Will fintech be TikTok famous?

By Daniel Lanyon on Tuesday 17 March 2020

OpinionAlternative LendingDigital BankingSavings and Investment

Digital disruptors have so far stayed away from the latest social media craze but embraced Instagram and Facebook with gusto.

Will fintech be TikTok famous?
Image source: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

You may, or may not, have seen them. Young people lip-synching, crowded around a phone resting on a tripod and most often dancing. They are absolutely everywhere. Their task is to create one of the millions of new 15-second videos created each day that have propelled the social media app TikTok to dizzying heights, in terms of users and its valuation. 

Oh, and it’s amateur superstars all aim for the same, mostly un-monetised thing: to be 'TikTok famous'...it basically means getting a lot of 'likes' regularly, often into the millions. TikTok is own by Beijing based ByteDance, which at the core of its technology platform runs probably one of the best commercially-focused artificial intelligence machines around. It is incredibly addictive. 

It is also forgivable to have missed this trend entirely, however. It is mainly made up of very young adults or teenagers, although older demographics are fastly growing its audience and content creation. To put it into context for you, though, it is one of the most downloaded apps of this year, last year (2019) and the year before (2018).

More than three million people have downloaded it every day in recent months, while February saw a break out boom for TikTok with 113m downloads, according to app analytics outfit Sensor Tower. This means about 2 billion downloads - not genuine active users - have occurred since its release three years ago. More than half are from China but growth is accelerating most rapidly outside the country. Active users are estimated between a third and half of this number.

Like Whatsapp, this shows how a simple app can become a truly global and powerful force within the time it takes to complete an undergraduate degree. But could it also be a meaningful place for financial services disruption? 

TikTok has the scale of WhatsApp but it is also cleary a place where influence is peddled and things can - if you’ll pardon the expression - go viral. TikTok is rapidly shifting what social media can do but unlike other leaders such as Instagram and Twitter it hasn’t yet been commercialised by advertisers or influencers. Fintech, as a hashtag, has a mere 844,100 video views on TiKtoK but users can get their hands on 'virtual money' and buy digital coins and diamonds for other users.

TikTok’s Chinese owners ByteDance have their sights firmly set on fintech, though, make no mistake. The firm, which has a staggering valuation of $78bn has, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal, recently launched its own standalone fintech app. 

Tristan Thomas, Head of Marketing at Monzo said the digital bank was keeping an eye on TikTok but that it currently had no plans to use the app. 

"We're not currently using TikTok but are always thinking about the best ways for us to communicate with our customers. I'm keen we don't just jump on new things for the sake of it, but instead have a good understanding of how it's useful for customers. It's then authentic and real, rather than feeling fake."

Instagram, TikTok’s ageing stablemate, once had no advertising or people using it for monetary gain but that quickly changed and fintech brands such as N26 and Bo used it to encourage sign-ups. Perhaps one day soon it will be the latest battleground for digital banking.

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