In a digital marketing environment dominated by Instagram and Facebook, many companies are reluctant to take on yet another platform. With TikTok, however, the added commitment could prove worthwhile.
Fueled by youth and creativity, this app has caused a whirlwind in the social media sphere, bringing a quirkier, more organic quality to online interactions. Play your cards right, and your TikTok presence could cement your credibility among younger audiences.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a first-of-its-kind social media platform. This video-sharing service focuses on short clips, which often include comedic elements or trending dance moves. The platform was popularized by dance challenges in which choreographers create short routines that are then mimicked or adapted by millions of other TikTok users.
TikTok is notable not only for its dance and music-oriented approach, but also, its explosive growth. Analytic leader App Annie predicts that the platform will reach over 1.2 billion active monthly users at some point in 2021. Already in late 2020, the app had surpassed 2 billion downloads worldwide.
TikTok Demographics and Stats
TikTok is and always has been the domain of Gen-Z. App Ape data reveals that the platform is most popular among users in their preteens and teens, although twenty-somethings form the next most significant group.
Beyond its youthful vibes, this platform is surprisingly universal; it's used extensively by men and women alike—and it's also common across numerous racial and ethnic groups. While the app and its sister platform Douyin are most popular in America and East Asia, it's also taken off in Europe, fueled, in part, by ongoing COVID lockdowns.
The short clips that form the basis of TikTok are easy to record and edit. Users carefully select background music, add filters, and incorporate visual effects. Text can be added to strengthen each video's narrative—as can hashtags, which also serve the important purpose of helping users find other videos.
While some users are dedicated to content creation, many are happy to simply browse the vast and ever-changing library of videos. Most appreciate the unique TikTok algorithm, which ranks videos based on expressed interests and viewing behavior.
How Brands are Using TikTok
A variety of today's top brands rely on TikTok to connect with young consumers and produce a new, more entertaining take on traditional ads. This platform is ideal for lighthearted marketing campaigns which typically incorporate humor and dancing to boost follower engagement.
TikTok favors authentic, unpolished campaigns, so the most successful brands on this platform leave their sophisticated content for Instagram or Facebook.
To provide a better sense of the range of marketing opportunities that TikTok provides, we've highlighted a few of the most noteworthy brands currently making waves on this popular video platform:
Boasting over 12.4 million fans, the NBA has, as a reporter at Forbes puts it, "cracked the TikTok code" to become a noteworthy presence. This achievement was made possible, in part, through the assistance of viral sensations such as Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae Easterling.
Beyond courting influencers, the NBA succeeds with TikTok marketing by providing a combination of recent highlights, silly throwbacks, and fan-generated content. Clips often show the heartwarming side of the league, emphasizing athletes' loving relationships with their close family members or their support for their teammates.
As a TV channel, ESPN provides non-stop sports coverage spanning a variety of athletic events. ESPN is responsible for producing these broadcasts, but this form of content generation doesn't extend to the channel's TikTok account. There, the brand relies on reposted content from noteworthy athletes and casual fans alike.
If there's anything that connects ESPN's TV and social media presence, it's the emphasis on variety. Followers can find coverage for everything from pro sports to viral moments captured by the platform's key Gen-Z demographic.
Mic'd up moments dominate the NFL TikTok page. It relies less on raw footage than its NBA counterpart. Instead, challenges and viral moments are more common, with popular posts highlighting the latest TikTok crazes (such as sea shanties) or promoting giveaways. Big things may be in the NFL's future on TikTok, however, as the platform has partnered with the league in an effort to expand its presence in live sports.
The Washington Post
TikTok might not be the first social media site that comes to mind for connecting with a major newspaper, but The Washington Post has revealed the true power of the platform for media outlets. Its TikTok success can be credited to video producer Dave Jorgenson, who keeps the newspaper relevant with wacky musings about everything from Congressional hijinks to the Super Bowl.
By giving its TikTok account a face and a clearly defined identity, The Washington Post shows that, while it remains a respected outlet, it also offers plenty of personality to keep younger readers engaged.
Shopping hauls originally captured the internet's fascination on YouTube but have since become a force to be reckoned with on TikTok. Target takes advantage of this craze by highlighting products that specific types of shoppers not only want but need.
TikTok videos also provide an opportunity for the retailer to showcase its company culture and values. For example, a noteworthy clip highlighted Isaiah Timmons with his winning entry in the HBCU Black History Month Design Challenge. Followers also enjoy the #TellMeWithTarget campaign, which reveals enthusiasts' passion for all things Target.
There are many valid ways to consume a bowl or burrito from Chipotle—and the fast-casual chain's TikTok aims to highlight this reality in the most original, humorous manner possible.
Chipotle's greatest TikTok success thus far may be its #GuacDance challenge, in which participants paid homage to avocados by showing off their silliest moves. Released in time for National Avocado Day, the challenge highlighted the beloved children's musician Dr. Jean. The result? Chipotle's most successful Avocado Day yet with sales of the popular condiment topping 800,000. This has paved the path for several additional viral efforts, such as eyeshadow collaborations with the beauty brand e.l.f.
Amazon's approach to TikTok is unique among retailers. Instead of focusing exclusively on content curation, Amazon makes the most of the common phrase, "TikTok made me buy it."
The hashtag #AmazonFinds—which boasted over 7.6 billion views as of March 2021—demonstrates the extent to which products can be pinpointed and promoted in videos. These showcases often make it to the coveted For You page. Additionally, influencers such as Micah Couwenhoven and Miranda and Melanie Wilking have teamed up with the retailer to make short, catchy videos to get followers excited for the holiday shopping season.
How Your Brand Can Use TikTok
The success stories highlighted above demonstrate how, with a little creativity, it's possible to capture the imagination of TikTok's user base. Strikeouts can be downright embarrassing, however, so it's important to keep the following considerations in mind as you craft your TikTok marketing campaign:
Be True to Your Brand
TikTok is all about authenticity—and the same should be true of all branding efforts that rely on this platform. Social media savvy Gen-Zers are skeptical of any content that feels excessively polished. Sophisticated, heavily curated content is typically reserved for Instagram with TikTok encouraging users to be their true selves. This ideal should be followed by individuals and organizations alike.
Likewise, overt efforts to keep up with trends are bound to backfire if your brand is, by nature, not particularly youthful or cool. Instead, aim for a down-to-earth approach that exemplifies what your organization is all about. In doing so, you can cultivate a loyal following, even if your brand lacks the youthful quality that, to the uninitiated, seems so vital to TikTok success.
Partner with Influencers
While influencer marketing has long been regarded as the domain of Instagram and YouTube, the TikTok influencer also holds a lot of marketing sway. TikTok influencer culture is unique, however, and must be respected before it can be appropriately utilized as a marketing opportunity.
On TikTok, influential users prefer to be known as creators in recognition of their efforts to produce meaningful or enjoyable content. These individuals thrive when granted creative freedom—an essential that many have found lacking on other platforms.
TikTok began as a music and dance powerhouse—and these elements remain key to its success today. The right tracks can instantly elevate any TikTok video while also underscoring your brand's identity. Music choices should be relevant not only to your overarching message but also to the style and purpose of each video. Nail these key elements and your TikTok soundtrack will make each clip pop.
The fast-paced world of digital marketing continually presents exciting new opportunities, as exemplified by the rise of TikTok. There's never been a better time to build strong, authentic connections with consumers—and with this revolutionary platform, the potential for engagement knows no bounds.
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