TikTok is like Twitter. Only different.
Whether it’s the upcoming federal election, Black Life Matters or the U.S. presidential election: Anyone who thinks funny dance videos are the only thing on TikTok is sorely mistaken. More and more frequently, the rapidly growing Chinese video platform features posts that address political content in their own unique way.
TikTok is known for the entertaining, everyday video content that its very young user:s prefer to watch. High on the list are comedy, film and television, video games and animal content. What is shown is what is of interest. The TikTok algorithm makes sure of that. It’s also the format and usability that are captivating Generation Z. But content producers have long since outgrown pure entertainment with their contributions. They want to create content that is relevant – for themselves and for the users who consume it.
Whether it’s interviews with the candidates for chancellor, presentations of the election programs, or a personal smartphone check with Annalena Baerbock, channels such as “duhastdiewahl” use short videos to provide information about hot topics relating to the 2021 federal election. Even TikTok itself provides information on an in-app page, as the risk of fake news spreading is particularly high on social platforms. To prevent this, the Chinese provider, in cooperation with ARD, has endeavored to provide trustworthy information to which users have easy access.
The development of content on TikTok is not new, however. Most recently, the U.S. election campaign between Biden and Trump showed that political content on the platform is quite big.
A deja vu?
Does the discussion about the relevance of a social network in a political context sound familiar to anyone? There has been such a discourse before: with Twitter. Twitter, founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, now serves as the news and discussion platform – especially with regard to political issues. Originally, the platform was intended for information exchange, to inform and entertain about current events, according to Dorsey’s idea. However, this changed not least with the “Arab Revolution,” in which Twitter was an important means for demonstrators to coordinate their activities. At the latest since the 2012 U.S. election campaign of former President Obama and his competitor Mitt Romney, Twitter has become indispensable as the platform for political communication.
Like Twitter, TikTok represents a relevant medium for political content and should be considered as such in communication strategies. Martin Fuchs, political consultant and blogger, is not the only one to have noticed this. He rates TikTok as one of the most important platforms for election campaigns to reach the target group of first-time voters. And this is exactly where it differs from Twitter. It is the target audiences and content formats that differentiate the networks.