Few marketing channels get more attention these days than TikTok — and for good reason. Between January and March, the app was downloaded 315 million times, bringing the total to more than 2 billion downloads. Unique visitors have also been on the climb, nearly doubling in a matter of six months. And those visitors aren’t just quickly logging on and then off; they’re spending an average of 30 minutes a day on the platform.
TikTok’s growth is undeniable, and brands are clamoring to make it part of their social media campaign strategies. The only problem? TikTok isn’t the same as other social media platforms.
You still curate and post content, but TikTok requires an authenticity not seen on the likes of Instagram or Facebook. The benefits of using TikTok for marketing can only be found when approached deliberately and directly from the outset. Even an inkling of inauthenticity can damage your reputation.
TikTok Marketing Know-How
Authenticity on social media starts with one thing: Purpose. What exactly do you want to accomplish with a TikTok marketing campaign?
More often than not, the answer is to drive awareness, like with the now-iconic “Eyes Lips Face” campaign from e.l.f. Cosmetics. The brand put a lot of money into its hashtag challenge and even commissioned an original song, a decision that was on-brand and felt extremely genuine. It ended up receiving more than 5 billion views, making it the most viral campaign the platform has seen.
This isn’t to say you need a huge budget to enjoy the benefits of using TikTok. Most brands take the approach of Peace Out Skincare by having influencers shoot short, unfiltered before-and-after videos to promote a product. This strategy works, considering the campaign resulted in more than 15,000 units sold in one week.
Brands want to tap into that connection and become a part of the conversation. The key to getting started is to empower a community of creators to tell their version of your story. Instead of some polished, overproduced, or perfected version (like what we sometimes see on Instagram) of your brand story, try to deliver a raw and genuine connection.
Creating a TikTok Marketing Strategy
The benefits of using TikTok for marketing can be somewhat elusive for brands just entering the space. It can take time to find the right balance of authenticity and creativity, but there are a few tactics that can help. Here are three suggestions to get you started:
1. Get to know the platform.
Success stories of high-performance advertising have yet to be written on TikTok, but they’ll likely be associated with brands that embrace user-generated content to share their messages. Before you can launch a successful TikTok marketing campaign, however, you must first understand the platform.
When TikTok started taking off in the U.S. in 2019, I forced myself to use the app every day. I didn’t need to create anything to understand TikTok; I just wanted to see how it worked. I wanted to see how a brand might leverage it as part of a social media campaign strategy. To gain similar insight, observe brands to see what they’re doing and where you might find some parallels to your own company.
Spending regular time on TikTok is critical to success because the app is always evolving. The community is continually growing and changing, using the app differently, testing out new filters and sounds, and focusing on something it hasn’t before. By being present and engaged, you can start to understand the power of the moment and how your brand can get involved naturally.
Then, walk through the process of defining your goals, outlining your messaging, and identifying your audience. Are there certain creators who resonate with you? Do these people align with your brand story? What type of content do they create? All of this should go into your creative content plan for marketing on TikTok.
2. Experiment with content.
As you familiarize yourself with the platform, resist the urge to replicate what other brands are doing. After all, part of getting to know any new platform is trying unique things that are tailored to your brand and your goals. To do this, enlist the help of creators already excelling with TikTok marketing and experiment together to find what works.
Tap a variety of creators to generate content. Look for diversity in race, gender, etc. — and, of course, for people great at crafting a story on the platform. Then, build a small library of content and start experimenting with it as a way to advertise. Pay attention to see what converts leads, repurposing the most impactful content on your TikTok accounts.
3. Trust creators.
Quality content is essential to any social media campaign strategy, but it won’t have much impact if it doesn’t fit the platform. Blatantly promotional material on TikTok will stick out like a sore thumb. It’ll come off as inauthentic and go nowhere. Users want to see something innovative, fun, and consistent with a creator’s past content.
What does that mean? In short, give creators control over their content. They know the platform best and have built a following by editing and creating content that has been shared over and over, which should prove their ability to do that for you when managed properly — and do it well.
If you partner with creators who have large followings, you can rest assured they’ve unlocked the secrets of TikTok marketing. The platform has its own hacks and ways of getting into the funnel on a user’s “For You” page. That’s really where your brand gains access to subcommunities where posts get distributed and seen.
Ultimately, most social media campaigns are structured arrangements. All boxes must be checked before a post hits the platform. On TikTok, that limits your brand distribution potential. To harness the power of every new video, start by trusting the creators you partner with to see results.