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How to Use TikTok for Your Next Campaign

According to App Annie, TikTok was the most downloaded app in 2020. An impressive statistic and one that signals TikTok’s next stage of maturity: monetization.

TikTok has made a calculated effort to monetize its platform—as evidenced by its first-ever small- and medium-sized business summit, Ready Set Grow (which we attended). TikTok is encouraging brands to participate in the short-form video app, either to grow their brand or to advertise with in-app ads or Creators. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the insights learned from Ready Set Grow and discuss ways brands can get in on the action.

The Creator Phenomenon

As you already know, TikTok is a mobile-only platform that allows users to create and watch short-form video content. What’s interesting is how TikTok describes its value proposition.

“TikTok provides viral opportunities that just don’t exist elsewhere.”

In a digital world filled with algorithms that suppress organic reach, TikTok is banking on the viral-marketing opportunities of the platform. Anyone with a smartphone and a little creativity can go viral with compelling content and the right hashtags. And with virality comes followers, influence, and the ability to become a Creator. Knowing that makes TikTok’s appeal clear. TikTok wants to build Creators who can earn money on their platform. TikTok wants to build businesses.

TikTok has already committed to invest $2 billion in Creators in the next few years. Why? Because, as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella puts it, “Creation, creation, creation — the next 10 years is going to be as much about creation as it is about consumption.” Microsoft actually tried to purchase TikTok last year, before losing out to Oracle.

This was followed by another unsuccessful bid by Microsoft to buy communication and social audio platform Discord for $10 billion. It just goes to show how valuable content creation will be in the coming years.

Interested in learning more about social audio apps like Discord, Clubhouse, and Twitter Spaces? We break it down in Clubhouse, Discord, Twitter, and Co: The Social Audio Wars are Heating Up.

The fervor around Creators and influencer marketing is why TikTok put on the Ready Set Grow summit—a virtual event that pitched the benefits of the platform and its Creators to businesses and advertisers. Here’s what we learned.

“Think like a Marketer, Act Like a Creator”

Planning for TikTok as a marketer isn’t that different from planning for other platforms. Knowing your audience and having a sound strategy is key. Your insights might reveal that TikTok is not a right fit, and that’s okay. If it does seem like a viable platform, the approach will be somewhat nuanced.

TikTok insists that brands act like Creators on their platform. This means engaging with the community, participating in hashtags, and creating original video content. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, TikTok cannot share URLs or still images. Whatever creative you have assigned for social can’t be repurposed on TikTok. You will need custom creative that looks and feels like a TikTok.

“Don’t Make Ads, Make TikToks”
“Don’t make ads, make TikToks” was the slogan of the show and it summarizes how brands should approach the platform. Business advisors from TikTok were present at the event. They stressed the importance of being native to the platform.

Use filters, video effects, voice effects, and text—and don’t be too polished. Overproducing a video, no matter how long, will look off on the platform and not resonate with audiences.

Always-On Sound 🔊

Music and sound is a big part of TikTok culture. All videos autoplay with the volume on. A bold move considering more than 80% of mobile users watch videos with the sound off.

With a verified business page on TikTok, you get access to over 7,000 royalty-free tracks that can only be used in TikTok videos. Another incentive to go native.

Ad Creative
Here’s an obvious fact: TikTok displays videos exclusively vertically; therefore, TikTok advisors recommend filming vertically for the platform as opposed to cropping in post-production. Additionally, the first three seconds are crucial for engagement. If running a campaign, they recommend updating ad creative three to five times a month! Take that as you will.

To make things easier, TikTok’s Ad Manager comes with preloaded text and animation templates to make videos faster. Great for small businesses but not bespoke enough for established brands.

What to Create?

Now that we’ve talked about the appeal of TikTok and how to approach the platform as a brand, let’s quickly discuss the types of content that resonate with audiences.

Challenges are the big claim to fame for TikTok. A challenge is essentially a call-to-action in the form of a video. Users are prompted to create a video that matches the tone or style of a certain hashtag. For example, see this collection of #WipeItDown TikToks.

TikTok’s discover page is full of trending hashtags and music that brands can participate in. Most of the work is done for you—you know how the video should look and sound. The only thing missing is the thread that connects the trend with your brand.

Since TikToks are filmed in small bursts, step-by-step tutorials have gained a natural popularity on the platform. Check out these examples from @thatdudecancook and @gingermarketer to see how fun and engaging tutorials can be.

Edits—short for video edits—are quick cuts of video footage tied to music. They’re meant to be short, snappy, and appealing to the eyes and ears. Edits are often used to show appreciation of something—an artist, a lifestyle, or a place—a great option for tourism brands that want to show off their region in a unique and creative way. 

A YouTube trend that has found its way onto TikTok, #StoryTime posts are just that, stories with a beginning-to-end narrative. Stories can be anything, but they’ve become a powerful vehicle for individuals to share inspiring and sometimes traumatic experiences, opening the door to a form of digital support and connection. While we in no way recommend brands take advantage of personal stories for marketing purposes, there is a use case for advocacy groups or associations dealing with specific causes.

The Takeaway
Unlike its predecessor, Vine, TikTok is here to stay. With a calculated focus on building Creators and monetizing its platform, TikTok is forthcoming with its intentions. It wants brands to consider the platform as a viable marketing tool. By using the native features provided in the app, stripping away polish, and getting creative with video and music, brands can find genuine viral-making opportunities to help grow their audience and further their influence.

Can we say for certain that it’s a must-have platform for every brand? No, we can’t. The culture on TikTok is unique, far different from other social media platforms. Committing to TikTok requires more than a social media manager. It needs a creator who can build content specifically for the platform, who can be an investment for marketing teams.

The best approach is to scope it out. Don’t jump on TikTok because it’s popular; do it because it’s right for your brand. Create an account, follow some people, and observe the type of content featured. You may just enjoy yourself and find a great reason to bring your brand on board.