Should your brand hop on the TikTok bandwagon?

TikTok has seen major shifts in the last couple of years. What used to be a viral app for young people has become a platform where businesses can connect with highly engaged audiences of all ages. Depending on your goals, TikTok has definitely become the platform to watch from a marketing perspective.

TikTok overview for marketers

TikTok is the first non-Facebook app to reach 3 billion global downloads. It uses a highly individualized algorithm that has led users to spend an average of an hour and a half every day using the platform. This growth and reach offers high-visibility at a low cost. It’s the third largest social media platform behind Facebook and Instagram, and it is projected that 25% of all social media users will adopt the platform by 2024.

Many marketers have been hesitant to adopt TikTok as part of their efforts due the perception that it’s an app for younger audiences. While it’s true 47% of TikTok users are under the age of 30, we’re seeing 35+ audiences add TikTok to their social media use and as many as 11% of users being over the age of 50. With an even split of usage between genders and 70 million daily active users at the time of this writing, TikTok provides powerful opportunities to generate a ton of impressions.
If you’re in an industry with the goal of getting in front of prospective customers in their early 20s in order to build lifetime relationships, TikTok may be the place for you. Earlier this year, the New York Times published an article stating that Gen Z is using TikTok as their new search engine. (Huang, 2022.) When looking for information, recommendations, or trying to figure something out, these users are turning to TikTok rather than Google Search, Facebook or YouTube videos. While this might feel alarming, consider the opportunity it presents to brands to reach that younger generation.

TikTok best uses for marketers

It’s easier said than done to adopt TikTok as part of your regular marketing schedule. The world of social media has trained us to create ads and organic posts that fit within certain specifications. Most of this is horizontal 1920×1080 video of varying lengths or square photos and still images. TikTok has literally turned that on its head by being set up for vertically oriented video and short, snappy content. Ads or posts that don’t adopt this format stick out like a sore thumb and may have the opposite effect. Placement on this platform requires planning, strategy, and above all–authenticity.

Businesses have seen success marketing on TikTok with product and industry education, DEI and nonprofit initiatives, to promote their company’s culture, showcase their products, and to recruit talent. These can be done as marketing campaigns or influencer and co-marketing campaigns, but it’s helpful to know the dos and don’ts of the channel.

Do find and use your unique brand voice and style, incorporate the latest trends, watch others for inspiration, and incorporate your branded content as naturally as possible. This might include correctly using hashtags, partnering with influencers who share your values, or working to set trends rather than just following them.

Don’t partner with unvetted influencers, completely replicate TikToks other brands are creating, only produce the same kind of content, produce an inauthentic or forced presence, or join a trend after it has run its course. And it may go without saying, but don’t promote anything harmful, unsafe, or that violates the TikTok community guidelines.

audit your peers and competitors

If you’re considering incorporating TikTok, it’s seriously worth your time to conduct a local, regional, and national audit. Depending on the industry, many businesses have yet to explore TikTok as a marketing avenue. You can learn a lot by investigating if they’re showing up on the platform, and if there’s an opportunity to be first to market. We’d suggest investigating how many followers they have, and how many and what kind of videos they have published. You can learn a great deal about what’s working and not working by seeing who is out there to begin with and how they’re showing up.

It’s also a good idea to do a thorough search for any unofficial TikTok accounts that may have been established for your brand. In our exploration of businesses on TikTok, we sometimes found user generated accounts where a disgruntled customer established an account to warn others off of doing business with them. The users would call the company out by name to associate them with a broad complaint. I.e. yourbusinessnameisracist, yourbusinessnamesucks, etc. As businesses establish profiles on TikTok, it’s helpful to search out these accounts for damage control and to clarify for the consumer which is your official business account.

best fit strategies

Of the strategies commonly in use by marketers now, the best fit for your business depends on your goals. Does your purchase cycle require a good deal of education before consumers commit? You might benefit most from an organic presence giving information and expert advice gathering users into your funnel. What if your goal is strictly product sales? An entirely ad-based marketing campaign could make the most sense.

By our estimation, it’s a little early in the TikTok game to suggest a one-size-fits-all approach to various marketing goals. It’s best practice to always start with the end in mind and ask yourself what channels and creative best achieves that goal. The big differentiator on TikTok as opposed to other avenues, is to make sure that whatever you land on is authentic. As the platform continues to evolve and marketers have more opportunities to explore the possibilities, we look forward to updating this post and various approaches that can be taken.

If you want to strategize how TikTok can fit into your marketing, hit us up! And as always,

Go forth. Go digital.