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TikTok is undoubtedly the hottest social media platform in the world right now, with 1 billion monthly active users. In 2020, the short-form video platform surpassed social media giant Facebook to become the most downloaded app in the world. With the platform’s growth increasing month after month, brands have come to realize how powerful TikTok can be.
From Ryanair using memes and Nando’s successfully hopping on trends to Zara sharing immersive 3D art to captivate fashion fanatics, businesses of all shapes and sizes are using TikTok in their strategy to increase brand awareness, engage with new audiences and share their human side.
Whether you’re still on the fence about TikTok or you’ve already shared a few videos, this guide will help you craft an effective TikTok marketing strategy for your brand.
Before you dive head-first into TikTok marketing strategy, it’s important to determine whether a presence on the platform, and the subsequent time and money invested, makes business sense for your brand.
The content on TikTok is dominated primarily by personal accounts creating and sharing memes, hopping on trends, and sharing funny personal stories.
Humor is the name of the game on TikTok. The video sharing platform is still raw in a sense, not having strict censorship rules in place, which is partially why so many younger people gravitate toward the platform. The landscape on TikTok is often brazen, so be prepared.
Here are some questions you should be asking yourself before joining the viral video platform:
Your target audience is the lifeblood of your business. Also known as your ideal customer profile (ICP), it’s the group of people that your product resonates with the most. If you’ve been in business for a while, then you probably have a good idea of who your target audience is.
If not, here are some broader audience attributes:
Once you’ve gathered the necessary data, make sure TikTok’s audience fits that of your customer profile. For reference, 25% of TikTok’s U.S. users are between the ages of 10-19; so if you sell enterprise accounting software, chances are you’ll have a tough time finding your target buyer on the platform.
As you’ll discover later on when we cover TikTok success stories, the vast majority of brands use virality potential on TikTok to increase brand awareness.
While other social media platforms are suited better for driving conversions, none beat the reach that TikTok can provide, even for brand new accounts.
It’s also important to understand that loads of eyeballs don’t necessarily mean that those views are driving revenue for your business. A lot of views can simply mean that people like your videos (which is a good thing by the way).
As with every social media platform, tailoring your content and messaging for different audiences is crucial if you want your brand to resonate with TikTok’s young demographic.
While platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn may be better avenues for conversion-optimized content and conversations, brands that keep it light-hearted tend to succeed. More on that later.
If your direct competitors are sharing new content on TikTok every day and their numbers are healthy, that’s usually an indicator that they’ve found an audience on the platform that fits.
Survey the landscape, find several examples of competitors that are doing well on the platform and gather insights.
While we don’t recommend stealing from your competition, it’s a good idea to study what they’re doing and take inspiration so you can have a head start.
Here are some things to look out for:
In addition, browse through their feed and single out their most popular videos. Often you can find them in the “Pinned” section.
Account managers will often push these videos to the top of the account feed because they’re relevant, high quality, or hold some other quality that made the video successful.
TikTok is still a very new platform. It was initially released just six years ago in 2016, and only really started hitting the mainstream in 2018, when its parent company decided to merge it with the now-defunct Musical.ly.
TikTok for Business is even newer, launching in July of 2020.
This leaves TikTok ripe for innovation and new voices. Many major brands have yet to migrate to TikTok despite having a solid presence on Instagram and Facebook. A few examples of brands that aren’t on TikTok include The New York Times, Subaru, CVS Pharmacy and believe it or not, Pepsi.
This means TikTok isn’t as saturated with the staunch competition seen on other social media platforms.
As we previously mentioned, TikTok has yet to enact strict censorship practices, meaning people are free to voice their unadulterated opinions. This can be a double-edged sword. While your brand can attract negative attention if you mess up…
..the freedom of expression also gives brands a unique perspective about how people really perceive them. Use this to your advantage. Reply to negative comments instead of simply deleting them, spark discussions and engage.
Though virality can be a tantalizing outcome, it’s important to remember that virality is volatile and can arise entirely through chance. Take OceanSpray as an example.
In August of 2020, a man by the name of Nathan Apodaca shared a video of him gliding serenely down the highway on his longboard, with a bottle of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice in hand and Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams playing in the background.
Not only did the original video amass over 60 million likes within a few short weeks, it unintentionally spurred creators to pay tribute to the original video, the “challenge” garnering enough attention for celebrities like JImmy Fallon, Ocean Spray’s CEO and even Fleetwood Mac’s drummer to take part.
This series of events is a perfect example of how TikTok, and virality overall, work. Though the video was a catalyst for massive success for Ocean Spray and Fleetwood Mac, neither party had any control over it.
While the unplanned virality of this video was certainly a win for all parties involved, some brands have well thought-out strategies in place for creating videos that get loads of views, and amassing tons of brand awareness. Let’s go over some examples:
One brand that understands how to take advantage of TikTok’s algorithm and fleeting trends is Ryanair. The European airline giant consistently posts videos chock full of Gen Z-esque humor that’s easy for younger audiences to digest. They understand that what separates people perceiving you as a cool brand from an annoying, try-hard one lies in understanding what TikTok’s audience wants and then giving it to them.
What Ryanair does so well is combining hilarious visuals and filters with trending TikTok sounds in a way that makes their brand more personable and memorable.
When you stop to think about it, it makes sense why they’re so successful. A massive, multi-million dollar airline slapping faces on their planes and making memes. Brilliant.
Another success story comes from the language learning app Duolingo who, after switching up their marketing strategy and hiring their current social media manager – Zaria Parvez – gained over 1.5 million followers in the span of a year. The company’s social media team openly discusses its use of ‘slightly unhinged’ content to appeal to TikTok’s audience.
This content strategy is not uncommon on TikTok, but some businesses can’t really get behind the seemingly brash humor that’s needed to push brand reach up a notch.
In the case of Duolingo, the silly mascot antics certainly paid off. Having gone from a well-known player in its own field of language learning to a household name even for those who don’t use the app.
Crocs has been doing great on TikTok since they joined in October of 2019.
From challenges to viral videos to ads, Crocs is going all in on the short video sharing platform. In 2019, the company did a challenge with Post Malone called the #ThousandDollarCrocs challenge and it currently has over 3 Billion views.
The challenge encourages fans to post content on TikTok showing what their $1,000 Crocs would look like “by customizing, enhancing or by just embodying the Come As You Are mentality and letting the world know I’m gonna be whatever I want,” according to Crocs.
Less than 36 hours after launching the challenge, the hashtag had been viewed 95 million times on TikTok and more than 45,000 videos had been created.
Besides wildly successful challenge campaigns, Crocs has embraced their product’s wacky nature and displayed it for the world to see.
This level of authenticity, combined with their creative approach has amassed them over 2.9 million account likes and over 400k followers.
Trends are TikTok’s backbone. As a business, leveraging trends allows you to show your fun, human side, take advantage of the entertaining side of the app, and get more views.
A trend often revolves around a particular trending TikTok Sound that people use as backgrounds to their videos, all having a common theme. Take the example of RyanAir we referenced earlier; most of their most popular videos are iterations on different trending sounds.
These trends come and go every week, so it’s important to keep an eye out for popular sounds. You can also use the TikTok Discover Page to help in your research.
While TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t focus on posting frequency as much as those of other platforms, it’s still important to share content consistently if you’re trying to build a following. The recommended amount to post per day is around 1-3 if you’re just starting out.
Once you’ve figured out what kind of content performs best, you can post more often. Some bigger brands post up to 10 times per day.
If there’s one trend that hasn’t gone away, it’s brands taking to the comments to share quick, humorous, and relevant comments. Now, while this strategy definitely works best for global, established brands, the comments can be a gold mine for any business.
Simply find videos that are relevant to your niche and find ways to engage in the discussion. Whether it be replying to a top comment or creating your own thread, comments have the same virality potential as videos.
Furthermore, with the ability to reply to comments with a video, you can increase engagement exponentially.
Though TikTok advertising is still in its infancy, with the reach that TikTok provides, including TikTok Ads in your marekting strategy could be worth a try.
There are currently four options businesses have for advertising on TikTok:
TikTok’s In-Feed Ads have a “Sponsored” label that appears when users see your ad, as well as a customizable CTA that accompanies your video.
In 2020, Levi’s partnered with TikTok and several influencers to release a series of In-Feed Ads that drove viewers to their online store. The company reported high engagement and increased traffic to its website.
Branded hashtag challenges “allow brands to go where their target audience already is, speak their language, and be part of the culture.” according to TikTok.
Though you have to talk to TikTok’s partnership team to get approval for the Branded Hashtag Challenge, using this feature can land your brand with six days of in-app promotion on the Discovery page.
While TikTok can bring about loads of exciting opportunities and new eyeballs landing on your brand’s profile, the keys to succeeding on the platform are not taking yourself too seriously and understanding what the TikTok audience wants. Experiment with your content, get creative, embrace the fast-paced, meme-riddled landscape and you’ll find yourself coasting toward success.