If you've heard of TikTok, chances are you've got a teenager somewhere in your life. The app, launched by Chinese company ByteDance in 2016, has been described as a mashup of Vine, Twitter and Instagram, allowing its 500 million monthly users to create short-form, music-focused videos and edit them with lenses, filters, and AR features.
Originally known as Musical.ly, TikTok stepped neatly into the void left by Vine after its untimely departure in 2017 and has been steadily gaining the attention of young users and business owners alike ever since with its short, highly engaging content. Over 40% of the app's users are between the ages of 10 and 19, making it a prime target for any brands seeking the elusive attention of Gen Z.
TikTok is also attractive because it is still, for the most part, uncharted territory when it comes to marketing. The app has only just begun exploring paid advertising and offers an open arena for influencers to fight for top positions.
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With the ever-growing popularity of engagement marketing, TikTok is a ripe opportunity for businesses to advertise in a way that doesn't feel contrived or ingenuine.
How it 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 that come along with social platforms. Spend time on the app – make yourself a profile, follow popular users, and create practice content until you feel like you have a handle on what real users like to engage with and what the platform's culture is.
"For a business to be successful on TikTok, they need to first be active on TikTok," said Mike Prasad, CEO of Tinysponsor. "[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.
Types of advertisements
TikTok will support four types of advertisements on the app in 2019: infeed native content, brand takeovers, hashtag challenges and branded lenses. Each one contributes to a different purpose and will have a different outcome based on the type of campaign you're running.
Infeed native content acts similarly to Snapchat or Instagram story ads. They play in full screen, are skippable, and must be 9-15 seconds in length, like any other TikTok video. You can measure the campaign's success through tracking clicks, impressions, click-through rate (CTR), video views and engagements.
Brand takeovers allow one brand to take over the app for a day and allow you to create images, GIFs, and videos. You can also embed links to landing pages or to hashtag challenges within the app. To measure your success for a brand takeover, look at impressions and the CTR.
Thirdly, and most popularly, businesses can do hashtag takeovers, where you create a hashtag and an end goal or prize for participants. For example, Dreamwork Pictures hosted a successful hashtag challenge to promote its new 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.
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.
Lastly, you can create branded lenses a la Snapchat or Instagram filters that users can apply in their videos.
Creating approachable, fun content
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Content is king, and it can be argued that nowhere is that more important than on TikTok.
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," said Prasad. "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 global communications at Hylink Group. "Avoid being overly formal and stiff."
Why you should join now
TikTok is relatively new, especially to the business world, and, as such, is not nearly as saturated as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 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.
It also 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).
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 this new generation doesn't have to be impossible – just meet them where they are, play by their rules and have a little fun doing it.