TikTok has reported a five-fold surge in turnover to $1bn (£875m) across its operations in international markets including the UK and Europe last year, as trend-setting teens and young adults continue to make the video-sharing platform the hottest social app of the moment.
Financial filings for Chinese-owned TikTok UK, which also covers operations in countries such as Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Colombia, shows that its popularity with the public is rapidly translating into an advertising and e-commerce boom.
Turnover soared by 477% from $171m in 2020 to $990m last year with the UK and Europe accounting for more than 80% of the total, according to a filing at Companies House.
In the UK, turnover jumped from $51.8m to $279m, making TikTok a bigger advertising drawcard than Snapchat and almost level with Twitter, according to data from Insider Intelligence.
“The increase was primarily driven by the continued growth of our user base and enhanced monetisation tools to improve advertisers’ experience and ad performance,” the company said.
The company landed its billionth monthly user last year, four years after its global launch, half the time it took Facebook, YouTube or Instagram, and three years faster than WhatsApp. Analysts at data.ai have said the company has since passed the 1.5bn user mark.
The rise of TikTok, fuelled by uber-cool moments at the height of the pandemic – such as Idaho labourer Nathan Apodaca skateboarding along lip-syncing to Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, which pushed the band’s Rumours album back into the Top 10, four decades after its release – has struck fear into the established Silicon Valley tech giants.
Meta-owned Facebook, which TikTok is beating in the battle for the most-coveted demographic of 18-to-25-year-old social media users, has launched a copycat product called Reels to defend its turf.
However, the race for growth means heavy spending and TikTok UK reported an almost doubling of “selling and marketing” expenses to $666m in 2021.
The financial filing also shows that the company is on a hiring spree, with its UK operation more than doubling in size from 669 to 1,554 staff, and the overall wider group of regions and countries covered by TikTok UK saw numbers rise from 1,302 to 4,396.
As a result, TikTok UK’s wage and salary bill soared from $121m in 2020 to $391m and overall losses ballooned to $900m.
More than four-fifths of TikTok UK’s $990m annual turnover came from online advertising last year, with the remainder mostly coming from live streaming and e-commerce. The company has a virtual “coin” users can buy and spend in-app.
TikTok continues to be dogged by suspicions that its ownership by Chinese company ByteDance means it could pose a national security threat.
Donald Trump’s administration attempted to force ByteDance to sell its international operations to a US firm, but this petered out after he lost the US presidential election.
Two years ago, India, one of the world’s biggest markets for social media usage, banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok.