TikTok Business Model – 7 Unique Ways TikTok Make Money

TikTok Business Model

TikTok Business Model

Not even any of the big three social media apps (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) can boast of growing at the rate in which TikTok has been grown in the last few years. In fact, it is arguably the fastest-growing app globally. In just over 5 years the app has garnered for itself over 1 billion users becoming the preferred platform for the Gen-Zs.

So with the number of users on TikTok today, there is no doubt TikTok is making it big on the online space. In fact, the platform has established a new niche for itself and redefined the way people engage with each other and consume digital material.

But the question on the lips of everyone is what exactly is it about this video-based social media app that has made Gen Z go gaga over the platform?

So are you among those wondering what’s so unique about TikTok business model that has swept the internet off its feet? Are you wondering how it makes money seeing that the app doesn’t charge users on the platform?when it’s completely free to use? Then this post is for you. In this post we shall extensively examine the TikTok business model, including how it works and how it makes money.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a popular social media app that allows users to create and share short-form videos. The app, developed by Chinese company ByteDance, was launched in 2016 under the name Douyin in China. It was later released in international markets under the name TikTok in 2017. TikTok quickly gained popularity among users, particularly among younger demographics, and now has over 1 billion active users worldwide.

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TikTok Business Model – How it Works

TikTok allows users to create short videos that are typically 15 seconds long. Users can record videos in the app or upload videos from their camera gallery. The app also has a variety of editing tools and filters that users can use to enhance their videos. Once a video is created, users can share it with their followers, as well as on other social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

TikTok uses a unique algorithm that serves users with a personalized ‘For You’ page. This page is tailored to each user’s interests and preferences, based on their past behavior on the app. The algorithm takes into account factors like the videos users like, share, and comment on, as well as the accounts they follow.

TikTok Business Model – The Value Propositions

TikTok as a social media platform has taken the world by storm. With about 1.2 billion monthly active users, TikTok has become one of the most popular social media platforms out there. It has quickly established itself as a hub for entertainment and self-expression, providing users with a fun and engaging way to share short-form video contents.

But what makes TikTok so appealing to users, creators, and advertisers? What exactly is it about the TikTok business model that has brought it this far in such a very short period of time? That answer can be found in TikTok value propositions.The platform provides very compelling value propositions that is difficult to resist. And value propositions cuts across all three major constituents (users, creators and advertisers) that make up the TikTok business model.

In this section we shall explore the platform’s value propositions for each of these groups.

TikTok Value Propositions for Users

Have you ever wonder why most young people seem to get addicted to TikTok? It is simply because TikTok provides a value proposition for users that has the ability to provide a fun and engaging social media experience. Specifically the TikTok value propositions for users include:

  1. The platform is designed to be easy to use
  2. The algorithm ensures that users are presented with a steady stream of videos that match their interests.
  3. It has a seemingly endless supply of contents which can make users spend hours scrolling through TikTok, discovering new creators and engaging with their favorite videos.
  4. TikTok also provides users with a way to express themselves creatively
  5. The duet feature allows users to collaborate with other creators, adding an additional layer of creativity and engagement.

TikTok Value Propositions for Creators

  1. It provides a platform with over 1 billion users to discover and engage with creators’ contents
  2. The platform’s algorithm ensures that creators are presented with opportunities to reach a wider audience
  3. TikTok also offers a range of tools and features designed to help creators build their following and increase engagement.
  4. The platform’s editing tools and filters make it easy for creators to produce high-quality content
  5. The duet and collaboration features provide opportunities for creators to collaborate and connect with other creators.

TikTok Value Propositions for Advertisers

  1. With over a billion monthly active users, TikTok offers advertisers a massive audience to target their ads.
  2. The platform’s algorithm ensures that ads are presented to users who are most likely to engage with them, increasing the likelihood of conversions.
  3. TikTok also offers a range of ad formats designed to meet the needs of different advertisers.
  4. The platform’s analytics tools provide advertisers with detailed insights into the performance of their ads, allowing them to optimize their campaigns for maximum ROI.

In summary, TikTok value proposition lies in its ability to provide a fun and engaging social media experience for users, a platform for creators to share and discover content, and a highly engaged audience for advertisers to target their ads. As TikTok continues to grow in popularity, it is likely that its value proposition will only become stronger, making it an increasingly attractive platform for users, creators, and advertisers alike.

TikTok Business Model – Market Segment

TikTok’s main market segment is Generation Z and young millennials. The app’s focus on short-form, visually engaging content has resonated particularly well with younger audiences. TikTok has become a cultural phenomenon among this demographic, with many users using the app as a way to express themselves and engage with peers.

TikTok Business Model – How it Makes Money

TikTok business model is primarily that of an advertising model. That is the primary way through which it makes money. The app’s popularity and user engagement have made it an attractive platform for advertisers looking to reach younger audiences. And here we are talking about a market in excess of 1 billion. TikTok though offers a variety of advertising options, including:

  • TikTok ads
  • In-feed video ads
  • Brand takeover ads
  • Topview ads
  • Sponsored hashtag challenges

In-feed ads

These are short videos that appear in users’ “For You” feeds. These ads can be up to 60 seconds long and are skippable. But the unique proposition here is that these ads appear between videos and might take up the entire screen, similar to Instagram stories.

Brand takeover ads

These are ads that appear when users first open the app, before they see any other content. These ads can include a full-screen video, image, or GIF. This sort of ad is very expensive and can bring lots of money to TikTok. In fact, to display such ads can cost a brand as high as $50,000. But it does produce a proportionate result.

Sponsored hashtag challenges

These are campaigns that encourage users to create and share videos around a specific hashtag. Brands can sponsor these challenges and promote their products or services through user-generated content.

Top-View Ads

This is more or less an opposite of brand takeover ads. Whereas brand takeover ads get displayed when a user first opens the app, top-view ads appear after the user has already started using it and can last up to 60 seconds.

Other Revenue Sources

The TikTok business model also provides other revenue sources apart from the various ads as follows:

TikTok Shopping

This is an e-commerce feature that allows brands to create in-app storefronts. In these storefronts brands can sell products directly to users. And TikTok makes money by taking a commission on each sale made through the app.

Branded Effects

TikTok also provides branded custom stickers, 2D and 3D augmented-reality filters, and lenses for consumers to use in their videos. Each branded effect can last up to 10 days, giving users adequate time to connect with the brand. TikTok generates money when brands buy these ads to reach their audiences anywhere in the world.

In-App Purchases

Before Tiktok for Business was introduced, the major source of revenue for the brand was in-app purchases. Under this, the creators with at least 1,000 followers can earn virtual gifts from their fans by broadcasting a live video.

As the video is live, if a particular user is in love with it, they can decide to tip the creator with virtual gifts. However, each gift is worth a set amount of virtual coins, and must be purchased with real money through the app.

Is TikTok profitable?

ikTok has rapidly increased its revenue generation in the past few years. In 2022, it generated $9.4 billion, Which represents a 204% increase year-on-year

However, it’s a bit too early to say if TikTok is profitable or not.  But the app’s growing revenue and popularity suggest that it has the potential to become a profitable platform in no distance time.

TikTok Annual Revenue Growth Since Inception
TikTok Annual Revenue Growth Since Inception

Why is TikTok Very Popular and Very Successful?

TikTok and the TikTok business model has become very successful and very popular today.

The popularity and success can however be attributed to several factors as follows:

Appeal to younger demographics

TikTok has been able to capture the attention of younger demographics, particularly Gen Z, who value authenticity, creativity, and self-expression. The app’s focus on short-form videos and user-generated content makes it accessible to younger users with shorter attention spans.


TikTok’s algorithm is unique in that it uses machine learning to analyze user behavior and preferences. This means that the app can quickly learn what type of content users enjoy and then recommend similar videos. This results in a highly personalized user experience that keeps users engaged and coming back for more.

User-generated content

Unlike other social media platforms that rely on professionally curated content, TikTok’s content is primarily user-generated. This allows users to express their creativity and individuality, which resonates with younger audiences who value authenticity and self-expression.

Ease of use

TikTok’s interface is designed to be easy to use, with intuitive editing tools that allow users to create and share videos quickly. This makes it accessible to a wide range of users, regardless of their video editing experience.

Short-form videos

TikTok’s focus on short-form videos (typically between 15 and 60 seconds) makes it ideal for users who have shorter attention spans or are looking for quick, entertaining content. This format also encourages users to create content that is concise, creative, and shareable.

Viral challenges

TikTok’s viral challenges, where users are encouraged to participate in a specific activity or trend, have become a hallmark of the app. These challenges are often easy to participate in and can quickly gain traction, resulting in viral content that is widely shared and discussed.

Music integration

TikTok has a vast library of music that users can add to their videos, and the app’s lip-syncing feature has become a hallmark of the platform. This has resulted in a thriving music community on TikTok, with users creating and sharing content around specific songs and artists.

Global reach

TikTok has a massive global reach, with users in over 150 markets and 75 languages. This has resulted in a diverse user base that creates a unique cultural exchange on the platform.

What Makes TikTok Unique?

TikTok is unique in several ways that set it apart from other social media platforms. In fact, it is those unique factors that has made it become the success story it is today.

The following factors are therefore what makes TikTok unique:

  • Algorithm
  • Short-form videos
  • User-generated contents
  • Viral challenges
  • Music integration
  • Global reach

TikTok Business Model – Key Stats

Here are some amazing stats that the TikTok business model has brought to the fore:

As of 2022, TikTok has over 1.2 billion active users worldwide. (Source: TikTok)

TikTok was the most downloaded app globally in 2020, with over 850 million downloads. (Source: Sensor Tower)

TikTok’s average engagement rate is 29%, compared to Instagram’s average engagement rate of 4%. (Source: Influencer Marketing Hub)

In 2022, TikTok generate a revenue in excess of $9 billion (Source: Statista)

In Q4 2020, TikTok was the second-most downloaded app on the Apple App Store, with over 59 million downloads. (Source: Sensor Tower)

The top 50 brands on TikTok have an average engagement rate of 17.7%, compared to 3.1% on Instagram. (Source: Influencer Marketing Hub)

In 2021, the average TikTok user spends around 52 minutes per day on the app. (Source: Business of Apps)

As of 2021, TikTok is valued at $250 billion, making it one of the world’s most valuable startups. (Source: Forbes)

TikTok Business Model – A Wrap

TikTok business model is not a rocket science. It is a simple advertising model. But its unique approach to short-form video content is what has made it one of the most popular social media apps among younger audiences. The app’s focus on creativity and self-expression has resonated particularly well with Generation Z and young millennials. TikTok’s advertising options, including in-feed ads, brand takeovers, and sponsored hashtag challenges, have made it an attractive platform for advertisers looking to reach this demographic. With the recent addition of TikTok Shopping, the app is poised to become an even more significant player in the e-commerce space.

TikTok business model

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