September 9, 2021
12 Min Read
Snapchat, Instagram, step aside. The social media channel that everyone is talking about is now TikTok.
With over 2 billion downloads worldwide, there’s no denying TikTok's popularity. Yet, if you’re over the age of 30, there’s a bigger chance you’ve not used it – and this includes marketers. Designed for – and still dominated by – the younger population (aged 16 to 24), TikTok is the social platform on which users share short videos that are homemade, fun, and responsive to viral trends and challenges.
If, on a platform like Instagram, profiles are impeccably curated, TikTok offers much more personable content. And where familiar channels often feel saturated with sponsored content, TikTok still remains reasonably ad-free – and users are much less tolerant of content that tries too hard to sell.
For marketers, then, TikTok poses a challenge. Yet, with its massive international audience and opportunities for viral content, it’s a challenge that digital marketers and social media specialists need to embrace. The returns from marketing on TikTok can be enormous.
Here, Traktion has put together a guide for brands – B2C and, surprisingly, B2B too – who want to succeed at TikTok marketing. More than anything, that means knowing your audience, your content, and the influencers you want to work with.
TikTok has taken the world by storm since its worldwide release in August 2018. The latest official data shows 500 million active monthly users worldwide, while more recent estimates put that at nearly a billion. It was 2019’s most downloaded app on Google Play and Apple Store, and one of the most downloaded app of the last decade – despite not being around for most of it.
These numbers should be enough to catch a marketer’s eye. Yet, that’s not the only reason your brand should care about TikTok. Here's 3 big reasons why.
👶 Young, engaged audiences. Young people drive social media adoption, and TikTok is no exception. Data from 2019 shows 68% of users are aged 24 and under. While these numbers are on the move, TikTok remains youth-driven – and with a heavily engaged audience. In the US alone, 100 million users use the app every day. If that demographic is your brand’s audience, you might be onto a winner.
🌎 Global reach. TikTok bucks the social media trend in one key respect: its usership is truly global. After China, India and Brazil make up its biggest markets, and it’s available in another 150 countries too. For brands with global ambitions, using TikTok for marketing may be a wise move to enter new markets swiftly.
⚙️ Sophisticated marketing tools. Ad features were only added to the platform at the beginning of 2019. With new paid content opportunities, analytics tools, and a marketplace for brands to link up with creators, there are now many options that can make your life easier as a marketer.
Yet, crucially, TikTok is not for everyone. As paid ads on TikTok are reasonably new – and still scarce relative to other channels – you may need a larger budget than you have. Meanwhile, if you’re not willing to get a bit silly, you might find that you just don’t fit in.
Now you know a bit more about the channel, let’s talk strategy. TikTok is a particular platform whose audience responds well to particular forms of content. You can’t expect the content you create for other channels to be received well on TikTok, your content has to adapt to the audience.
Here are some best practices – and mistakes to avoid – to get your TikTok marketing moving. We’ll take a look at the three ways you can use TikTok to boost your brand: organic content from your profile; collaborations with influencers; and paid, TikTok-supported ads.
We've said it above and we need to emphasize it again.
TikTok is a channel for light-hearted, fun, and shareable entertainment. It’s not LinkedIn. Nor is it even Facebook or Instagram. Content that is too dry, too heavy, or too polished and corporate is just not going to land well – particularly with those young audiences.
As a result, one of the biggest mistakes brands can make in marketing on TikTok is getting their tone of voice wrong. When brands enter a space in which users want to be entertained, they need to tread carefully. Because the worst thing to happen is not that you are ignored; it’s that you get ridiculed in the comments and lose brand equity. And that’s not a sign of success.
The Washington Post is a brand that has got this right. What is actually a prestigious newspaper has managed to stack up nearly 800k followers on TikTok, and nearly 30 million likes.
How? By losing the seriousness and presenting news in a way that is tongue-in-cheek, self-aware, and actually relevant to their audiences.
Despite having a readership age well-above the median age of TikTok users, the paper has shown itself to be relevant to its future generation of readers, movers and shapers.
One of the ways to avoid the potentially fatal pitfall of try-hard content is to encourage other users to create content for you. Harnessing the power of this user-generated content (UGC) is a must for marketing on a platform on which content is built around challenges, trends, and most of all, tongue-in-cheek humour.
Creating your own brand challenge (and corresponding hashtag) is one of the best ways to build awareness on the platform. Take the food brand, Chipotle, for example. They launched their TikTok presence with their so-called #LidFlipChallenge, which encouraged users to flip the lid of their burrito bowl. It went viral, with 100,000 videos responding in less than a week. Their following challenge #GuacDance did the same. This generated hundreds of millions of views and brand impressions organically.
The point here is that with a successful brand challenge (and hashtag), your content production is outsourced, with 100,000 videos (in Chipotle’s case) pointing back to your product. But to achieve virality, your campaign needs memorability, a clear hashtag, light-hearted humour that resonates with the masses, distinctive audio – and a bit of luck. Linking up with influencers, as Chipotle did, can drive the hashtag trend catching on in the early days too.
Speaking of influencers, TikTok is a platform that values authentic content from individuals values influencers. And spending any time at all on the app will reveal who’s big and who might be worth connecting with.
Yet, as Philip Brown from the Influencer Marketing Academy told us in our conversation about influencer marketing KPIs, the key to using influencers is not just pure reach, but relevance too. Brands should be digging down into the popular hashtags in their niches to find influencers that resonate with their real target audiences.
Kroger is a good example. The American grocery chain sought an audience that wasn’t necessarily their core market – i.e. Gen Z – in order to build awareness and drive sales of the brand’s back-to-school range. By partnering with four TikTok influencers, who posted videos of themselves kitting out their room with Kroger products, Kroger’s hashtag #TransformUrDorm gained nearly a billion views.
TikTok itself now helps to facilitate these relationships, by the way. The TikTok Creator Marketplace helps brands link up with creators in their target niche, and helps you see performance metrics before sealing the deal.
Organic marketing works great on TikTok. Yet, in a bid to monetise their platform, TikTok made paid ad features available in 2019. They still try to keep ads to a minimum however – and as such paid advertising can be a little pricey as a result.
Paid ads can appear in three different ways on the platform – TikTok works directly with brands and agencies to produce this content.
While you don’t need to use paid options, it might be helpful to give organic content the boost it needs to gain traction. If you can afford it, that is. Just remember that, to be successful, your paid content should have all the elements we’ve discussed so far: relevance, fun, and potential for virality.
TikTok might seem like a strange place to try B2B marketing. In many ways, it is – and it certainly isn’t for every B2B brand out there. To make a success of it, remember that your conventional dry marketing content is just not appropriate. You’re not on LinkedIn now – and the audience for which your normal B2B campaigns might work isn’t going to be on TikTok.
However, if your B2B product or service is used by Gen Zs, be it in college or those just starting out in the workplace, you can also create personable content that resonates with your audience.
One of the best practices that B2B brands can bear in mind on TikTok is that, rather than speaking as a brand, it is more effective to speak as a collection of individual humans. Use TikTok to show audiences the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of your business – and have employees, your CEO, or fans of your products do the talking.
Finally, remember that, even in B2B contexts, it is humans that will be looking at your videos – not other ‘businesses’ per se. And these humans like to be entertained just like everyone else.
With TikTok, there is no such thing as evergreen content. The platform lives and breathes trends.
Continually creating content that responds to these trends – or, even better, that starts its own trends – is key to a successful TikTok marketing strategy. Ignoring this, or failing to understand what audiences want to see, can spell disaster.
If there is one mistake that a brand can make on TikTok it is to rest on your laurels. While it is true of all platforms, it is easier to be left behind on the platform than elsewhere: a content production team’s job is never finished when working with TikTok. You need to be following trends, looking around for inspiration, and continuously creating.
Ultimately, users go to TikTok to be entertained.
Despite the brouhaha in the US about TikTok potentially being banned, the platform is still a force to be reckoned with even outside of the US.
And, if you are going to make a success of your presence on the platform, your brand needs to respect this simple rule. Content that oversells – or that fails to entertain – just won’t work. And content that lands poorly can be worse than no content at all.
There’s no obligation to make TikTok a part of your marketing strategy. Yet, with a billion users and growing, it’s really time that your brand considered it as an option.
If you’re looking for a world-class TikTok marketer on a freelance basis, Traktion can help. Our pool of growth specialists are vetted and approved through our data-led checks – and you can use our platform for free to source the best marketing talent on the planet. Find a marketer today.