Jacqueline Zote
September 15, 2019

Introducing TikTok: Can Brands Use TikTok for Marketing?

Introducing TikTok, the latest video platform popular with Generation Z users. But can TikTok be used for marketing? Find out about TikTok for brands.

TikTok videos seem to be all the rage these days, though most of us hadn’t heard about the app until last year.
Even if you’ve never used TikTok before, chances are you have come across at least one viral video with the app’s watermark on it on other social media platforms.
By Q1 of 2019, it had become the most downloaded app in the App Store with 33+ million installs.
This proves how much viral potential these TikTok videos have, which would also explain why the app has become so popular.
But what’s so great about TikTok and what makes these bite-sized videos so appealing? Most importantly, is it worth the marketing investment for brands?
In this post, we’ll put TikTok under the microscope and try to understand it inside out. We will take a closer look at its features and demographics as well as its role and significance in marketing.

What is TikTok?

Before TikTok became TikTok, it first gained notoriety as Musical.ly – a Chinese social networking app that allows users to create and share short video content.
The easiest way to understand the app is if you put Snapchat together with Vine.
Like Vine, TikTok is a platform for sharing short, bite-sized videos. Users can create short music videos of up to 15 seconds and short, looping videos of up to 60 seconds.
Like Snapchat, TikTok provides users with a ton of options to customise their videos with filters and stickers. This adds to the app’s appeal among a younger, image-oriented crowd.
Although it was mainly considered a lip syncing app, TikTok is much more than that. Users have been sharing all sorts of entertaining content through the platform including comedy sketches, cringe videos, and cooking instructions.

Who Uses TikTok?

From what you can see so far, it’s clear that TikTok is extremely popular right now and continues to expand its user base. But is it the right platform for your brand to market itself? Let’s take a closer look at the app’s user demographics to find out.
TikTok is most popular among a Gen Z audience. So if your target audience mainly comprises of preteens, teenagers, and young adults, it could be the perfect platform for your brand. With that said, it’s not entirely off limits for the adult population either.
A GlobalWebIndex study found that 41% of the app’s users were between the ages of 16 and 24. An App Ape Lab study also found that around 40% of the app’s users were younger than 20, while people in their twenties made up 26% of the app’s user base.
Interestingly, TikTok seems to be more popular among people in their forties (16.8%) than people in their thirties (10.2%).
Although you might assume that the app is more female-oriented, you would be surprised to learn that there are more male users on the platform, though the difference isn’t drastic. 55.6% of the app’s users are male while the remaining 44.4% are female.

How to Create Content on TikTok

Although TikTok initially gained popularity as a lip syncing platform, there are several aspects to the app that users can explore to create captivating content.

1: Videos

You can share videos and slideshows by recording them on the platform or uploading them from outside the app. The basic video duration is 3 to 15 seconds, but you also have the option to join multiple videos together to create 60-second videos.

2: Music

Music is central to the TikTok platform. If you use a popular or trending song in your video, it could significantly improve the clip’s viral potential. The app integrates with all major music streaming platforms, from Spotify to Apple Music, so you can browse through an extensive music library to find the right sound for your video.

3: Duets

One of the key highlights of the app is the ability to create duets. This feature splits the screen in half so you can sing the same song as another creator. Some users also use this feature to come up with creative corresponding videos that don’t necessarily involve singing together.

4: Editing

TikTok gives you a ton of options to spruce up your videos and make them more visually appealing for the audience. You can add filters, stickers, emojis, GIFs, transitions, time effects, and more to improve your content.

5: Live Streaming

Select creators on TikTok also have the option to stream live broadcasts.
Aside from the ability to create content, TikTok offers features that promote interactions between users. Perhaps this is another factor that contributed to the app’s rapid rise in popularity.
Users can follow other content creators. They can also give hearts and/or comments on the videos they like or even share it with others. But that’s not all; TikTok lets you buy coins as an in-app purchase and then gift these coins to your favourite content creators. So you can do a bit more than liking and sharing their content.

How Brands Can Use TikTok

There is some opportunity for brands to use TikTok for marketing. But with the kind of features it has, the strategies would vary significantly from marketing campaigns on other social platforms. There may even be some limitations on what a brand can do on the platform, so it’s crucial to take a strategic approach to TikTok marketing.
Here are a few ways brands can use TikTok in their marketing campaigns:

1: Branded Hashtag Challenges

As the name suggests, hashtag challenges involve challenging users to film themselves doing something risky or unusual.Take for instance the #tumbleweedchallenge, where people created videos of themselves dropping to the ground and rolling around like tumbleweed.
These challenges are extremely popular on TikTok, as users love the opportunity to participate in a trend while taking up a fresh challenge at the same time. Brands can make the most of them by coming up with their own branded hashtag challenge that’s relevant to their product or campaign.
For instance, Guess launched the #InMyDenim challenge, where users had to film their transformation from tacky to glam. And of course, they would be wearing Guess denims in the glammed up version of their look. The challenge has since amassed over 38 million views.

2: User-Generated Content

Brands can get their audience involved through user-generated content campaigns on TikTok. This involves encouraging people to film themselves interacting with the brand’s product in some way. It can be a highly effective tactic to get more visibility among their target audience.
Take for instance how Apple encourages users to create content using their iPhones and tagging them with the #shotoniphone hashtag. The hashtag has received more than 9 million views on Tiktok and it’s equally popular on other social media channels. 

3: Influencer Marketing

Influential TikTok creators can significantly boost brand visibility and amplify marketing impact since they know how to engage the audience. They can even help you kick-start your hashtag challenges and UGC campaigns – an excellent solution for brands that are still struggling to build their TikTok following.
Besides having them create TikTok content for your brand, you can also work with them to run influencer marketing campaigns outside of the platform.
Take for example how Superdry invited three TikTok influencers to their new store opening to drive foot traffic. The three influencers – Ricky Chainz with 3.8 million fans, Caleb Finn with 3.2 million fans, and Rory Eliza with nearly 1 million fans – were all Australians.
This worked for the brand because a majority of their Australian audience have an Asian background.
Knowing how TikTok is extremely popular among the Asian-Australian community, the brand decided to partner with influential creators on the platform. Not surprisingly, they had hundreds of people lining up on opening day to meet the influencers.

4: TikTok Ads

TikTok has also been testing ads on the platform, which could provide brands with a highly effective way to reach their target audience. Brands will have several ad products to choose from including in-feed ads, brand takeovers, branded 3D/AR filters, branded stickers, etc.
These options allow you to get your brand in the forefront with creative, interactive, and/or visually-appealing content that would engage the app’s audience.
Think this is the first real ad campaign I’ve seen on @tiktok_us. @kerrymflynn pic.twitter.com/zt3JcSYCz0
— Chris Harihar (@ChrisHarihar) January 26, 2019

Should Businesses Bother with TikTok at All?

Now the big question is whether TikTok is worth the bother for brands.
The short answer is – yes, if it’s relevant to your target audience.
The platform is young but rapidly growing and it is starting to get the attention of brands and advertisers.
Although there’s a possibility that it will be a short-lived fad, there’s also the fact that it doesn’t cost much or take much time to produce TikTok content. So the losses will be minimal if things don’t turn out the way you expected.
In addition, some experts may worry that the introduction of TikTok ads will kill the platform, but that depends on a number of factors. If the company manages to ensure that the ads are non-disruptive and visually appealing, advertising won’t necessarily have a negative impact on user experience.
In fact, TikTok advertising could provide brands with a highly effective solution to get their name in the forefront and bolster their marketing efforts. Considering all these factors, it’s high time for brands with a younger target audience to start directing their focus on TikTok and its array of marketing features.

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