By now, you’ve probably heard of it. Maybe you’ve even seen it in action or have your own account for endless scrolling. Not to be confused with the 2009 pop hit by Kesha, TikTok was the social media app of 2020 and continues to gain traction, with 1 billion active monthly users from around the world (as of June 2021). The short-form-video sharing platform, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, took off in popularity during the pandemic as people sat at home looking for new forms of entertainment to keep them occupied. It even made headlines when former President Trump tried to ban the platform from the U.S., citing “national security concerns.”
What Is TikTok Exactly?
Isn’t it just an app where teenagers make silly videos?
Yes and no.
TikTok has gone through a full transformation since transitioning from its former identity as Musical.ly—which was known for its lip sync videos—into the fastest-growing social media app in the world. Yes, there are still plenty of people lip syncing and dancing on the app, but there is so much more now. Videos, which can be up to three minutes long, range in genres from fashion and skin care to comedy and education. The algorithm shows you an endless stream of videos that it thinks you will enjoy (psst, it’s usually right) on the infamous “For You Page” or FYP for short.
Since TikTok has grown in popularity, other apps, like Instagram and Snapchat, have tried to mimic its short-video format and features. With the average attention span of a millennial at 12 seconds and the average attention span of a Gen Zer even lower, at eight seconds, it’s no surprise more apps are moving toward short-form video. Marketing teams, in turn, will need to begin experimenting with their messaging to determine how to fit this format into their strategies.
How Can Businesses Utilize TikTok?
Many brands, big and small, who have adopted TikTok into their marketing strategy have seen great success, whether it be through organic content or paid promotions. TikTok has the power to sell out products with a few viral videos (just ask CeraVe and several others). Some brands are even taking the extra step and creating their own audio to go along with their campaigns on the app (hey, e.l.f.).
So, how does one get started?
1. Find Your Audience
You may be thinking, “I understand that it’s popular, but my audience is not Gen Z.” While Gen Z is very active on the platform, a majority of users are not in their teens and early 20s. In the U.S., TikTok is almost as popular among millennials and Gen X as it is with Gen Z.
2. Find Your Niche
People are constantly consuming information on a variety of topics within TikTok. It is normal for creators to fall into a niche, whether that be lifestyle content or marketing advice.
As a business, it is easy to find users on TikTok that might be interested in your products or services by exploring content and creators within your niche. It’s as straightforward as searching related keywords and hashtags in the search bar (just like Google).
Not every single niche is present on the video-sharing app, but with the vast number of users on the platform, the odds are in your favor.
3. Organic: Jump On Trends or Create Your Own
One of the main ways to blow up on TikTok is by catching trends early or creating them yourself. Trending sounds and hashtags can quickly spread as the algorithm seems to push this content to more and more users as it gains popularity, including the top trends on the “Discover” page. Users can also duet or stitch with other creators’ videos to keep conversations going, share their reactions or repost videos on their own page.
When creating content for your brand, don’t treat your videos like ads. You want your content to seamlessly fit into your target audience’s FYP. Videos should be short, grab users’ attention early and highlight how they can benefit from your offering. You can either monitor and hop on trends and conversations already happening on the app or create your own. Either way, the app leaves a lot of room for the imagination and allows users to create content within the app or upload existing videos.
4. Paid: Tap Into Top Creators
If creating short-form video content is not in your wheelhouse, there are other routes you can take.
TikTok is all about creativity and embracing its creators. The TikTok algorithm makes it easy for creatives to make engaging content and be discovered by people interested in their niche. Just like any influencer collaboration, when paying creators, you want to make sure the ones you choose align with your brand values and could represent your ideal audience. What’s special about TikTok is its ability to bring together paid influencers and media with user-generated content (UGC) to boost your investment. When a top creator posts a viral video, it’s likely that others will be encouraged to follow suit and create content inspired by the original creator.
Predicting virality is a superpower many marketers and brands wish they had. TikTok understands the desire for virality and recently announced a new ad option called Spark Ads. Brands would be able to sponsor already trending organic content that aligns with their offerings, maximizing successful content that fits into their campaigns or strategy without having to create anything themselves or pay a creator to do so. If a brand posts organic content on their own page and it performs well, they can also boost those posts.
Whether you are looking to expand your social media strategy, reach new audiences or explore short-form video, TikTok is the place to be. The platform is for more than just entertaining videos. Users turn to the app and its creators for insights and advice that can immediately affect their purchase decisions. Exhibit A: the 277.3 million TikToks under the hashtag #ThingsTikTokMadeMeBuy.
Not only does TikTok have potential as a social media platform, but it also has a lot of potential as a marketing channel. Whether you want to create original content or tap into existing creators on the app, TikTok is not going anywhere, and if you haven’t already jumped on the train, you should catch it while you still can.