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TikTok’s Growth Collapse: What’s the Cause and Can TikTok Pull it Back?

Apr 04, 2024

Industry Trends

TikTok’s Growth Collapse: What’s the Cause and Can TikTok Pull it Back?

For an app that has received expeditious growth since its launch in 2016, we never thought we’d learn of its lack thereof in the final quarter of 2023. More shockingly, its complete reverse in the US, leading to a general decline in TikTok growth in 2024.

The platform’s spike in popularity in 2020 hailed it a game-changer within the social media landscape, offering users a never-before-seen endless stream of short-form video content, as well as an algorithm that prioritised creator discoverability. By 2021, TikTok had 656 million users, and every other platform vying after its success by launching their own TikTok-esque features. Think YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels.

At this time, TikTok had nailed the user experience with its addictive For You Page by learning what each individual user liked and feeding them copious amounts of relevant content that both entertained and educated on new niches/topics. Additionally, TikTok became a hub for creativity, offering creators and influencers features such as TikTok Live, Stitching, and content Playlists which helped them better organise their creations for the purpose of improving their discoverability. 

But with all of these great additions, the launch of several others over the years have sparked a lot of debate, leading to the decline in TikTok growth in 2024.

The introduction of TikTok Shop, along with the more recent push for long-form content output, are just a few of the changes leading TikTok users to question if the once-great platform is starting to lose its charm. Now that the likes of Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts are offering short-form content without all the extra hassle, it’s no wonder users are spending less time on the platform and more time elsewhere.

So what’s really going on? Read on to discover if the TikTok growth in 2024 can be saved.

WHAT’S CONTRIBUTING TO THE DECLINE IN TIKTOK GROWTH IN 2024?

Users are getting older

Think back to the year you downloaded TikTok for the first time. Struggling? Our point exactly.

When TikTok first launched, it quickly became popular among young kids and teens, who were drawn to the unique creator-friendly content and culture – particularly the viral dances. 

For those who were 14/15 years old at the peak of TikTok’s popularity in 2020, they are now 19 going on 20, fresh out of school and most likely in a new job or at university, studying. For many, their parents no longer cook their meals, do their laundry or ferry them around to their hobbies. This leaves a lot less time for doom-scrolling on TikTok. 

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the matching statistics for this claim, stating that TikTok’s US average monthly users between the ages of 18 and 24 declined by nearly 9% between 2022 and 2023. Given that TikTok today heavily prioritises business, this decline in time spent among adults (the core users) on the platform is detrimental to those looking to TikTok for boosted brand awareness, generating sales, and driving conversions. 

TikTok Shop

From a business perspective, TikTok Shop ticks all the boxes. Its integration into in-feed videos makes for a more seamless shopping experience, as consumers aren’t asked to click away from the platform in order to complete a purchase. With everything being available and finalised in-app, it’s no wonder more and more brands are looking to sell their products here, in turn, contributing to the TikTok growth in 2024. Similarly, TikTok Shop benefits the influencers selling these products, as they receive 5% commission after 90 days post-account activation. 

But how do the users feel?

@evhandd

TikTok has a MASSIVE problem, and it’s their own TikTok Shop videos #tiktok #tiktokshop #stoptiktokshop #content #contentcreation #sturdydigital

♬ original sound – Evan

Many favoured influencers gained their audiences because their content was “real”. Videos about their favourite products were made because they were genuine recommendations, not because they were receiving commission. TikTok Shop now takes away the authenticity of these recommendations.

The once-addictive For You Page has now become a stream of promotional content for this feature. If you were to open the app right now, you probably wouldn’t make it past four videos without encountering some sort of TikTok Shop content. This is what’s leading to a decline in TikTok growth in 2024.

For the users who joined TikTok for a sense of community and discovery, seeing TikTok likened to a Home Shopping platform isn’t appealing and reduces that all important “time spent” among core users. 

The push for long-form content

Steadily over the years, TikTok has made small adjustments to the preferred content type its algorithm pushes. Fast forward four years and the once-short-form platform now allows videos up to 30 minutes and actively encourages creators to post horizontally. 

Far-detached from the TikTok we fell in love with back in 2020, the platform is now shifting its priorities in a bid to compete with long-form giant, YouTube. Just as every other platform introduced new features to compete with TikTok’s trailblazing lead on short-form content, it’s understandable that TikTok is looking to YouTube to do the same. However, is relying on long-form content as the next stage in its evolution, wise?

TikTok initially grew because it housed addictive short-form video content. Sure, longer content will keep users on the platform for longer, but with attention spans decreasing, forcing long-form content isn’t particularly the most effective way to improve user retention. 

The clear lesson here is that pushing users to unlearn behaviours they’ve been practising for years comes at a cost. That cost being the decline in TikTok growth in 2024.

Censorship

Where TikTok was once considered the Wild West when it comes to content, it seems to be cracking down immensely on what can and cannot be posted. While it’s imperative that every platform conforms to a set of content guidelines, TikTok now arguably takes this to extremes. 

Just a fleeting mention of certain words or topics now leads to an immediate shadowban, violation, demonetisation, or strikes against the account. Though the appeal process for these unfair judgements is simplistic, they can often take days to go through and, a lot of the time, are not approved at all.

Today, creators have to go to extraordinary lengths out of fear of violating community guidelines. Add this to the increased difficulty in creating content for a platform that now prioritises long-form, horizontal content, and you inevitably lead to the decline in TikTok growth in 2024.

Lack of organic reach

One of the biggest challenges creators and influencers face on TikTok today is the lack of organic reach. The app’s algorithm used to be its greatest feature, giving everyone an equal opportunity to go viral if their content was creative and different. Fast forward three years or so and it’s become harder than ever to reach people on TikTok.

With ‘low’ periods becoming more commonplace, it begs the question, what’s the point in having followers on TikTok if they’re not even being exposed to your content?

The lack of organic reach not only makes it even harder to get discovered, but hinders community-building practices, as the viewers are unable to keep returning for more. Unlike Instagram Reels, TikTok is yet to find the perfect balance between acquisition and retention. This appears to be the greatest obstacle creators are now facing on the platform, and leads many to give up altogether; further contributing to the decline in TikTok growth in 2024

Given this, TikTok now runs the risk of being depicted as a platform that you might go viral on every now and then. As these chances of virality dwindle, creators are seeking solace in the likes of Instagram and YouTube, where their work can actually be capitalised on. For those who still want to focus their efforts on TikTok, the idea is to now diversify your social strategy by posting on a range of platforms, while still remembering quality over quantity, always. Identifying which of these platforms serves which role for your brand is a great way to diversify your content. While TikTok may be the place for discovery, it might not be where you can expect your most loyal audience. 

CAN THE COLLAPSE OF TIKTOK GROWTH IN 2024 BE PULLED BACK?

For TikTok growth in 2024 to rise again and get back to its 2020 roots, the platform has a responsibility to dust off its social listening skills and adjust its features in accordance with what its users (or what’s left of them) are raising concerns over. It’s no secret that many people turn to TikTok for a quick burst of passive, entertaining short-form video content. Addressing this issue first will then have a knock-on effect and positively reshape other elements. TikTok Shop ads will no longer be forced onto a user’s FYP and so time spent will increase in line with TikTok growth in 2024.

Our influencer marketing agency and social agency are located worldwide, with our agency network based in the USA, UK, UAE and China.

If you want to find industry insights, visit our influencer marketing and social media blogs.

@sociallypowerful

Author

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Ella Proctor

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