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It’s TikTok time! Platform offers new escapes, coronavirus information

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, April 17, 2020  /  01:27 pm
It’s TikTok time! Platform offers new escapes, coronavirus information

Variety in levity: A montage of screen grabs shows TikTok videos uploaded by content creators who are providing tips and activities people can try while adhering to the stay-at-home policy. (Courtesy of TikTok Indonesia/-)

Gusti, a 30-something journalist based in Jakarta, downloaded the TikTok mobile app back in 2018 to stay up-to-date on the actors of a popular Chinese TV series. Afterward, she neglected the app until late 2019, when she created her first clip for South Korean rapper ZICO’s “Any Song” dance challenge as a diversion from her mental exhaustion, brought on by the political situation in the country at the time.

“I found it refreshing and entertaining. And I realized later that many things that had gone viral [...] started on TikTok,” Gusti said during an interview with The Jakarta Post.

While Gusti adhered to the COVID-19 stay-at-home policy, she renewed her interest in the app by challenging herself to creating one clip per day, purchasing a portable ring light online so she could produce better-quality videos.

“Even before the WHO started its campaign, doctors had turned to TikTok to demonstrate the right way to wash your hands. Foreign media companies also used the platform in a funny and creative way for promotional content,” she said.

“TikTok is not [just] about people dancing to music. It is for people of different ages and social groups. I think TikTok is the next level of social media.”

Gusti is one of many Indonesians from different walks of life who have turned to TikTok to kill their time at home during the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB).

For fun: TikTok is fast becoming the video sharing platform of choice across Indonesia for connecting through uplifting, interactive clips during the nationwide stay-at-home policy.For fun: TikTok is fast becoming the video sharing platform of choice across Indonesia for connecting through uplifting, interactive clips during the nationwide stay-at-home policy. (AFP/Olivier Douliery)

TikTok’s sudden rise in popularity may seem baffling at first glance, but the quirky sensibilities of its user-creators are offering quick pick-me-ups during the global health crisis.

The video sharing app enables its users to interact with particular communities and trends according to their personal preferences and interests.

What makes it distinctive is the way TikTok enables its users to produce clips of 1 minute or shorter that are highly engaging and narrative-driven by incorporating music and using sophisticated editing tools.

Unlike other video sharing apps, however, TikTok doesn’t share revenue from ads with the creators – the ads do not appear in the clips; but their mainstay is high exposure, as the video clips are easily shared across the board.

Singer-songwriter Melly Goeslaw, for example, saw her song “Bagaikan Langit” (Like the Sky) shared worldwide when it was used in dance videos created by NBA athletes and K-pop artists.

The app has been downloaded roughly 2 billion times since its launch in 2017, and has 800 million global users per month.

Beijing-based ByteDance, which owns the app, has not published any data on TikTok downloads or revenues in Indonesia during the stay-at-home period, but the company’s Indonesia office has seen an increase in creators and content variety.

TikTok Indonesia’s head of user and content operations, Angga Anugrah Putra, said it had recorded some 4.6 billion views for special content using the hashtags #SamaSamaDiRumah (together at home) – equivalent to the #happyathome global campaign during quarantine and lockdowns – and #Pahlawangardadepan (frontline heroes) – the Indonesian version of the global #healthcareheroes, which features content showing support for medical workers treating COVID-19 patients, including in sign language.

“We have prepared various features to promote the government restrictions on people’s movement, including live streams with experts and social media influencers,” said Angga.

During the stay-at-home period, the most viewed and shared videos among nearly all age groups have been comedic or humorous clips, vlogs, tutorials and life hacks, fashion and beauty, as well as videos of people showing their talents. Most recently, at-home fitness and wellness clips have been growing in popularity.

Videos under #SamaSamaDiRumah also include clips on simple recipes to cook at home, concerts with singers performing at home, and short Korean language lessons.

Starting April 3, TikTok has been collaborating with creators and influencers to entertain users through the #livedirumah program, which is live streamed every Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The app has also become a source for the latest information on Indonesia’s battle against its COVID-19 epidemic.

“We are committed to playing a role in sharing accurate information about COVID-19 to educate the public, so we are always making sure that there is no misinformation in any of the videos on our platform,” said Donny Eryastha, TikTok’s public policy head for Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The platform is also committed to supporting relief aid, donating Rp 100 billion (US$7 million) to provide protective equipment and safety nets for frontline medical workers, including assistance for the families of frontline workers who had died in the line of duty.

The sum is part of the $250 million that TikTok pledged on April 8 for COVID-19 relief efforts around the world.

According to a statement from TikTok president Alex Zhu, $150 million of the fund will be allocated to the US Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and other agencies distributing supplies to countries hard hit by the virus like India, Indonesia, Italy and South Korea. 

In addition, TikTok Indonesia has also taken the initiative to reduce its bandwidth use, following the example set by major video streaming services.

Video accounted for over two-thirds of global consumer internet traffic in 2017, and the ongoing crisis has pushed this figure even higher.

“Our mission is to connect people, to entertain and to encourage. To maintain our connected culture, we have cut our bandwidth use, but have not reduced either the quality of the clips or [user] convenience,” said Donny.

A year after TikTok became available in Indonesia, the government banned the service for a week on allegations of illicit content. State institutions have now opened their own TikTok accounts, deeming that the platform would be an effective way to reach young people.

Angga said that even after the epidemic had ended, TikTok would continue its strategic partnership with the government while generating more sub-content to cater to users’ different interests.

“We will be always comply with government policies and regulations, and help in any way [we can] to alleviate the burdens of the relief effort. These are our measures to grow in Indonesia,” he said.(ste)

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