TikTok content creators in South Africa are influencing global trends and inspiring innovative brand partnerships as the social media platform’s uptake in the country surges.
The video-streaming app, launched globally just five years ago, has amassed more than a billion active monthly users, making it one of the fastest-growing social media platforms and the most downloaded at the start of 2022.
It’s estimated that around 6 million South Africans use TikTok daily, according to the latest Social Media Landscape report. But the exact number of users is hard to pinpoint because TikTok doesn’t reveal regional data. And while South African TikTok users don’t outnumber those active on Facebook or Instagram, the short-video-streaming platform is gathering strong momentum and demanding attention from local brands.
“I’m really excited about the South African market and that connection with creators, just given the creativity of the South African community as well as the diversity of those creators,” Scott Thwaites, TikTok’s head of business partnerships for gaming and new markets in the Middle East, Turkey, Africa, and Pakistan (METAP), told Business Insider SA.
“Those ingredients match up to TikTok incredibly nicely. So, we are seeing strong traction with creators on the platform and brands utilising and working with those creators for them to be able to share those brand messages and drive that brand’s business impact [that] advertisers are looking for.”
Thwaites’ own expectations for brand partnerships – which remains the only way for creators to monetise their content in South Africa – are supported by World Wide Worx’s Social Media Landscape report. The industry survey revealed TikTok as the “big winner” which more than doubled its penetration among major brands to 25% over the past year.
This growth isn’t expected to slow, with a further 13% of brands surveyed saying that they’d plan to use TikTok in the next year. “No other platform is expected to rise by more than 7% in penetration,” noted World Wide Worx.
And it’s not just local brands that are looking to South African content creators for ideas. The TikTok content and partnerships already coming out of South Africa are being studied and adopted by global companies.
“In many ways, we actually showcase what’s happening in South Africa to our global market,” said Thwaites.
“The market is a little bit more agile, it can move a little bit quicker, [and] you do have all of those ingredients that match with TikTok in an incredible way. So, it’s not that South Africa is looking up at Europe or the US, or what we define as more of a developed market… there are many examples where South Africa is setting the benchmark, especially with creative content.”
Companies like King Price, Dotsure, and Yoco were listed as just a few examples of South African brands that make great use of TikTok in partnering with local creatives to create “ads that don’t feel like ads.”
“They are probably leading the game in many ways, and to share and showcase that to the global market, I wouldn’t necessarily say [South Africa] is a follower,” said Thwaites.
South Africa’s TikTok exports extend beyond brand inspiration and, in recent years, have taken a cultural twist that speaks to Thwaites’ “ingredients” of creativity and diversity in the musical sense. In 2020, Amapiano – a genre of electronic dance music that combines melodious piano tunes with drum and bass sounds – exploded on TikTok.
By July of that year, #Amapiano had reached over 73 million views on TikTok. Today, this hashtag has grown to more than 5.2 billion views, taking this uniquely South African genre to the global stage.
“It [the popularity of Amapiano on TikTok] is incredibly important, and it goes back to the question [of] are brands looking to the US or the UK and translating that down? And it’s quite the opposite,” said Thwaites.
“There’s as much flowing out of South Africa into the international market as there is flowing in on the platform, and [South Africa] has some incredible things to be proud of, and those do develop and do spread out beyond TikTok, and onto the international stage. Those music themes and trends will be just one example of that.”