TikTok holds the record for being the fastest growing social media platform. Launched in 2016, the app has amassed over 2 billion downloads and was also the most downloaded app in 2020.
What started as a Gen-Z dominated lip-syncing app has quickly become a global hub for businesses to connect with their customers. With 689 million global active users, the platform presents massive potential for exposure, and now, many business owners are starting to realise that they could be missing out on this major marketing opportunity.
However, TikTok is so different from other social media sites that it has uniquely become synonymous with viral internet challenges. TikTok’s virality forced Instagram to launch Reels and YouTube to launch Short, as these sites attempted to catch up with the short video craze.
So, how is TikTok different from other social media channels? And is it right for your business? Let’s start with the basics.
TikTok is a social media platform for creating, sharing and discovering short videos. Users can film and share videos of themselves lip-syncing or dancing. Videos (or TikToks) can be as long as 15 seconds, 30 seconds, and more recently three minutes.
The platform also has video editing and customisation tools - users can add songs, effects and filters to their videos. And with the duet feature, collaborations are only a few clicks away.
The ‘For You’ Page (FYP) is the main reason why millions are addicted to TikTok. As the app’s content discovery feed, this page presents the primary timeline on the app and is how people find new content.
TikTok is driven by a unique algorithm that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to populate the FYP with the most optimal content to show a particular user.
To determine your interests, the app tracks which types of videos you primarily interact with. For example, if you like, comment, or share clips that centre on skincare then you’ll see more videos about this on your feed.
The algorithm also establishes relationships based on different videos that the same users interact with.
In contrast to other social networking channels that are primarily built on connections between people who know each other in real life, TikTok focuses on optimising the content you see.
Online video consumption continues to rise globally, and videos are a great way to tell your brand story. Videos could include tutorials, product demonstrations and answering FAQs, for example. Just remember that TikTok users want to be entertained and inspired.
Most of TikTok’s content is light-hearted and entertaining, with people expressing themselves in creative, and often funny ways. While you might be a company that sells serious products or services, using the platform to showcase your brand has some great advantages.
According to Sprout Social, 64% of consumers want brands to connect with them, so using TikTok to build relationships with your customers will make them feel more comfortable entering into a long-term partnership with you.
TikTok’s engagement rate is stronger than on other leading platforms, and as a business, you cannot overlook this. The average user spends 52 minutes per day on the app, and this increased screen time means that there’s ample opportunity for companies to reach their consumers.
Whether you’re a clothing brand or restaurant, there’s space for anyone to increase visibility for their products or services. And due to the app’s unique delivery algorithms, you’re able to get higher engagement on your videos with much less effort.
With 850 million downloads in 2020, TikTok is the most downloaded app in Apple’s iOS App Store. This puts the platform ahead of others that have been around for much longer, like Twitter and Snapchat, making it an ideal place to reach a global audience.
TikTok is the second most popular platform for influencer marketing, with an engagement rate of nearly 18% with micro-influencers, (a significant lead on Instagram’s 3.86% and YouTube’s 1.63% engagement rates).
So, it presents a limitless pool of influencers that have experience in creating content that appeals to users on the platform. Brands can collaborate with influencers to create content that promotes their brand or become the face of their brand.
The TikTok Creator Marketplace is an analytics tool that helps brands find users to collaborate with, and it lets you access the influencers’ engagement reach, demographics, views and more.
TikTok videos are generally short, customisable, and can be repurposed across all of your social media channels. If you’re still trying to build your community across multiple platforms, you have the option of sending that TikTok video directly to your Instagram Stories. You could also publish it on your website.
However, it’s important to convey the same message on each channel. While TikTok may be ideal for lighthearted content, having images and messaging that differ completely may be confusing when someone encounters you on another platform or visits your company website.
You can also pay to get a prime spot in TikTok, allowing you to increase your reach to users who might not be following you. Ads are new to TikTok, but there are numerous options to get you started. They’re customisable, so you can target who you want. The ad formats include:
In-feed video: Your ad shows as another post on the feed of your target users. Like Instagram story ads, users can click through to a URL landing page, app download or your TikTok page.
Top-View: Video ads that appear as a full-screen takeover for 5 to 6 seconds when users open the app.
Brand Takeovers: With this ad type, your business can take over TikTok for the day. You can create images and videos with embedded links to landing pages, or hashtag challenges. With this option users can not like or comment on the ad.
Hashtag Challenge: You can use promoted hashtags to get more engagement from users.
Branded Effects: Branded stickers, filters and special effects to get TikTokers interacting with your brand.
The platform is very popular among Gen Z and some Millennials. But if your target audience is mainly Gen X (41 to 56 years old) or Boomers (57 to 75), maybe your efforts would be better used elsewhere. Why? Because they are less likely to use TikTok.
Statista shares that in the UK in 2021, the largest group using TikTok is aged 18-24 (26%) and only a combined total of 7.2% of smartphone users aged 45 and overuse the app.
Whether TikTok is right for your business also depends on your brand. While it’s great for fashion brands, for example, it might not be the right choice if your core business operates in the human resource and staffing field.
Statista revealed some of the popular content categories on TikTok, by the number of hashtag views (in billions). These include entertainment, dance, pranks, sports and fitness, home renovation and DIY, beauty and skincare, recipe, lifehacks, pets and outdoor.
*As of July 2020, the most popular content categories on TikTok all have over 1 billion views, with the most viewed hashtag being entertainment. This category gained 535 billion hashtag views.
One of the advantages of using TikTok is that you don’t need to create high-quality, professionally filmed and edited videos - you can just use your smartphone.
But despite the advantage of high engagement on the platform, your business needs to come up with fun and engaging ideas, and your content needs to be original.
This type of content isn’t going to be possible for all businesses, and in some cases, it just won’t match with your product or your brand.
Ultimately, you need to ensure that all the marketing platforms you use are aligned with your business goals and your brand strategy. If your business is very serious, and your marketing is focused on providing in-depth blog posts or research papers, for example, then a TikTok hashtag challenge probably won’t be appropriate.
Linked to the point above, part of a brand embracing a platform is knowing when it’s not a fit, and not forcing it when it isn’t.
For example, not every brand is built to meme, and it’s important that you don’t underestimate your social audience, who are more aware and educated than ever, particularly when it comes to ad content. It could do serious damage to your brand if your target audience feels that your TikTok videos are ‘cringe’ due to a lack of respect for the quality of the content.
Our Social Media Executive, Helena, shares that:
‘As a business, you have to do whatever it takes to create content that will help you build trust with your audience. Otherwise, this can raise red flags, ultimately damaging your brand’s reputation among your target audience.’
A few months ago, many businesses would have laughed at the idea of TikTok being a brand opportunity. But today, it’s the fastest growing platform in the world, creating influencers by the minute, and there are reasons to be optimistic about TikTok marketing. Everyone in digital marketing, regardless of if they work for an SEO company, a PPC one or a digital PR agency, needs to pay attention to growing social platforms like TikTok.
Ignoring opportunities, hopping on trends too late, or even adopting trends that don’t suit your brand - none of these actions are strategic. As social media is ever-evolving, it’s important to keep an eye on the latest trends and decide whether TikTok is a good fit for your business and your overall brand image.