Over 1 billion people use TikTok every day. It’s a great platform for reaching out to the under-fifty crowd, but I admit I use TikTok too—and am decidedly outside of that demographic. TikTok is one of the newer social media platforms and has been described as what happens when you combine Vine, Twitter, and Instagram.
Short-form video (think one to three minutes) are their stock in trade. They leverage a lot of short music clips a user can use with all the lenses, filters, and other features you might expect from a video-based social media platform. Early adopters were teenagers, so if you have products or services you want to market to Gen Z or a millennial audience they will likely be there. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a strong Gen X presence and maybe even a few Boomers in the mix—there are.
How does TikTok work?
The platform is a truly algorithm-based model. In other words, the things you look at, the creators you follow, and what you like, share, and bookmark are what shows up in your FYP, an acronym for, For Your Page. The algorithm is learning about what you’re interested in every time you log in, so don’t be surprised if what they serve up to you based on the basics of your profile in the beginning is very different from what it becomes over time.
If you’re interested in politics, you’ll see a lot of that. If it’s baseball, gardening, or motorcycles (like me), that’s what you’ll see. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, scroll past it and there will be something else you’ll likely be more interested in. There was a lot of content on my FYP when I first joined the network that I never see now because I scrolled past it and didn’t interact with it.
Nevertheless, as a business or advertiser, you need to be aware that just like every other social network, you need to participate. But keep in mind that authenticity is the key here. Create content that fits with your brand and speaks to who, and what, you really are. And remember, you’ll instantly be sent packing if you come across as not knowing what you're talking about.
Who should use TikTok?
“TikTok can be a great platform for your business– if your target audience is on the platform,” writes Gerri Detweiler. “Some business owners worry that their business might not be visual enough for TikTok, or that they don’t have enough video skills to make professional looking videos, but neither is required.”
According to Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe in their book, The Viral Video Manifesto, it’s not the slick and sexy videos that get produced by high-ticket advertising firms or marketing departments that win the biggest audience, genuine and authentic feeling videos what people respond to the best. This is important to know for a business trying to win an audience and future customers.
If you spend any time watching YouTube videos you probably know these guys, but don’t know that you know them. They were the pair that introduced us to what happens when you dump a bunch of Mentos into a bottle of Coke.
You might be thinking, “It’s easier if you have a visual business like a dress shop, a florist, or a bakery,” but don’t let that stop you. You may just need to think outside the box a little to come up with something creative. One of the companies that appears on my FYP all the time is a body shop where some of the staff participate in one of the current dance or music trends that regularly happen on TikTok. They just do it in the shop amidst all the welders, fenders, and other shop tools, often with other employees looking at them and smiling.
I know their videos have nothing to do with what they offer, but they feel authentic and the people seem really likable. And, since we tend to do business with the people we like, if an advertisement for their shop ever comes up, their customers are more likely to click on it if they like the people promoting the products.
I’m not suggesting this strategy would work for everyone. And, I don’t know how, if at all, these videos help drive sales, but the point is they found a way to participate on the platform that feels authentic for them. You need to decide what will work for you, even if you’re not what would be considered a very “visual” business.
I do know that I’ve purchased things this way from advertisers and creators on TikTok.
Spend some time observing what’s going on and what others are doing on TikTok and you’ll get inspired.
Type of TikTok ads
Like all the other social media platforms, TikTok wants to make it as easy as possible for advertisers and offer a number of different ways to get your message in front of those who might genuinely be interested in what you have to offer.
TopView Ads: These are ads placed at the top of a user’s FYP when they first open up the ad. These ads will be up to 60 seconds long. This is the largest ad type TikTok offers.
In-Feed Ads: These ads play full-screen, are skippable, and must be less than 60 seconds long. You can measure the success of these ads through clicks, impressions, click-through-rates (CTR), views, and engagement.
Brand Takeover Ads: These ads allow one brand to take over the app for a day. They could be images or videos ads (3-5 seconds long) that will appear at the top of the feed like TopView ads, but are not skippable. CTR is the way you would measure the success of Brand Takeover Ads.
Branded Effects: Create branded special effects like stickers, filters, or special video effects that users can apply to their videos to amp up awareness of your brand.
Branded Hashtag Challenges: Create a hashtag challenge with an end goal or prize for the participants. Branded Hashtag Challenges have a median engagement rate of 17.5% and are a tool many businesses, large and small, use to increase their brand awareness.
Tips for using TikTok for your business
Detweiler offers three tips for using TikTok ads:
Tip #1: Monitor Your Metrics
As you would with any social media marketing campaign, you need to keep close tabs on your metrics. The metrics you decide to track will be influenced by your campaign objective, but generally you’ll want to track:
Conversions or app installs
Cost per click
CPA (cost per action)
CTR (click through rate)
Total cost (total ad spend)
All of these metrics, and many more, can be found in your TikTok Ad Manager account.
TikTok recommends you also have a TikTok account? If you set your TikTok account (not your ads) to business mode, you’ll collect basic metrics like video views, comments, and reach alongside more specific metrics such as the gender breakdown of your followers, top territories, and what times/days your followers are most active.
Having this type of information is extremely helpful before you run your first campaign as it can help you target TikTok users that are similar to those already engaged with your account.
Tip #2: Follow The TikTok For Business YouTube Channel
We mentioned the TikTok ads account video earlier, and the TikTok for Business YouTube Channel has a lot of helpful videos. They cover a wide range of topics from specific tips like TikTok Pixels and Events to general ones such as how small businesses are finding success on the e-commerce partner platform. This channel is definitely worth subscribing to if you want some creative inspiration with your business’ TikTok account.
Tip #3: Engage & Entertain
TikTok was created for entertainment and everyone going to the platform is there for just that. Therefore it is important that your TikTok videos are entertaining, to the point, and accessible. From there you can create brand awareness and drive people to a landing page, but always keep in mind they are there first for entertainment.
Try out different video formats, present your content in different ways, and look for trends you can hop on. The algorithm will always like videos that are generating genuine engagement.
What does all this mean?
TikTok can be a great advertising tool for brands that can identify their audience as users and develop a presence on the app. Becoming a part of the TikTok community, as a user as well as an advertiser, can make your advertising even more effective.