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What makes TikTok tick?

TikTok has quickly become the fastest-growing social media network in history. Having been downloaded more than two billion times, it is rivalling long-standing social media giants like Facebook. The short video sharing platform is rapidly changing the social media landscape in ways that Facebook and Twitter did a decade ago. But more than being simply a social media success story, TikTok’s success story is one of how to leverage consumer artificial intelligence. TikTok’s cutting edge AI is what keeps its users addicted to the app. The algorithm learns more about the user every minute spent on the app, interpreting their behaviour and delivering content based on the data obtained. The result is a highly addictive platform based on a constantly learning algorithm, with TikTok users spending, on average, more than 850 minutes per month on the app. Whilst many consumer platforms use AI in some shape or form – YouTube will give you video suggestions and Twitter might suggest somebody to follow – TikTok has flipped this concept on its head and made it the predominant DNA of the platform. AI is not a feature, but the product itself. TikTok is the first mainstream consumer app where artificial intelligence is the product. Unlike social media platforms that are designed for and used primarily as a communication tool, TikTok sells itself on being able to connect you with content and people you didn’t even know you wanted to see yourself. The company behind TikTok, ByteDance, know what they are onto, and have launched a new product: the AI behind the app. The new company, BytePlus, offers businesses the chance to tap into TikTok’s DNA and use it for their own consumer products. The ability to know what your consumers like, are interested in, dislike, find funny is gold dust and something that almost all companies are trying to capitalise on. But the new social media platform on the block is currently doing it better than the rest. The quick learnings of consumer behaviour are already widely used, but we are likely to see AI on this scale and in such an outwardly aggressive manner being used much more widely. We may be entering into a new era, both on social media and more widely, where AI and algorithms dictate what we see and what we engage with. The news we read, the products we buy, the music we listen to, all already influenced by what algorithms learn about us, may soon shift to be entirely AI led.


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