Is the TikTok craze giving birth to more short form video sharing apps?

By embracing TikTok wholeheartedly, the Indian audience has also declared its love for short form video formats, pushing others to venture into the space. But can the market accommodate more players?

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Updated: Feb 24, 2020 8:32 PM

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Short format video

Heard of Tangi? Or Hypershots? Well, these are the latest to join the bandwagon of short form video apps. While Google’s Tangi is now available on the Apple App Store, Zee5’s Hypershots is expected to hit the markets by March-end. Though Facebook has officially denied it, there was news of the tech giant planning to bring its video sharing app Lasso to India soon. In October of last year California-based Firework too made its India debut.

While each of these apps claim they are unique and carry their own USP, a common thread runs through most social media apps – it is video content in ‘snackable’ formats. And the inspiration comes from none other than ByteDance-owned TikTok, which today is synonymous with user-generated short form videos and has the world dancing to its tunes.

Love it or hate it, TikTok has made everyone sit up and take notice, especially tech giants like Google and Facebook which have understood the competitive edge it brings. It is no wonder then that the market is witnessing an emergence of TikTok-inspired apps, looking for a share of the social media pie or simply to check the growing popularity of the ByteDance app.

Popular, addictive, controversial - TikTok has been called many things but despite it all the Indian consumer, and especially the Gen Z has given it the thumbs up. And the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so according to Sensor Tower, TikTok was the most downloaded non-game app worldwide for January 2020 with more than 104.7 million installs, a 46 per cent jump in a year. And of the total downloads during this period, India’s share was a whopping 34.4 per cent.

Experts share what they believe has worked for the platform. Madhura Ranade, Head Branded Content & Partnerships, Isobar India, says: “TikTok isn’t about you or chronicling your real life; like what we see on platforms such as Facebook or Instagram. It is about entertaining your audience. And it’s not necessarily about originality either, which is the foundation Instagram was built on. TikTok is about remixing culture, creating a wave and riding on it. The reason it worked was because it opened up a talent platform through a mobile phone – for everyone, no matter who you are or where you are from. Unless there is a larger proposition or a bigger uptake by another player, TikTokers will stick to what they know, enjoy and are thriving on.”

Adds Akshay Popawala, Co-founder and Director of Digital Strategy/ Communication, Togglehead, “Almost all social media or content platforms went through a phase where the younger, typically 16-20-year-olds, adopt and dominate the platform post which the older TG is attracted to the platform as it gets more mature. I think the TikTok story has just begun and there is a long way to go in terms of the evolution of the platform and new audiences engaging.”

Space for more?

The fact that TikTok made a late entry into a highly competitive and crowded social media space has not been a deterrent in its success story. Without taking itself too seriously, the app stuck to its formula of catering to the short attention spans of consumers. But with several new players looking to fight for the same space the question that arises is - is there still scope for more?

According to Sumera Dewan, AVP - Account Management, Dentsu Webchutney, “Its inclusive nature and constant efforts to simplify the interface has allowed TikTok to witness unprecedented growth in fertile markets that no other social media platforms have fully committed to.”

While she believes that there is definitely market opportunity for other players to enter and grow, Dewan says, the question really is who? “Out of the current, Facebook is the most obvious choice to take TikTok head on. However, it will be interesting to see how the provider balances its offerings to cater to metro and non-metro markets, without alienating either. Potentially the launch of Lasso and its integration with WhatsApp could address this concern for Facebook in India. In terms of direct competition, ShareChat seems to be following TikTok’s model with an unabashed focus on smaller markets but it hasn’t managed to make a significant dent yet. New entrant, Firework, also offers a similar model to TikTok, though it is shying away from fully embracing the Indianness of New India.”

According to Rikki Agrawal, Co-founder, Chief Business & Operating Officer at Blink Digital, “Space on the mobile phone is always increasing and people are downloading more and more apps. So it’s not the space in our phones that brands are fighting for, it’s the space in the consumers’ minds, which is limited. For any brand to survive and continue, they will have to be disruptive and innovative or else they will die. Same has been the case with players like Orkut and Google+.”

A Powerful Marketing Tool?

While there may be many new entrants in the short form video space, there is already a plethora of similar apps in India. Funimate, Dubsmash, Kwai, Like, Triller, Lomotif and many, many more are already fighting for space in an extremely competitive market. The other factor to consider is that most of these apps are free to use, the monetisation is then majorly dependent on advertisers’ money. After all, for brands too these platforms are an attractive destination.

Ranade explains why, “Once the audience has been captured with a video, they can be led onto longer content that takes them further down a brand’s marketing funnel. Short-form content offers many benefits to brands, letting them deliver a message to their customers quickly and effectively. But it also poses challenges like walking the line between concise and creative with the right balance of entertainment to brand information. However, once brands find the formula that works for them, great results are inevitable.”

One cannot forget these platforms are also home to influencer marketing community which further drive brand engagement. Says Agrawal, “With users being at the forefront, they can be your brand evangelists, share your content in an organic manner and push your marketing message. Content that looks less advertised is consumed more by consumers on digital and hence drives more engagement.”

While the benefits of brand engagement that these platforms bring is undeniable, Prachi Bali, Business Head - North, FoxyMoron, has a word of caution. “Brands will have to work to find a place for their products in the user's daily life and not just their shelves/phones. They will also have to embrace a persona for digital in order to talk to these users and try not to take themselves so seriously. Digital advertisers will have to push the envelope to innovate and adapt their platform strategies based on the brief. At the same time, they need to figure out what works and what doesn't on each of these upcoming platforms which can only happen if they start engaging with the users on it. Influencers will have to become relatable again if they want to stay in the game. Somewhere they will have to shed the “celebrity” tags that they have adorned in order to be relevant to their audiences.”

Short Form Video Here to Stay?

The Cisco Annual Internet Report (2018-2023) predicts India will cross the 900 million mark of internet users in the country and will have around 2.1 billion internet-connected devices by 2023. These mind-boggling numbers are enough to convince anyone of the potential that the Indian digital landscape holds. And for a generation that is always on the go, short form videos apps have reason to aggressively push their India plans.  

Summing up, Dewan says: “On digital, most brands talk to millennials - a generation that cannot fathom life without their mobiles. This M-Gen has short attention spans and is constantly scrolling through their social feeds to discover the next new thing. Taking cue from this evolving consumer behaviour, social media platforms are constantly reinventing their offerings, with a strong focus on quick-to-consume video content. Instagram and Facebook are encouraging brands to create story-led content. ‘Thumbstopper’ is the new buzz word in board room meetings and every brand manager wants to create the next ‘viral snackable video’. Short format video content is now perceived to be a lucrative opportunity for brands to capture the fleeting attention of their audience on a device that they cannot do without.”

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