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Updated Apr 05, 2024

TikTok for Business: How You Can Use This Social Network

TikTok is a great social platform for marketing to younger audiences. Learn how you can use it to increase audience engagement and brand awareness.

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Skye Schooley, Business Operations Insider and Senior Lead Analyst
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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If you run a business, chances are you will eventually use some form of social media for marketing purposes. In 2022, nearly 4 billion people are estimated to use social media worldwide – a number that has been steadily increasing each year – which makes social media ripe with opportunity for companies to reach their target demographics.

One of the newer social media platforms that has recently exploded is TikTok. The app has been described as a mashup of Vine, Twitter and Instagram, allowing its 1 billion active monthly users to create short-form, music-focused videos and edit them with lenses, filters and AR features.

Although TikTok was adopted early on by teens, it has been steadily gaining the attention of young adults (nearly 70% of its active users are under 40), making it a prime target for any brands seeking the elusive attention of millennials and Gen Z.

With the ever-growing popularity of engagement marketing, TikTok is a great platform for businesses to advertise in a way that doesn’t feel contrived or ingenuine.

How TikTok works

As with any social media site, you’ll be instantly blacklisted if you come across as not knowing what you’re doing or not following the unwritten rules of social platforms. Spend time on the app by making a profile, following popular users and creating practice content until you feel like you have a handle on what real users like to engage with and the platform’s culture.

“For a business to be successful on TikTok, they need to first be active on TikTok,” Mike Prasad, founder and CEO of Tinysponsor, told Business News Daily. “[Give] users a reason to follow you.”

Keep in mind that authenticity is the key here; don’t try to create memes if that isn’t your business’s vibe. Create content that fits your brand and contributes to your specific goals.

If you want help marketing your brand on TikTok, sign up for TikTok for Business. The centralized platform will guide you through the process of creating affordable ads that reach your target audience.

Types of advertisements on TikTok

TikTok will support multiple types of advertisements: TopView Ads, In-Feed Ads, Brand Takeover Ads, Branded Effects and Branded Hashtag Challenges. Each one contributes to a different purpose and will have a different outcome based on the type of campaign you’re running.

TopView Ads

TopView Ads are placed at the top of a user’s TikTok feed when they open the app, and they can be up to 60 seconds long. Since this is the largest ad type that TikTok offers, it is a key marketing tool that can grab consumers’ attention and increase brand awareness.

In-Feed Ads

In-Feed Ads act similarly to Snapchat or Instagram story ads. They play in full screen, are skippable and must be 60 seconds or less (although the ideal length is 15 seconds). They appear in a user’s ForYou feed. You can measure a campaign’s success through tracking clicks, impressions, click-through rate (CTR), video views and engagements.

Brand Takeover Ads

Brand takeovers allow one brand to take over the app for a day. You can create images or video ads (roughly three to five seconds long) that appear at the top of the app like TopView Ads; however, they are not skippable. You can embed links to internal and external landing pages within your ads as well. To measure the success of a brand takeover, look at impressions and the CTR.

Branded Effects

You can create branded effects (e.g., games, stickers, filters, special effects) that users can apply in their videos. This is an easy way to promote your brand with minimal effort. These interactive experiences are also a great way to go viral.

Branded Hashtag Challenges

Businesses can do hashtag challenges, where you create a hashtag and an end goal or prize for participants. For example, DreamWorks hosted a successful hashtag challenge to promote its Netflix show where the studio invited TikTok users to create a video of themselves dancing to the show’s theme song and posting it under the hashtag #SpiritRidingFree. The campaign reached over 34.4 million users, with over 2.6 million engagements and over 4.3 million combined video views.

This is a great example of a company recognizing the value of running a campaign on TikTok versus another social platform, because Spirit Riding Free is a children’s show and TikTok’s user base skews young. It had a great demographic base for its campaign, as well as a campaign style that fits the platform.

Did You Know?Did you know
Branded Hashtag Challenges have a median engagement rate of 17.5%. They also increase brand awareness by 4.5 times over standard mobile ads.

Tips for using TikTok for small businesses

TikTok is a valuable social media marketing tool and can be easily adopted by virtually any business. When using TikTok for your business, follow these tips for higher engagement.

1. Examine prevalent trends amongst users in your target audience.

This strategy can be used on any social media platform, but it is especially useful for TikTok. The platform sees high volume around specific topics like entertainment, dance, pranks, DIY, travel and learning. Research your target audience to see which type of content they are engaging with most, and use that knowledge to influence which type of TikToks you make.

For example, if you notice your target audience is highly engaged with prank videos, you can post videos of your employees playing good-hearted pranks around the office.

2. Use a laid-back, less commercial approach.

Unlike Instagram, TikTok largely rejects polished, high-quality content. As such, it has earned a reputation as a casual platform where users feel comfortable expressing themselves.

“The beauty of TikTok is that it’s an accessible creative space,” Prasad said. “That means it thrives on a touch of quirkiness and avoids heavily commercial-style productions.”

Let engagement be your guide and delve into what is fun about your business. Make sure you clearly understand your brand culture, values and identity so that what you create is genuine and true to your brand, and avoids typical corporate guidelines.

“TikTok is a hub of creative, fun, and sometimes crazy ideas, so try to soften the brand tone and join the playful community,” said Madelyn Fitzpatrick, head of corporate communications at Charming Charlie. “Avoid being overly formal and stiff.”

3. Participate in TikTok challenges.

An easy way to increase engagement and visibility is to participate in TikTok challenges. Find out which songs or activities are trending, and create your own branded version of one to post on your TikTok. This can not only increase your visibility, but also make you seem more relatable and down to earth.

Younger generations like supporting brands they connect to. Participating in challenges can help you connect to your audience on a real level, especially if your target demographic is teens or young adults. Remember, when you post a challenge video, be sure to include the relevant hashtags to increase your likelihood of ending up on peoples’ ForYou pages.

4. Post about your location.

Location can be a key driver for brand awareness, especially for small local businesses. Talk about your location in your videos, and include the location in your caption and hashtag. This will help people in your area find your business. It can also be helpful to create videos that are unique to your local area. This will make your product or service appear more relatable to locals.

Benefits of TikTok for small business

TikTok can be very beneficial to your business if you use it strategically. It gives you the opportunity to create diverse, engaging content that comes across as genuine to your consumers.

  • Audience reach: TikTok is one of the most used social media platforms, joining the ranks of heavy-hitters like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. It has 1 billion active monthly users in 141 countries. More eyes on the app mean more potential for those eyes landing on one of your branded ads. This makes it an attractive marketing platform for businesses that want to reach a large audience.
  • Consumer engagement: Users aren’tjust downloading the app; they are actively engaging with content on TikTok, resulting in a high engagement level. The average user spends 858 minutes per month on the app, and this number has been increasing dramatically year over year. This, accompanied by TikTok’s unique delivery algorithms, gives you the ability to see high brand engagement.
  • Creative opportunity: Brands on TikTok thrive with content that is whimsical and entertaining. This allows you to explore different aspects of your business, such as what makes you fun and interesting, and TikTok provides a platform where those fun aspects will be welcomed (and can even make you money).
Did You Know?Did you know
A study conducted by Kantar in partnership with TikTok found that nearly 30% of Gen Z users have purchased a product they saw advertised on TikTok.

Why you should join now

TikTok is relatively new, especially to the business world, and, as such, is not quite as saturated as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. It’s also much cheaper to advertise on, because there isn’t a strong influencer community yet; there are far fewer users competing for sponsorship and ad placements.

Furthermore, it helps you take the crucial first step into marketing to Gen Z, the notoriously difficult-to-market-to generational group, which is becoming more important as they gain a stronger foothold in the economy. Marketing to younger generations doesn’t have to be impossible – just meet them where they are, play by their rules, and have a little fun doing it.

Kiely Kuligowski contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Skye Schooley, Business Operations Insider and Senior Lead Analyst
Skye Schooley is a business expert with a passion for all things human resources and digital marketing. She's spent 10 years working with clients on employee recruitment and customer acquisition, ensuring companies and small business owners are equipped with the information they need to find the right talent and market their services. In recent years, Schooley has largely focused on analyzing HR software products and other human resources solutions to lead businesses to the right tools for managing personnel responsibilities and maintaining strong company cultures. Schooley, who holds a degree in business communications, excels at breaking down complex topics into reader-friendly guides and enjoys interviewing business consultants for new insights. Her work has appeared in a variety of formats, including long-form videos, YouTube Shorts and newsletter segments.
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