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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

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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.

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GoFundMe hits R9bn in donations for people and causes

The world’s largest social fundraising platform has announced that Its community has made more than 120-million donations

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GoFundMe this week released its annual Year in Giving report, revealing that its community has donated more than 120-million times, raising over $9-billion for people, causes, and organisations since the company’s founding in 2010.

In a letter to the GoFundMe community, CEO Rob Solomon emphasised how GoFundMe witnesses not only the good in people worldwide, but their generosity and their action every day.

“As we enter a new decade, GoFundMe is committed to spreading compassion and empathy through our platform,” said Solomon in the letter. “Together, we can bring more good into the world and unlock the power of global giving.”

The GoFundMe giving community continues to grow with both repeat donors and new donors. In fact, nearly 60% of donors were new this year. After someone makes a donation, they continue to engage with the community and give to multiple causes. In fact, one passionate individual donated 293 times to 234 different fundraisers in this past year alone. Donations are made every second, ranging from $5 to $50,000. This year, more than 40% of donations were under $50.

GoFundMe continues to be a mirror of current events across the globe. This year, young changemakers started the Fridays for Futuremovement to fight climate change, which led to a 60% increase in fundraiser descriptions mentioning ‘climate change’. Additionally, the community rallied together to support one another during natural disasters like Hurricane Dorian and the California wildfires, where thousands of fundraisers were started to help those in need.

The report includes a snapshot of giving trends from the year based on global GoFundMe data. It also includes company milestones from 2019, such as launching the company’s non-profit and advocacy arm, GoFundMe.org, and introducing GoFundMe Charity, which provides enterprise software with no subscription fees or contracts to charities of every size.

Highlights from GoFundMe’s 2019 Year in Giving report include:

  • Global giving trends and data
  • Top 10 most generous countries
  • Top 10 most generous U.S. states and cities
  • Biggest moments in 2019

To view the entire report, visit: www.gofundme.com/2019

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For users, in-car touchscreens ever more useless

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As touchscreens become more commonplace, the gulf of perceived differences in the performance of these features between cars and other devices (such as mobile and in-home) has become wider. A new report from the In-Vehicle UX (IVX) group at Strategy Analytics has investigated car owners’ satisfaction with their on-board touchscreens. Long hamstrung by poor UX and extended production cycles, in-car touchscreens are seen by car users and buyers as lagging behind the experience offered by touchscreens outside the car. As such, consumer satisfaction has continued to slide in China and Europe, while reaching historic lows in the US.

Surveying consumers in the US, Western Europe, and China via web-survey, key report findings include:

  • Difficult text entry and excessive fingerprint smudging are common complaints among all car owners.
  • Because touchscreens have reached market saturation in the US, satisfaction with in-car screens has tailed off significantly.
  • However, touchscreens remain a relatively newer phenomenon in many car models in Western Europe (compared with the US) and thus their limitations are less prominent in the minds of car owners.
  • Overall touchscreen satisfaction fell for the fifth straight year in China, indicating a growing impatience for in-car UX to match UX found elsewhere in the consumer electronics space.

Derek Viita, Senior Analyst and report author, says, “Part of the issue with fingerprint smudging is the angle at which in-car touchscreens are installed – they make every fingerprint increasingly visible.

“Fingerprint smudging is an issue across all touchscreen-based consumer electronics. But in most form factors and especially mobile devices, consumers can quite easily adjust their viewing angle. This is not always the case with fixed in-car screens.”

Says Chris Schreiner, Director, Syndicated Research UXIP, “Although hardware quality certainly figures in many of the usual complaints car owners have about their screens, it is not the sole factor. Cockpit layout and UI design can play important roles in mitigating some issues with in-car touchscreens.”

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