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TikTok 101: What You Need to Know for Your Brand

TikTok started off as a Gen Z social space to connect and create with trendy dances and funny voiceovers. However, during the COVID-19 outbreak, TikTok gained booming popularity across generations. What began as a “quarantine” type of fad has quickly become a cultural staple and marketing essential.

Because of the wide variety of functions for this app, there’s a diversity in the types of companies who are creating content, among them Nike, Disney, Venmo and The Washington Post. To put it in perspective, TikTok has amassed over 1 billion users, outperforming the most popular social platforms – such as Snapchat’s 280 million users and Twitter’s 192 million – by a wide margin. As TikTok continues to grow, marketers understand that it is a mighty industry tool to connect with audiences in an effective and captivating way.

According to Digital Marketing Institute, 90 percent of TikTok users go on the app on a daily basis, and more than half of TikTok users upload their own videos. With that level of daily engagement, it’s no surprise that marketers are taking notice and adding TikTok to their marketing mix. The key question is how a 15- to 60-second video can be transformed into a meaningful touchpoint for your brand.

What Makes TikTok Unique

In addition to catering to shorter attention spans and cravings for infotainment, TikTok’s content structure, engagement-centric features and algorithm cater to the moment – making it a popular platform for users and a perfect place for marketers to connect with them.

The TikTok feed, or what they call a For You Page, relies on an initial small set of people that influence algorithms to determine whether the video will be shown to more users who have similar interests. These similar interests are identified through likes, favorites, shares, comments and other engagement forms. Additionally, the bottomless content that the feed offers keeps users on the app … for hours.

Content, Content, Content

The app’s structure offers unparalleled engagement opportunities. Creating unique content using features like “stitching,” where you can clip other videos onto yours, or “duetting,” which allows users to record with the original video as it plays, makes it possible for users and brands to collaborate on the spot.

Even those who are not creating and uploading content are still engaging with it through comments, likes and shares. Recent data from Influencer Marketing Hub shows that TikTok has significantly more engagement than Instagram and YouTube. Specifically, micro-influencers’ (AKA regular, everyday users with a following) engagement rates were 17.96% on TikTok compared to 3.86% on Instagram and 1.63% on YouTube.

Take the “Nobody’s Gonna Know” trend, for example. It was started by Chris Gleason, a TikTok user and micro-influencer. His video of a mini-skit with dramatic reality TV series background music has been shared and remade countless times. Brands like Glossier and Discord jumped on the trend – with Discord garnering nearly 4.4 million views.

These trends tend to build onto each other, catching fire and becoming a fad that can help you build brand affinity. A trend brands were quick to build onto was the “Turning what … said into inspirational quotes.” It takes real users’ comments or DMs and turns them into an inspirational quote format that is customary on other social platforms like Pinterest or Instagram. Culver’s example of the inspirational quotes TikTok trend shows how this can be a shoutout to consumers from a beloved brand – and a good way to get them scrolling through the rest of your content.

TikTok’s Benefits for Brands

Much like the Culver’s inspirational quotes trend example, there are many opportunities to interact and collaborate with users in an authentic way. It may be as straightforward as duetting a video or just subtly referring to it, but the TikTok community is tightly woven to create their own culture. Here are a few tips to better understand the TikTok culture and the benefits to your brand in showing up there in an authentic way.

Increase Exposure and Effectiveness

This might seem self-explanatory, but it’s an important one – having presence on the app itself will increase exposure to new audiences. Keeping a pulse on hot trending topics can add to the “TikTok Made Me Buy It” phenomenon. TikToks can be a way to increase awareness of your brand – The Ordinary’s skincare serum serves as a perfect example. This beauty product caught the attention of many TikTok users and eventually blew up, selling out in many stores worldwide. Beauty influencers that show real results of a product, like Hyram, contributed to the massive popularity of this product as it reached more and more people on the app.

Influencer Partnerships

Many brands on TikTok use influencer marketing to increase marketing effectiveness and reach broader audiences. When considering a partnership, being aware of trends and what influencers best align with your brand is a great place to start.For example, many brands reach out to Aileen Christine, a regular user, who has gained fame by posting positive content. This content resonates with TikTok users and adds authenticity – even Paramount Plus and Casetify partnered up with her to promote their products.An additional benefit to influencer partnerships is being able to have a meaningful presence on the platform without needing the manpower of running a channel that is specifically for your brand. Utilizing TikTok and their creators to interact with audiences might be the next step in creating a community around your brand.

Brand Image and Relevancy

TikTok is especially good at creating communities and enhancing brand image – as well as stretching brand possibilities, especially with a younger crowd. It is important for brands to cultivate the next generation of consumers by making the brand relevant to younger audiences on TikTok. Some of your main fans may have already migrated to this platform – making this a perfect place for them to interact with your brand in a new way.Brands are utilizing their TikTok platform to form personal relationships with their customers, especially Gen Z, by replying to their comments and personalizing the experience on the app. Some brands are innovating how to connect with their consumers by utilizing the app to extend job interviews – a powerful new recruitment tool in a competitive labor market. Not only is this a way for companies to build a community of loyal brand aficionados – but to innovate the use of TikTok to make their brand relevant.

TikTok can be fun and exciting, but it can also be used as an effective marketing tool to create meaningful connections with your audience. With the app’s growing popularity and its steady place in the social media ranking, it’s worth paying attention to.

Want to learn how to use TikTok to enhance your brand strategy? Email Ted at tjun@hiebing.com to set up a call.