The Big Read: Fueled by the pandemic, the TikTok boom unleashes the good, the bad and the ugly

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Between the second quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020, the number of monthly active users of TikTok saw its biggest jump in Singapore, increasing by 187% from 334,000 to 961,000.

Speaking to TODAY, Ms Lexi Sydow, Chief Information Officer at data.ai, said TikTok has seen phenomenal growth in Southeast Asia. Over the past five years, the number of monthly active users in Singapore has increased more than eight times in the second quarter of this year, in line with Malaysia and faster than Vietnam.

Within the region, the growth rate was highest in Indonesia, where monthly active users increased 17 times between the second quarter of 2018 and the second quarter of 2022.

She also noted that while TikTok ranks fourth for social media apps in Singapore in terms of total time spent on Android phones, behind WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram, its average monthly time spent per user was 19.8 hours. surpassing Facebook (18.3 hours per month), WhatsApp (16 hours per month) and Instagram (9.5 hours per month)

Dr Crystal Abidin, associate professor of internet studies at Curtin University in Australia, said that in Singapore, the TikTok pandemic gave local influencers who were unable to film content overseas , another outlet for producing content.

TikTok’s “come as you are” culture, where its creators can post casual videos of themselves at home, has allowed these influencers to showcase a more amateur side of themselves. It also gave them the ability to continue producing content on a different platform without affecting their other personalities or brand identities on other sites such as Instagram, Facebook or YouTube, Dr Crystal said.

Isolation during the pandemic also gave older millennial influencers who were in their late 20s to late 30s time to learn how to use TikTok and overcome the inertia of using another new application, she added.

But it wasn’t until brands realized TikTok had commercial value that the app truly went mainstream, Dr Crystal said, citing examples of how restaurants and liquor brands have come together. turned to TikTok influencers to market their products and services during the pandemic.

Professor Lim Sun Sun of the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) said she expects TikTok’s user base in Singapore to grow beyond its young and teenage audience. with non-entertainment figures such as politicians starting to take TikTok more seriously as a platform for engagement.

In response to TODAY’s questions, a spokesperson for Singapore’s TikTok said the platform “continues to see strong growth in viewership and engagement”, with more than a billion people in the world who come to TikTok every month. Nearly one in four global users come from Southeast Asia, with its user base in the region exceeding 240 million, up 85% year-on-year.

The spokesperson said “it was only natural” for online platforms such as TikTok to see an increase in user activity during the pandemic when more people stayed home, with TikTok playing a role in “connecting and meaningfully engaging even physically separated communities”. .

During the pandemic, TikTok has seen a significant increase in daily accumulated engagement on videos as well as an increase in video creation, especially content related to spreading positivity and educating people about hygiene practices.

“We have also seen this increase in TikTok user activity continue even as restrictions eased in Singapore, leading the platform to surpass one billion monthly active global users in September 2021. “said the spokesperson.

LIVE FROM THE TIKTOK DREAM

As TikTok’s popularity grows globally, its efforts to go beyond a platform for trendy dance sequences are growing, to a platform that promotes trade.

To allow TikTokers to monetize their fame, the app launched several features including TikTok Creator Marketplace and TikTok Live in 2019.

In May this year, TikTok also introduced a subscription service for its TikTok Live where content creators can generate recurring revenue from fans through additional benefits such as subscriber-only chats.

All seven TikTok creators interviewed by TODAY said they made money by participating in brand sponsorships or advertising services on the platform.

Ms. Liel, the 24-year-old TikToker, said prices for TikTok-branded videos are usually in the thousands of dollars. Her highest-paying project on TikTok was a “five-digit number” while her lowest-paying projects are usually in exchange for the products she promotes.

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