The Ultimate Guide To TikTok Marketing

/ marketing
Rafaella Aguiar

Over the past couple of years, TikTok has gone from a rather obscure Chinese music app (Douyin) to one of the most talked-about social media platforms in the world.

Since its release in 2016, the TikTok app has amassed over 800 million active users, and its parent company, ByteDance, has gained a valuation of $75 million, making it the most valuable startup in the world.

Perhaps the most impressive part of TikTok’s story is the blistering speed at which it has made its way into the spotlight. Between October 2017 and March 2019, TikTok went from 2.6 to 14.3 million adult monthly active users — that’s a 550% increase in just under 18 months. Somehow, despite the failed attempts of similar apps like Musical.ly and Vine to enter the mainstream, TikTok has secured what appears to be a lasting foothold in the social media market.

While adult usage of the app has been increasing, TikTok remains primarily a platform for the young: 69% of TikTok users are between 13 and 24 years old (Gen Z), 16% are between 25 and 34 (millennials), 8% are 35-44, and only 7% are 45 or older. This represents an interesting opportunity for businesses that cater to the 13 to 24 demographic. By its nature, TikTok targets this age group with laser-like precision, so small businesses that sell products for teens and young adults should be on the app.

If you’re a business that’s not sure how to get on the trending TikTok train, you’re in the right place. Here, we’ll give you six ways to help your business make the most of TikTok marketing.

Work With TikTok Influencers

Influencer marketing is nothing new in the world of social media. In fact, a whopping 17% of companies spend the majority of their marketing budgets on influencer marketing alone. However, while most people are fairly well acquainted with Instagram influencer marketing by this point, TikTok influencer marketing isn’t on as many people’s radars.

But it should be. Influencer marketing has proven itself to be a particularly viable form of advertising, with 89% of respondents to a recent Mediakix survey stating that the ROI from influencer marketing campaigns is either comparable to or better than other marketing channels they use.

Given the similarities between TikTok and Instagram, it’s reasonable to assume that running influencer marketing campaigns on TikTok will be similarly lucrative assuming your target demographic falls in line with TikTok’s user base.

In many cases, the hardest part of TikTok influencer marketing is simply finding a suitable influencer to work with. Between budgetary concerns, niches, and personality matches, settling on an influencer that would work well with your campaign can be a challenge.

To make things a bit easier, you can try using tools like Influence Grid to discover TikTok users for a viable candidate. The tool makes it easy to view important statistics about TikTok users, such as how many followers they have, how many likes and video views they receive, and what their engagement rates are.

Although you may initially think that influencer marketing only works if you work with someone with millions of fans, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, influencers with lower follower counts often have better overall engagement rates.

Considering that they also charge less per post, this means you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck when you work with smaller influencers. When you expand your search outside of just the biggest names, you’re sure to find influencers that will fit your budget.

Here’s an example of an influencer campaign sponsored by Red Bull:

influencer campaign sponsored by Red Bull

TikTok In-Feed Ads

If you’ve ever run a PPC ad campaign, TikTok’s in-feed ads will feel like familiar territory. As the name implies, these ads appear when users are browsing through their fees. Essentially, they are the TikTok version of Facebook or Instagram PPC ads.

However, TikTok’s feed is an entirely different beast than most other social media sites.

While Facebook and Instagram feeds are all about scrolling, TikTok throws you straight into videos and allows you to swipe up if you want to move to the next post.

While it’s technically scrolling, it’s more like turning on the TV and flipping through channels until you find something interesting. Just like TV ads, TikTok ads will appear in between your regularly scheduled programming — the organic posts in your feed. As far as PPC ads go, TikTok’s ads are most similar to the ads you see in between Instagram stories.

Unfortunately, TikTok ads are a bit expensive compared to Facebook and Instagram ads. While you can run a campaign on the latter two sites for practically any price (even just $10), TikTok has a minimum campaign budget of $500 and a minimum ad budget of $50.

If you decide to pursue ads in your TikTok marketing strategy, you should always keep in mind that the platform is built around authenticity. Because of this, you don’t need to make high-budget advertisements with eye-popping motion graphics to get a reaction. While that’s definitely a viable strategy, you can get quite far as a business making content that appears organic but happens to be promoted.

That said, most of the big players are making ads that are clearly different from normal posts. Check out the TikTok video below.

TikTok video promoting Apple Music

TikTok Brand Takeovers

The term “brand takeover” might lead to a bit of confusion if you’re already familiar with the concept as it relates to Instagram marketing. On Instagram, a brand takeover is when an influencer commandeers a brand’s Instagram account for a period of time — typically a day. During this time, they’ll post images, videos, and stories in an attempt to get their fans to follow the brand as well so that they can see their favorite influencer’s new posts.

However, when it comes to TikTok, brand takeovers more aptly refers to taking over the TikTok brand itself.

TikTok brand takeovers are a unique form of TikTok marketing that displays an ad as soon as a user opens the app. In some ways, it’s quite similar to pop up ads on websites, albeit a bit less annoying because users will only see one brand takeover ad per day when they open the app.

It’s worth noting that TikTok brand takeovers are quite expensive. In general, you should expect to pay $20,000 to $50,000 for one of these ads. Clearly, this option is reserved for more established businesses, so it will be out of reach for many startups.

However, if you’ve got the budget for one of these high-end advertisements, you can anticipate quite a large reach, as these are great for brand awareness. If a user clicks on your ad, they’ll be directed to your profile or one of your hashtag challenges depending on what you choose when you set up the ad.

Here’s an example of a TikTok #InMyDenim brand takeover by Guess:

TikTok #InMyDenim brand takeover by GuessSource: TikTok For Business

Create A TikTok Hashtag Challenge

Once again, TikTok has managed to take a fairly well-established social media marketing term and flip the definition on its head.

Instagram hashtag challenges are often grassroots movements that originate with a single user posting a challenge, a hashtag, and promoting it organically (think of the #icebucketchallenge back in 2014).

But When it comes to TikTok, there are two different types of challenges: regular old organic challenges, and Hashtag Challenges. The latter is always paid for, and it’s very pricey.

To run an official TikTok hashtag challenge, you need to pay a $150,000 flat fee for the first six days as well as the cost of promoting it, which can cost hundreds of thousands more.

So, what exactly is the benefit of a Hashtag Challenge that would justify the increased cost over a regular old challenge? In short, Hashtag Challenges are featured on the official #challenge TikTok page, meaning that anyone browsing for challenges to try out will find it. Organic challenges can still become very big, but they’ll grow exclusively through grassroots campaigning, not from anyone browsing the #challenge page.

However, aside from that, they both function pretty much the same: the challenge will tell users to take a picture or video of them doing a specific action, such as a dance move, and then post it with the specified hashtag. So, if you were running a campaign to promote fuzzy socks, you might run the #fuzzysockschallenge and ask users to create videos of themselves dancing in a pair of fuzzy socks.

These types of TikTok marketing campaigns can be particularly effective because they get users to actively participate instead of just passively looking at ads, which helps them form a deeper connection to the brand. Plus, when other TikTokers see user-generated content, it serves as a type of social proof. If the challenge really takes off, it can generate a lot of exposure for your brand.

Here’s an example of the #TooSickToBeSick challenge run by Mucinex:

#TooSickToBeSick challenge run by Mucinex

Don’t Be Afraid To Have Fun

TikTok appeals primarily to younger target audiences who are looking for fun videos to watch, so don’t be afraid to let loose and experiment with some creative ideas.

Remember, this is TikTok, not LinkedIn, so posting a dry video that maintains a business casual tone isn’t going to go over very well. TikTok is all about creating a feast for the visual and auditory senses, so you need to create content that pops.

Now, that’s not to say that you can never post about a serious topic. If you can find a way to take something that most teens and young adults would find dry and make it exciting, it’s fair game.

Take a look at how the Washington Post used TikTok to advertise that they were able to stay impartial even after Bezos bought the newspaper:

Take a look at how the Washington Post used TikTok to advertise that they were able to stay impartial even after Bezos bought the newspaper

This content feels organic and completely in place on TikTok: it starts with a Spongebob meme, then goes into a distorted trap beat (which is kind of a meme in itself) paired with dance. It’s a clever way to get a point across while appealing to a younger audience.

However, make sure that your experimentation is in good taste. While serious topics can be covered on TikTok, that doesn’t mean that they necessarily should be.

Recently, there was an uproar after TikTokers took part in a “victims” trend, in which they pretended to be the spirits of Holocaust victims. Needless to say, this was not well-received and goes to show that there are some topics that simply should not be made light of.

HP has also done a great job with their TikTok content, with videos running the gamut from eye-popping and ear-tingling:

HP has also done a great job with their TikTok content, with videos running the gamut from eye-popping and ear-tingling

To videos that take a lighthearted approach to the topic of racial equality, like the one below:

To videos that take a lighthearted approach to the topic of racial equality:

Incorporate Special Effects

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And when on TikTok, do as the TikTokers do.

TikTok can be a challenging platform to get right for businesses and marketers because there’s truly a generational gap. Although there are some very successful business owners who are in their teens or early 20s, a 2016 study by Babson College showed that the median age of a small business owner in the US is over 50 years old, and it can be quite hard for someone in their 50s or 60s to understand the appeal and lingo of TikTok. In fact, it can even be hard for someone in their 20s to understand it!

If you want your TikTok marketing strategies to be successful, you first need to understand it, and that means coming to terms with its fast-paced, energetic, and quite frankly, often chaotic nature. Before you even start to think about how you’re going to use TikTok for your business, try to use it for yourself. You don’t need to make posts or become particularly active, but try to immerse yourself in that world and see what type of TikTok videos are popular, and what trends you’re noticing. After a while, you’ll start to get absorbed into the TikTok culture and be able to speak the TikTok language like a native.

One of the particularly challenging aspects of TikTok is understanding how to use all the special effects. Not only are there visual effects, but there are also audio effects, and of course, music, which is the core of the platform. Some effects and songs are more popular than others, so making use of those can help your content and ads appeal to a larger audience.

For example, the song Laxed (Siren Beat) by Jawsh 685 was popular for a trend in which TikTokers showed off their culture’s traditional costumes. Check out the TikTok below:

For example, the song Laxed (Siren Beat) by Jawsh 685 was popular for a trend in which TikTokers showed off their culture’s traditional costumes.

Understanding how different songs and effects fit into the broader picture can be a major help as you try to navigate the intricacies of TikTok marketing.

The Bottom Line

TikTok is a growing platform that has been plastered all over the news for its rapid growth. It’s primarily used by people aged 13 to 24, but usage among adults has been growing. Businesses and content creators with a bit of creativity can use these short videos to great effect, but it takes a keen understanding of the platform to truly make content that sticks.

If you want to get involved with TikTok advertising, you’ll need to have a pretty large budget. However, just like any other social platform, making organic content is free and always an option. Just make sure that whatever content you make fits the tone of the platform and makes use of its idiosyncrasies like special effects, music, and looped videos.

If your target demographic lines up with TikTok’s user base, and you keep these tips in mind, you’re sure to see great results in no time.


Rafaella is the Director of Marketing at Influence Grid. You can find more marketing tips from her at @influencegrid.

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