By the Numbers: What drives TikTok’s biggest users

Constant connection, impulsivity and trend setting keep them scrolling and scrolling and scrolling.

What motivates TikTok's biggest users

TikTok is the darling social media network of the moment, despite the persistent risk that it might face bans in the United States. But the microvideo network has millions of people endlessly scrolling for the next “get ready with me,” restaurant review or dance challenge.

But what actually drives TikTok’s heaviest users?

A survey conducted by Morning Consult took a deep dive into the users who say they use TikTok several times a day.



Who are the power users?

Unsurprisingly, the biggest TikTok users are likely to be young, but it is perhaps surprising that Millennials edge out Gen Zers in this category, with about 40% of the heaviest users falling into the Millennial category. They’re slightly more likely to be female, less likely to be white and more likely to live in urban areas.

No major surprises, but important context.

What motivates TikTok’s heaviest users?

The biggest thing heavy TikTokers seek is connection.


What motivates TikTok's heaviest users. Graph created by Morning Consult.


Eighty-two percent of power users responded that they “like to be connected, either by phone or via the internet, at all times.” That’s compared to just 66% of general TikTok users, a significant increase.

How should we interpret that statement? Are they motivated by a strong desire to remain connected to other people or is this more about the constant stream of dopamine that digital connection can provide, the high of chasing one fun video after the other? The survey is ambiguous, so interpret as you will.

On a less existential level, high-frequency TikTok users are much more likely to say they enjoy staying abreast of trends (53% versus 31%), being impulsive (53%-37%), being among the first to try a new product (45%-29%) and striving to achieve a high social status (43%-26%).

What this means for your content.

Heavy TikTok users are more likely to try a new product, so they could become early evangelists or advocates for your product if you can get it in front of them in a way that resonates. Emphasizing the novelty or new features of your product could help it pop with this cohort. Likewise, jumping into trends or positioning your product as a new trend can help catch their attention. Just beware of the dreaded cringe: you’ve got to find a way to make it feel organic and natural.

Because so many in this group are status seekers, doubling down on how your goods and services can boost their social profile can help. And remember: You aren’t just talking to kids here. Millennials are mostly in their 30s at this point, often with children of their own. Playing off angles of “keeping up with the Joneses” will be effective for them.

But the most nebulous and most powerful shared qualities of power users is their impulsive nature and desire to be connected to the internet at all times.

Marketers can use this. Impulsivity can drive users to keep scrolling, looking for the next thing, or to purchase a product on a whim. Their need to be connected can keep them in the app for longer and longer periods of time, perhaps watching a TikTok Live, perhaps simply hopping from one brief video to the next, looking for something they can’t define.

But these qualities can also be dangerous. As the Morning Consult report puts it:

There’s a catch-22 here: the hamster wheel of chasing status by keeping up with social media trends is risky, given the links between screen time, social media consumption and mental health challenges. However, human connection — generally accepted as a positive force in our lives — is increasingly digitized and commercialized. Learning how to enjoy those connections while limiting negative repercussions is a necessary skill for this cohort.

This is an issue too big for any individual marketer to tackle; it’s one we must address as a society. But all social media professionals should keep these warnings in the back of our mind.

We want to promote our brands. But we want to do so responsibly and ethically.

Allison Carter is editor-in-chief of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


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