Teenagers lip-syncing to well-worn radio hits. Students pretending to reveal their darkest secrets. Romances blossoming and failing. Parent-shaming flourishing. Pranksters pranking random innocents.
That seems, at first glance, to be the world of TikTok. It’s a video creation and sharing social network for Android and iOS smartphones that provides music tracks and special effects to spice up the material users put up. Videos can last anything from 3s to 60 seconds, which means they can be quick to create, quick to consume, and quick to forget.
It was launched in China in 2016 as Douyin by a Beijing company called ByteDance, which then bought a company called Musical.ly, designed for sharing short lip-syncing videos. The combined app, with numerous added features, was released to the world in 2017 as TikTok, and instantly took the youth market by storm.
It arrived in South Africa last year, and the uptake was astoning. In less than two years, numerous TikTok creators have thousands of followers. The most popular South Africancreator, a magician who calls himself @WianMagic on TikTok, has no less than 1.9-million followers. A young woman known by most of her followers simply as Chané, comes in second with 1.5-million followers of @chanegrobler.
These numbers tell us that the user base in South Africa must be well over 5-million, given that no single creator is likely to appeal to more than a third of the local audience. The app is massively popular among all race groups, and is the country’s second most downloaded social app on the Android Play Store, behind Facebook Lite. Globally, it reached 1.5-billion downloads this month, after hitting the 1-billion mark only in February this year.
While it began in China, it’s biggest market is now India, which accounts for almost a third of its users. The United States makes up 8.2% of its base, according to analytics siteSensor Tower. It is about to overtake Instagram, and poses a major threat to Facebook. In fact, the world’s biggest social network hhad tried to acquire Musical.ly before it lost out to TikTok, and has now launched its own version, called Lasso.
It is probably no coincidence that the threat posed to the dominance of iconic American companies has brought the US government into the fray. As it did with Hauwei after the Chinese handset maker overtook Apple’s iPhone in global sales, lawmakers are calling for an investigation into TikTok.
Americans have also been warned that TikTok may use their personal data for nefarious purposes. However, given the limited amount of information that one needs to provide to sign up, it comes across as a scare tactic rather than a real danger. American teenagers and youth are ignoring the scaremongering, and signing up in their millions. So are South Africans.
“As a market brimming with creative talent that’s embracing the smartphone era, we believe there is enormous potential for TikTok in South Africa to become the preferred platform for creative expression,” said a TikTok spokesperson. “We are looking forward to continuing the momentum by creating a fun, positive and joyful experience through short videos for our users.
“TikTok’s user profile in South Africa is as diverse as the country itself and the platform. The content explored and loved by local audiences at TikTok include comedy, talent, food, dance, music, travel, to name a few. South African creators are creating content relevant to their local cultures and trends, participating enthusiastically in trending topics such as the previous #BringItHomeBokke challenge.”
And it’s not just the follower numbers that are astonishing. Views and “Likes” of videos make Twitter trending look tame. Chané regularly records more than 100,000 views of her videos – and in some cases more than 2-million. A recent video, in which she enacted a tiff with fellow TikTok star Roberto – or @K1ngBert0, who has 750,000 followers – attracted more than half-a-million likes and 1,600 comments.
More typically, her videos show her and Roberto keeping their followers guessing whether they are in a relationship or not. The emphasis is on fun and entertainment.
“I make videos to make other people inspired,” Chané told us in a (short) interview. “I try and inspire them every day, try to make them feel better about themselves. People give me feedback about how I make them feel better about themselves, so that’s what I try to achieve.”
Of course, TikTok can be used for any kind of content.Psychological tricks and business advice are common. Comedy sketches are hugely popular. Actors like Will Smith have chosen it as their preferred social sharing channel.
“TikTok enables everyone to be a creator through easy-to-use tools, including special effects, filters, music, and more, which allows users to view and capture a wide variety of interesting authentic moments,” said the spokesperson. “This results in a diverse array of creative content. Along with TikTok’s interest-based recommendation system, this helps creators to be discovered more easily among a new audience.
“Short video content consumption has gained increasing popularity and we believe TikTok offers opportunities for brands to reach creators to develop engaging, interactive content together, tailored for a new audience.:
For my own TikTok feed (@arr2gee), I chose to focus on short interviews with interesting people, ranging from entrepreneurs and executives to journalists and activitsts to TikTok stars themselves. This last category told me just how crazy TikTok can get. My first interview, with @Witny8, who has over half-a-million followers, had more than 70,000 viewsand 3500 likes. The interview with Chané has passed 60,000 views and 5,700 likes.
I’ve never seen such traction on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram, no matter how famous, infamous or unknown the subjects of the content. TikTok has its own rules, and the first one is that all the rules of social media have changed.
• Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee, and TikTok on @arr2gee.
Read here on how to make your TikTok videos stand out.
Vodacom cuts cost of smallest bundle by 40%
The country’s largest mobile operator has kept to a promise made last month to slash the price of entry-level data packages
Vodacom has cut the data price of its lowest-cost bundle by 40%, reducing the price of a 50MB 30-day bundle from R20 to to R12. This follows from the operator’s promise in March, when it announced a 33% cut in the cost of 1GB bundles, to reduce prices of all smaller bundles by up to 40%.
Vodacom’s various 30-day data bundle prices will be cut across all of its channels, with the new pricing as follows:
|30-day bundle size||New Price||Reduction|
Vodacom confirmed it will provide free data to access essential services through Vodacom’s zero-rated platform ConnectU with immediate effect. The value of these initiatives, it says, is R2.7-billion over the next year.
“Vodacom can play a critical role in supporting society during this challenging time and we’re committed to doing whatever we can to help customers stay connected,” says Jorge Mendes, Chief Officer of Vodacom’s Consumer Business Unit. “Since we started our pricing transformation strategy three years ago, our customers have benefitted from significant reductions in data prices and the cost of voice calls. Over the same period, we invested over R26 billion in infrastructure and new technologies, so our customers enjoy wider 2G, 3G and 4G coverage and vastly increased data speeds.”
The latest data reductions will complement the discounted bundle offers that will also be made available to prepaid customers in more than 2,000 less affluent suburbs and villages around the country. For qualifying communities to access further discounted voice and data deals, they need to click on the scrolling ConnectU banner on the platform via connectu.vodacom.co.za
ConnectU – which is a zero-rated platform – also went live this week. It will provide content aimed at social development and offers a variety of essential services for free. Learners and students enrolled in schools and universities can access relevant information for free, with no data costs. The ConnectU portal includes a search engine linked to open sources such as Wikipedia and Wiktionary as well as free access to job portals; free educational content on the e-School platform; free health and wellness information and free access to Facebook Flex, the low data alternative to Facebook that enables customers to stay socially connected.
Vodacom’s popular Just4You platform has been a significant contributor to the approximately 50% reduction in effective data prices over the past two years. Substantial cuts in out-of-bundle tariffs and the introduction of hourly, daily and weekly bundles with much lower effective prices have also driven increased value and affordability, resulting in R2-billion in savings for customers in 2019.
OneBlade shaves price of electric precision
Electric razors and their blades are usually quite expensive. But the Philips OneBlade shaves the cost, writes SEAN BACHER
Electric razors come in all shapes and forms and their prices vary as well. When your nearest electronic retail outlet opens again, you will be able to pay a small fortune for a wet and dry razor that cleans itself, shows you when it needs to be recharged, and tells you to replace the cleaning solution – all via a little LCD panel in the handle.
But does everyone want that? Does everyone need that? Surely there must be customers who want an easy-to-use, no-mess, no-fuss razor that gets the job done just as well as a “smart razor”?
With this in mind, Philips has launched its OneBlade wet and dry electric razor. The razor is dead simple to use. It comes with three stubble combs – 1mm, 3mm and 5 mm – which can be clicked onto the head much like one would with a hair shaver. Should you want a really close shave, simply the combs off. I found this to be the most effective as I don’t have a beard.
The razor’s blade is the size of the striking side of a matchbox and has 90-degree angles all round. This offers precise shaving and, because of its small size, it is able to get just about anywhere on a person’s face.
The blade has a usage indicator that shows when it is time to replace the blade – usually after four months – and an additional blade is included in the box.
The OneBlade’s battery takes up to eight hours to charge, and will give up to 45 minutes shaving time.
Overall, the Philips OneBlade will give a man a comfortable and precise shave. Its battery life, combined with its size, makes it a perfect travel companion as it is no bigger than an electric toothbrush. Its relatively low price compared to other electric razors also counts in its favour.
The One Blade can be bought from most electronic retailers or can be ordered online from websites like takealot.com. The razor retails for R650 and a set of two new blades will cost around R450.