How do you do, fellow brands? Now might be the best time to add this popular video-sharing network to your social media strategy

When it comes to introducing your brand to a new community, first impressions are everything. And if you’re thinking about TikTok for your brand, authenticity is key to avoid coming across like a certain Steve Buscemi meme for pretending to be a “fellow kid” (yes, we realise we’re sort of doing that right now by making a meme of a meme, and we see the irony).


Okay, so what is this thing?

Noted as the 4th most downloaded app of 2018, and with over 1 billion installs from the App Store and Google Play (at one point, it even raced ahead of YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram – gasp!), TikTok is probably one of the most popular social apps to take off since Instagram. Not bad for that thing your teenage cousin keeps going on about.

For those who are new to TikTok, it’s a fast-paced video sharing platform that’s a sorta-kinda blend of elements from Spotify, Snapchat, Vine (RIP – we miss you) and Twitch in one single network. Video creators can share vertical, looping videos between 15 and 60 seconds with effects, filters and music, to take part in challenges and share funny videos with their friends.

It’s often mistaken for lip-syncing app (remember that?) and for good reason – was taken over by Bytedance, who owns China’s version of TikTok, Douyin. They merged the two and so, TikTok was born (although, Douyin still exists in China). If you’re still unsure, the folks at Wired have pulled together a handy guide, or you can download the app and have a nosey around. Disclaimer: We cannot be held responsible for your afternoon disappearing into the wormhole of TikTok videos (trust us, it happens easier than you think).

With such a huge audience, promising growth and fun content features, it’s only a matter of time before more brands start making their way over to TikTok. The big question is, is it worthwhile?



Should you make the leap?

The one way to answer a big question? With another big question. On the grand scheme of things, TikTok is still fairly new and so, it might come down to whether you prefer your brand to be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big one? 

The good thing is, although TikTok is the new kid on the block, it has some strong numbers behind it and by jumping on the wagon early, you could make the most of the visibility while you still can. According to Glossy, Calvin Klein’s “My Calvin” campaign earned 10 times the engagement it had on a similar campaign it ran on other channels four years earlier. Early bird catches the worm and all that. 

Just recently, it was discovered that TikTok is working on a native audience network and tracking pixels, which will give advertisers the chance to reach audiences within the app and beyond. For now, it’s being tested in East Asia, but if brands are planning on including TikTok in their social strategy, now is a good time to prepare. Think of it this way, if you start now, you could be one of the first brands to use it (score!), have less competition (double score!) and get more bang for your marketing budget buck (oh yeah!).




Who’s actually on TikTok?

This all sounds great, but as always, it depends on who you’re trying to target. TikTok is designed to attract the 16-25 market (or Gen Z as generalists like to call them), which sounds about right in terms of the content creators who use it. However, there are some conflicting stats out there that make it unclear whether the real audience base actually matches their target. One thing we can be sure of, TikTok are pulling out all the stops to grow that age demographic even further – hiring on-campus ambassadors to get fellow students to sign up and start creating. 

With this 16-25 market in mind, US supermarket chain, Kroger, launched a sponsored challenge campaign that invited new students to share dorm makeover videos using the hashtag #TransformUrDorm. It also linked to an in-app discover tab, where the audience could view and buy a curated selection of products that would help them to, umm, transform their dorm. You get the gist. This is what TikTok call their ‘Hashtag Challenge Plus’ offering – which for brands, is a new and exciting way to gather user-generated content and push sales.

Again, this sounds like just the ticket, but as a brand, it’s worthwhile asking a few questions:

    1. Are teens/students your real target audience?
    2. If ROI is your objective from social – this audience is less likely to have a large disposable income – and so, is your price point right for this audience? Or is your content compelling enough to convince a decision maker, aka, parents?
    3. Is TikTok better used as a brand building exercise (teens are often the first ones to determine what’s ‘cool’)?




What does it all mean?

What makes TikTok different isn’t necessarily the tools that it has (see above for where you can find them all) but more, what this combination of tools allows users to create. Almost organically – a lot like Vine (sigh) – a content culture has grown around TikTok, where there’s almost always a funny or cringe-worthy angle to the videos that users create. Whether it’s duets, non-sponsored hashtag challenges (if you haven’t already, check out the Mr Sandman challenge) or reaction videos, the content is engaging because it puts people (and humour) front and centre. 

So, what does that mean for brands? Well, first of all, it’s a great opportunity to put the faces behind your business, in front of an audience. However, if that isn’t possible, then it’s going to be difficult to create the content that TikTok needs (unless you hire a content creator, or an agency to do it for you – oh hey, we might know one). Even though you can technically upload pre-created videos to TikTok, there’s no way of scheduling content and even then, it’s not the easiest channel for repurposing content that you’ve placed elsewhere. However, TikTok are putting things in place to make it easier for users to get the most from the content they create – even setting up a newsletter that previews trending hashtags for the week ahead, based on what’s going to be on their discovery tabs (be still our content-creating hearts). You can even set up a pro account to get additional insights.

And if you’re still nervous about creating content as your brand – never fear, the TikTok influencers are here! They a) already have a following and b) know how to make TikTok-ready content that’s fun, engaging and shows off your brand in a unique channel-specific way. 




In conclusion

As a new channel, there are so many opportunities with TikTok and for brands that want to show a more human, fun side, it’s probably one of the best places to be. As they start rolling out more tools for brands, those opportunities are only going to grow. However, if it’s not the right channel for your brand, that’s okay! It’s better to do some channels well, than try to do everything and dilute the great work you’re already doing. There are new channels popping up all the time and the right one could be just around the corner. But, if TikTok’s the one for you,  now’s the time to do it. Go get ‘em!



Psst, down here! Okay, so if you are thinking about using TikTok, but don’t know where to start – we can help! Check out some of the work we’ve done for other brands and get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.

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