By Sam Bridge
Short-form mobile video platform is seeing large growth in the GCC but what's next?
Short-form mobile video platform, TikTok, is seeing phenomenal growth across the GCC, with the app ranking among the top downloads in regional Apple and Google Play Stores despite the controversy around the Chinese-owned platform in the United States and elsewhere.
Latest figures from analytics and technology consultancy Anavizio, which has been tracking TikTok’s growth in the GCC throughout this year, show the new influencers on the platform enjoying phenomenal fan growth, with a number of top content creators from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates increasing their fanbase by a million or more between February and August.
They include influencers such as UAE-based Sarahh Miladd (@sarahhmiladd) who has seen her fanbase surge from 4 million in February to 6.6 million as of mid-August with an average of 126,000 hearts and 2,000 comments per video.
Influencers in other GCC countries, while perhaps not seeing the same follower growth numbers in absolute terms due to smaller fanbases, are nevertheless also seeing incredible growth in percentage terms, according to the figures.
The rising popularity comes despite the increasing rhetoric from the US Administration about banning TikTok or the recent prosecution of five TikTokers in Egypt for indecency.
The most popular TikTok influencers in the GCC have emerged on the platform itself rather than crossed over from more established social media channels such as Instagram.
This new breed of influencers emerging across the six GCC countries by and large appears to be younger than on other platforms and more in tune with TikTok’s Generation Z audience.
Beauty industry mogul Huda Kattan (@hudabeauty) is one of the few celebrities or influencers to have successfully crossed over, ranking among the top UAE-based TikTok influencers with 2.1 million followers although this pales in comparison to her 47 million Instragram followers.
The research by Anavizio Data Solutions & Technologies said that it may not be long before the better known personalities establish themselves on TikTok. Examples include Saudi Arabian TV personality Lojain Omran (@lojain_omran) with nine million followers on Instagram compared to 66,000 on TikTok or Emirati singer Ahlam Al Shamsi (@ahlamalshamsi) who has 12 million Instagram followers versus just under 140,000 on TikTok.
At the same time, the more successful cross-over influencers who have gained a million or more followers on TikTok – such as Huda Kattan, Saudi fashion model Model Roz (@modelroz, 1.4 million TikTok followers) or Emirati internet couple Khalid & Salama (@khalidandsalama, 1.7 million followers on TikTok) - are in race against the new TikTok stars who remain a step ahead by continueing to rapidly grow their follower base, the research added.
It also said that brands in the GCC region have yet to take to TikTok in a big way, with product promotions making up just 1 percent out of a sample of 8,000 influencer posts analyzed by Anavizio.
However, prior to taking the TikTok plunge, the bigger question for brands will be the fate of the platform in the United States, said Anavizio.
"While Tiktok’s global problems have not yet had an impact on its usage and growth in the Middle East, it would be prudent for brands to take a wait a see approach over the next few months. If, for instance, American companies are banned from dealing with TikTok, as the recent White House executive order suggests may happen, then the app will presumably be removed from the Apple and Google apps stores. Such a development would obviously have a worldwide impact irrespective of a government’s stance on the matter," it added.
The research was based on a sample of 8,000 videos posted by the most popular TikTok users – based on follower numbers – in each of the six GCC countries between January 15 and August 15.
Last year, TikTok partnered for the #ThisIsDubai challenge with Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing to promote the city, revealing it had garnered over 54 million views.
The challenge was part of TikTok’s #TikTokTravel global campaign to encourage travellers to creatively capture and share their travel moments and which attracted a total of 1 billion views.
It also partnered with The Dubai Mall to launch an in-app challenge celebrating the Summer Surprises shopping festival last year and launched an interactive booth at the mall to give the public an opportunity to interact with some of the most popular content creators on the platform.
TikTok has offices in Beijing, Berlin, Jakarta, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo.