TikTok: What You Need To Know As A Marketer

If you read my previous blog based around social media and body positivity, you’ll know that TikTok is a new guilty pleasure of mine. To be honest, when it first started getting popular I thought it was just a really cringey platform filled with 16 year olds. A rebrand of Chinese lip-syncing app Musical.ly, TikTok was born in 2018 and quickly became a firm favourite with teens. I always thought of the platform as an evolution of the, now defunct, short form video app, Vine. I remember having a meeting in Spring 2019 with some TikTok sales reps who were trying to convince me that their platform was going to be the next big thing in social media advertising. At that time, TikTok was popular, but it hadn’t hit the levels that it has today.

Let’s take a look at the growth of TikTok as a challenger social media platform.

TikTok launched worldwide in 2018 after their merge with Musical.ly. From Google Trends data for the past 5 years you can see the sudden popularity of the platform in the UK, going from practically any interest to huge peaks. Looking at this data on a 12 monthly basis, you can see that there was a massive spike in searches for the term around March/April time. What happened in March/April 2020? Lockdown! With lockdown grew the boredom of the UK, and therefore the interest in TikTok. According to Campaign, there are around 5 million users of TikTok in the UK, and that data is from February, so that figure has definitely increased since then. You really can’t deny the immense popularity of TikTok currently.

It’s very important here to say that as a social media marketer, you may look at the increasing stats of TikTok and be inclined to throw all of your money at it before it gets too expensive. But just remember, we have seen this sudden growth in many platforms. It really wasn’t that long ago that we were all being told that Vero was going to be the next big platform and was going to take over Instagram with it’s no ads approach.

TikTok & Video

The absolute beauty of TikTok is that it is all about short videos. Working in social media, I’ve been pushing short, vertical video for probably the past two years. You can’t deny that video works better than still imagery in the majority of cases on social media, but the issue with that is that videographers can be costly. And if you’re not willing to be in the video yourself then you need to pay for a model/actor, the videographer, perhaps the location, any props, and loads more. TikTok took all these costly elements and completely eliminated them.

The majority of videos on TikTok are around 15 seconds, filmed by an individual, in vertical, on their mobile phone. The best feature of TikTok? All of the video editing features. You don’t have to be a skilled videographer to create your videos. There are so many easy use features with filters, effects, voice changers, zooms, transitions, so many that the list is nearly endless. This means that you now have 14 year olds making videos that would take a video editor a good few hours to edit, just by dragging and dropping. Groundbreaking.

This ease and low cost means that you really don’t have to worry about your content being overly polished, as TikTok has become so popular for being so simple. This is a huge opportunity for brands, influencers and individuals to really take advantage of.

TikTok Influencers

TikTok has not only gained a mass following, but it has also brought with it a new wave of influencers. These influencers aren’t your usual influencers. They don’t post pictures of themselves with products and tell you how great they are with a #ad. They just … dance, sing, make you laugh. It is very difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t use TikTok why the likes of Addison Rae and Loren Gray are so popular, but with around 50 million followers each, you definitely can’t deny it. It’s also very important to note that these ‘influencers’ are predominantly under the age of 20 and American, so that is the clear winning demographic.

We’ve also seen a wave of actual celebrities using the platform. Addison Rae has even recently been collabing with Kourtney Kardashian and Jason Derulo. The platform really is breaking boundaries when it comes to the norms of influencers and celebrities.

Brands are taking advantage of this rise of influencers, having them start viral trends with a certain hashtag or simply tagging in their videos that they are “wearing all @PLT”. Again, another huge opportunity is here. The key is not to make it overly branded. TikTok is all about individuals, don’t make it overly about your company or people won’t find it engaging.

TikTok & Music Charts

Although all social media channels tell you to use video optimised for ‘sound off’, TikTok have, again being the disrupter, completely gone against this. You really can’t use TikTok without sound. When you launch the app, it starts playing out loud straight away, whether you have your phone on silent or not. The whole point of TikTok is to entertain. And it’s very difficult to do that without sound. Born from a lip-synching app, a large portion of the videos on TikTok are dances to popular songs. If you’ve listened to the Top 40 recently, there are a lot of songs in there that seem quite bizarre and not like they would be that popular, but you’re like ‘sure ok’. Take Rockstar – Roddy Ricch & DaBaby, Say So – Doja Cat and never forget, Savage – Megan Thee Stallion ft. Beyonce. These are prime examples of TikTok making songs popular in the charts.

With this, we have seen a trend of artists producing music purely for the purposes of TikTok. Jason Derulo (who is very popular on TikTok) recently released his song ‘Savage Love’, featuring a beat made by New Zealand Musician Jawsh 685. The beat had already blown up on TikTok, with dances popping up left, right and centre. With that in mind, Jason Derulo couldn’t help but make an actual single out of it and make a fortune. The song went to number 1 on the UK singles chart last week. Very clever move Jason.

The key takeaway from TikTok & Music is that you really have to be clever with your sound. Make it catchy, interesting, relatable or dance-able, you’re onto a winner. Anything else and you’re looking at a flop.

TikTok Ads

It wouldn’t be a blog on TikTok for Marketers without mentioning the actual ads feature. Being brutally honest, as a TikTok user and as a social media marketer, I hate TikTok ads. There is nothing worse than when you’re scrolling through your page and end up seeing an ad about something really irrelevant and boring. TikTok isn’t made for adverts. They also clearly stand out as non-genuine TikToks, because they are either overly polished or they look like someone is trying too hard to make it look like a genuine TikTok. Either way, they just don’t really work for me.

There also doesn’t appear to be many restrictions on advertising, like there is with Facebook etc. I have been targeted with a variety of really unacceptable weight loss adverts claiming that intermittent fasting is the way forward, or that this woman lost 2 stone without ‘breaking a sweat in the gym’. On a platform aimed at teens, I find this very worrying and am concerned about the wellbeing of the users who could be easily influenced.

What I will say is that if your audience demographic is those Generation Z users, then TikTok ads might really work for you. But you have to try really hard to make it work. The majority of the users on TikTok don’t want to be sold to, they’re just there for a laugh. This is likely to be the reason why a lot of big brands chose to work with influencers as opposed to run direct adverts.

TikTok – Round Up

So there you have it. My key things to note about TikTok as a marketer, and as a fan. The key thing to remember is that it isn’t the same type of platform as Instagram or Facebook, so it really shouldn’t be treated in the same way either. To be a success in TikTok, you have to be reactive, creative and fun. You’re never going to sell cardboard boxes by showing off your cardboard box on TikTok (unless you’re really clever about it).


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