Are you up to date on changes from TikTok? Wondering which recent TikTok updates are important to marketers and business owners?
In this article, we explore TikTok changes that affect your marketing.
#1: TikTok Sounds
Universal Music Group (UMG), the world's most extensive music catalog, removed its recordings from the popular video app TikTok after contract renewal talks between the two companies broke down. As a result, TikTok will now mute UMG music featured in videos, requiring users to select alternative music options from other labels to replace the removed UMG content.
Our Take: The recent removal of UMG's catalog from TikTok has significant implications for both the platform and content creators. UMG represents some of the biggest names in music, so countless videos have now been muted due to copyright issues. This development leads TikTok marketing expert Keenya Kelly to question the sustainability of TikTok's free use of songs in user-generated content (UGC).
While this model has benefitted TikTok's rapid growth and allowed creators to incorporate popular music easily, it seems unrealistic that major labels would not eventually demand greater compensation. Just a few years ago, brands had to pay considerable sums to license these songs. We hope TikTok and UMG reach a deal that continues to allow affordable usage, but we would not be surprised if the era of freely using chart-topping hits ends. This would be a significant loss for creators and TikTok's culture.
However, with major corporate interests on both sides, the focus may shift from what is best for TikTok users to maximizing profits. The coming months will tell whether music and short-form video content can continue to benefit one another mutually on this immensely popular platform.
#2: TikTok AI Song
TikTok has introduced an experimental feature called AI Song that uses artificial intelligence to generate original songs based on user text prompts. Bloom powers the lyric generation capability, TikTok's large language model that applies machine learning to produce text. TikTok cautions that the AI-generated lyrics may contain errors and that the same lyrics could be generated for multiple users, prompting the model with similar inputs.
The goal of releasing this feature in an experimental capacity is to obtain user feedback that will allow TikTok to improve the AI songwriting over time.
Our Take: We think this is a highly innovative idea that plays into current trends around AI and music. It offers convenience for TikTok creators while raising questions about copyright, compensation for artists, and the role of automation in the creative process.
On the positive side, this feature makes producing content more accessible. The ability to generate a song matching your desired genre, artist name, and topic in seconds removes barriers to participation. And we enjoy the parodies and trends that user-created songs often inspire.
However, the transcript also references controversies around AI-generated content and fair pay for actual musicians on TikTok. As AI Song proliferates, it could further strain the relationship between platforms and record labels. We hope AI tools can exist alongside human artists instead of replacing them.
Overall, the launch of AI Song displays TikTok's creativity and ambition but may disrupt the industry's status quo. Its ultimate impact is uncertain as the technology and its implementation continue developing. But we expect it will lead to ongoing complex conversations around intellectual property, music rights, and what creative content we as a society value.
#3: TikTok Video Experience
TikTok has prompted some creators with a message saying it will “boost” horizontal videos over a minute long within 72 hours of posting. This viewership boost will be available to creators who have been on TikTok for at least three months, as long as the videos are not advertisements or from political parties.
Our Take: TikTok testing longer horizontal videos could transform creators’ approach but risks alienating its core base. Keenya believes this shift toward accommodating longer-form content presents both opportunities and pitfalls.
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On the one hand, mobile viewing habits are evolving, and attention spans are increasing. Supporting videos beyond 60 seconds allows creators to tell more in-depth stories and build their brands. The option to tap and view videos horizontally could also aid watcher retention.
Additionally, if TikTok boosts these videos in the algorithm, it incentivizes high-quality production. However, the platform blew up thanks to its bite-sized vertical videos and addictive scrolling. Abandoning those core differentiators is concerning. Most viewers rarely watch videos over 3 minutes there currently. Trying to emulate YouTube too much could water down what makes TikTok unique. Creators lose motivation if long videos don’t retain audience interest and crater retention metrics.
TikTok must balance expanding functionality for ambitious creators while keeping its essence simple, fun, and mobile-centric. Forcing landscape video too aggressively risks fixating on something that is not broken. However, providing flexibility in moderation could let creators take more risks. TikTok must tread carefully to nurture, not negate, what fueled its success.
#4: TikTok Analytics
TikTok Creative Center
TikTok has changed its Creative Center tool, limiting advertisers' access to certain data. The Creative Center allows advertisers to search hashtags and view analytics on videos using those tags. However, TikTok quietly removed the search button in the first week of January 2023.
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Additionally, the tool's hashtags related to politics and war no longer function properly. When contacted about these unannounced changes, TikTok stated that the Creative Center will now only provide data on the top 100 hashtags within various industries, such as pets and travel. TikTok seems to have excluded categories like news, politics, and global events.
3rd Party Measurement
The TikTok Marketing Partners Program has introduced two new measurement tools, Cross-Channel and Lift, designed to give brands deeper insight into the effectiveness of TikTok advertising.
Our Take: TikTok's further development of its advertising analytics presents opportunities while raising privacy concerns. We’re intrigued by the additional dimensional data now available to value multi-channel campaigns properly. Allowing advertisers to attribute conversions to multiple touchpoints paints a more accurate picture of what media exposures influenced consumer behavior. This functionality helps optimize budgets across TikTok, other social platforms, and offline ads based on real ROI.
However, the in-feed polling and “not interested” question prompts also worries Keenya. She understands why TikTok wants richer insights into audience sentiment, but repeatedly surveying users seems invasive. The popups that prevent scrolling also feel manipulative, even if answering the questions only takes a few seconds.
As marketers, we appreciate TikTok's robust analytics to prove ad spend efficiency. But as a user, we hope they consider privacy over excessive targeting. The platform garners engagement through fun, not forced brand exposure. Ideally, advertisers will use these tools judiciously to enhance the TikTok experience, not degrade it through overly prescriptive TikTok ads. Harnessing data to connect users with relevant brands is positive, but not at the cost of personal agency.
#5: TikTok Shopping
TikTok is testing a new feature to transform user videos into shopping opportunities to grow its eCommerce presence in the United States. The technology automatically identifies objects in videos and then prompts viewers to explore similar products for purchase on TikTok Shop. This diverges from TikTok's previous method of only letting certain influencers/brands tag items.
TikTok incentivizes creators to promote shoppable products, but this new feature links products more organically in regular users' videos for a better browsing experience. Early testing accuracy has been inconsistent; for example, unrelated items have been tagged as “similar” in some cases.
Our Take: TikTok aggressively pushing shoppable video risks overcommercializing genuine creators. As TikTok Shop expands, the platform strongly encourages many users to create affiliate marketing content and earn commissions promoting products. This represents an opportunity for creators to monetize, but Keenya warns that constantly pushing products can compromise authenticity.
Creators best showcase products organically, not out of obligation to a sponsor, because viewers value reviews from people they trust instead of random sales pitches. Monetization matters, but actual influencer commerce requires balance. TikTok must be careful not to prioritize commerce so significantly that creators lose sight of building community.
Authenticity and vulnerability, not products, are what establish rapport with audiences. As AI further automates product integration, the human touch must not get lost. Paying rent via affiliate sales is great, but not at the cost of audience loyalty.
#6: TikTok Accessibility
TikTok rolled out dynamic text sizing to improve accessibility.
Our Take: Allowing users to scale on-screen text appropriately represents a significant inclusion effort. However, dynamically expanding text risks covering up creators' careful placement of graphics. For example, Keenya's text positioning relies on fixed caption size, and enlarging those captions can layer them over other essential elements.
In any case, enabling individual viewing preferences is important, even if it forces creators to rethink their visual presentation strategies. Promoting equity should come before aesthetic layout concerns.
Keenya Kelly is a TikTok and Instagram Reels expert. She runs a social media agency and hosts The Keenya Kelly Podcast.
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