Short-form video app TikTok is dipping its toes into social media commerce. The app has begun to allow some users to add links to e-commerce sites — or any other site — to their profile. They’re also making it easier for creators to send their viewers directly to shopping websites.
ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, says these changes are just “experimentation.” But it’s likely that, like other social media sites, TikTok could become a major vehicle for creator profits and promotional messages.
Right now, TikTok is one of the less lucrative platforms for creators. YouTube pays creators by views, and both YouTube and Instagram provide the opportunity for brand deals and partnerships. With this e-commerce move, TikTok could become much more profitable for influencers.
“We’re always experimenting with new ways to improve the app experience for our users,” a ByteDance spokesperson told Tech Crunch. “Ultimately, we’re focused on ways to inspire creativity, bring joy, and add value for our community.”
This experimentation comes at a very convenient time for TikTok, just as rival Instagram is expanding a trial where it hides “likes” from public view. Influencers have been concerned about this change, as many of them depend on likes to secure brand deals and demonstrate their reach.
TikTok is also copying Instagram’s signature “link in bio” move by allowing users to put a clickable URL in their profile. Users can link to their merchandise, secondary websites, YouTube channels and more.
TikTok, which now has over a billion users and counting, could seriously outdo Instagram, and other social media giants if they switch to social commerce features full-time. In China, Southeast Asia and India, one of TikTok’s biggest markets, social commerce is becoming increasingly popular, even posing a threat to “traditional” e-commerce sites like Amazon.
“This is big!” Nameet Potnis, head of marketing for the India unit of global consumer internet group Naspers’ global payments firm PayU, told Tech Crunch about TikTok’s new features. “Excited to see how this is going to reshape commerce in India, where TikTok rules over Instagram.”
What Potnis forsees as India gets comfortable with buying and paying online — local influencers upping the ante for TikTok.