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Should Brands Be on TikTok?

Chelsea Iversen Feb. 20, 2020

I know what you’re thinking — TikTok is just another social media fad — but before you roll your eyes and click away, hear us out. This social app has the potential to reach users on a uniquely engaging platform in new, refreshing ways.

So what exactly is TikTok?

TikTok is a short-form video app that lets users record 15-second videos and set them to music.

Born in China in 2016 and launched in the U.S. in 2017, TikTok is a social media baby. However, this baby is growing faster than any other social media app in the world — yes that’s true — and today has been downloaded more than 1.65 billion times and has over 800 million active users.

Comparatively speaking, TikTok downloads surpassed every app in the global marketplace except for WhatsApp (meaning TikTok is more popular than Facebook, Instagram and Messenger). Not only is this incredibly impressive for an app that’s less than four years old — and only three years old in the U.S. — but it’s impressive for an app born in China. No other Chinese app has been able to pervade the American market with such fervor and speed.

Who should be on TikTok?

Despite its vast numbers, TikTok isn’t for all brands — at least not yet. Here are some types of brands that might find success on the platform in 2020:

Brands with young audiences. Generation Z makes up the majority share of TikTok users. Various sources indicate that between 50 and 60 percent of TikTok users in the U.S. are between the ages of 16 and 24, and roughly two-thirds of all the app’s total users are under the age of 30. (Learn more about Generation Z in this course.)

Brands with audiences of any age. Despite the number of young people active on TikTok, they are not the only age group using the app. Roughly 25 percent of TikTok users seem to be between 45 and 64 years old. That’s more than 200 million users with plenty of potential for growth in this demographic.

Brands with global audiences. There are 150 million TikTok users in China (though the app is called Douyin there), 120 million users in India, 10 million users in Thailand. The app is available in 155 different international markets and more than 75 languages.

Brands with a personality. TikTok’s videos tend to be clever, cute, funny, even cheesy. Posts are generally less angry than those on Twitter and more authentic than posts on Instagram. Brands willing to exercise creativity and playfulness will likely do well on TikTok, especially if they keep up with trends and popular hashtags.

How do I advertise on TikTok?

Aside from creating a profile and posting trendy, clever video content, there are a few different options to advertise on TikTok:

In-feed video. Brands can create native video ads that play for 15 seconds and show up in the TikTok feed for their intended audience. This style is similar to Instagram and other social media ads.

Brand takeover. Brands can post a full-screen ad — either as an image or GIF — related to their campaign for one day. This option has the possibility of driving users to hashtags and increasing brand awareness.

Top view. Another option for advertisers is to create a short video that appears when users open the TikTok app. This form is a way to advertise on TikTok that increases brand awareness and exposure.

Hashtag challenge. Because of the proliferation of hashtags on TikTok, brands like Clean & Clear have been able to lift purchasing intent and message association through hashtags that engage users and tap into influencers. Sponsored hashtags appear on the Discover page where users will see them.

Branded filter. One of the most unique opportunities that TikTok offers is its integration with AI. Brands can create branded filters that users can apply to their videos, thus increasing exposure.

What are the opportunities for marketers on TikTok?

Even with the fast-growing adoption of this social media platform by users around the world aside, TikTok has a number of opportunities for advertisers and marketers. Here are just a few:

The videos on TikTok have sound. Users are listening to TikTok content as well as watching it. For a brand, that can only mean more engaged viewership.

Only four percent of marketers are on TikTok. On a platform with 800 million active users and only a handful of brands taking advantage, opportunity for brand awareness and engagement abounds for brands willing to brave this booming social app.

TikTok influencers influence. After organic posts, influencer marketing is another way to reach users on TikTok. TikTok has many users, yes, but influencers to this platform are relatively new and have incredible potential to engage their followers.

Viral potential. Brands like Guess have been able to successfully tap into the viral nature of TikTok’s platform by combining various ad types — influencers, hashtags, brand takeovers and more — to let content creators interact with their campaign and spread the word.

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