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  • Writer's pictureWang Runzhi

Unravelling The Reasons and Profound Impact of TikTok's Popularity in Malaysia

Writer: Wang Runzhi

Editor: Ma Wugang


The popularity of the famous short video-sharing platform TikTok has become a cultural phenomenon in Malaysia, attracting the interest of millions of Malaysians. The explosive growth of its popularity in Malaysia can be attributed to a variety of factors, including its short and concise video format, user-friendly design, and good integration of local culture. It has had a profound impact on Malaysians’ social life, entertainment ways and consumption models.


(Logo of TikTok.Photo source:Freepik)


According to data from the statistics website Statista, in 2023, the total potential reach of advertising in TikTok in Malaysia was around 19.3 million users, a 32 percent increase compared to the previous year. The platform has more than 22 million monthly active users, each spending an average of more than two hours per day. Based on the forecast, the number of TikTok users in Malaysia will reach 21 million by 2027.


The success of TikTok in Malaysia is inseparable from the widespread popularity of short videos. The simplicity of these videos fits perfectly with the fast-paced nature of modern life, capturing the attention of users looking for quick and engaging content. With average attention spans shrinking, TikTok's short videos offer a quick and efficient form of entertainment that can be effortlessly consumed during short breaks or commutes.


"I like to learn about different kinds of interesting things by watching short videos on TikTok. Especially when I am under pressure from studying, it is a good way to relax. And the videos on TikTok are all short, unlike watching TV dramas or films, TikTok provides me with a more flexible way of entertainment," said Shi Yiting, a third-year psychology student from Taylor's University.


(Video playing page.Photo source: TikTok)


TikTok's meteoric rise can also be attributed to its ability to tap into an individual's desire for creativity. With just a few taps on their smartphones, users can record and upload short videos, typically lasting 15 to 60 seconds. These videos can be enhanced with creative filters, effects and music, allowing users to showcase their talents and interesting lives in a visually engaging way.


"I have been using TikTok for a long time. Besides watching videos on it, I sometimes post videos to record and show my life. It always makes me very happy to be appreciated and affirmed by strangers."'said Rozaidi Abu Bakai, a loyal user and creator of TikTok.


Additionally, TikTok's localized content has played a vital role in its popularity. The platform incorporates Malaysia's rich cultural heritage and diverse traditions, with creators developing content that celebrates the country's music, dance, fashion and food. TikTok has also become an important platform for Malaysians to voice their opinions on social issues, spark meaningful discussions and promote positive change.


(People celebrate Malaysia's 61st Independence Day on TikTok.Photo source: Budiey)


Commercially, TikTok has capitalised on this growing trend, using its large user base to attract brands and businesses. In Malaysia, businesses, brands and influencers have recognized the huge potential of TikTok as a marketing tool. Many companies have taken advantage of TikTok’s advertising capabilities and partnered with it to effectively reach their target audience and pay TikTok heavily for this purpose. In addition, a large number of Malaysians also turn to TikTok for product recommendations and generate a lot of consumption.


The success of TikTok in Malaysia has also had a profound impact on the local entertainment industry. Talented individuals who struggled to break into mainstream media now find a platform where they can showcase their talent and gain recognition. Musicians, comedians, and actors use TikTok's massive reach and viral potential to build dedicated fan bases and attract industry attention.


However, TikTok's success in Malaysia has not been without challenges. While providing people with opportunities and information, such an open platform sometimes has false information to mislead people.


“Now a lot of people want to be TikTok influencers and get information through TikTok.But people need to be aware that it sometimes may have some misinformation. I hope people can improve their media literacy, which will help them use this resource better,” said Dr Arina Anis Azlan, a senior lecturer of media communication from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.


In addition, Concerns have been raised about user privacy and the potential for harmful content to spread on the platform. TikTok has been actively taking steps to address these issues, such as strengthening its content moderation policies and providing users with reporting tools to flag inappropriate content. The platform's commitment to creating a safe and responsible digital environment is critical to its continued success.


“I think this kind of risk exists in any social media. It still depends on the users themselves and they should be cautious about the information they post. For example, don’t easily post your residential address and so on,” said Dr Arina Anis Azlan.


As TikTok continues to penetrate Malaysia's digital landscape, its influence continues to grow. The platform's ability to entertain, inspire and connect has made it an integral part of Malaysian culture, transcending geographical boundaries and creating a sense of unity among its users, with a profound impact on different aspects of social life in Malaysia.


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