TikTok reported a fivefold increase in revenue to $1bn (£875m) across its operations in international markets, including the UK and Europe last year, as trendsetters teenagers and young adults continue to the video sharing platform the most popular social app of the moment.
Financial filings for Chinese-owned TikTok UK, which also covers operations in countries including Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Colombia, show its popularity with audiences is quickly translating into a boom in advertising and e-commerce.
Turnover rose 477% from $171 million in 2020 to $990 million last year with the UK and Europe accounting for more than 80% of the total, according to a Companies House filing.
In the UK, turnover jumped from $51.8 million to $279 million, making TikTok a bigger paperweight than Snapchat and almost on a par with Twitter, according to data from Insider Intelligence.
“The increase was primarily driven by the continued growth of our user base and improved monetization tools to improve advertisers’ experience and ad performance,” the company said.
The company hit 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 said the company has since passed the 1.5 billion user mark.
The rise of TikTok, fueled by great moments at the height of the pandemic – like Idaho worker Nathan Apodaca skateboarding along to Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams, which pushed the band’s Rumors album back into the Top 10, four decades on after the release – has struck fear into Silicon Valley’s established tech giants.
Facebook, which owns Meta, which TikTok is winning in the battle for the most coveted demographic of social media users aged 18 to 25, has launched a copycat product called Reels to defend its turf.
But the scramble for growth means heavy spending, and TikTok UK reported nearly doubling its “sales and marketing” spend to $666 million in 2021.
The financial filing also shows the company is on a hiring spree, with its UK operation more than doubling in size from 669 to 1,554 people, 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 payroll jumped from $121 million in 2020 to $391 million and total losses jumped to $900 million.
More than four-fifths of TikTok UK’s $990 million annual turnover came from online advertising last year, with the remainder mainly coming from live streaming and e-commerce. The company has a virtual “currency” that users can buy and spend in-app.
TikTok continues to face suspicions that its ownership by Chinese company ByteDance means it could pose a national security threat.
Donald Trump’s administration tried to force ByteDance to sell its international operations to a US company, but that stalled after it lost the US presidential election.
Two years ago, India, one of the world’s biggest markets for social media use, banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok.