What Marketers Need to Know About TikTok

What Marketers Need to Know About TikTok

Wesley Mathew
14 May 2019

Remember Vine? The 6-second short video sharing platform that took the world by storm? It made entertainers and influencers like the “storytime/Vine guy” – Thomas Sanders – famous. If you have no idea what we’re talking about, treat yourself to a few seconds of pure, unadulterated entertainment…

The reason you’re seeing a YouTube compilation is because Twitter, which acquired the platform in 2013, officially shut it down in 2017. Fierce competition and a lack of brand support meant that it simply couldn’t survive in the ever-changing landscape that basically cannibalised it. But let me tell you – people were sad.

You see, Vine was supposed to be a social mechanism but it had become a showcase for creativity. Many of the internet’s most beloved entertainers started there and made a name for themselves in their 6-second comedy shorts. Beyond Vine’s death, there was still room for a creative, short video platform – powered by users. However, it needed to do something different to other popular platforms like Instagram and SnapChat.  

The day the Musical.ly died…

Then, of course, there was musical.ly – an app that predominantly captured the hearts and minds of millennials and GenZ. This application allowed users to make short music videos by showing them dance moves and helping them record these moves slowly, then speeding the video up to real time. Music.ly was good at making users look cool and quirky and helping them execute funny content without having to conceptualise it themselves.

It had a lot of users but by that time, over 100 million to be exact, but Bytedance’s other app TikTok was already far exceeding that at an impressive 500+million users, and it was newer. So in the end the two were merged in a bid to build one, strong community.

Here’s a quick glimpse of Liza Koshy dominating on Music.ly which is why she was widely considered the Musical.ly Queen. 

Tik Tok…

Douyin (in China) or TikTok to the rest of the world, is an app that allows you to create and share short, personalised videos. It’s already become a leading short video app in the Western World – most notably in the US. But essentially, it’s also big in Japan and all around the world really.

  • More popular than YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat (based on worldwide downloads)
  • 66M downloads in 2018
  • 29% of users open the app every day
  • 275% increase of in-app purchases on average, annually
  • 52-minute average time spent on the app in a session
  • ⅔ of users are under the age of 30
  • 29% average engagement rate

The relevance of this application is clear in the numbers – it’s a platform you can’t ignore as a marketer.

Dance crazes, creative editing and video memes – It all starts on TikTok

If you’re starting to think about what kind of content you can post or get users to generate on TikTok, you have a range of options.

Fun filters. The most popular types of content typically involve using fun video filters that let users transform into animals and other characters, not unlike on SnapChat.
Memes and lip-syncing. This YouTubers react to TikTok challenges video will take a bit of time to watch but it explains some of the weird and wonderful trends on TikTok over the last while.

Other forms of content include, but are not limited to duets and react TikToks, animal ones,clever transitions, timelapses and stop motion animations,  as well as voice dubbing and dance videos.

The logistics

There are a number of new features to entice users and differentiate this popular app but it still has some restraints:

  • Music videos vary from 3 – 15 seconds in length
  • Looping original videos vary from 3-60 seconds

So how can marketers use TikTok to reach their audiences?

We are only beginning to see the potential of brand integration on TikTok. It’s still a young platform for advertising in comparison to stalwarts like Facebook and Twitter – but there are a few foolproof ways to get started on the right track.

  1. Before you do anything, get active on TikTok. Start playing around with a non-branded account and get context.
  2. Run focus groups with your intended audience.It’s easy to fall into the trap of treating TikTok the same way we treat other platforms – but it’s a different beast. Without clear input from the people who use it, you could run the risk of creating content that’s deemed “cringeworthy” which is arguably worse than doing nothing at all. FOcus groups can also give you great inspiration and a competitive edge through user insights.
  3. Formulate a strategy. You can use influencer and content marketing on TikTok too. Start with a strategy that looks at how frequently you will post, what you will post, what audience you are trying to reach, how you will integrate your TikTok content into a greater marketing strategy, etc.
  4. Create great content that’s tailored for a younger audience. Put a lot of effort into the content you create. It needs to be exciting, creative and youthful. Healthy doses of humour and trendiness go a long way too.
  5. Measure your efforts and adapt accordingly. As with any campaign or long-term execution, data and insight will become your most valuable tools for success. Look at sentiment over time, social commentary, the contents of user feedback.
  6. Stay on top of the competition. Make sure you put time and effort into researching competitor efforts on the platform. For example, you can view case studies and award-winning strategies online. View the GymShark TikTok case study here for a good example of an influencer campaign using this platform.

In short…

The best thing about TikTok is that it has so many mechanisms for creating genuinely fun and engaging content. It’s also not going anywhere anytime soon. So, before you start conceptualising and pumping a ton of resources into your marketing efforts on other platforms, consider the potential of trying something new.

Take a leap and start harnessing TikTok to reach younger markets, with a strategic and analytical approach driving the creative execution.