The Rise of Tiktok

TikTok, formerly known as Musica.ly, is quickly moving up the ranks as one of the most promising social media apps. Currently known as the leading platform for short binge-worthy videos, TikTok was the most downloaded social media app in the United States last year – outperforming notable platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube.

With nearly 1.5 billion users in more than 150 countries, TikTok has gained a massive, global Gen Z fan base that has marketers on the edge of their seats. As TikTok continues to grow and test the market, the platform demonstrates it has strong potential for global marketers and content creators alike. 

What is TikTok? 

With a mission to make content creation a joyful and inspiring experience, TikTok focuses on sharing unique user-generated content (UGC) by elevating the user journey with in-app editing tools such as augmented reality, image-morphing, music, special effects, stickers, and much more. 

Think of TikTok as a hybrid of Instagram and Youtube – with the option to view 15- or 60-second videos in a scrollable feed format without the need to click or swipe to play. Within the app, users can personalize their feed by selecting topics of interest – whether that is beauty, food, sports, travel – giving marketers the ability to engage with a wide array of user-generated content. 

Unlike Facebook – TikTok users will find light-hearted, creative videos of people sharing DIY tutorials, hobbies, and dance challenges.

Building Brand Awareness and Measuring Performance

From travel inspiration to beauty tutorials, TikTok shares a fresh perspective from the lens of users around the globe – encouraging hashtags and creativity to get content noticed. TikTok’s high potential for setting “trends on fire” is what makes the platform so intriguing; however, its path to monetization remains unclear. 

While TikTok is continuously working on strengthening its advertising capabilities, notable brands, including Apple, are already experimenting with Tiktok’s marketing potential and latest ad platform

Apple recently shared this video advertisement for the iPhone 11 on TikTok – backed with a clear call to action (CTA) to their website. Within two hours of personally tracking the ad, the advertisement generated over 100,000 likes (or hearts) from TikTok users.

Other brands including Guess, Maybelline, and Too Faced have also taken advantage of the ad platform, and are seeing the impacts of advertising with TikTok.

As an effort “to inspire Gen Z females to ‘shop the look,’ Too Faced’s Brand Takeover ad garnered an incredible 7.6 million impressions… in just one day. It gained 1.3 million clicks to the product page, earning an 18.38 percent click-through rate (CTR) – exceeding the benchmark for the UK market.”

To put this figure into perspective, Hubspot shared the average CTR across all industries is 1.91% for a search ad and 0.35% for a display ad.

Too Faced Lip Injection Extreme Ad

In addition to TikTok’s latest ad platform, two other popular advertising methods within the app include: 

  1. Influencer Marketing where brands partner with top content creators (like @charliedamelio) to promote products and drive brand awareness. 
  2. Brand Engagement where brands aim to increase their following by creating relatable content and participating in trending hashtags, duets, challenges, and other trends within the app.

For avid creators and influencers, the app also introduced a “TikTok Pro” setting, a free feature that helps users grow and track their content’s performance within the app itself. From video views to average watch time – creators can measure the impact of their content (and improve it) in hopes of going viral.

Understanding the Algorithm

The secret to TikTok influencer marketing and viral content lies in understanding its AI-powered algorithm. While Instagram users are still fighting to bring chronological order back, TikTok heard them loud and clear – displaying content in the order it is shared.

As users engage more with a video, the algorithm will rate its performance, pushing it to other users who may also find it relevant. In other words, the more users engage with a video – and complete it – the better. This is referred to as the completion ratio, which affects the content’s overall rating ratio. 

With the app’s efforts to help the best creators achieve TikTok fame, many users are carefully studying its algorithm and testing hashtags with a desire to go viral. As such, TikTok influencer marketing is on the rise – and brands are beginning to notice.  

Flowchart of TikTok’s AI-algorithm via medium.com

Pitfalls of Tiktok Marketing

Regardless of the available data, marketers face a high bar to stand out creatively – and authentically – due to the excessive volume of unique user-generated content. 45% of survey respondents said they will unfollow a brand on social media because of too much self-promotion. The reason for this is simple: people want genuine connections. Brands must understand their target audience before creating and sharing content on any marketing platform. 

In February 2020, Rae Wellness received significant criticism after their metabolism capsules went viral across TikTok – luring the wrong audience to the trend. The misuse of their product led Rae Wellness and Target to pull the product from the shelves and stop selling the capsules altogether – highlighting the importance of marketing strategy. 

Using TikTok for Your Brand (Here’s How)

  1. Understand the app 
    • How are users and marketers driving engagement?
    • What content are they sharing? How?
    • What are users engaging with the most? Why? 
  2. Capture the best user-generated content
    • Which content represents your brand voice?
    • Which content tells your story?
    • How can you reuse this content on your website, screens, ads?
  3. Engage with your target audience
    • Create catchy content they will relate to
    • Take your audience behind-the-scenes 
    • Think visually, use text, add filters, and include good music  
  4. Be strategic
    • What do your marketing, sales, and services teams need to accomplish? 
    • Identify relevant hashtags 
    • Establish partnerships with content creators 
  5. Keep up with the latest trends 
    • Get creative with a trending hashtag or new challenge
  6. Engage with other users
    • Like, comment, and share people’s posts 
    • Be genuine 
  7. Experiment
    • Remember: this is a new platform where best practices aren’t yet defined – have fun with it, test different content, make it better. 

The key to increasing ROI and succeeding on TikTok is to first understand how the app works – the user experience, trends, hashtags, and the overall engagement. Understanding the TikTok experience and its users’ behavior facilitates strategic planning and authentic content creation – driving brand awareness with humanized marketing.

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