Ah, TikTok. Home to dance challenges, story times, cooking POVs, and animations of electric pink babies dancing to cumbia.
As it turns out, TikTok has more than the Hype House (trend #1 in our 2020 trend report), but it might take a user some time to get to the “other side.” Welcome to Alt-TikTok (trend #6), short for “alternative.” The niche content is also affectionately dubbed the “elite” side of the app. Alt-TikTok is contrasted with the mainstream, “straight” TikTok, the most familiar content to recreational users.
What makes it “Alt?”
Content on Alt-TikTok is artistic, obscure, and confusing to viewers not already in-the-know. Animation is one of the preferred mediums for Alt videos because, in the world of animation, ~anything is possible~. And in the world of Alt-TikTok, the weirder, the better. Most Alt creators also consider their content to be better quality, claiming their content is trend-setting, rather than following existing trends. This side of TikTok is also known for being generally more inclusive than the mainstream with more queer and non-white voices. Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet, so diversity and inclusion are highly valued when we make choices about the content we consume.
The Alt-TikTok community
For Gen Z, being a member of Alt-TikTok is a badge of honor because it is a status that is very easy to lose. Alt-TikTok is under the radar, so there is active disdain for verified accounts (or really anything that is popular). TikTok’s algorithm, which rewards popularity, makes it easy to slip back into the mainstream. This tension between the Alt and the straight led to a “war” in the summer of 2020, with Alt-TikTok accusing straight TikTok of being boring (and straight accusing the Alt of being weird).
Brands and Alt-TikTok
So, where do brands come into play on Alt-TikTok?
For the most part, they don’t.
Gen Z avoids blatant advertising as the generation grown up in a world full of digital banner ads. However, the occasional brand does take off, but not through verified accounts. A fake Tampax TikTok account, which has since been deleted from the platform, found massive success in Alt-TikTok. Fake brand accounts, like Tampax, spearheaded a sub-section of Alt-TikTok known as “Brand TikTok.”
Can marketers leverage the strength of Alt-TikTok to promote brands to Gen Z? Yes, but carefully. Brand accounts that want to take advantage of this movement should maintain the energy of these fake accounts. Have fun with bizarre content and avoid blatant product promotion. Because, at the end of the day, the products should be able to speak for themselves.
JUV Consulting is a Gen Z collective that works with companies to create purpose-driven and authentic marketing campaigns that engage young audiences. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn how to reach Gen Z, or sign up for our weekly newsletter, The Screenshot, to get Gen Z insights straight to your inbox.
Leah Butz is a Copywriter & Content Contributor living in Queens, New York. If you don’t catch her biking around on her 1977 Motobecane, then she’s probably at home baking a new bread recipe. Sometimes she posts on Instagram at @containsham.