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TikTok for Marketers

If you'd like to speak the language of your Gen Z target audience, it's time to familiarize yourself with the app TikTok. The creator-focused app has been downloaded over 1.5 Billion times since its 2017 launch. With 69% of TikTok users between the ages of 16 and 24, there's a lucrative audience waiting to be reached.

Before we dive into how to use TikTok effectively, let's review the essential terminology.

  • Creators: TikTok users are known as creators because by contributing to shaping the immersive experiences of the community.
  • Duet: Users create custom videos and play them in a split-screen format next to another video of their choice.
  • Fans: A fan is a follower, if you are a fan of a profile you can make sure not to miss their updates. 
  • Heart: A heart is a like. All your hearts are collected for you so you can go back and revisit videos later. 
  • For You Feed: Comparable to Instagram’s discover page. It’s where you can find new videos based on what you’ve engaged with in the past. 
  • Digital Wellbeing: Allows users to check how much time they’ve spent on the app. Also allows them to restrict access to the app for periods of time.

Now that we've gotten that over with let's dive into how brands can effectively participate on TikTok. A study 82% of all online content will be video by 2022. In order to be competitive, brands must invest in and experiment with video content. What works for brands is hyper-targeted TikTok strategies that are platform-specific and catered for Gen Z. Anything that users feel is being repurposed from other platforms will be discredited. Although, interestingly, many Instagram video memes are pulled directly from TikTok. 

TikTok can also be an effective platform to find and employ influencers. We've seen popular influencers come to TikTok for its unique features and content styles and many YouTubers transition seamlessly to TikTok. Content that performs well on TikTok can vary, but tend to either be original sound filled with quick cuts and zooms for comedic effect, or lip-syncs/dances. What all videos have in common is an emphasis on . the sound used, whether it’s original, music, or common dialogue from TV shows/movies. 

The culture of TikTok is centered around T Hashtag Challenges, Memes, Influencer Content, Duets, Slow-Mo, Celebs, and Pranks. If you want to speak to the TikTok user, know that they are “Szn” obsessed and the trends change rapidly on the app, brands who want to participate on TikTok must be ready to be agile with content creation or they'll miss the conversation. Above all, content must be user-friendly, digestible, and should blend into content native to the app. 

In terms of ad placements, TikTok has 5products: the hashtag challenge, brand takeovers, in-feed video, branded lenses and a “top-view” videos. According to an AdAge article, the campaigns can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars with a hashtag challenge starting at $150,000 a day. Although their ad offerings are relatively robust for a newer platform, there are major concerns in terms of reporting accuracy and a lack of defined KPIs for the platform given its infancy.

The brands making a splash on TikTok are natural content creators, people aren’t just following brands the way they would on other platforms. Brand content must fit seamlessly into their feeds.

  • Chipotle (197.9K Followers): Chipotle's strategy on TikTok has been starting TikTok-specific challenges. In May, Chipotle invited users to showcase their avocado dances and garnered over 250,000 responses. Then for Halloween, the brand challenged users to post a video of them in their costumes using hashtag #boorito. They awarded the five users with the most likes a free year of burritos. The challenge promoted a free meal for anyone who came to a shop in costume. TikTok was a natural progression for Chipotle, since they have such a heavy Gen Z and Millennial demographics and are expert content creators.
  • Redbull (3.2M Followers): Already a master of content creation, Redbull takes to TikTok seamlessly. Predominantly, their videos are centered around epic sports but they transition easily to meme content. Redbull has the second largest following of all the brands we looked at.
  • Fenty Beauty (299.8K Followers): Rhianna’s infamous beauty brand is a crash course in how to promote your product on TikTok. From platform-specific influencers, to tutorials to hashtag challenges, Fenty Beauty is able to highlight their product in a variety of ways, including swatching products on models of various skin tones demonstrating their diverse line of beauty products. 
  • NBA (6.1M Followers): The NBA takes advantage of the platform’s short-form content to motivate and inspire their 6.1 million followers, and go beyond the typical game-day content seen on their Instagram page. From athlete workouts to mascots dancing on the court, this platform offers the brand an opportunity to lighten up and show off some of the more fun aspects of the association. The NBA has the largest following of the brands we looked at. 
  • The Washington Post (284.2K Followers): Similarly to the NBA, the Washington Post takes advantage of this platform to highlight a more behind-the-scenes side of the usually buttoned-up media company. Followers get to see the faces behind the articles and watch them debate light-hearted topics like The Bachelor and highlight special happenings in the news, particularly if they’re funny.

Before you take to TikTok, make sure you have a strategic plan in place. TikTok is not for every brand and will require a large investment to create the timely content needed in order to engage with its users. If nothing else, consult a Gen Zer in your life before your brand embarks on your TikTok journey.

Vanessa Kahn



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