Even if you’re not a fan of TikTok’s short video format, you can’t deny that it’s gained immense popularity in 2021. With 689 million monthly users worldwide and over a million videos viewed every day — not counting China, where the app operates under a different name — TikTok is the most downloaded app in the iOS store. It’s also immensely popular amongst the younger demographic, with 62% of U.S. users falling between the ages of 10 and 29.
What is TikTok?
Owned by Chinese company ByteDance, TikTok got its start back in 2016. Originally named A.me and later Douyin, it has since its inception targeted Generation Z. How it works is relatively simple.
Users create short video clips and share them on their profiles. Videos created on TikTok are limited to 15 seconds, though users can also connect video clips for up to 60 seconds of footage. Videos made elsewhere and then uploaded to TikTok can be longer.
Within the app dashboard, users can edit their content with filters, special effects, prerecorded sounds, and a built-in music library. Users can also directly collaborate with one another, replying to clips with a split-screen effect or adding to content created by other users, in effect creating a near-endless stream of engaging new content. As a direct result of TikTok, we’ve seen multiple users, many of them still in high school, attain worldwide recognition as influencers.
TikTok is not a platform without controversy. Countries and leaders currently in conflict with the Chinese government have made attempts to ban the app. Additionally, because of the platform’s nature, creators often don’t fact-check before posting new content — though, as reported by Business Insider, TikTok has made an active effort to combat the spread of misinformation.
How Businesses Grow Their TikTok Community
TikTok is a cultural phenomenon, so it’s only natural that you’d want a piece of the pie. As with any social network, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things on TikTok. As you might expect, influencer marketing is one of the best ways to build up a community for your brand, but you can also create a branded channel or pay for in-feed advertisements.
Influencer Marketing and TikTok
For those who’ve gained a widespread following, TikTok can be extremely lucrative. At the time of writing, we’re seeing large brands regularly partner with popular TikTok creators for product reviews, placements, and features. As reported by E!, these partnerships have resulted in teenagers out-earning even their parents.
Unfortunately, wherever there are young people enjoying success, there are also predatory opportunists targeting them. These ‘managers’ often severely underpay stars, pocketing far more of their revenues than they’ve any right to. As you might expect, these aren’t the kinds of people you want your brand associated with; before you choose to partner with an influencer, be sure to also look into their management.
TikTok also has a gift function that allows users to tip their favorite creators, though concerns about its misuse caused the company to change the rules so only adults can send money as gifts.
Don’t just target big influencers, either. Micro-influencers (people with between 1,000 and 40,000 followers) with incredibly niche followings can be just as valuable, if not more so. Better yet, as noted by Entrepreneur, these influencers are often willing to work with brands free of charge.
Branded Content on TikTok
Influencer marketing aside, TikTok also allows you to create a branded channel. You might consider creating one of your own, at which point you can either create your own content or feature content created by fans of your business (or ideally, both). You might also consider creating content that leverages trending hashtags or trying to start your own hashtag campaign — TikTok has even released a case study that provides you with guidance on how to do so.
Advertising on TikTok
TikTok provides several advertising options for businesses, per Adspresso.
- In-feed videos. Sponsored TikTok clips that blend seamlessly into the TikTok newsfeed.
- Brand takeovers. Full-screen video ads no longer than five seconds that pop up when the app is opened.
- TopView Ads. Full-screen ads that can be up to 60 seconds long. They appear approximately five seconds after a user opens the app.
- Branded effects. Filters, stickers, lenses, and other shareable content/effects that both draw the eye and link to either a full ad or a landing page.
Our Top Tips for Effective TikTok Branding
- Stay current. Make sure you completely understand your target audience before you even think of creating content. Figure out what your audience might want to watch, study entertainers that you know appeal to your niche, and keep an ear to the ground about current trends. Otherwise, you’re liable to end up coming off like Lenny Wosniak from 30 Rock.
- Choose your influencers wisely. Research a candidate thoroughly before you consider partnering with them. You don’t want your brand associated with a notorious bully or a social media disaster, after all.
- Generate hype. Promoting a new product or upcoming release? Don’t give everything away all at once. Start by releasing a few teaser shots and hype generating posts on their socials, interacting with the customers. Choose specific content creators from across the available platforms to grant “special advanced access,” and release a drip-feed of content to get people excited.
- Work smarter, not harder. Study other brands that have enjoyed success on TikTok. Figure out what they did, and how they got there. Learn from not just their triumphs, but also their mistakes — for instance, if you want an example of what not to do, have a look at the TikTok challenge hosted last year by video game retailer GameStop.
- Quality over quantity. Consider using a third-party application to create TikTok videos rather than the in-app editor. Focus on what you know will be valuable to your audience. And make sure your products are up to standard before you start trying to push them on the platform.
The most obvious example of an alternative to TikTok is the now-defunct Vine. Given that you can’t really establish a brand on a dead social network, though, we’ve dug up a few other social networks and applications that share a lot in common with the popular platform:
- Triller. Based in Los Angeles, Triller offers basically the same functionality and end-user experience as TikTok, including the short-form video format.
- Instagram Reels. Although Instagram is a vastly different social network from TikTok, its Reels feature allows users to upload short video clips in a similar fashion. Unfortunately, it hasn’t exactly achieved widespread popularity.
- Dubsmash. An application focused primarily on music and lip-syncing, Dubsmash has experienced something of a resurgence with TikTok’s popularity.
- Likee. The easiest way to describe Likee is “imagine if YouTube and TikTok had a lovechild.” Includes live video feeds and long-form content along with short-form video and filters.
TikTok is one of the most popular social networks amongst the younger generation. As such, if your business’s target audience includes Generation Z, we’d go so far as to say you need a presence there.
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