When you first start marketing on TikTok, it can feel like you’re on another planet. Not only is it a strange new social media world, but for many, it’s also a new style of short format video.
It’s a lot to get used to and TikTok is only growing bigger (as of September 2021, it surpassed 1 billion users), so in this post we’ll be laying out the foundational knowledge you need to make decisions about marketing on this new video channel.
By the end, you’ll understand:
BrainDo’s resident TikTok expert, Ariel Washington, can understand some brands’ hesitancy about TikTok. “Marketing on TikTok can feel scary because it gives brands the least amount of control of choice in targeted audience, and the trends move fast.”
But she also advises not to get overwhelmed by the algorithm. It’s not that hard to figure out. “TikTok videos don’t take much to make and it’s easier to go ‘viral’ than other platforms, so it’s a tradeoff that can pay really well.”
The key, she says, is creating the type of content that connects with your audience. If you do it right, no other platform can provide close to the return on investment.
The reason why is simple — it connects to people on a deeper level than other platforms.
Let’s find out why and then take a look at some successful tactics to start you off.
To understand the draw of TikTok, it’s important to understand where it came from.
TikTok is a social media platform based on short video clips. It was first launched as Musical.ly in 2014 as an app for making lip-syncing videos. The Chinese tech firm, Bytedance, purchased Musical.ly in 2016 and then reintroduced it as Doyin in China and TikTok throughout the rest of the world.
It’s now the world’s most visited site for short-format videos, most of which come in between 15 and 60 seconds. They come with playful filters, effects, and notably lip-syncing abilities and social media audiences have flocked to them creating a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of authentic and entertaining user-made videos.
Both educational material and entertaining content are popular. Subjects range from beauty, cooking, politics, sports, entertainment, finance, pets, and more.
TikTok has spawned its own breed of channel-specific influencers, who enjoy much higher engagement rates than those on other social media outlets but there are others. Here are the different types of TikTok influencers:
TikTok is a community like Facebook and Instagram, a video scrolling app like YouTube, a place to go to find answers and learn like Reddit. It’s a new kind of social media and it’s a force you can no longer ignore.
You can Google any number of statistics about marketing on TikTok, but Washington points out this jaw-dropper: TikTok ranks #2 in the top mobile apps by consumer spend on in-app purchases (see: conversions), according to mobile analytics app AppAnnie.
“Now consider this: Facebook and Instagram don’t even rank, it beats YouTube and Netflix and is only outranked by Tinder,” Washington says.
Research from June 2020 shows that the TikTok brand is now recognized by 89% of Americans, with 100 million monthly active users – that’s an 800% increase from January 2018.
Washington breaks it down even further.
“Today, TikTok is the most downloaded social media app and the 7th most used social network in the world. It’s not just TikTok itself that’s catching on; short video format, in general, has taken over – YouTube’s “Shorts” have 3.5 billion views a day. And if that’s not enough to convince you, “TikTok” and “Tik Tok” together are the 3rd most popular search term on YouTube, which is itself the world’s second-largest search engine!”
TikTok isn’t blowing up anymore. It has exploded, and a new world is coming to come to life in the aftermath. Imagine it’s Facebook 2007. Instagram 2012. In 2021, 14% of marketers are using their budget on TikTok, but there are millions of potential customers on it ready to hear from you.
The question for you is will you plant your seed now so you can grow big and tall, or will you wait till there’s a forest around you, blocking the light and making it harder to grow?
Sure, the numbers are tempting enough to make your inner Mr. Burns laugh with delight, but is YOUR audience actually on TikTok? Chances are pretty good!
TikTok may be the youngest of the major social media apps, but don’t make the mistake of passing it off as a Gen Z-only community.
“The TikTok of today is not the TikTok of 2017 or even 2019. During the pandemic, Gen Z shared TikTok with their Millennial and Gen X relatives, and now you can find content for all age groups,” Washington explains.
The numbers don’t lie. While 47% of users are between the ages of 10-29, users aged 30-49 account for 42% of all users, according to consumer marketing data provider, Statista.
TikTokers are not aging out of the platform either, so as Gen Z grows into their mid-20s, they’re keeping TikTok around. They’re also not ditching it for the alternatives, though they may be on more than one short-format video platform.
TikTok is a growing community and it’s more likely than ever your audience is on it or will be soon.
Tip: To find a viable audience on TikTok, search for hashtags or influencers relevant to your industry. To build the audience, interaction is key.
If you’re thinking about TikTok, chances are you’re also looking at Instagram Reels. Choosing can be confusing because they both look the same. You might think just because you’re already on Instagram that you can do Reels and cross-post.
Sometimes that is true; more likely it isn’t. The table below explains the difference from a marketing perspective.
|TikTok vs. Reels for Marketers|
|TikTok is better for reaching new audiences organically. Users on TikTok do not need to follow you to see your content. If the content is good and relevant, it will appear on their discovery pages (For You page, aka FYP) no matter if they follow you or not.||Reels are better for communicating to your current audience organically, and Reels get primarily seen by your current followers. Even though you can still hashtag videos for discovery, “Ig-ers” rarely use this feature.|
|Paid media targeting is limited, with only a few options for demographic targeting outside of your core following.||Paid media targeting is sophisticated, with many options for demographic targeting outside of your core following.|
|TikTok videos are more spontaneous and rougher around the edges.||Reels are more polished and produced.|
“Many marketers choose to use both since they reach different audiences and serve different messaging purposes, but you have to line up your goals with the platform to get the results you want,” counsels Washington.
As fun as TikTok is, at the end of the day, you need a business case for your investment, and Washington share sees at least three major ways brands can make a return on the money spent.
There are fewer gatekeepers to who sees your content, so it will spread regardless of your account’s rank, following, or other metrics if the content is good. Bottom line: It’s easier to get more eyeballs on your content organically.
TikTok’s high engagement is a key metric because it measures the health of your relationship with your audience. Bottom line: Engagement increases the chances they’ll take a ride through your sales funnel.
The entertaining, informational, and emotional content favored by TikTokers is the best way to show your audience that you understand who they are as people (not just prospects). Bottom line: If you use TikTok to entertain and inform your audience, they’ll bond with you on an emotional level, stick with you for longer, and spread your message.
TikTok is always changing and there are few rules. The trends that exist can still be broken. It’s possible that you could discover even more for your investment. It might be more followers on your other accounts or that you connected with just the right customer who opened up new doors to growth.
“If you approach TikTok as a long-term strategy built on a foundation of smaller campaigns, you can test many different KPIs,” says Washington.
Marketing to the TikTok community isn’t the same as Facebook or Instagram, and the same tactics you use for other social media types won’t necessarily work with short format videos.
Once you get a feel for your TikTok crew, you can try almost anything with them, but Washington has a few recommendations to get you started:
Hashtags are one of the top ways content gets found on TikTok, so it makes sense to produce content that targets hashtags relevant to your industry or product. Hashtag marketing is similar on other platforms like Instagram, but hashtags carry more weight on TikTok since it is one of the primary ways users find content. So, find the same hashtags your target audience is following and create relevant content.
TikTok is one place where jumping on the bandwagon is rewarded. When a trend erupts, like transitions, make a video from your brand’s POV and ride the wave of views.
Music really sets TikTok apart because it is one of the main ways users discover content. When a song is on brand and trending, you can make a video to draw a new audience into your funnel. TikTok recently created a library of pre-licensed songs just for businesses, and there are a variety of sound controls and filters that let you take your creativity to the next level.
Of all the social media platforms, Influencer marketing is most impactful on TikTok. Find the right influencer and access neatly crafted audiences receptive to your product. With over 393,000 influences on TikTok in the U.S. alone, finding the right one can be difficult. You can partner with micro-influencers (under 750,000 followers), who have small niche followings and high trust factors, or macro and celebrity influencers (750,000+) who can reach vast audiences but may have less authenticity.
Influencer partnerships also introduce a way to take part in TikTok without having to focus too much on cultivating your own feed.
TikTok rewards users who post most frequently with higher visibility on the For You page (FYP). Not every video will go viral or garner a predictable amount of views, likes, and comments like Instagram. TikTok is more unpredictable, and one video can do the work of 20, so don’t worry if everything you post doesn’t float to the top.
Most people go onto TikTok to be entertained. In fact, a survey by GlobalWebIndex showed that a majority of viewers seek humorous content. TikTok is where you loosen up and have some fun.
Enlist the most creative minds that align with your brand on alluring and entertaining content. Partner with an artist, designer, or other creative to develop content that will leave your audience with their jaws on the ground.
TikTok recently launched ads, which should cause all marketers to rejoice! There are five options:
You can use many tactics to get your message heard on TikTok; it just depends on your strategy.
“You are only as good as the content you create,” Washington says.
She notes that while TikTok videos don’t usually require polish, they still take some strategic thinking and someone who knows how to produce the type of videos that people on TikTok want to watch.
For example, this TikTok transition video Washington produced for Claire’s Fashions.
These “transitions” are popular form of TikTok video where the scene stays the same except for a few objects, portraying a sense of magically appearing or transforming. They aren’t really part of the culture of other social media channels but are a huge part of TikTok. And they take a little know-how to perfect.
Mastery of TikTok content creation takes time and many brands have realized this, choosing to collaborate with dedicated TikTok creators such as Washington.
Looking down at that TikTok creator page is intimidating. You know it’s a pathway to groups of people who want your message, but it’s unlike anything else you’ve done before. Your mind draws a blank. Or you have so many ideas but no idea how to make them happen.
So how to start?
First, find where your audience hangs out and pay attention to the content that makes them engage. Figure out why this audience will be interested in your brand. Establish how you want to communicate your value proposition to your target audience.
Ask friends who have done it successfully and explore working with professionals. Even though basic TikTok content is fairly easy to produce (just upload a video, add a song and presto!), it still takes time, focus, and strategy to make viral, sticky, mesmerizing TikTok magic happen. A little investment in ads, content management, and other engaging marketing campaigns can pay off big time.
We’d love to hear from you! Drop us a note if you’re thinking about starting a TikTok marketing campaign and let us if you have any questions.