How Does Tik Tok Outperform Tencent’s Super App WeChat and Become One of China’s Most Popular Apps? (Part 2)

Tik Tok is a product about “loveliness”.

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How Does Tik Tok Outperform Tencent’s Super App WeChat and Become One of China’s Most Popular Apps? (Part 2)

Tik Tok (抖音) may be young compared with many of its short video peers on the market, but the fact that it achieved such strong growth momentum in less than two years has made it the center of attention.

Launched by Bytedance in September 2016, Tik Tok has outperformed Tencent’s super app WeChat and has become the most downloaded free app in iOS Apple Store. Its DAU, in February 2018, has reached 32.5 million and the number peaked at 62 million during Chinese Spring Festival, according to a report by data service Jiguang.

Outside China, Tik Tok also went viral quickly, especially in Japan and Thailand, becoming the most downloaded free app in the two respective local iOS App Stores last November. In a bid to fuel the app’s global expansion, Bytedance acquired lip-syncing app musical.ly last year and merged it with Tik Tok. According to App Annie, Tik Tok is the #7 most downloaded app across the world.

How did Tik Tok get where it is today? What is the nature of this product and its underlying concept and values? Find the answers in the first public address of ZHANG Nan, Tik Tok’s General Manager.

In Part 1 of this feature, ZHANG Nan contributes Tik Tok’s success to the consumption upgrade trend and good user experience. This is the Part 2 of the 2-Part series and here is the link to the Part 1.


Third, technology is an essential element for Tik Tok’s winning the users’ hearts.

Firstly, tailored recommendation

A social network app focusing on short videos takes time to mature, owing to the fact that it is totally dependent upon a bevy of users’ continual contribution of contents, and the contents being viewed by the other users. We call this bilateral contribution. With Tik Tok’s tailored recommendation feature, the users can instantly identify their preferred contents, rather than going through the tedious process of swiping through a sea of short videos on a platform.

Secondly, AI and product innovation

Bytedance General Manager ZHANG Nan: Tik Tok Meshes with China’s Consumption Upgrade Trends (Part 2)
Tik Tok’s dancing game powered by AI. Image credit to Tik Tok.

On another note, the success of Tik Tok can in large part be attributed to the AI Lab of Jinri Toutiao, which has enabled Tik Tok to integrate the technologies like face recognition, body recognition, and 3D rendering powered by machine learning and image recognition into its innovative functions, including full-screen sticker, dancing game, AR sticker and 3D hair coloring.

As a matter of fact, many of these functions are not unique to Tik Tok in the short video space. Take hair coloring for example, the effect of many hair coloring functions on the market is just not that satisfactory, because it is generally rigid and devoid of gradient and diversity in color.

Whereas, our hair coloring function, enabled by 3D rendering and face recognition technologies, produces more lifelike results. As you can see, we pursue perfection and innovation in each and every one of our functions, and it is basically this that has enabled us to deliver better product and more surprises to our users.

Thanks to our persistent pursuit of perfection and innovation, Tik Tok became the most downloaded free app in Apple App Store, by the end of 2017.

Fourth, contents on the app are carefully guided with effective community operation.

In addition to the product itself, the climate in the community, which technically represents the value orientation on the platform and the “path” the users should follow for “loveliness”, also plays an essential role in delivering “loveliness” for users.

For this reason, a positive climate must be fostered in the community so that the users could be surrounded with good will and understand the value the platform promotes.

This task falls mainly on our employees responsible for community operation and recommendation, who operate the community and recommend contents in line with the set of values we formulated.

Firstly, guiding contents with varying approaches

Bytedance General Manager ZHANG Nan: Tik Tok Meshes with China’s Consumption Upgrade Trends (Part 2)
Image credit to Tik Tok.

Tik Tok has a fun feature themed “#Challenge”, which is essentially designed to encourage users to create contents based on the pre-set guidelines. The challenge “#Who says Peking Opera is not chic”, for example, is a brainchild of our efforts to fuse traditional culture with the chic style of Tik Tok. The challenge turned out to a big hit on the platform and induced a lot of engagements from users.

Additionally, premium contents on the platform are labeled as “selected contents”. And the official account “Tik Tok Helper” also posts periodically video collections that, we think, promote “loveliness” and can make life more enjoyable for others.

The word “guide” may tend to imply that fostering climate is all the platform’s work, when the users on the platform should also take part of the credit. The users, aside from engaging in the official “#Challenge” events, can also launch their own “#Challenge” contests by creating and spreading enjoyable contents in their eyes.

Secondly, collecting users’ feedback on “loveliness” with sound recommendation mechanism

Some of the posted videos, after being reviewed by our audit team, in light of our screening principles, will be put into the pool of recommended contents. And the users can then, based on their own value orientations, give us their feedback on these videos through such activities as view, like, follow, repost, comment and report. In this way, we get to continually refine our reviewing and recommendation mechanisms.

Through this process, we developed a set of recommendation strategies that fit with the nature of Tik Tok.

For example, we stopped recommending the contents, including contents angling solely for attention, videos featuring eating and videos spreading the tricks for leading a fake life, that contravene appropriate values in response to users’ feedback.

Our efforts to deliver a better user experience doesn’t just stop at the product itself. We also maintain a direct contact with our users. In the early days, Tik Tok would regularly invite its users over to its office for small parties or talks. The small parties or talks have now evolved into weekly gatherings of Tik Tok users, initiatively organized by users in cities across China. These gatherings are must-not-miss events for our product manager and staff responsible for operation, since they can capitalize on these opportunities to gather the users’ opinions about the platform and, more importantly, their views about Tik Tok’s community within a certain period.

Needless to say, every step we take in operation and recommendation serves but only one purpose: aligning our product with users’ expectations.

Fifth, Tik Tok is essentially a product about “loveliness”.

The tremendous growth Tik Tok secured in the past year attracted much attention from users, peers in the short video space and media circle. Lately, I’ve read a fair number of articles about Tik Tok, which voice a mix of both praise and criticism.

I remember there was an article about how the fake news video themed on “water turning into oil” could mislead users. Seeing this article, I asked some employees to run a thorough check on these videos and the accounts that posted them. What we found, however, is that these videos generally performed badly in terms of video play, likes and comments. Some of them were even stifled in the screening process.

Nevertheless, we feel that we must hold ourselves to the strictest standards and try every possible way to minimize such contents for the sake of the society, since our mission is to deliver “loveliness”.

I sincerely hope that the users’ lives can be filled with enjoyable moments and Tik Tok will become more “lovable”.

This is the Part 2 of a 2-Part series. Link to the Part 1.

Writer: GAO Xiaoqian