What is TikTok and how to use it for business marketing

Unless you have been living under the rock for the past 3 years, chances are you have heard of TikTok. This video-sharing mobile-only platform has made some serious waves in the first few years of its launch in 2017 – surpassing Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Snapchat in monthly downloads in the App Store, and reaching a hefty valuation of $75 billion earning it the proud title of the most valuable start-up. 

Despite its booming popularity amongst users, businesses are still unsure about how to use the platform as a marketing tool. In this post, we would like to shine some light on TikTok from a marketing perspective to help you figure out whether it is worth a share of your advertising budget, along with some examples of brands who found success on the platform. 

TikTok in a nutshell. 

Initially launched under the name of “Douyin”, TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing mobile-only platform that may be described as a hybrid between Vines, Snapchat and Instagram. 

Most of the videos shared on TikTok are up to 15-seconds long but it is possible to share 60-second ones too. What really makes the app so unique and popular is the ability to overlay the videos with music tunes as well as AR filters and effects.

Upon its launch in 2017, the platform quickly became one of the most downloaded apps in the Apple Store surpassing the download records of Instagram in the first year of its release. 

TikTok is unlike all the other platforms in a sense that it has a very distinct and specific demographic – the so-called Z generation of 16-24 year olds with a male bias.  

The platform is now available in 154 countries with the largest user base being in China followed by India and US. 

Is TikTok marketing right for your business? 

Before you get all excited and start pouring all your advertising budget into TikTok, there are several things you need to consider to determine whether TikTok will be a worthwhile investment for your business or not: 

  • Your target audience demographics. The effectiveness of TikTok marketing is highly dependent on the demographics of your target audience. If your target audience is between 16 and 24 – which constitutes 41% of TikTok user base – then promoting your brand on TikTok may indeed be a very wise investment. However, if your audience is older than 30, then TikTok marketing is unlikely to yield the results you are after (for now, that is).
  • Viral-worthy video content. For your TikTok strategy to be successful, you need to be able to create a good amount of video content that will represent your brand and align with the wacky TikTok vibe. If you believe you have what it takes to bulk-manufacture the right content for TikTok, then do not hesitate to get started! 
  • TikTok advertising budget. TikTok ads are still in their infancy, and are therefore fairly expensive. For this reason, small businesses are rarely found to venture into TikTok ad territory. But if you can afford the cost of TikTok ads (and your audience is Z generation), it’s a definite way to go! 

How to market your business on TikTok. 

There are three main ways businesses can utilize TikTok for marketing their brand: 

  1. Organic marketing by uploading videos to their own brand’s channel. 
  1. Partnering up with influencers to spread their message to a broader audience. 
  1. Deploying one of the TikTok ad formats for maximum reach. 

TikTok Ad formats. 

TikTok has several different ad types that vary in terms of function and placement: 

Brand takeover ads. 

Brand takeover ads are displayed right after the user launches the TikTok app. These types of ads can be linked internally – to another TikTok account or video page, or externally – to a specified web URL. This ad format has the highest barrier to entry as it is the most expensive one, and it can only be used by one advertiser per day. 

Here is an example of a brand takeover ad by a food delivery service GrubHub which was hosted during TikTok ad testing phase. 

In-feed native ads. 

Native video ads appear either at the bottom of a TikTok video or in the feed amongst the video queue. Native video ads are displayed full-screen, and support call-to-actions as well as external links (e.g. to websites or app download pages). Users have an option to skip native video ads. 

Here is an in-feed ad for a cartoon filter app OopsCam that appeared when scrolling through TikTok feed. 

Hashtag challenges. 

Hashtag challenge is when the users are asked to participate in a brand’s challenge campaign which lasts for 6 days and involves posting videos on a certain topic and tagging it with the challenge hashtag.  

For example, Samsung ran a hashtag challenge #GalaxyA campaign where they encouraged the entrants to create a video and overlay it with a pre-set tune. The campaign resulted in over 30 million views for all the hashtagged videos. Click here to read more about successful hashtag challenge campaigns on TikTok. 

Branded filters and lenses. 

You can also create your own brand’s face filter or lens – much like those AR filters on Snapchat and Instagram. TikTok users will use those filters to overlay their videos, and this way you will be shown to more and more viewers. 

As of Q2 2019, TikTok has now more than 500 million active users worldwide. So, it is hardly surprising that it has piqued many brands and marketers’ interest. Considering its distinct demographic, it is definitely worth giving it a try for marketing to Gen Z audiences. But if your target market is over 30, it is unlikely to yield the results you are after…for now, that is.

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