It’s no secret that TikTok is dominating the top of the social media charts. Gaining most of its traction during the COVID-19 pandemic with no plans to slow down anytime soon, TikTok describes itself as the leading short-form video platform, with over 1 billion active global users.
No matter what your objectives are, TikTok may be able to help you achieve them. According to Oberlo, audiences spend an average of 52 minutes per day engaging with TikTok. The app also boasts that 92% of its users are compelled to take action after interacting with TikTok content. This presents an incredible opportunity: TikTok for brands. Whether the goal is awareness, engagement, or action, brands are getting results on TikTok.
But because TikTok is still so cutting-edge and different from the more commonplace social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, it can be intimidating to grasp from a marketing perspective.
In this guide, we’ll explore how to get started with TikTok for brands who are new to the space, why this platform is such a key player, as well as best practices when it comes to creating both posts and ads.
How to get started on TikTok for brands:
What is TikTok, and why is it so popular?
In the past few years, TikTok has become the birthplace of many of the latest trends on the Internet. The app describes itself as “a place where brands of all sizes and industries can be seen, grow their following, foster global connections, and achieve big results.” Users are flocking to TikTok for everything you can imagine: sports, dinner ideas, fashion inspiration, workouts to try, advice, books and movies, and more.
Whether you’re a small business owner or CMO of a large enterprise, if your goal is to reach a younger audience, you may want to seriously consider adding TikTok to your strategy in 2022 and beyond. Here at The Martin Group, we recently hosted a group of interns who fall under the Gen-Z demographic, so we had the opportunity to learn from these audiences firsthand about their social media use. We discovered that the majority we spoke to are not using any other social media platform, including Instagram, which added similar functionality with Reels in August 2020. TikTok is still the place to find young people on the Internet today – at least 47% of TikTok users are between the ages of 10 and 29.
What makes TikTok unique from other social media platforms?
What’s so puzzling about TikTok from a business and marketing perspective is the frequency at which content gets produced, and the unconventional ways that content creators are going about the production process. Historically, video content has not been a tactic that is known for having a quick turnaround. A TV commercial, for example, can take up to six months of planning and execution. But users are not going to wait six months for your brand to post its next TikTok – they’ll have moved on.
Trends also come and go very quickly on TikTok. Pre-planning and scheduling out content may not be as reliable or effective as a strategy like it once was on other social media platforms.
So, what does this mean for TikTok for brands? As TikTok will tell you, “Big stories don’t need big budgets,” and a shift to an “always-on, and always intentional” strategy is the way to go.
Here are five actionable steps brands should prioritize as they get started with TikTok:
In order to see results, TikTok itself recommends that brands should “aim to post 1-4 times per day to test how different types of content are received.” They also suggest adding a paid boost to get the most out of what ends up being the top-performing content. This approach has become the best practice for captivating new audiences. It also forces content creators to consistently strive to share the freshest, most diverse content – which seems like a massive undertaking compared to the way company pages have operated on social media for years.
One to four times per day is also a significant increase from other social media sites like Facebook (average of once per day, according to Hootsuite), and Instagram (average of 3-7 times per week). Brands may be used to being able to schedule out content calendars as far as months in advance for platforms like Facebook and Instagram, but on TikTok, trends come and go in days and expire as quickly as a week or two. That said, it’s important to keep a pulse on trends and to find an efficient approach to creating content that doesn’t require months of preparation.
For example, the NFL has been an early adopter of the platform, with over 8.8 million followers and 320+ million likes across all their videos on TikTok. They post often – multiple times per day – and have found a way to repurpose TV/news videos, adding filters to make it feel more authentic to the platform. They also weave in content that takes viewers behind the scenes.
One strategy that has proven effective for successful TikTok content creation is plotting out specific days to create content and then creating in bulk on that content creation day.
Content that has a human element always seems to perform better, and according to TikTok, “what makes TikTok content truly unique is creators addressing the community directly, often looking the audience straight in the eyes.” TikTok also has found that almost half of the best performing ads feature creators telling their stories in authentic, emotionally appealing ways.
When it comes to TikTok for brands, creating content in bulk might mean finding a spokesperson, mascot, or influencer to represent your brand, then scheduling content creation days with that person. Outfit and setting changes can make it appear as though the content was created at different times. Another option is to feature yourself or members of your team as the video’s subject, which might feel intimidating at first, but the results that these types of videos attain tend to speak for themselves.
For instance, Oreo posted this series of TikTok videos featuring the same content creator, then broke that fourth wall when they created a TikTok that shows their social media team addressing the camera.
Here are some examples of how TikTok is being leveraged across different niches and industries:
TikTok for Sports Brands
The Washington Commanders recently announced the team’s first-ever “Commanders Social Media Correspondent,” Katie Feeney, a 19-year-old social media influencer from Maryland. Feeney has been tasked with providing media coverage and content for the team to her nearly 7 million TikTok followers.
Feeney received an all-access pass for her efforts to help cover the Commanders on and off the field, including their training camp and tickets to all games that fall within the 2022 home game season. In addition to views from Feeney’s followers, the Commanders will be able to repurpose the content she’s creating, so fans will be able to access behind-the-scenes content from both pages.
“Influencer marketing and the creator economy are still huge, untapped growth areas for U.S. sports,” says Morning Consultant. Sports brands on TikTok also have a real opportunity to reach their fans on this platform – with TikTok users stating they are “most interested in using social media to stay updated on sports game highlights and game day content.”
Watch as Katie Feeney goes behind the scenes at the Commanders draft party as an example:
TikTok for Finance Brands
PostFinance has become one of the most successful finance brands on TikTok – with a case study on TikTok’s website to boot. Their TikTok campaign to raise awareness towards opening new bank accounts with younger audiences in Switzerland was deemed a total success.
The brand, a subsidiary of the Swiss Postal Service, ran two types of TikTok ads to reach its audience – a TopView ad and an In-Feed ad. TopView ads are popular among TikTok advertisers because of the way they completely take over the screen upon a user opening the app. In-Feed Ads are subtle in comparison and feel more organic to the feed.
For the ad creative, PostFinance kept it simple. Their ad was only 15 seconds long and featured an individual’s hand waving money, which transitioned into the many different items that money can buy, from plants to gummy worms to an inflatable raft for the pool. The caption included the offer: “Spend your cash how YOU want. 💰 Open a youth or student account now and receive CHF 50 🤑.”
Although it was run as an awareness campaign, the campaign did receive a good number of clicks (click-through-rate of 16.47%), generated over 6 million impressions, and had an engagement rate of 17.37%.
Check out an example of their ad creative.
TikTok for Healthcare Brands
One way that healthcare providers use TikTok is to debunk myths or share health tips with audiences. A good example is Doctor Jess, a Pediatric and Sports doctor from Boston, who does a series of videos on the importance of getting enough sleep, recently posting an 11-second TikTok of herself dancing while text appears on the screen speaking to the negative effects of what happens when you don’t sleep:
Brands like the Cleveland Clinic have grown to nearly 40k followers using the “tips” technique, sharing ways to avoid getting sick, ways to exercise with asthma, as well as timely ideas for the season, such as how to swim safely and how to store cookout leftovers in the summertime.
When it comes to debunking myths, Cleveland Clinc has posted a variety of content, from disproving “healthy soda” trends with input from a dietician, a fact versus fiction approach to myths surrounding the female menstrual cycle, ways to avoid getting sick from contaminated pools or lakes, and more:
Consumers don’t go on social media platforms to be advertised to – they go on TikTok to watch TikToks. And the word “TikTok” has become synonymous with “entertainment, education, and authenticity.”
This led TikTok to introduce the mantra “Don’t make ads. Make TikToks” as a way to communicate that TikTok for brands should behave no differently than TikTok for consumers.
There are six different ad types that TikTok has available for advertisers to choose from:
Before you put time and money into producing ads for TikTok, how can your brand get the most return on your investment? Check out these brands that got it right when it comes to advertising on TikTok:
TikTok for Colleges and Universities
This advertisement from a college in the UK didn’t look like an ad – it looked like a TikTok – and that’s why it worked. Lancaster University had a tight budget, but was able to use In-Feed ads on TikTok to achieve over 9 million engagements and over 90k clicks. These ads promoted their open enrollment day webinars, but in a way that felt authentic to the Gen-Z audiences the university was trying to reach.
Why did it work so well? According to TikTok, “Lancaster University handed the creative reigns over to its students – these were ads created for young people, by young people.” The ads also focused on harnessing popular trends such as dancing and filters to feel more authentic and genuine to audiences.
See how Lancaster University made an ad that didn’t look like an ad:
The best way to generate ideas for TikTok is by spending time on the platform, following other brands like yours, and saving any videos that you feel would be feasible for your brand to make.
To get an idea of what’s trending, click around on hashtags and on popular audio. Once you have a running list of TikToks you want to make, the next step is to plot out the strategy for each video. You can either capitalize on what’s popular or put your own spin on the latest trend.
Jot down a script for each video you want to make, with a list of the video clips you’ll need to create for each TikTok. Then it’s time to shoot! Be sure to shoot appropriately for the platform – keep the orientation vertical and get the point across in the first few seconds.
But don’t worry too much about production quality – some of the best TikToks are captured on a whim with very little planning, and many of which can be recorded in as little as 30 seconds.
Still stumped on where to start? The Martin Group is a fully integrated marketing communications agency, and our mission is to move audiences to take action across channels – including TikTok. We can assist you in creating TikToks for your brand no matter the size of your needs, from vetting out content creators, to iterating on creative concepts, to executing entire organic or paid campaigns in-house.