Apr 7 2023
Basis Technologies

TikTok by the Numbers: Stats and Facts for Digital Advertisers


The TikTok era of social advertising marches on.

Moving way beyond its roots as a forum for lip-syncing and dancing teens, this short-form video app has blown up the model of what a social network can be, and it is increasingly a must-buy for a growing number of advertisers. TikTok isn’t the same as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube, where advertising typically equates to buttoned-up and polished productions. To excel on this channel, brands must embrace creator-led, user-generated, unfiltered content to tell their story. And above all, they must be authentic. Indeed, nailing the creative in a way that is real and raw should be priority number one for advertisers on TikTok.

Powered by a dynamic algorithm that quickly gauges individual user preferences and then curates a highly personalized “For You” page (FYP), TikTok doesn’t have its users tell the platform what they want to see—rather, it tells them. And the internet, and advertisers, seemingly can’t get enough. The app is continually developing and implementing ad capabilities and features, yet there is already much for media buyers to get excited about, particularly with TikTok’s next phase of ad growth enabling advertising both down the funnel and deeper into social commerce.

Of course, it’s not a channel without its share of troubles and controversies. Nearly three years after the Trump administration threatened to ban the app if its Chinese owner ByteDance didn’t divest, TikTok is once again facing an existential threat. US lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are renewing calls to remove it from US app stores, citing perceived risks to national security and user safety. As a result, TikTok has become a symbol of rising geopolitical tensions between the world’s two largest superpowers, and there is unlikely to be any resolution to this saga any time soon.

Nevertheless, even in the face of all the controversy, TikTok has become a go-to app for millions of users and a must-use for countless advertisers. Here, we explore the evolution of TikTok through a collection of stats and facts. We’ll cover all the good stuff and all the ban-related stuff as we look to paint a picture of why TikTok continues to be the talk of the digital advertising town. Let’s go.

TikTok’s Meteoric Rise in Popularity

It is, quite literally, a multi-billion-dollar question: just how did TikTok go from being a niche player just four years ago to one of the most popular apps on the planet? The reality is there is no single answer, but instead a combination of factors: simple and easy-to-use video creation tools that blur the metaphorical line between creator and consumer; shrinking attention spans that pave the way for short-form video to thrive; a vast library of licensed music that allows users to easily enrich their clips with audio without fear of copyright infringement; and a community and collaborative feel within the platform (think hashtag challenges and Stitch). Its model is so successful, in fact, that it has frightened Meta and YouTube (and others) into disrupting their own business—Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts, anyone?

  • TikTok’s ascent has been swift. Its worldwide user base has increased by 80% since 2020 (465.7 million to 834.3 million this year), and by 2025, it is projected to have close to 1 billion users.
  • The number of US monthly TikTok users has reached 150 million, and nearly five million American businesses have a presence on the app.
  • Time spent on TikTok is surging. US adults are currently spending roughly 56 minutes on the platform per day, more than YouTube and significantly more than Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit. It’s also quickly catching up to Netflix. (And if this forecast included teens, that number would likely be much, much higher).
  • TikTok users watch 197.8 million hours of videos daily—approximately 11 times more than Instagram users watch Reels.
  • In 2022, TikTok was just ahead of Instagram as the most-downloaded app in the Google Play Store worldwide, generating 460 million downloads from Android users. Over on the Apple App Store, it was a similar story as TikTok earned 212 million downloads, way in front of second-place YouTube.
  • 73% of consumers feel a deeper connection to brands they interact with on TikTok compared to others, with 67% saying that TikTok inspired them to shop even when they weren’t looking to do so.

The TikTok Effect on Marketing and Advertising  

“Don’t make ads, make TikToks.”

That was the invitation TikTok laid out for advertisers when it opened its brand-facing wing back in 2020. And with the company’s revenues skyrocketing, it appears that challenge has been gleefully accepted. TikTok’s ad business made its first foray into performance marketing with lead-generation ads that empower brands to collect information from prospective consumers through forms and contests. Since then, TikTok has been busy significantly expanding upon those offerings, rolling out formats like interactive add-ons, search ads, and collection ads that together look set to play a fundamental part in the app’s monetization strategy.

  • US TikTok ad revenues are projected to reach $6.83 billion in 2023 (representing 36% growth from 2022) and are estimated to hit $8.62 billion in 2024.
  • This year, TikTok will make up 2.5% of the total US digital ad market, 1.8% of the total media ad market, and 9.6% of the total social ad market.
  • Based on engagement rate per follower, higher education institutions (9.9%), sports teams (7.6%), and nonprofits (6.4%) represent the top-performing industries on TikTok. Ranking lowest on the list? Home décor (2.1%) and health and beauty (2.0%).
  • Ad spending by DTC brands on TikTok hit $30 million in the middle of 2022—the highest growth among major online platforms.
  • The percentage of large advertisers using TikTok isn’t much higher than those using Reels over on IG (75% versus 67%). But the percentage that say they prefer TikTok is three times higher than those that chose Reels and four times that of YouTube Shorts.
  • TikTok will gain 9.6 million social buyers in 2023, hitting 33.3 million. That’s more than the net increase across Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest combined.
  • Among small businesses that run advertising campaigns on TikTok, 78% have reportedly realized a positive ROI, with the majority doing so within six months.
  • From 2020 to 2022, the number of user actions (such as likes, shares, and comments) on TikToks posted by consumer goods and retail brands rose 33% and 150%, respectively.

TikTok and the Highly Coveted Gen Z Audience

TikTok has disrupted how an entire generation connects, shops, entertains and educates itself, and ultimately perceives the world. To understand why TikTok is so popular with Gen Z is to understand their inherent characteristics. Research shows that one of the defining features of today’s youth is an expression of “individual truth”. They are also the first generation of online natives—well-acquainted with digital advertising tactics and therefore naturally drawn to fresh ideas and creative storytelling (for example, unfiltered videos!). The fact that TikTok facilitates self-expression and celebrates authenticity plays right into their hands. In other words, TikTok and Gen Z were made for one another.

  • Gen Z represents 44.6% of total TikTok users in the US with millennials accounting for 33.4%, Gen X for 11.7%, and baby boomers for 6.7%. The share of Gen Z users will gradually increase over the next year, reaching 45.7% in 2024.
  • Two-thirds of US Zoomers use TikTok at least once per month, compared to 46.4% of millennials, 18.4% of Gen X, and 10.0% of baby boomers. The app’s penetration among Gen Z is expected to hit 71.9% by 2025.
    • In terms of actual users, there are currently 45.7 million active US Gen Zers on TikTok—a number that could hit 50.4 million by 2026.
  • Drilling down by age, the three largest user segments are 25- to 34-year-olds (25.4 million), 18-24-year-olds (23.3 million), and 12-17-year-olds (17.3 million). It’s no surprise that these are the exact demographics where Facebook is seeing its biggest exodus.
  • TikTok users aged between 18 and 24 are spending 1 hour and 19 minutes on the app every day. That’s almost as much as they spend on both Instagram and Snapchat combined.

TikTok’s Appeal Goes Beyond Short-form Video

For a long time now, TikTok has been the elephant in its competitors’ boardrooms—and on their increasingly regular disappointing earnings calls. The app’s recent advances in ad technology, measurement capabilities, and expansion into the digital marketing ecosystem (for instance, through music streaming and mobile gaming) indicate that TikTok is not content to simply sit in the realm of short-form video. The platform is already siphoning ad dollars away from Meta, but the diversification of its portfolio could soon pit TikTok against the likes of Spotify, Apple, Amazon, and Google as it transforms into a public square for news and conversation.

  • Three-quarters of TikTok’s US users discover new music artists on the platform and 63% found new music they had not heard elsewhere.
  • The app’s role as a news source is climbing—currently, one-third of TikTok users say they regularly get news on the site, up from 22% who said the same in 2020. TikTok users remain far less likely than users of Twitter or Facebook to get news on the site, but it is the only channel trending upward in this area.
  • TikTokers are increasingly using the app as a visual search tool: 40% of Gen Z open TikTok or Instagram, not Google, when searching for nearby lunch spots. It’s conceivable that, given time, TikTok could start pulling more mid-funnel queries away from the search giant.
  • TikTok executives speaking at SXSW 2023 claimed that 15% of all product discovery now happens on TikTok. And, as of April 2023, the trend #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt had already surpassed 48 billion views.

An Uncertain Road Ahead

As of early 2023, rumblings about a possible TikTok ban in the US have grown from a whisper to a roar. After the US federal government and numerous states outlawed use of the app on government-issued devices (something many other countries have done as well), a House panel went a step further and voted to approve a measure that, if passed by Congress, would give President Joe Biden the power to remove TikTok in the US outright.

Feeling the metaphorical heat, TikTok has been offering a series of olive branches to regulators in an effort to cool the pressure—for example, providing more transparency into its famed algorithms and restructuring its US-based business operations. They don’t appear to have been particularly well-received, though, judging by the pummeling TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew got from a congressional committee back in March. All said, TikTok is stuck between a rock and a hard place right now, and all the scrutiny it’s under may well stand in the way of its US growth and brand marketing ambitions. Only time will tell.

  • Project Texas—the initiative TikTok is running to locate all US user data on Oracle servers inside the US—is due to be completed this year to the tune of $1.5 billion.
  • More than 25 states have banned TikTok on government-issued devices, including all mobile phones, tablets, and computers.
  • At least 20 public universities across the US have likewise made the decision to ban the app from their servers and/or have recommended their students remove it from their personal devices. Auburn University, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas-Austin, and Texas A&M—the biggest college campus in the US—are among the growing list.
  • If TikTok were to get the axe, 26% of existing TikTok users say they would replace it with Instagram Reels and 21% would migrate to YouTube Shorts. Another 37% say they wouldn’t shift to another platform, although with digital video being so popular today, it’s likely that these users would eventually end up somewhere else.
  • Marketers have also acknowledged some of the concerns surrounding TikTok. Sixty percent say they think questions over the app's data privacy and national security are justified, and 47% reportedly believe that TikTok’s algorithm is not transparent.
    • However, even despite those issues, three in four marketers say they plan to increase spending on the channel over the next 12 months.

TikTok by the Numbers—Wrapping Up

TikTok has become a digital advertising powerhouse seemingly overnight. Its consumer appeal and high engagement rates across numerous verticals make it a worthy option for ad spending at a time of economic uncertainty. But as a new(ish) channel, figuring out just where it fits into the digital media mix and how much budget should be dedicated to the platform remains a significant challenge for brands. There’s also the threat of a ban to at least consider, and while nothing is likely to happen in the immediate future, marketers would be wise to start scenario planning and stay flexible with social ad buys so they can pivot to an alternative video platform quickly if needed.

One thing is for sure, though: TikTok remains social media’s golden child, and there are great rewards available to those that get it right.


Want to learn more about how to approach TikTok advertising? Check out our blog post, The Do’s and Don’ts of TikTok Marketing to get all the tips and tricks you need to succeed. Or, if you’re looking for more general advice about your media campaigns yet don’t know where to begin, our Media Strategy & Activation team can point you in the right direction.

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