Coronavirus lockdown impact: Social elites wake up to TikTok

Mumbai: In an unintended consequence of the lockdown courtesy Covid-19, India’s social media elite has taken to TikTok to combat boredom and anxiety. Until recently, this section of online users frowned upon TikTok’s content and labelled it “cringe-worthy” even as users from tier-II and -III cities gained rewards and recognition through the platform, turning India into the biggest market for the Chinese video-sharing social network.

Advertising executives tracking TikTok note something unprecedented about the current spike in user downloads after the entire country went into lockdown. It is the trend of “India 1” suddenly embracing ByteDance’s flagship product with open arms. “India 1 is softening towards TikTok, accepting its idiosyncrasies instead of labelling it cringe-worthy,” says Ishtaarth Dalmia, an anthropologist and AVP strategy at digital agency Webchutney. One of the reasons TikTok has been able to catch on with India’s social media elite is due to a surge in its visibility on other popular platforms.

“People are seeing more and more intellectuals and influencers share TikTok videos on Twitter and Instagram,” says Nikhil Chinnari, an advertising executive at ad agency BBH India. “This is subconsciously removing the barrier for users who thought the platform is for the masses and not the classes.”

From global music sensation, Drake, to popular Indian actors like Shilpa Shetty, TikTok now boasts a long list of celebrities who have taken to the platform in recent times to post goofy videos while confined in their homes.

Social Elites Wake up to TikTok

While TikTok declined to comment on its recent user growth, an App Annie report released earlier this April states that it was the most downloaded app in India in the social media category as the country went into a lockdown.

At a time when most other social media platforms—like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp—are saddled with negative or fake news, homebound urbanites are finding an escape from their anxieties in TikTok videos that feature catchy audio-visual filters. “It is helping my mental health in these trying times,” says Pankaj Sinha, a 30-year-old automobile engineer from Delhi, who recently downloaded the app after spotting several TikTok videos on WhatsApp. Sinha is popular as @AskThePankazzzz among urban Twitter users, boasting of over 40,000 followers on the platform.

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