- Social video app TikTok is emerging as a significant threat to YouTube among children who spend more time with online media. Kids ages 4 to 15 spend an average of 80 minutes a day on TikTok, compared with 85 minutes a day watching videos on YouTube, per a study by digital safety app maker Qustodio that was reported in TechCrunch.
- TikTok boosted social media usage among children 200% this year, as COVID-19 lockdowns led kids to replace hours that were once spent at school with more screen time at home. In the U.S., TikTok usage more than doubled to 82 minutes a day in February from 38 minutes in May last year.
- Instagram is the most popular social media app in the U.S., even though its daily usage was less than TikTok's at about 50 minutes a day in February, up 25% from 40 minutes in May 2019. About 20% of U.S. children use Instagram, ahead of TikTok (17%), Snapchat (16%), Facebook (14%), Pinterest (8.1%), Twitter (3.7%) and Houseparty (3.6%), per Qustodio. The company surveyed 60,000 families in the U.S., U.K. and Spain.
TikTok's growing usage among children is significant for mobile marketers, who need to be mindful of ethical concerns including data privacy in any advertising that's aimed at kids. Qustodio's study is intended to be more cautionary for parents than instructional for advertisers, but its findings have major implications for brands. About 90% of U.S. households say their children influence buying decisions, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. That influence makes Generation Z, which broadly includes anyone born since the late 1990s, an important demographic group whose media consumption habits will affect mobile marketers for years to come.
TikTok is classified in Qustodio's study as a social media app, but its prolonged daily usage is comparable to video apps like YouTube, Netflix, Twitch, Hulu and YouTube kids in the U.S., the survey indicates. That engagement makes TikTok a powerful media platform that may have a long-term effect on Gen Z consumption. For brands seeking to reach audiences who are spending more time on social media and video apps, TikTok may become a more significant part of their media mix.
The longer-term effect on social media and video consumption could pose a bigger threat to dominant digital advertising rivals like Google, which owns YouTube, and Facebook, which owns Instagram. TikTok's current growth trajectory puts it on pace to exceed YouTube in daily video consumption and to overtake Instagram in popularity among kids within the next year. In response, YouTube reportedly plans to add a video-sharing feature called "Shorts" that resembles TikTok's format by the end of the year. Instagram started testing a feature called "Reels" in Brazil to let users create music videos, while Facebook launched an app called Lasso that focuses on viral short-form video content. So far, those efforts haven't dampened enthusiasm for TikTok.
A growing number of brands have run campaigns on TikTok to reach its younger audience and cultivate loyalties that may last a lifetime. American Eagle Outfitters is a recent example of a youth-oriented brand whose campaign on TikTok helped to drive sales as the teen retailer started to reopen stores that had been closed during pandemic lockdowns. An influencer campaign for its Aerie brand racked up almost 2 billion views and helped to drive sales of leggings and fleece wear. Chipotle Mexican Grill, E.l.f. Cosmetics and Warner Bros. studios also have included TikTok in their recent campaigns.