If you ask anyone between thirteen and forty years of age if they have heard of or used the app TikTok, the chances that they will answer “yes” are extremely high. With over one billion users all over the world, including an estimated eighty-five million people in the United States alone, it’s not surprising why so many brands have jumped in and started using TikTok as part of their marketing mix. However, this app isn’t like the other popular social media platforms today, and it’s imperative that brands understand how it works before getting involved.
What is TikTok?
TikTok, like Vine before it, is made up exclusively of video content. The first thing the user sees when the app opens up is a short fifteen to sixty-second video that takes up the entire phone screen, providing the user with the option to swipe between the “Following” and “For You” tabs. The “Following” tab, as you can imagine, feeds the user videos from the accounts that they choose to follow while the “For You” tab suggests new content based on videos the user likes, shares, and comments on.
This “For You” page is a big part of what sets the app apart from the other social media powerhouses like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, or Facebook. It operates on a unique algorithm that doesn’t solely depend on how many followers the creator has, making it easier for videos from unknown creators to go viral. This incentivizes these massive amounts of user-generated content and makes the content that is produced much less formal than other platforms.
TikTok released a statement last month explaining how this algorithm works, and why you may come across one video with three likes and the next has three million likes.
TikTok for Marketers: Opportunities to Consider
Taking into consideration this informality and the casual nature of TikTok is crucial for brands who are planning on using it for marketing purposes, especially when marketing towards a Gen-Z audience. As a 20-year-old user of the app, here are some ways to make an impact when marketing your brand on TikTok:
If possible, don’t make it look like an advertisement, make it look like any other TikTok video.
How do you do this? By using a popular song in the background, using text boxes from the app, using a vertically oriented format, telling some sort of story that keeps the attention of the audience (13-40 year olds), using humor where it makes sense for your brand, and following the current trends.
Users don’t want to feel like they are being pitched to by a company, but they listen to other users who they aspire to be more like. These don’t have to be big-name influencers (though they can be), as long as they’re sharing content that resonates with your audience. Do your research, and consider outreach to creators with smaller audiences as well.
Catch their attention within the first three seconds.
The attention span of a person who uses TikTok normally is quite low as they are used to short, action-packed videos. However, if your video starts off by catching their eye or sparking their interest, they’re more likely to get hooked. Think bright colors, big text, and personal language that speaks directly to them. This is very important on TikTok as it is easy to immediately swipe by any video that seems uninteresting.
Watching this social media platform grow in popularity has been an exciting journey, and with all of the recent controversy over TikTok, its hard to say what the future may hold for this app. However, with the number of people downloading the app still rising, testing the waters by getting your brand involved could be a great way to make an impact.
Phoebe is a virtual social media marketing intern at RDW Group who is studying Communications and Media at the University of Michigan. Some of her favorite 2020 quarantine activities include cooking, going on walks and spending time with family.