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Is TikTok Relevant for Hospitality?

Is TikTok Relevant for Hospitality?

December 15, 2019 / Judy Seto

The talk of the town is TikTok, and if you're wondering why Ke$ha's song from 2009 is making a sudden resurgence, we'll take you through this latest sensational social media platform and if it's relevant for the hospitality industry. 

What is TikTok?

Simply put, TikTok is a video sharing app. Users share 15-60 second videos, and while it's impossible to cover every one of TikTok's categories of contents, some of the top types of content are comedic skits, lip-synching, memes and hashtag challenges. You can also add effects and filters like augmented reality and text overlays on top, similar to Snapchat and Instagram. 

TikTok is incredibly interactive due to the hashtags encouraging everyone to create and share their own content. Hashtag challenges are a large part of this, and users recording themselves attempting to perform a challenge dominate the front page. And just like any other app, having your content on the front page is key to going viral, ushering in droves of new followers. 


The #tumbleweedchallenge launched by Jimmy Fallon on national television generated 8,000 submissions and more than 10.4 million engagements in less than a week. 


How Popular is it?

TikTok boasts 500 million monthly active users worldwide, and according to Oberlo, it took Instagram six years from its launch to get the same amount of monthly active users that TikTok achieved in just under three years. As of the first quarter in 2019, TikTok is the most downloaded app in Apple's App Store with 33 million downloads in a single quarter. 

While TikTok has exploded on to the social media scene, it's worth noting that this popularity is largely due to Generation Z and millenials. 66% of worldwide users are under the age of 30. 


Why is it Popular?

TikTok's popularity has a number of factors, including our embarrassingly short attention spans. Research from the Technical University of Denmark finds that our collective global attention span is narrowing due to the abundance of information in our hectic news cycles and the constant stream of notifications from social media.

TikTok claimed to already have 500 million monthly users when it bought the app Musical.ly in November 2017 for approximately $1 billion, so the massive existing userbase primed TikTok for a successful start. Not to mention big budgets from ByteDance, the $78 billion company behind TikTok. 

As mentioned previously, a large chunk of the content on TikTok are memes and hashtag challenges. These Gen Z & millennial users are using TikTok as a creative and comedic medium. It is highly creator-driven, rewarding those who can conjure up the most entertaining and interactive ideas. Another reason for it's popularity may be due to the fewer ads, in comparison to other platforms like Facebook & Instagram. 

Loren Gray is the most followed personality on TikTok, with 35.3 million followers. Her videos featuring comedic skits revolved around singing and dancing are representative of the top 20 accounts, over half of which are also social media personalities. 


Is it Relevant to Hospitality?

If your venue is targeting anyone above the ages of 16-24 year olds, the answer would most likely be no, due to the 41% command that this demographic has on TikTok. 

If you do want to capture this 16-24 year old demographic, first let's go through the different types of marketing that already exist on TikTok, and how that can be applied to hospitality venues. 

Influencer Marketing

As TikTok is creator-driven, influencers have major, well, influence on this platform. From promoting cosmetic brands in makeup tutorials and showing off their pooch in designer dog clothing, influencers can showcase your product to their avid followers. 

Unlike Instagram Influencers & foodies, a simple photograph of your dish/drink/venue will not cut it. To capture the TikTok crowd's attention, you'll have to really brainstorm on some creative ideas regarding what an influencer can do in the venue. Food reviews on TikTok are virtually non-existent, and if you'd like to pioneer this trend, you'll have to think of a way to fit this in a 15-60 second video. 

Branded Hashtag Challenges

Clothing brand Guess was one of the first to launch a branded hashtag challenge on TikTok. The #InMyDenim challenge prompted users to film themselves wearing Guess' new denim line in an interesting and creative way. This challenge was a perfect prototype for showcasing retail products. 

A potential way to jump on the bandwagon of hashtag challenges would be launching a food challenge at your venue. Challenge users to eat the spiciest thing on the menu without a sip of water, to finish a huge dish in under 15 minutes, anything that customers can engage in. This could also tie in with influencer marketing, and challenging a high profile personality to complete the challenge at your venue. 

Behind-the-Scenes Content 

Searching #foodie on TikTok shows a plethora of sped-up cooking videos, taking you through the process of icing a cake, stacking up an elaborate burger and other eye-catching content. 

This strategy works amazingly if you have something extremely enticing, and viewers are just dying to know how it's made. Will you be comfortable possibly divulging some trade secrets? Plus sacrificing time to ideate, plan, film & edit, taking in to consideration the busy schedules of kitchen staff. 


It's hard to tell if a new platform will stick around as the nature of social media is so fast-paced and ever-evolving. At the time of writing this blog, TikTok's hold over the Gen Z & millennial market is undeniable, with creative & comedic content dominating the platform. 

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