TikTok – does it work for business?


TikTok 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 in the media and for anyone with an interest in online marketing. Brands need to be aware of new platforms such as TikTok and who is using them in order to decide if they need to advertise there.

What is TikTok?

We wrote about this some months ago looking at its application for business and interest grew during the pandemic. 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. Its distracitng nature has created challenges too and it has been banned in India.

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 pandemic it was seen as entertainment as many people filmed their older relatives in different formats.

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?

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.

Influencer marketing 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.

TikTok has also begun to provide paid advertising opportunities on the platform, although some of these are 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.

Best 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

These three brands have one key factor – larger marketing budgets. If that’s not your business, perhaps focus on the platforms where most of your customers gather.

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. Marks & Spencer used their Percy Pig as a Tik Tok video that had mixed reactions. The key is whether this medium fits your brands values as well as overall style and ability.

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. Plus it’s a hungry platform requiring frequent updates that may not always generate sales.