should be as familiar with TikTok as Twitter. Get on there, look around, read everything you can about it.

I’m on TikTok to learn and laugh a little, not to grow an audience of 15-year-olds or become a junior high dance champion (although I suppose that might be entertaining now that I think about it).

Snapchat has become the communication hub for under-30s and I think that same, strong emotional connection is forming between TikTok and teens. So perhaps this is a platform that has lasting power.

TikTok’s growth is impressive and promising, but it’s not time to overhaul your marketing strategy just yet. TikTok is still quite small compared to the giants of social media and users can be notoriously fickle —  what’s hot one day might not be the next. There are data privacy concerns to be aware of, as well as concerns because the data-collecting company is Chinese-owned.

So for now, how should we rationally approach TikTok from a business standpoint?

1. Go Native

We went through this same cycle with Snapchat. Everybody piled on in a frenzy … and then a few brands figured out a relevant way to participate in the channel:

  • Account take-overs with people who belong on the platform
  • Partnering with native influencers to create sponsored content
  • Appropriate channel-specific advertising
  • Relevant stories and channels that align with the youth-oriented audience

The same thing will happen with TikTok. We’ll figure it out eventually because of the obvious commercial opportunity.

Several large companies are already starting to experiment with co-created promotions on the app. Most of these promotions take advantage of TikTok’s “challenge” concept by creating their own challenges and even providing new music clips for users to interact with and make their own.

For instance, McDonald’s worked directly with TikTok to create a contest called the #BigMacTikTok Challenge.  To enter, TikTok users would dance to one of many pre-recorded music clips that were uploaded to the service. After creating the video, users were required to submit their entry via the official McDonald’s mobile app. All entries won a free Big Mac and a few winners danced away with cash prizes.

That’s a great example of how a brand can join in with the fun in an organic way and reward great creative work.

2. Cool hunter

The most exciting thing to me is that the next big trends are percolating on TikTok. This is a hotbed for viral. TikTok could become the epicenter of pop culture coolness.

What’s the next popular fashion accessory, hairstyle. or video trend? It’s probably coming from the cool kids on TikTok. If your brand depends on cultural relevance, a steady diet of TikTok is required!

I could see spin-offs — TikTok-based television shows, commercials, and other relevant content coming in our future.

I think it’s only a matter of time before there are live and televised TikTok competitions — teams get an original piece of music and then a limited time to create a team dance routine. This would also be a great sponsorship opportunity!

3. The next creators/influencers

One of the things that is so fun about TikTok is that it’s an incredible creative platform. It forces kids to get wild and crazy to stand out. High schools are even forming TikTok clubs to enable collaboration on short creative videos. How cool is that!

I saw this one funny video on TikTok. As a young lady awkwardly dances around her room, she writes “I can’t dance. I can’t sing. I’m not funny. The only thing I do well is drink wine.”

The point is, building and sustaining an audience on TikTok requires an enormous amount of talent and consistent creative effort. The emerging TikTok stars will be the next generation of influencers and creators — The new media stars, artists, movie directors, and celebrities. Predictably, there is already a wave of sponsored content hitting the TikTok airwaves.

Recently, TikTok began rolling out two new features that allow influencers to add links in their videos to eCommerce sites (similar to Instagram’s “swipe up” feature in Stories), along with the ability to place URLs within a profile page.

If you’re in the business of identifying and connecting to youthful influencers, this is the place to be.

4. Advertising/sponsored content

In early 2019 TikTok began to roll out several brand advertising opportunities.

Brands like Chipotle have had MASSIVE success with its #GuacDance Challenge paid program on TikTok.

In perhaps the largest US branding effort to date, TikTok announced a multiyear partnership with the NFL that will allow third-party brands to sponsor content on the NFL’s TikTok account. The NFL also hopes to generate user engagement by inviting fans to create TikTok-centric content to support their favorite teams and players.

Like every social platform, TikTok will have to monetize through sponsored content while providing user experiences that seem organic and native to the culture of the platform.

5. Cultural Relevance

TikTok users spend an average of 52 minutes a day on the platform.


Even though it’s still small, TikTok is mighty! If your target demographic is under 30, you simply must be exploring ways to create a meaningful presence on the network.

If you want your brand to be relevant to the next generation of consumers, you probably need to be there. Mainstream brands like Macy’s, the supermarket chain Kroger, and WalMart have already started to create a relevant brand presence on TikTok.

And finally …

I want to emphasize that I’m not telling you what to do, and I never do.  You are an experienced marketing professional and you can make your own decisions. I just want to provide a rational business perspective to the best of my ability in a world of relentless hype.

I hope you’ll make appropriate decisions led by common sense, strategy, and data … not based on the hype of social media gurus.

Make sense?

Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I have to go practice my dance moves for the next challenge!

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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