How TikTok Has Impacted The Marketing Industry
TikTok is a bit like marmite. I’ve found that bringing up the app amongst friends usually creates one of two reactions. The first, a camp of people who maintain TikTok to be a silly app with no purpose. They have no interest in the app, nor its content and feel strongly that it is of no use to anyone. The second camp of people can talk for upwards of 10 minutes about its marvellous addictive quality, how it caters to your specific taste in memes and music and joke about how they could easily spend hours scrolling through its endless content. When the app first started gaining popularity a couple of years ago, I was very much in the first camp. I viewed its consumers as immature and held a certain air of arrogance that I hadn’t yet fallen prey to downloading the app on any of my devices. Then lockdown happened.
I gave in mere weeks into the national lockdown as something to do during the months of nothingness and was pleasantly surprised. TikTok, I was unhappy to admit, was an escape. Filled with laughs and relatable content. The app allowed me to see people my age talking about things I was interested in or wanted to be educated on. There was also a refreshing openness in which people would talk about their struggles and in which commenters would offer advice. So, after almost a year it’s safe to say that I now reside in the second camp, with a borderline addiction to the app and a love for it’s content. Even more recently, I’ve been thinking about the potential for marketing on the app. With its exclusive opportunity to cater to millennials and Gen Z – a notoriously difficult audience to reach – and its virality algorithm, TikTok has become an amazing opportunity for brands. In this article then, we’ll take a look at the history of TikTok, the scale of its growth and how useful it is to marketers.
TikTok began its life in 2014 as Musical.ly, an app that allowed users to lip sync to popular sounds bites and songs. However, it didn’t gain its current level of popularity until Bytedance purchased the app and incorporated its version of TikTok ‘Douyin’ to form TikTok as it is now. TikTok, explained simply, allows users to create up to 3 minute videos. This seems like a simple premise but users have found that the creativity that TikTok offers is unmatched. From preloaded filters, editing options and sound bites, everything can be done right there in the app. This offers a unique opportunity to content creators: infinite possibilities and complete creative freedom without the need for video editing software.
From the point of view of TikTok’s consumers, the app offers exactly what Gen Z are looking for. With the average individual’s attention span decreasing, Gen Z wants to consume more short form content. They also want variety; a mix of funny, educational and wholesome content. TikTok delivers on this with a ‘for you’ page that never ends. TikTok can be incredibly addictive then, with individuals simply scrolling down to watch an endless stream of content. So, it’s clear that TikTok offers the perfect platform for young creators and consumers alike.
TikTok has quickly become one of the largest social media platforms over the past few years. Currently, TikTok has an estimated 1.1 Billion monthly users and is growing every month. Comparing this to Facebook’s 2.85 billion estimated monthly users, this doesn’t seem to be a shocking statistic. However, 59% of all TikTok users are 13-24 year olds and only 7% are over 45. On the other hand, Facebook users are predominantly older, with 59% of users over the age of 35. Another statistic to keep in mind when comparing TikTok to Facebook is the amount of time users seem to spend on the sites daily. TikTok users spend up to 89 minutes per day while Facebook users spend around 38 minutes on the app per day. From these statistics, it’s clear that TikTok is one of the best ways to reach the notoriously difficult demographic of Gen Z and Millennials. It also shows that TikTok may be a better way of advertising than people realise, as gaining the favour of Gen Z is currently one of the most valuable things a brand could have in modern marketing.
How TikTok has grown over the pandemic
With the whole world stuck inside for over a year now, individuals sought out forms of connection, entertainment and escapism. For a lot of those people, TikTok served all of these purposes. The app felt like a community for a long time, with average people talking about their average lockdown days. Lots of videos around this time were about exercise at home, working through mental health and loneliness as well as creative projects and small businesses.
Using TikTok is easy. All you have to do is scroll down to watch the next video and the algorithm does the rest. TikTok’s algorithm takes data on the content you rewatch, like and comment on to dictate what kind of media you like to consume. This creates a very niche corner of the internet where everything you see is based on your interests; what will make you laugh and keep you engaged. For example, if you happen to enjoy the music of Beyonce, watch classic films and read a lot of books, your TikTok feed will depict all of these things. On an average viewing session you will begin to see book reviews, funny content based upon the films you like and song covers. It is oddly comforting to see your exact interests and personality displayed on social media and offers a sort of community feel. This, for me, is one of its most desirable features.
Another desirable feature of TikTok was how it offered relatability during the pandemic. ‘Normal’ people could make endearing and funny content about their everyday lives, allowing people to feel less alone. Additionally, the never ending For You page encouraged hours of mindless scrolling to get you through the days of staying inside. No wonder then, TikTok grew exponentially throughout 2020 and into 2021. In the UK, the app grew up to 44% with 15-24 year olds after the pandemic started.
The platform has an astounding meme culture that older generations may find difficult to understand as it usually contains knowledge of pop culture, popular sound bites on the app and the ability to remember what trends are currently occurring in the app. This may make it difficult for brands to utilise without young people in their teams. It also makes it impractical to advertise to older generations. However, it is perfect for the young generation. So, if your brand caters to young consumers, TikTok advertising is a must.
Gen Z and the impact of TikTok popularity
With so many users of TikTok under the age of 30, advertisers have to adapt to the way that Gen Z are using the app in order to become successful. This can occur by accident, or without much monetary input from brands such as small business owner ElleCreate who started her graphic T-shirt, sticker and print business in 2019. While she had a business Instagram account, she found a great platform on TikTok that took off during the pandemic. One of the great benefits of TikTok then is that you don’t necessarily have to put money into your advertisements. You can simply create your own videos and allow your audience to find your work. As the For You page is personalised to fit individuals likes and interests, your brand is likely to find people who will already be interested in your product. In a way then, TikTok can create free personalised ads for your brand without too much work from your end.
One of the biggest problems for small businesses is trying to compete with big brands within the same space. For example, no matter how good your SEO is, if you are a small business, you are likely to be relegated to the latter pages of Google search engines while big businesses will conquer the first page of Google and other search engines. On TikTok though, your brand has more opportunity to find virality and find a great customer base who will be interested in your product. This is because Gen Z are not looking for big brands, they are looking for authenticity as well as things that pique their interest.
There are many brands who wonder if advertising on TikTok will ‘cheapen’ their brand. Their worries are based on their preconceptions of the app itself as a place for silly jokes and teenage pranks. However, the value of TikTok advertising cannot be overstated. Many small businesses have reported seeing exponential growth of their products since moving to the app. As well as this, TikTok holds an incredible amount of power when it comes to influencing markets. Although this is done by content creators and not brands, there have been many products now that have gone viral on TikTok and have incidentally sold out in the real world. A few examples of this include Maybelline’s Sky High Mascara, Little Moons Mochi Balls and surprisingly, Feta Cheese. Each of these products have become sold out due to customers simply reviewing them on the app. So, it’s clear that TikTok should not be scoffed at as a way to advertise your products.
One aspect of this popularity comes from customers engaging with your posts. Commenting and liking your posts helps others know if your product seems like a good investment or not. When you see an advert for small businesses for example, you will see many comments from unfiltered customers telling you – good or bad – what they think of your product. Gen Z are also notoriously known for calling out brands for inscenserity as well. For example, brands that are not eco-friendly or who are using buzz words like feminism and advocacy to pander to their audience instead of making it part of their brand’s story and values.
The flip side: what happens when Gen Z doesn’t like your brand?
Unfortunately, it is difficult to impress Gen Z without authenticity. The younger generation does not like to feel like they are being advertised to, which is why many advertisements have their comments turned off. Gen Z are known to be ruthless on the app. Making fun of millennials, trolling advertisements that seem inauthentic and picking apart companies in the comments for seemingly small things such as not being eco-friendly are just some of the things you can experience while advertising your brand on TikTok.
To advertise on TikTok effectively then takes a lot of work on your part if you haven’t used TikTok much before. You must take up a relentless amount of watching time to keep up to date with trends, sounds, what is ‘cool’ and what is no longer. Brands then need to be careful what they post. They need to make sure they don’t look like they’re trying ‘too hard’ to be cool or are using outdated trends. So, it is clear that there are key benefits and disadvantages for being on TikTok. By now I’m sure you’re wondering how advertising on TikTok is worth it for your brand and how to do it well. Don’t worry! We’ll go through some examples now of how brands are doing well on the app.
Examples of good brand TikToks
The Washington post
This newspaper has gained nearly one million followers on the app by creating educational sketches that often mention current events. Education with a comedic edge is popular on the app as it fits in with the overall tone. The app doesn’t take itself too seriously, so if you want to educate customers on your product, make sure to drop the serious tone and have some fun with it. The face of this TikTok page, Dave Jorgenson has quickly gained popularity across all social media, and is someone to watch in the space.
The American food brand is one of the most active companies leveraging TikTok, with almost 1.5 million followers. One of their Viral campaigns created buzz for the brand with a #ChipotleRoyalty contest. Contestants could win $10,000 and have their Chipotle order featured on the brand’s app. If you happen to be a big brand with a little extra budget, it’s a great idea to create a hashtag or fun trend that lots of people can get involved in. Chipotle have also collaborated with many top influencers within the app to widen their reach and gain greater awareness of the brand.
Gymshark has used TikTok to their advantage to gain 1.7 million followers. One of the key ways they have done this is by sharing their own workout ideas. With fitness being a popular category on the app, it’s clear that the brand has tapped in to what is popular for this category in order to attract those interested in fitness. The brand rose on the platform with funny and educational videos, posting everyday and adapting popular trends to their own brand. The key to brands like this becoming popular is by creating hashtags and challenges while creating engaging posts that follow trends within the app. With this example we can learn how finding your category within the app and joining in on popular trends within this category can launch you to TikTok popularity.
San Diego Zoo
One of the key demographics for those on TikTok is those who like animal videos. Whether funny or cute, it’s safe to say that the majority of people love seeing animal videos on their For You page. The San Diego Zoo takes full advantage of this, creating videos of all their animals. From giving fun facts about elephants to introducing you to their big cat family, the page offers a sweet and entertaining insight into the zoo that you wouldn’t see otherwise. As a result, the page has gained 1.2 million followers and when you watch their videos, it’s easy to understand why. They have also partnered with animal friendly brands and charities.
As you can see from these examples, it is possible to gain a huge following on TikTok as a business. The key to doing this is tapping into your Brand values and story in an authentic way, while incorporating trends within the app to make engaging and comedic videos.
Customer feedback in comments
The comment section of TikTok is, as I have touched on previously, one of the most diverse places for opinions. Many brands choose to turn their comments of due to trolling of their products but on the other hand, it’s one of the key ways to build engagement with your page. One thing I have noticed about the app and its inhabitants is that Gen Z do not take well to corporate feeling advertisements. Ads pulled straight from television or other websites will not be appreciated, so it’s important to tweak your ads to be more TikTok friendly if you want to see more positive comments. The TikTok comment section can also be extremely useful to your brand. With the reply feature, creators can reply to specific comments with a video that will show up within the comment section and also on your main page. This means that frequently asked questions can be answered quickly and easily from brands so that customers can easily access them. This also boosts engagement and brings more views to your page. This level of engagement is unlike any other social media platform and allows amazing connection to consumers.
Your customers will also leave great feedback in your comments if you look for it. Although some individuals may leave unsavoury comments, many will give you constructive criticism regarding your product, video quality or content. This is great for tailoring your content to find the right audience for you and helps you create a great platform for your business.
The value of comments on TikTok is often overlooked but when used correctly, it can help increase your engagement with your customers.
How you can use TikTok to your advantage
With all of this being said, how can you use TikTok to your advantage as a smaller business? Well, here are some tips to end our discussion of TikTok:
Much like in the real world, a great way to meet new people is to simply introduce yourself. After all, you can’t expect things to happen if you don’t make that initial effort. The more personal and relatable your business feels, the more likely you are to get engagement and likes from possible customers. So share your name, brand story and information about your product to kick things off. It’s incredibly important to leave any kind of pity out of the video though. If you look on TikTok and see a small business promoting their work based upon pity or complaining about their lack of sales, you’ll see a slew of comments saying they like the product but will no longer think of buying it because of the guilt-trip.
- Workspace tour
Behind the scenes videos are always popular with customers. Taking your customers through a tour of your workspace or even filming yourself packing orders helps customers understand the kind of hard work that goes into your product and how passionate you are about it. I’ve seen many accounts become popular for packaging orders on camera. Something so simple can be exciting for your customers. The possibility that their name may be shouted out in a video encourages viewers to buy your products and engage in the comments to ask to be put in your video. So, next time you think of gaining engagement on TikTok, think about how you can get your customers involved in the fulfilment process.
- Your Why
Explain to your audience why you started your business in the first place. Explain your story and ethos, what drives you to do what you do and how the business is driven by your passion. This helps your customers understand your brand and what drives it. Giving your brand story in short form video gives your customer an understanding of why they should want your product in an easily digestible way. Throw in some creative and engaging editing or something to make your video stand out and you can create a quick an easy advert for your brand yourself.
- Product how-to
Show your customers how to use your product and why they are better than others on the market. Explain what makes them different as well as a tutorial on how it works. This produces trust in your customers for your product. If they see a product working well in real-time on a video or TikTok live, they will be more likely to trust your brand and make a purchase.
- Host a giveaway
Hosting a giveaway is a surefire way to gain engagement. By asking new customers to either tag someone, follow them and like the video you are gaining engagement and widening your customer base for the price of your prize. While some customers may unfollow after the giveaway is over, by asking them to tag their friends, you are opening yourself up to a new host of people that might be interested in your product.
TikTok offers a unique opportunity to reach a younger generation with your product. It’s a huge platform that can be used in many different ways to produce creative, funny and educational content, with an algorithm that promises your video will be found by those who may be interested in your brand. With many brands killing it on the app, TikTok is a great tool for building your customer base and making more sales. So go ahead and start up your account today!
If TikTok isn’t your thing, but you still want your brand to have a social media presence, we can help you! Simply explore our site here or call us on 01708 952952.