The Importance of Trending Sounds on TikTok
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The Importance of Trending Sounds on TikTok

Movement Strategy

Feb 28, 2022 10 minutes read

They’re earworms.

They get stuck in your head and you find yourself walking into every room exclaiming MATERIAL GWORL!

They’re also a secret language.

When I bring in the groceries and say to my lounging wife I don’t even have time for my love life, to see my family, I’m working, she knows precisely what I mean. I fear the day I repeat one of these sounds to non-Tok’ing friends who have zero clue what the hell I’m saying. Because, reader, it will happen.

What differentiates TikTok from other social platforms is exactly this phenomenon: the trending sounds. 


What is a TikTok sound?

Before I got TikTok (hard to remember a time), I’d hear the same sounds over and over again thinking that my wife was just replaying the same video on loop. But once immersed, I understood TikTok’s remix culture, that most videos are riffs on the same phrase/sound, just interpreted in new ways. TikTok sounds could be anything from an iconic line of TV dialogue to a song lyric from a popular artist to an unearthed gem from pop culture history. And when these sounds are used over and over again, they become a trending sound. Trending sounds allow users to collaborate with each other by building upon a sound to put their own spin on it. And if you can reinterpret a trending sound in a new way and make it your own, it’s very likely you’ll find success. 

How important is sound on TikTok?

TikTok’s “sound-on” approach is what makes it so special. And according to a study done by Kantar, it’s also very important to a TikTok’s success. The research showed that 88% of TikTok users said that sound is essential to the TikTok experience.

And Kylie Ladd, one of Movement’s Senior Data & Insights Strategists, added her own insight on what this might indicate:

Our preferences as users are moving beyond just image sharing (like Instagram) to a richer, more immersive experience. And that’s what sound does [on TikTok]. 


What makes a sound go viral?

Kylie had a few insights about common themes amongst top sounds: 

First, you have trending songs which work because they’re catchy, fun and popular. 

This article from Tech Times lays out the top songs of 2021. Most of these were connected to “TikTok dances” – essentially viral choreography users created for these songs that then get repeated, like here or here. If you have rhythm, hopping on these dances are a great way to engage. But if you don’t, like myself… well, just another reason to be thankful I’m not a high schooler in 2021.

Beyond that, there’s a strong truth in relatability aspect to a lot of sounds. They manage to capture a sentiment that others have struggled to accurately describe but relate to strongly.

My opinion, as an unhinged person, is that these sounds allow you to heighten the stakes by being as dramatic as possible. My personal favorites are this and this. TikTok loves chaos. Who doesn’t?

As a brand/user, is it worth it to jump on trending sounds?

The Kantar study seems to think so, as the study reports that: 73% of respondents said they would “stop and look” at ads on TikTok with audio, which is significantly higher than the rate on any other platform. So how can brands take advantage of trending sounds? Kylie has a few thoughts:

Being one of the first to react to a trending sound can be a huge advantage in itself. Being nimble and having a little creativity can go a long way to making a trending sound successful from a brand standpoint.

Utilizing the Discover page is a great way to see which sounds are trending.

The experts say that TikTok is here to stay, so if you want to find success on the growing social platform, engaging with trending sounds is the ticket. And if you need some advice on how, heed the advice of one of my favorite Toks: Let’s stay playful together.


We’re ready when you are.

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