TikTok, launched in 2017, has seen global success on a huge scale. TikTok was the most downloaded app in 2020, hitting the 2 billion global downloads milestone in August 2020. As TikTok is now the 7th most used social media platform in the world, with a strong and engaged user base, businesses are tapping into TikTok marketing methods to boost their reach, engagement, and sales across their social media platforms.
TikTok Marketing: The Giraffe Guide – Table of Contents
TikTok’s Rise to Fame.
The Basics of TikTok.
TikTok Video Creation.
How is TikTok Valuable for Brands?
Getting Started with TikTok Marketing.
TikTok Marketing Case Studies.
TikTok’s Rise to Fame
Taking a step back, let’s consider how TikTok, as we know it today, came to be. TikTok, known as Douyin in China, was launched by ByteDance in September 2016. Meanwhile, Chinese-owned Musical.ly was a music-focused social app loved by over 200 million users (as of late 2017), including in the Western world. In 2018, ByteDance purchased Musical.ly in a deal worth between $800 million – $1 billion, proceeding to merge the sister apps TikTok and Musical.ly into one platform.
Since the merger, TikTok (excluding Douyin numbers) user statistics soared from 54 million Monthly Active Users (MAUs) in Jan 2018 to 689 million MAUs as reported in January 2021. This incredible growth can be attributed to several factors: ByteDance’s highly targeted marketing campaigns, TikTok’s expansion over time, celebrity usage of the app, and as a source of entertainment and socialising during the global pandemic.
The Basics of TikTok
TikTok is not a complicated app, but it can be daunting for first-time users to get started with, especially with pressure for brands to excel in TikTok marketing. Here, we’ll walk you through the basics of what you need to know about using TikTok as a business.
Who Uses TikTok?
Before you can get started with TikTok marketing, you need to know who is using TikTok and whether it is the right fit for your brand. Of its millions of monthly users, a reported 60% are aged between 16 to 24 years old, and 80% of all users are between the ages of 16 to 34 years old. It is an overwhelmingly ‘youthful’ platform, with the minimum account age being 13, and marketing on TikTok is more successful for companies with target audiences under the age of 35.
Algorithm & the For You Page
A huge part of TikTok’s functionality is its famously accurate algorithm. The algorithm learns the user’s preferences and recommends videos that they think the user will enjoy, curated on the For You page (FYP). We know that the TikTok algorithm recommends video based on numerous factors within three key areas: user interactions (such as your likes and comments), video information (including captions, hashtags, and sounds), and the user’s device and account settings (such as location and language preferences).
TikTok is also known for its virality, with TikTok content creators blowing up in followers overnight or having one video become hugely successful seemingly out of nowhere. This is where the algorithm steps in to boost content organically, even for smaller creators:
“While a video is likely to receive more views if posted by an account that has more followers, by virtue of that account having built up a larger follower base, neither follower count nor whether the account has had previous high-performing videos are direct factors in the recommendation system.” – TikTok, ‘How TikTok recommends videos #ForYou’
There is no magic secret to TikTok success, but there are certainly trends and best practices to follow to get onto users’ For You pages. Consistency, patience, and unique content are all key to running a TikTok account for personal and business users. While meme content and trend following should be limited on other social media platforms, it is often celebrated on TikTok when it’s created with a unique spin on the original trend.
Taking inspiration from one of its predecessors, Musical.ly, audio on TikTok in the form of ‘sounds’ is integral to the platform’s creativity and functionality. Almost every video on TikTok will utilise the sounds feature, which can mean either published music or original audio content.
When sounds are used, the video will display the sound beneath the caption of the video, which is also a clickable link to explore other videos that use the sound. This helps original audio creators keep their credit and contributes to popular trends and virality with easily accessible explore pages for every sound.
Effects & Filters
Effects and filters are optional tools for TikTok videos. Many are powerful tools, morphing faces and allowing users to project an image or video behind them in a ‘green screen’ effect. Below are two videos showcasing the sheer number of effects and filters available on TikTok, which can be accessed while recording video or in the editing stage.
Effects and filters can become popular trends in their own right, such as the “I’m Lost” effect for its comedic value. This example from Innocent on TikTok showcases how brands can effectively and humorously utilise viral TikTok trends and features for marketing purposes.
@innocentdrinksWe think our boss might’ve found our TikTok account. #almostthere #dontbesurprised #buysmoothies♬ Almost there – Cayden🏙
TikTok Video Creation
Are you excited to get started with creating original content for your brand’s TikTok page? You’ll need to know the basics of how to create a video on TikTok first. There are many features available, and it may take some time before you master putting a TikTok video together.
Firstly, of course, you’ll need to record your video. You can do this natively on the app or by uploading existing footage/images from your camera roll. This is what the Record screen looks like when you open it up:
No idea where to start? TikTok offers a range of premade templates with eye-catching effects and pre-selected sounds. All you need to do is upload your images to get started. Here we are swiping through the available templates – it even shows you a preview of each template before you select it.
As seen in the Record interface screenshot, there are several features to play with. Lengthwise, videos can be either 15 or 60 seconds long, with the default set to 15. You can speed up or slow down footage to the following speeds: 0.3x, 0.5x, 1x (normal), 2x or 3x. Filming alone? There’s a timer available so you can set up that perfect shot, even by yourself.
You’re able to add effects, filters, and sounds either before or after filming. Here is a snapshot of the sounds page, accessed at the top of the record interface. There is something for everyone to use! Alternatively, create original audio or a mix of original and backing sounds.
Once you’ve recorded your video, it’s time to adjust your clips (if necessary) and add finishing touches, such as text, stickers, a voiceover. Here you’ll see the edit interface, with Filters, Adjust clips, Voice effects and Voiceover buttons to the top-right, and Sounds, Effects, Text, and Stickers options along the bottom.
TikTok’s in-built editor is really powerful. Brands, creators, and personal users are able to create great quality content with impressive effects, all with the tap of a few buttons. Get creative in the way you use the features available on TikTok, and don’t be afraid to experiment with new trends and ideas. With all new platforms, it will take time to get used to what’s available to you and how best to implement your creativity into your marketing plan for the platform.
Text is a very important aspect of TikTok video creation, and almost all successful videos on TikTok will feature text on screen. Text is often used for ‘labelling’ in meme and comedy videos made by one person to indicate a change of ‘character’. Importantly, the text function is also used for closed captioning for the hard of hearing (usually preceded with a “cc:” before the text to indicate as such) and a text-to-speech feature for the vision impaired. Closed captioning can be done manually or automatically with the recently added auto captions feature. Check out the text editor below:
Using text on screen in your TikTok content will increase the accessibility of TikTok and also help your content reach a wider audience. Alongside disabled communities, using closed captions can be the difference between busy commuters without headphones watching your brand’s video or choosing to swipe away as they’re unable to hear the sounds.
With a fully edited video, you’re ready to post your first TikTok – congratulations! The posting interface, seen below, allows you to: write your caption, add hashtags, tag friends, edit the cover image, select privacy settings, allow (default) or disallow comments, allow duets, allow stitching, save to device, automatically share to WhatsApp/Instagram/Instagram/Snapchat, save to drafts, and, finally, post to TikTok.
Caption & Hashtags
Unfortunately, TikTok limits captions to 100 characters and you are unable to edit the caption after posting unless you delete and reupload. Also, the character limit includes hashtags, so you need to be concise and purposeful when writing your captions. Hashtags are one factor for growth on TikTok, similar to other social media platforms, and influence the FYP algorithm.
Be specific with hashtags while you build up your TikTok following, as more niche hashtags mean more chance of your content being seen amongst the crowd. This doesn’t mean you can’t use popular or trendy hashtags for some videos, just try to use niche hashtags more often to grow your account and become known within smaller circles first.
How is TikTok Valuable to Brands?
Many businesses are still cautious when considering TikTok marketing, due to the rapidly growing young user base and the overwhelming amount of content on the platform. While it is important to initially make sure TikTok is right for your brand, TikTok can be a gateway to tapping into a whole new market and audience.
Our Creative Assistant, Chloe Belchamber, comments on Tiktok’s unique ability to connect brands with consumers on such a personal and relatable level. Creating TikTok content doesn’t have to mean high production value – in fact, raw and honest content on TikTok is what tends to perform best.
Getting Started with TikTok Marketing
There are many ways to incorporate marketing on TikTok into your social media marketing strategy. With organic and paid options, TikTok has a lot to offer in terms of growing your brand on the platform. Whether you’re trying to sell products to consumers or working to grow your brand awareness, there is a way to use TikTok to suit your brand as long as your target audience uses the platform.
We’ve covered the technical basics of video creation on TikTok above, but successful organic content on TikTok takes more than simply ticking boxes. As with all other marketing strategies for social media platforms, you need a plan for consistent, entertaining, and informative video content to post on TikTok. This will look different for every business depending on your objectives/goals, audience demographics, and target market/industry. Research shows that 86% of consumers want to see more video content from brands, and TikTok can help you expand the reach of your video content.
TikTok offers in-feed paid ads through TikTok for Business and the TikTok Ads Manager. Ads, despite being labelled as Sponsored content, “blend seamlessly in with the TikTok experience”, especially if your promoted TikTok is similar to your regular organic content. Effects and filters are also available for TikTok ads, adding to the creativity you’re able to express and the seamless TikTok feed experience.
TikTok Ads also offer other ad options, such as TopView, Brand Takeover, a Branded Hashtag Challenge, and Branded Effects. TopView ads display as the app is opened, a hotspot for catching the attention of users right off the bat. Brand Takeover ads display full-screen ads with a “static or dynamic display,” another attention-grabbing option with great possibilities.
A Branded Hashtag Challenge is a unique format of engagement that invites users to participate and generated User-Generated Content, all under one simple hashtag. Finally, Branded Effects allow brands to create their own sharable stickers, filters, and special effects for TikTok users to use. This has huge potential for growth and virality, as effects and filters are integral to TikTok content.
Similar to Facebook, TikTok also offers the ability to install a TikTok pixel code on your website, allowing you to track conversions and events. By using the TikTok pixel, you can: build marketing audiences, optimise ad delivery, and measure campaign performance and return on ad spend – all based on your defined conversion events.
Influencer marketing is only growing in popularity, across all social media channels, in recent years. Influencer marketing works well on TikTok for brands that work with influencers whose audience reflects the brand and products’ target market. As with organic content on TikTok, influencer marketing relies on your target audience using TikTok and following influencers related to your industry.
TikTok offers a platform – TikTok Creator Marketplace – featuring “easy and structured access to a huge base of TikTok creators,” simplifying the process of finding the perfect influencer for your campaign. Good influencer marketing will always require thorough market research and choosing an influencer to work with carefully, and that is especially true with TikTok where coming across too ‘salesy’ or working with a bad fit can harm your brand.
Shopify x TikTok
Near the end of 2020, TikTok and Shopify announced a partnership to bring Shopify commerce to the TikTok platform. This unique partnership allows eCommerce brands on Shopify to “create TikTok ads, track [their] results, and manage [their] orders, all without leaving the Shopify dashboard.” With everything all in one place, brands are free to easily create TikTok video ads, find new audiences, and utilise the TikTok pixel code for their Shopify x TikTok campaigns.
TikTok Marketing Case Studies
Global makeup brand Benefit Cosmetics utilised TikTok marketing to experiment with an awareness campaign for a new product, the Brow Microfilling Pen. Benefit used the TCM to build up a list of 22 Gen Z and Millennial creators to work with, resulting in 22 videos for the “Benefit Brow Challenge.” Just 4.5 minutes of creator content generated over 3.5k hours of views, and 1.4m ad impressions for the brand.
@milliet24Lil transformation video 😆 @benefituk #benefitbrows #microfillingpen #ad♬ Brows (Benefit Brow Dance) – Regan Aliyah
Little Moons is a mochi dessert brand that quickly became a sought-after product after going viral on TikTok, through word of mouth and paid advertising. For their reach and engagement campaign efforts, Little Moons ran a One Day Max In-Feed Ad, displaying their ad natively on the For You page in amongst the first posts and ads the user will see. The ads focused on drawing in people to search for Little Moons desserts in UK Tesco supermarkets. Overall, the campaign drew in 6.7m impressions, 137k followers, and a 1300% increase in sales; those are some impressive numbers!
@littlemoonsmochiGoing to big Tesco in search of Little Moons. Join in! 😍 #littlemoonsmochi #littlemoons #tesco #fyp #bigtesco #viral♬ original sound – Little Moons
NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland
Capitalising on TikTok’s young demographic full of students, Natwest & Royal Bank of Scotland ran TikTok ads ahead of the new academic year, promoting incentives to sign up for student bank accounts. Using in-feed ads from July to September targeted at 18-24-year-olds, the UK banks’ most popular ad featured an Amazon Prime Student incentive, which generated almost 7m impressions. Their total of three ads held an impressive engagement rate of 5.57%.
There are countless other TikTok marketing success stories, due in part to TikTok’s highly engaged user base. TikTok’s Official Guide to Marketing on TikTok features several examples of brands that are thriving on Shopify x TikTok, including Coconut Lane, Oatsome, and SNOCKS.