Almost half of adults on TikTok have never posted a video, research shows

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Adults on TikTok lean camera-shy, a new study from Pew Research Center suggests. A survey of 2,745 adults who use TikTok revealed that 48% of respondents have never posted a video, and a typical user hasn’t even updated their bio.

It’s not abnormal to prefer lurking to making original content on social media. In fact, early researchers of social media coined the “1% rule” to explain how we engage on platforms. The idea was that 1% of people create online content, about 10% will engage with the content, and the remainder of people will view it. This concept is a bit outdated — it was proposed in 2006, when YouTube was only a year old, and TikTok wouldn’t launch for over a decade. But the prevailing idea holds true: it’s significantly more common to lurk online than it is to post. Just think, how many of your friends watch YouTube, and how many of them post videos?

Researchers could have expected to find that a lot of TikTok users wouldn’t post often, but the degree to which that is true is surprising. The lead author of the study, Samuel Bestaver, told TechCrunch that “the level of non-posting on TikTok is really quite shocking” when compared with other platforms. Another study from Pew in 2021 showed that about half of U.S. adults on Twitter posted five or fewer times a month. But on TikTok, about the same percentage of users didn’t post at all.

Lurking on TikTok may be more common than lurking on Twitter because it’s less intimidating to write a short thought than to record a video — you’d never feel the need to put on makeup before tweeting. From the TikTok research, the top 25% most active posters were responsible for 98% of all public videos. The previous study on Twitter reveals a nearly identical statistic, showing that the top 25% posters produced 97% of all tweets. 

The study also found that age wasn’t necessarily a factor in assessing adults’ TikTok posting habits. Participants aged 18-34 are more likely to use TikTok in the first place than those aged 35-49, but in both age groups, about half of users never posted. Another finding showed that 85% of TikTok users say they find the content on their For You page to be at least somewhat interesting. People who post on TikTok skewed more towards finding their algorithmic feeds to be very interesting.

This research arrives as a third of U.S. adults say that they use TikTok; among the 18- to 34-year-old demographic, that percentage jumps to 56%. As the short video platform attracts a larger user base, TikTok and its content creators assume a greater responsibility. More people are using TikTok as a news source than ever, in a time when traditional news outlets are shrinking. Over the last three years, the percent of U.S. adults who say they get news from TikTok has more than quadrupled to 14%.

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