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TikTok marketing & PRSome call TikTok the next Instagram. The app for short-form mobile videos surpassed Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube in monthly downloads in the U.S. last November. TikTok reached 500 million monthly active users last June, according to ByteDance, the app’s China-based owner. That’s about half the number of users on Instagram. ByteDance achieved a huge step forward when it acquired and integrated Musical.ly, a social app for sharing music performances, into TikTok last year.

Users, who tend to be young, can create videos up to 15-seconds long with their phone cameras, in-app editing tools and animation. They can also stream live video and string together 15-second videos for 60-second vignettes. Most often, they share their amateur music videos and clips of themselves dancing and lip syncing to contemporary music.

The app’s popularity means large social networks will try to buy it or copy it. Facebook already launched its Lasso app designed as a TikTok competitor.

Marketers Test the Waters

TikTok marketing

Fashion brand Guess promoted its denim clothing product on TikToK last year. Image source: Guess

TikTok has not yet introduced advertising or formal monetization products for creators. But it has gained marketers’ attention. Many users respond to hashtag challenges launched by the app itself or by brands, explains PR News. 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.

In the first branded content campaign on the app in the U.S., fashion brand Guess last year launched its #InMyDenim hashtag challenge. Guess posted videos of people wear 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 recruited popular content creators to promote the hashtag.

Headed in the Right Direction

Universal Pictures had TikTok influencers promote The House with a Clock in its Walls before the film’s launch in September, according to Digiday.

“I think TikTok is great in terms of promoting record labels, artists, their albums as well as creating brand-awareness campaigns,” Chris Strong, account director at influencer marketing agency Viral Nation, told Digiday. “TikTok has a ways to go, but I do think they are headed in the right direction.”

For the most part, however, brands are standing back. Marketers are likely weighing risk factors and wondering if they should embrace a shiny new object. One potential risk: While the app says it’s not for children under 13, it so far lacks a filter for explicit lyrics.

Bottom Line: TikTok, a mobile app, known for teen-aged music and dance videos, has rocketed to immense popularity. Trailblazing brands have already launched marketing and PR campaigns on the app. The TikTok clock is ticking: It’s only a matter of time before the app introduces advertising and formal influencer marketing programs.