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Global Technology War: Tik Tok Is Vying for Markets Beyond China

Jun 22, 2018 by Yun Nie
Global Technology War: Tik Tok Is Vying for Markets Beyond China

The China-based social network and music video platform Tik Tok (also known as Douyin), which is already a leader in the home market, is now planning to take the war global.

Tik Tok has been a resilient startup since the beginning. The short-video platform, launched in September 2016 by Zhang Yiming, was a peripheral player to some powerful rivals such as Ixigua and Huoshan. But the company soon realized the need to have a broader approach and launched a global app called Tik Tok.

That changed the story for the company. The app became the most popular free app in Japanese App Store within six months, and put the company on world map. Douyin’s international version Tik Tok has already become successful in South Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia.

“Chinese population accounts for just 20% of the total netizens globally. If we fail to dig into global resources and achieve scale, 20% of population is unlikely to support our future growth. Thus, going global becomes inevitable,” Toutiao’s founder and CEO Zhang Yiming said.

“Going global has been my aim for a long time now. I expect 50% of Tik Tok users to come from outside China in the future,” he added.

Bytedance, the parent company of Tik Tok, also operates the largest news aggregation platform in China Jinri Toutiao or Daily Headlines. In August 2015, Jinri Toutiao also released a global version of its app – TopBuzz in North America and is now a leading app in several markets.

Over the next two years, Tik Tok placed itself firmly as an international supplier of high-quality video and music apps to over 150 countries. By the end of March 2018 overseas users of Tik Tok increased to 20%. Today, the platform has over 100 million monthly active users and growing.

Cracking the foreign market

For Chinese companies centered on content, it is not an easy task to replicate the success recorded in home market, in other geographies. In addition to a crowded market with several players vying for the same pie, distinctive consumption behaviors and local culture creates a wide gap between Chinese enterprises and local customers.

But how did Tik Tok crack in an entirely unfamiliar market? Applying the developing model in China to global market has powered the company’s international business.

Tik Tok has opted to localize content by approaching domestic celebrities. The Japanese model and actress Kinoshita Yukina, with 4 million followers on Twitter, and the famous YouTuber Ficher’s with 4.5 million followers, are a few examples of prominent international users of Tik Tok.

Boom of international users

Tik Tok’s boom in international users started with Thailand-based cyberstar Kaykai Salaider, who brought 1.9 million users to the platform. The manager of Japanese branch said that they got requests from more than 10 Japanese ventures every day for signing contract with Tik Tok celebrities.

Tik Tok’s use of technology is also worth examining to understand its success. The platform has leveraged technology aptly to introduce several useful services such as video analysis, searching, automatic selection of cover image, facial and body identity, for improved accessibility and usability of the app. Above all, the app is built on a sophisticated algorithm that matches the right customers to the right content.

According to sources, Tik Tok spent CNY 20 million every day in this year for marketing and promotion of its platform. The amount shot up to CNY 70 million during the Spring Festival, and is at CNY 150 million in the current month.

Yun Nie

Yun Nie is a New York-based tech reporter. She focuses on India-China financial market, global IT giants and technology-centric market trends. She can be reached at

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