TikTok is a video sharing app. People upload and share videos, often in real time.

It is the latest social media platform to have broken into the mainstream. It initially attracted large numbers of young users but has recently become a familiar name.

Brands need to be aware of new platforms such as TikTok and the target audiences, to decide if they need to be part of that conversation.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media platform for short form videos. It originated in China, where it is known as Douyin, but it has since spread worldwide. TikTok has approximately 524 million active users around the globe. Douyin remains one of the most popular social networks in China and it is also particularly popular with younger audiences. TikTok remains most popular among teenagers and the under 25s.

TikTok began as a space for users to share videos of themselves lip-syncing to music but users have uploaded a wide range of content, including short comedy sketches, videos of various talents, and even some more serious content.

In the early days TikTok was banned from India due to the widespread sharing of inappropriate adult content and for the same reasons, it remains unavailable in Indonesia.

TikTok has taken advantage of the trend for more interactive and video content in social media and it has managed to attract a significant number of users away from older video sharing sites like YouTube. Growing numbers of brands are now sharing content or ads on TikTok.

How Can Businesses Use TikTok?

Create an account

Creating your own account is the first step to marketing on TikTok, as with any other social network. Your business needs to have an authentic presence on the platform. You can use this to create and post your own short videos and to interact with other users. It is essential to develop a feel for the site and the kind of content that succeeds on it.

Identify influencers

Typically new social media accounts have few followers and one way to be seen in these environments is to be promoted by those with larger accounts. This often falls into the arena of influencer marketing which is increasingly popular on TikTok. If you can find an influential account that is relevant to your brand then this can be an effective way to reach out to your target audience. It is unlikely to be free as most influencers seek some form of exchange, either as payment or promotional goods.

Paid advertising

Like most social media platforms, TikTok has also begun to provide paid advertising opportunities on the platform. Also following the path taken by the early social media platforms, advertising is mainly geared towards larger companies with big marketing budgets.

  • Infeed Native Content: your video ad will appear in the feeds of your target audience. You can select the type of user you want to reach and track engagement through clicks, website visits or other statistics.
  • Hashtag Takeovers: you create and promote a hashtag, setting a challenge or offering a prize to people who share it.
  • Branded Lenses: offering a lens for TikTok users to apply to their videos and share with others.
  • Brand Takeovers: companies can take charge of TikTok for the day, adding their own branding and links to their website or app.

The offer looks similar to that from Snapchat with the use of Lenses, the difference is the concept of brand takeovers – this is not for the fainthearted! If you are interested in advertising, you need to fill in the form and register, this was the same with Snapchat at the start too.

Examples of successful Brands on TikTok

Many brands are already using TikTok to reach out to the platform’s young and active audience. Three of the most effective marketing campaigns were:

GUESS created the #inmydenim hashtag challenge, which encouraged large numbers of TikTok users to create videos in the brand’s products. The challenge was a great fit for TikTok as it was visual, creative and style-based.

For National Avocado day, the US restaurant chain Chipotle created a hugely effective TikTok video that combined a popular meme (The Guacamole Song), a hashtag challenge (the #GuacDance) and a special offer to draw customers into restaurants. This video made Chipotle the best performing brand on TikTok with over 500 million views.

Coke showed what a big brand can do on TikTok by adapting its Share a Coke campaign to the platform and to its forerunner, Musical.ly. It used key influencers and song lyrics printed on Coke bottles to inspire more than 900,000 responses from users.

Is TikTok Right for Your Business?

TikTok’s popularity is a big draw for many brands but it is vital to determine whether it is the right place to advertise your business. There can also be pressure t simply adopt a new channel as it’s there. Many newer channels have come and gone – remember Bebo, Friends Reunited, Google+, Vine, YikYak? They don’t always last. Yet TikTok is owned by Byte Dance that has had funding from strong supporters including AliBaba.

In the early growth stage, social media channels tend to focus on building the audience, this moves into advertising – normally starting with bigger players with large marketing budgets, as anchor advertisers. When they have evidence of results, it’s often scaled and smaller businesses can get involved.

TikTok can be a good place for businesses that are targeting a younger demographic. Since it is a video platform, TikTok also favours brands with strong visual branding, products that look good on film, and the resources to create the right content. Your videos must fit with the TikTok style and your brand.

You should also ensure that you will be able to reach your target audience through TikTok. Although TikTok is becoming more popular with a wider range of users, approximately 41% are within the 16-24 age group. If Gen Z is your target market, then this could be the best place for your marketing campaign, especially as 90% of users remain active on a daily basis and the platform is less saturated with advertising than other social sites.

If you’re running a fun, young, and creative brand, then TikTok could be a great fit for reaching the elusive younger market. However, you should still be aware that the popularity of social networks can fade just as quickly as it grows and the younger users you can reach there now are often the first to move on to new platforms.

However, the one denominator with the examples of successful Brands on TikTok so far, is that they have larger budgets, great graphics and teams available to monitor the feedback.