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TikTok takes SA by storm

It is the latest social media sensation, and it has got the youth market firmly in its grips. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK unpacks the TikTok phenomenon



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, 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 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 Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee, and TikTok on @arr2gee.

Read here on how to make your TikTok videos stand out.


Second-hand smartphone market booms

The worldwide market for used smartphones is forecast to grow to 332.9 million units, with a market value of $67 billion, in 2023, according to IDC



International Data Corporation (IDC) expects worldwide shipments of used smartphones, inclusive of both officially refurbished and used smartphones, to reach a total of 206.7 million units in 2019. This represents an increase of 17.6% over the 175.8 million units shipped in 2018. A new IDC forecast projects used smartphone shipments will reach 332.9 million units in 2023 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6% from 2018 to 2023.

This growth can be attributed to an uptick in demand for used smartphones that offer considerable savings compared with new models. Moreover, OEMs have struggled to produce new models that strike a balance between desirable new features and a price that is seen as reasonable. Looking ahead, IDC expects the deployment of 5G networks and smartphones to impact the used market as smartphone owners begin to trade in their 4G smartphones for the promise of high-performing 5G devices.

Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, says: “In contrast to the recent declines in the new smartphone market, as well as the forecast for minimal growth in new shipments over the next few years, the used market for smartphones shows no signs of slowing down across all parts of the globe. Refurbished and used devices continue to provide cost-effective alternatives to both consumers and businesses that are looking to save money when purchasing a smartphone. Moreover, the ability for vendors to push more affordable refurbished devices in markets in which they normally would not have a presence is helping these players grow their brand as well as their ecosystem of apps, services, and accessories.”

Worldwide Used Smartphone Shipments (shipments in millions of units)

2018 Market
2023 Market
North America39.022.2%87.226.2%17.4%
Rest of World136.877.8%245.773.8%12.4%

Source: IDC, Worldwide Used Smartphone Forecast, 2019–2023, Dec 2019.

Table Notes: Data is subject to change.
* Forecast projections.

Says Will Stofega, program director, Mobile Phones: “Although drivers such as regulatory compliance and environmental initiatives are still positively impacting the growth in the used market, the importance of cost-saving for new devices will continue to drive growth. Overall, we feel that the ability to use a previously owned device to fund the purchase of either a new or used device will play the most crucial role in the growth of the refurbished phone market. Trade-in combined with the increase in financing plans (EIP) will ultimately be the two main drivers of the refurbished phone market moving forward.”

According to IDC’s taxonomy, a refurbished smartphone is a device that has been used and disposed of at a collection point by its owner. Once the device has been examined and classified as suitable for refurbishment, it is sent off to a facility for reconditioning and is eventually sold via a secondary market channel. A refurbished smartphone is not a “hand me down” or gained as the result of a person-to-person sale or trade.

The IDC report, Worldwide Used Smartphone Forecast, 2019–2023 (Doc #US45726219), provides an overview and five-year forecast of the worldwide refurbished phone market and its expansion and growth by 2023. This study also provides a look at key players and the impact they will have on vendors, carriers, and consumers.

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Customers and ‘super apps’ will shape travel in 2020s



Customers will take far more control of their travel experience in the 2020s, according to a 2020 Trends report released this week by Travelport, a leading technology company serving the global travel industry.

Through independent research with thousands of global travellers – including 500 in South Africa – hundreds of travel professionals and interviews with leaders of some of the world’s biggest travel brands, Travelport uncovered the major forces that will become the technology enablers of travel over the next decade. These include:

Customers in control

Several trends highlight the finding that customers are moving towards self-service options, with 61% of the travellers surveyed in South Africa preferring to hear about travel disruption via digital communications, such as push notifications on an app, mobile chatbots, or instant messaging apps, rather than speaking with a person on the phone. This is especially important when it comes to young travellers under 25, seen as the future business traveler, and managing their high expectations through technology.

Mobile takeover

With the threat of super app domination, online travel agencies must disrupt or risk being disrupted. Contextual messaging across the journey will help. Super app tech giants like WeChat give their users a one-stop shop to communicate, shop online, book travel, bank, find a date, get food delivery, and pay for anything within a single, unified smartphone app. Travel brands that want to deliver holistic mobile customer experiences need to think about how they engage travellers within these super apps as well as in their own mobile channels.

Retail accelerated

In the next year, research shows, we will see an accelerated rate of change in the way travel is retailed and purchased online. This includes wider and more complex multi-content reach, more enriched and comparable offerings, more focus on relevance than magnitude, and an increase in automation that enables customer self-service.

“How customers engage with their travel experience – for instance by interacting with digital ‘bots’ and expecting offers better personalised to their needs – is changing rapidly,” says Adrian Roodt, country manager for Southern Africa at Travelport. “We in the travel industry need to understand and keep pace with these forces to make sure we’re continuing to make the experience of buying and managing travel continually better, for everyone.”

Read the full 2020 Trends report here: 2020 Trends hub.

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