What Makes TikTok so Addicting and Unique?



TikTok has taken the world by storm this past year thanks to its very entertaining video-based feed people can’t seem to take their eyes off. More than 200 million Americans and over 2 billion people worldwide have downloaded the app. Given TikTok was launched in 2017, this makes it the fastest growing app ever. Driving this extraordinary growth is a user experience we had not seen until TikTok introduced it. I’m talking about the full-screen video feed that starts as soon as the app opens. It might not seem like a revolutionary design but it is.



The reason this user experience is so addicting and unique is that it gives TikTok the chance to give you a guided tour of your mind and the tour guide is their powerful artificial intelligence. What do I mean by “A guided tour of your mind?” I mean TikTok knows you better than your parents and significant other and uses that knowledge of you to literally feed you content you love. It understands you, understands the content people create, then uses those profiles to give everyone the content they enjoy.


Consider the fact you rarely look at the content your friends make. Most of your time is spent on the “For You” feed. This is a breakthrough in the social media space. Most social apps are built on some kind of social graph meaning it surfaces content it knows you will like based on your relationships. Facebook and Twitter do this and layer in ads and other content when they can. TikTok is different. They build a persona for you based on how you interact with the content in TikTok, how you interact with other apps, and any personal information you share online. All this together gives them a good picture of who you are. TikTok also makes a persona for every piece of content uploaded onto it’s platform using machine vision, location data, watch time, music profiles, hashtags, and other AI tools. It then matches the two personas using a very powerful matching algorithm.


If you combine the data and persona building I mentioned above, with the fact they give users no other option but to watch full screen, short videos, you get a highly addictive app. Take a look at the different user experiences below for Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.


Screenshots of Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok

Facebook gives users a ton of options to engage with different types of content when the app is opened. This prevents Facebook from having a sense of control over the user’s journey thus preventing themselves from collecting specific engagement data used to improve the user’s experience. It also makes many users feel like the app is cluttered. Instagram is going down a similar path as Facebook. With the additions of stories, reels, and shopping, Instagram is giving users many different paths to go down. TikTok only gives you two directions, up or down. This enables them to collect data very specific to the way you engage with videos which allows them to control the content it puts on your feed easier. That is why TikTok is so addicting and unique. They designed it so you can create your own user experience with the help of their AI.


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