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TikTok’s impact in Nigeria: A catalyst for creative expression and social responsibility

TikTok has effectively broken down traditional barriers within the creative industry, which has enabled young Nigerians to accumulate a significant following and gain financial and creative independence.

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In the dynamic landscape of social media, TikTok has emerged as a transformative force, especially within the vibrant context of Nigeria. Fostering creativity, community engagement, and even contributing to the democratic process, TikTok has etched its mark on the nation. In an exclusive interview with Kirk Leigh, publisher of Abuja Politico, TikTok’s Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, Government Relations and Public Policy Director, SSA, sheds light on the platform’s influence, its role in reshaping the content business, empowering a young demographic, and its commitment to social responsibility, unveiling the multifaceted dimensions of TikTok’s presence in Nigeria. Excerpts;

What is the level of TikTok penetration in Nigeria compared to the competition (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)?

TikTok has made a significant impact in Nigeria, primarily by fostering active user engagement and nurturing a strong sense of community. With its focus on short-form content, seamless music integration, viral trends, and a diverse user base, TikTok has garnered widespread acceptance in Nigeria. It has played a pivotal role in facilitating community education and enabling creative expression.

In addition to its popularity, TikTok actively empowers creators and the media industry in Nigeria by providing exclusive media and creator workshops and events. This year, TikTok created new avenues for growth by conducting one-to-one sessions, workshops, and events in Lagos and Abuja. These initiatives aim to promote platform usage, share case studies, and offer valuable TikTok insights, further strengthening its presence and influence in the region. The platform remains a billion monthly active users strong across the globe.

How has TikTok impacted the content business in Nigeria?

The platform’s format is immersive and easy to use, which means there are lower barriers to entry in the content creation business. It serves as a stage where individuals with talent, passion, and creativity can shine, as evidenced by creators like Guchi, Kie_kie_ _, Sydney Talker, and many others. Guchi, for example, didn’t need traditional promotional tools that musicians ordinarily used before to amplify her voice; her talent and consistency on TikTok spoke for itself. Turning to TikTok as part of her music release strategy gave her the edge, introducing her to audiences not only in Nigeria but to the rest of the world. Creators like Kie_kie_ _ and Sydney Talker connect directly with their audience, expressing their talents and passions on TikTok. These creators have been able to amplify their voices through beneficial brand partnerships and building reputable personal brands.

TikTok is a catalyst for the rise of authentic user-generated content trends in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa, which is undeniable. Its rapid growth, viral nature, and culture of authenticity make it stand out in the digital space. What makes TikTok particularly distinctive is its capacity to transform a single piece of content into a cultural moment, which presents exciting opportunities for content creators and brands.

TikTok looks more like a tool to promote content creators in entertainment and sports. How can creators outside of these sets maximize it?

TikTok caters to a diverse user base, encompassing thriving online communities, including fashion, beauty, music, books, DIY, nature, food, and many more. Users often engage with creators who have harnessed the power of TikTok to share their talents and passions with a global audience. It’s not limited to entertainment and sports; anyone with a unique talent or interest can maximize TikTok’s reach to connect with their audience.

We continue to celebrate various creators on the TikTok Africa Newsroom in various content categories, including creators such as:
▪ CattyHopcy – Fashion creator
▪ StyleByDamie – Fashion Creator
▪ HildaBaci – Food Creator
▪ Official Guchi – Artist/Music Creator

There is a community for everyone on TikTok. According to TikTok’s Global Entertainment Study, TikTok is one-and-a-half times more likely to help users explore new communities and content. It gets people out of their bubbles.

There are a range of communities on TikTok, from #GardenTok, #CleanTok, #FinTok, #DogTok, #TravelTok, #FoodTok, and a whole lot more, so our platform is not limited to entertainment and sports.

Nigeria has a young population. Has TikTok been able to support this demography to help them with gainful employment?

TikTok has been instrumental in levelling the creative playing field, providing a platform for creators, independent artists, and emerging talents to gain visibility alongside established acts. Through viral trends and challenges, lesser-known musicians and creative individuals have the opportunity to catapult themselves to stardom, effectively breaking down traditional barriers within the creative industry. This has enabled young Nigerians to accumulate a significant following, represent prestigious brands in Africa and globally, and gain financial and creative independence.

We run an always-on programme called #LevelUpAfrica. Launched in 2021, this initiative has already impacted the careers of hundreds of talented Nigerian content creators, leading to an inspiring and nurturing community. Through the TikTok #LevelUpAfrica programme, we continue cultivating creators’ voices and unlocking valuable economic opportunities, allowing them to cultivate their personal brands and explore potential collaborations and partnerships.

Creators on TikTok can also use innovative tools such as LIVE Gifting. When a creator has access to TikTok LIVE, viewers can send them Gifts when they go LIVE. Gifts are a fun way viewers can show they like a creator’s content, express their personality with unique or specialized reactions, and interact with the content they enjoy.

Abuja Politico understands that TikTok designed a campaign to help the democratic process in Nigeria during the last election. Is that a form of social responsibility? What informed such a civic endeavour?

TikTok is a home for entertainment, connection, and expression. While that often means light-hearted creative expression, it can also include topics that impact the lives of our community, including political or election-related content. We welcome all expressions that fit within our Community Guidelines, which are designed to help us keep TikTok a safe and welcoming place for everyone.

We are committed to combatting the spread of misinformation on the platform, including supporting our community with education and authoritative information on important public topics like elections. Our goal is always to help TikTok remain a place where authentic content thrives.

Election campaigns are an ongoing commitment we make globally. The platform works closely with experts, NGOs, government bodies, media, corporate organizations, civil societies, and educational institutions. This collaborative effort culminated in the launch of the elections hub in Nigeria as part of its #SaferTogether initiative, in addition to resources such as hashtag PSAs and media literacy programmes. The initiative is geared towards helping Nigerians and global users access factual and authoritative information about elections.

Will we continue to see similar initiatives and in what areas is that likely to happen?

TikTok is dedicated to continuous engagement with diverse stakeholders in Nigeria and globally to counter the misuse of online platforms within the swiftly evolving digital landscape. Our primary goal is to promote positivity and online safety. We are acutely aware of the significance of providing accurate and timely election information to the public, and we are fully committed to sustaining these initiatives.

One such initiative is the #SaferTogether project that was launched in 2022 in Lagos. We collaborated with the Data Scientists Network, to support and encourage increased safety awareness. Through this partnership, DSN conducted in-community workshops with parents, teachers, and guardians in schools in Abuja and Lagos, educating and empowering them to understand the digital world and how they can help young people stay safe online.

Regarding potential areas for collaboration, we are enthusiastic about collaborating closely with journalists to equip them with essential resources and insights for their election coverage. This could encompass sharing verified data, expert analysis, and access to pertinent sources. By forging partnerships with the media, we aim to foster a collaborative approach that encourages accurate and comprehensive reporting during election campaigns.

We firmly believe that such partnerships will elevate the quality of election coverage and contribute to the overall transparency of the democratic process. We remain open to discussions with the media, eagerly exploring potential collaborations and discovering fresh avenues to bolster the dissemination of election information.

Collectively, through these endeavours, we can empower voters with the knowledge required to make well-informed decisions and uphold the fundamental principles of democracy.

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