TikTok Marketing

TikTok may still be a bit of an unknown for many (like myself), but TikTok marketing could be a crucial part of your 2020 social media marketing strategy.

TikTok is making a lot of noise these last months, there’s no doubt that almost everybody has heard of it⁠ so far. At least from Mr. Trump. Screaming horrors about it to the country he rules.

Whether from references to viral comedy videos and dances, seeing the TikTok logo in videos re-posted on your other favorite social media sites, or just hearing about how it’s the latest platform to take the social media landscape by storm.

According to different websites, TikTok was the most downloaded app in January 2020, and it’s estimated that TikTok has about 800 million active users. What does that mean? The network is larger than both Twitter and Pinterest.

There is a lot of new content to consume, it’s staying power has become crystal clear⁠, TikTok is unlikely to be a fad.

If you’re thinking to yourself that at least some of those 800 million people must be in your business’s target audience, there’s a good chance you’re right.

This may sound like a marketing goldmine, especially because there may be less competition while other businesses hesitate to get on board. However, engaging with potential customers in a place where they go to be entertained requires a nuanced, careful approach.

So, let´s start with the basics: What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media mobile app with a large community of users centered around video content.

TikTokers (TikTok users) film short videos and edit them with effects, filters, captions, and music, then post them for their TikTok followers. Content creators use hashtags and identify which popular category they fit into to more easily be discovered by non-followers.

Much of the site’s content is comedic — kind of like Vine, Twitter’s late video network. (Did you remember it?) Some of the most popular genres include short skits, lip-syncing, cringe videos, and cooking how-to’s.

One of the most popular phenomena is the influx of “challenges” posted across the platform (often to visualize lyrics from a popular song or test different reactions to a common social experiment) that create a ripple effect as everyone contributes their version. (Sociologists, you should read this article.)

Did you see the #InMyFeelingsChallenge hashtag on Instagram? Well, it was popular when you kept seeing it on Instagram? It was uploaded to Instagram 1.7 million times, while TikTok saw 5 million entries.

TikTok was first launched in China as Douyin, then launched as TikTok internationally in 2017. Then, everything changed⁠⁠ — ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company) acquired Music.ly, a social media platform that allowed users to create lip-sync videos to popular songs. Creativity with lip-syncing paved the way for TikTok’s US popularity and emphasis on incorporating music.

Douyin still exists, and both Douyin and TikTok use the same software, but they maintain separate networks to comply with China’s censorship laws.

TikTok is most popular with people between the age of 16 and 24, which makes up 41% of the total user-base. Unfortunately, the social network hasn’t released much additional info beyond this yet, though it’s safe to assume 24–30 makes up another large part of its audience.

Aside from age, the other stats we know seem to indicate popularity fairly evenly across the board:

  • 56% of TikTok users are male and 44% are female.
  • The app is available in 150 markets in 75 languages.
  • iPhone/Android usage is a 52%/47% split.

As long as you’re in the correct age range, you can probably pretty safely find your customers.

So with that in mind, we do recommend only using TikTok for marketing if you have a young audience. While there’s no doubt that older people will start using the service soon, your marketing resources will likely be better spent elsewhere if that’s your targeted audience.

Does that mean all hope is lost if you market to older millennials and above? Not.

Re-posting videos that were created on TikTok to other social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter is a hugely popular practice. If you have an engaged audience on those other profiles, you can take advantage of the TikTok editing tools to create video content for your followers.

Here’s how to market on TikTok

You have two options for your TikTok marketing strategy: working with influencers or creating original content. Each of these strategies has its own merits and time commitments.

Influencer marketing will be huge on TikTok

From makeup to baking videos, TikTok is full of people making things. There are some huge TikTok influencers in these spaces some have millions of subscribers.

These influencers have audiences that may want to buy your products, so for a chunk of your marketing budget, you can partner with them and create an influencer marketing campaign. Pay these influencers to use your products on-camera or otherwise promote your brand in their videos, and you’ll get your products in front of new eyes.

But even more importantly, you’ll earn some of your customers’ trust too. One in three consumers trust an influencer’s opinion more than what a brand says, so use that to your advantage.

How to get started with TikTok influencer marketing

The golden rule of Influencer Marketing: relevance is more important than reach.

Don’t simply approach the people behind accounts with the largest following⁠⁠ — not only will they be incredibly expensive to work with, but many references to your brand could fall on deaf ears.

Find out who is posting popular videos in your niche by navigating to the Discover tab, and searching a handful of keywords that relate to your industry, products, or services. Document the users with the most followers or most popular videos within this topic, watch their posts to determine a fit for your brand and think about reaching out.

As you’re moving through this process, also look at the most popular videos associated with those keywords, under Discover>Top.

While not a lot of information about the inner workings of the TikTok algorithm is public, there appears to be a component that allows anyone with palatable content to skyrocket to popularity.

Posts seem to be ‘tested’ on people who don’t follow you. The post will be served to even more non-followers if it performs well in that first group. Reach depends on performance.

When your video is published, it’s served to a small number of TikTok users in between popular videos on their For You page. This is why when you’re scrolling through your For You page, you’ll often see a video that has very few likes.

If your video is received well by the users who initially receive it on their For You page, the chances are it will get bumped up to a larger pool of users, and then to even more, and so on.

So even if you only have a handful of followers on TikTok, your video could still skyrocket to success!

While this is great encouragement when producing your original content, this also gives us clues about when to nab an influencer as they’re on the cusp of becoming popular.

The micro-influencers with just one or two wildly popular videos that gained traction through this performance-based model may still be in the process of amassing a huge following (and price tag). Keep an eye out for these as you sift through popular videos from your keyword search and document influencers to reach out to.

Making your content can be a powerful TikTok marketing strategy. However, it will take lots of time, creativity, and resources. TikTok is largely based on viral content, so your content needs to be viral too. Otherwise, it will likely be ignored by TikTokers.

The easiest, most effective way to ensure that your original content is popular and shareable is to dive into the “trend” culture. Use the Discover page to track trending hashtags, and then create your version of the trend that includes an element of your business. Bonus points if it’s funny or silly to increase your chance of virality.

Another simple way to create popular content is to offer how-to’s, tips and tricks, or insider secrets from your industry. If you own a bakery, you can show a pared-down, visually appealing version of the steps in a recipe, like baking a cake to the tune of a pop song where the final version appears when you show yourself snapping your fingers. Sell clothing? Show how many ways a piece can be implemented into an outfit or the secret steps of your perfect shirt knot.

This method is a doubly effective strategy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, where many in-person services have been forced to find a way to offer something different virtually.

Create a TikTok of your top yoga poses for stress relief or how to create extravagant cocktails in your kitchen to stay relevant to your audience while they stay home.

Once you’ve created your content using one of these ideas or an original one you came up with for your business, always add a few relevant hashtags to your post before you upload it, since this is how users who don’t yet follow you will find it.

Just remember: Even if you don’t employ one of those two methods, the key to TikTok marketing is to make a viral, light-hearted video that also promotes your products⁠ — not a product-first sales pitch.

If you don’t have the time to come up with creative ideas, execute videos, and then slowly cultivate their reach through organic engagement, don’t sweat it⁠ — TikTok has now added an advertising platform that will expand the reach for you if you set aside some budget. TikTok ads.

TikTok offers a variety of ways your ad can appear in the feed, depending on the creative assets you’re visualizing or what makes sense for your campaign. TikTok says these formats “include but are not limited to horizontal, vertical, or square videos and images.”

To create these ads, they also offer a couple of creation toolsets:

  • “Video Creation Kit” which provides you with a variety of video templates and allows you to create videos by using your existing images, without needing to be a pro editor.
  • “Automated Creative Optimization” which helps you automate the process of creating, delivering, and optimizing your ads.

These ads can appear in four places:

  • In-feed
  • Detail Page
  • Post-roll
  • Story

TikTok Ad Targeting

When managing your TikTok Ads, you can target your audience by gender, location, age, interests, and what TikTok calls “other unique variables.”

For more advanced users who may have practice using these same popular strategies on other paid social initiatives, you can create “Custom Audiences” and “Lookalike Audiences” to reach more people similar to your existing customers.

TikTok Ad Performance Measurement

TikTok Ads measurement tools let you monitor your ads performance by using a few different devices meant to help you track actionable KPIs:

  • Use the TikTok pixel to monitor your ad performance and measure your marketing results by tracking users’ behaviors on your website.
  • TikTok partners with third-party tracking companies to track ad conversions, users’ in-app behavior, impressions and click attribution data

As you can probably tell, these ad specifications indicate that TikTok ads are meant to blend into the average customer experience as much as possible. If you want users to linger on your ad (or even better, click through and convert), you’re not off the hook for creating something entertaining that doesn’t disrupt their social experience.

And there you have it: How to market on TikTok 101. Use this guide to decide on if you should pursue TikTok marketing, whether it should be organic or paid, and how you want to kick off your first campaign.

Remember, it has a very specific demographic, so tread lightly, keep it fun, and make it shareable for that audience.

Next week we will talk about the Marketing Partner Program for Advertisers that TikTok has recently launched.




Entrepreneur and graphic designer. Owner of DeCast Design. MS in Human Rights. World Citizen and freelance writer. Madrid based. www.decastdesign.com

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Manuel Castañeda

Manuel Castañeda

Entrepreneur and graphic designer. Owner of DeCast Design. MS in Human Rights. World Citizen and freelance writer. Madrid based. www.decastdesign.com

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