News  December 1 2021

Growth in grown up demographic on TikTok

Charlie Roper

Social Media & Digital Strategist


Since TikTok gained real traction outside of the Chinese market it had become synonymous with Gen Z. The association fused the two with the TikTok Generation becoming a defining totem of the pandemic era. But over the last 12 months, we have seen the platform mature and cater to the tastes of a much wider demographic in it’s a pursuit to be the number one video streaming platform. With a commercial drive to e-commerce, a broadening of its offering and in North America for now, integration on Smart TV’s, will TikTok be the platform of choice for all?

Social media use can be broken into three distinct groups: early adopters, heavy users and the rest. The early adopters were the first to embrace social media, and its growth was exponential in this period. The heavy users are those who have come to rely on social media for a range of everyday activities and interactions. The rest use social media but do not rely on it.

The generation after millennials, Gen Z are young people aged 5 to 20 years old. They are digital natives who have never known a world without the internet. Their entire lives have been spent immersed in an online environment and one powered my mobile. They’re likely to be the most connected generation ever, with technological advances meaning they’ve never had to wait for information or to be connected to other people.

The internet has become central to their lives – it’s where they do their research, find out about news and politics, make their purchases and form opinions. With online communication sitting centrally to their way of life, social media is an everyday occurrence for many Gen Zers. The majority (73%) of Gen Z use Snapchat , followed by Instagram (66%), Facebook (59%) and Twitter (32%).

Gen Zers are the first generation to spend more time online than watching TV – they watch 30 minutes less TV per day than millennials did at their age. And while previous generations knew only one way of communicating, text-based emails and phone calls, today’s young people live in a world that is entirely different, with constant access to instant messaging apps, social networking sites and video sharing platforms.

Gen Z have grown up in a culture where being connected is essential.

Easy to view as a youth-only market (contrary to latest stats), TikTok, named as a play on the Chinese phrase for “I’m singing a song.”,  has seen phenomenal growth since its launch in 2016 despite US bans and fears over Chinese tracking. One of the most downloaded apps only behind Facebook of the past few years has a large share of the audience below the age of 30. The growth of TikTok has been nothing short of phenomenal. It was launched in 2016 by Chinese companies ByteDance and’s founder Yuyao Xiao. By September 2017, it had 1 billion MAUs (monthly active users), and in February 2018 it achieved 2 billion MAUs . By mid-2018, though, its growth appeared to stall slightly, but the company has since revived it.

The company’s focus on an international market is clear from its promotional material. One article describes the app as “a global community consisting of 200 million creators and 300 million fans.” Another video advertises the app as “leading the global music revolution,” while another emphasizes that “TikTok can be used anywhere in any language.” 

The teenage asian middle class lead the way in the early adoption of tech with youth generally more open to trying new modes of communication. Gen Z are digital natives with online communication sitting centrally to their way of life having been born into a truly connected public sphere. 

“Gen Zers value online communities because they allow people of different economic circumstances to connect and mobilize around causes and interests.”

McKinsey, ‘True Gen’: Generation Z and its implications for companies  

The cold hard data of TikTok success…

TikTok/Douyin parent company ByteDance also owns hugely popular Chinese AI-powered news aggregation platform Toutiao, created by CEO Zhang Yiming at the age of 29 in 2012. Many argue the platforms success is largely due to its highly advanced algorithm serving the ideal content to users. 

TikTok is the globes 7th most-used social network. With 689 million active users as of January 2021 that number has now risen to a predicted 1.1 billion globally. TikTok is outpaced by Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, and WeChat however, it is rapidly gaining ground and is the newest social network on the list. 

This growth is of course seeing expansion away from its initial demographic below 25 and into the millennial generation and above. So what does this mean for brands looking to access the space? Is there a missed opportunity for marketers or are we going to see more brands show up with the promise of unprecedented organic reach and engagement? Only once we understand the behaviours of people using the platform can we really assess if its a sure-fire bet. After all ads are designed to motivate a human behaviour, but if we don’t make ads and make TikTok’s what is the resulting action we are trying to drive?

Source: TikTok Statistics – Updated Sep 2021, Wallaroomedia

TikTok has a new old audience 

In a rare data release from the platform to gain more ground within the content space they released the following statement..

“Every day, millions of parents, teens, grandparents and in-betweens come to TikTok to share snippets of their day-to-day life. Here’s what’s unique: often, the whole family participates together—even teens don’t shy away. It used to be a challenge getting everyone to sit still for a photo; now we see perfectly choreographed dance routines from the whole family, including grandma.” Spend time exploring and you’ll find everything from How To Weld a Pipe to recipes and even multipart dramas in amongst the music and dance routines.

“Particularly we are seeing growth across the parenting audience with the following hashtags seeing rapid growth:

#momsoftiktok– 44B views

#dad– 25B views

#momlife– 20B views”

Tiktok for Business 

Interestingly more than 1 in 10 users on the platform are older adults as of March 2021, showing a key opportunity for brands to cater to an underserved audience within the platform. This audience heads to TikTok with a specific purpose, for example, to learn how to fix a fuse, crochet or cook a nice dinner.  They are looking for actionable answers to bring offline which then leads to further future engagement on the platform. 

What is true is that TikTok certainly shouldn’t be ignored. It’s effectiveness can and will be tested beyond the current e-commerce opportunities and how it exactly it can be used at multiple points in a customer journey. The zeitgeist of millions of creators on the platform will help push the boundaries of storytelling, which should if history tells us anything, mean that the TikTok effect will send ripples across all content. If you’re ready to tap this unexplored audience, find out about more of our TikTok work or get in touch with us for a chat on how we can access your target audience in expected ways. 

Charlie Roper

Social Media & Digital Strategist

With adventures in digital ranging from launching Star Wars to launching the Carbon XPRIZE with Elon Musk, Charlie brings over a decade's experience in digital storytelling to Green Rock.

    Join our newsletter

    Sign up to our newsletter and we’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest future first thinking.

    You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For information on how to unsubscribe, as well as our privacy practices and commitment to protecting your privacy, please review our Privacy Policy.