TikTok now has more than 500 million active users worldwide. That’s more than Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Pinterest. It’s one of the most downloaded apps. Generation Z apparently loves its 15-second, looping videos, typically set to catchy music. But relatively few brands have even opened TikTok accounts. Except for a handful of innovative, typically well-funded marketing teams, most may be taking a wait and see attitude while the app develops its features.
Many marketers rightly wonder if they can or should invest their limited resources in another platform, notes Arik Hanson, principal of ACH Communications. Social media marketers already have their hands full with mainstream networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Becoming familiar with TikTok, not the most user-friendly platform, is time consuming. Plus, getting noticed on TikTok calls for both creativity and creating videos, both also time-sapping activities.
But some PR and marketing leaders recommend that brands at least investigate the app, especially if they’re interested in reaching young audiences. About 60% of the app’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the US are between 16 and 24.
Yes, it’s targeting and measurement options are rudimentary, but they’ll surely improve over time. Brands that become familiar with the app in its early stages will have a head start when the real TikTok marketing race begins, experts say.
They offer these recommendations.
Tap your creativity and have fun. Show the personality of the brand and its employees. Creativity and fun are TikTok’s hallmarks. The videos are frequently funny or amusing, even goofy. Feature employees in behind-the-scenes content in order to give prospective employees a glimpse into your culture by showcasing what it’s like to work for your company – in a fun way. “This won’t work for every brand, of course, but I would argue most brands could stand to have a little more fun on platforms like TikTok,” Hanson advises
Experiment. Since the app is so new, it lacks recommended best practices, rules or even norms. “If you think something might be interesting or funny, try it and see if it gets any likes, comments or shares, recommends Pamela Bump at HubSpot.
Engage your audience. Between challenges, duets, likes, comments, and shares, there are plenty of ways to engage with other TikTok users — even if you don’t know them. Try to come up with videos, challenges, or duets that aim to interact with others, Bump says. As with other platforms, the more you engage with people, the more your fan base is likely to grow.
Produce videos around national days related to your brand. For example on National Avacado Day, Chipotle posted Dr. Jean’s Guacamole Song music video with the caption, “TFW guac is free. Online/in-app only 7/31 #GuacDance Terms: chip.tl/avoday.” While it may be indecipherable to the uninitiated, TikTok users totally got it.
Offer a challenge. Many users respond to hashtag challenges. The individual or brand launching the challenge creates a video, picks a song to accompany it, and challenges users to create their own version using a specific hashtag. Fashion brand Guess created its #InMyDenim hashtag challenge. Guess posted videos of people wearing its denim products accompanied by Bebe Rexha’s “I’m a Mess.” It then challenged TikTok users to post videos that showed how wearing Guess jeans improved their appearances and outlooks. The company also recruited popular content creators to promote the hashtag.
Offer something different. Offer something different from content your brand posts on other networks. While the NBA posts basketball games and highlights on Instagram, it features a lighter side on TikTok, such as videos of players working out dramatically to music, dancing on the court, or adventures of team mascots. One video showed a gorilla mascot doing tricks and slam dunks. Instead of mentioning its investigative journalism, The Washington Post aims to reach younger audiences on TikTok with amusing, behind-the-scenes videos and skits from its newsroom. In one, the news team discusses The Bachelorette instead of the Democratic debates.
Educate with video. TikTok isn’t always silly. The United Nations’ IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) posts informative and motivational videos that encourage viewers to change the world. The videos, such as short films of people farming around the world, are educational yet upbeat. Its #danceforchange hashtag encouraged people to film themselves dancing while using the #danceforchange hashtag in captions. Organizations with serious missions can use its TikTok activities as an example, Bump says.
Bottom Line: The increasingly popular TikTok app offers a new marketing outlet for brands. While most marketers hesitate to embrace the app, a handful of savvy brands are exploring the app and showing how to entertain and educate young audiences with captivating videos on TikTok.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.