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Should Your Brand be on TikTok?

A lot has happened since TikTok made its digital debut in 2018. This year alone it exploded in popularity, becoming the Number 1 downloaded app of 2020 with over 800 million monthly active users.

Gen Z has dominated the app since day one, accounting for over 60% of its users, but more recently TikTok’s audience has expanded to include a wider demographic– grandparents included!

With a shoppable component and advertising floodgates wide open, brands see a new opportunity to engage with their target audiences. Learn more about TikTok’s ad components, from paid, sponsored and organic, to see if your brand has the potential to thrive on the platform.

What is TikTok? 

TikTok is the destination for short-form videos, offering bite-sized content that ranges between five to 60-seconds in length. As a creator, you have access to an array of effects, filters, voice-overs and music. As a viewer, you have a never-ending feed filled with creative, humorous and informative videos.

What makes TikTok unique is the incredibly smart algorithm. Using AI, TikTok is able to create personalized recommendations for viewers, essentially making content discovery experiential. With videos being tailored to viewers’ interests, the app becomes more engaging and addictive.

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There’s really no specific rule book users follow when uploading to TikTok. The highest performing videos are pretty random from dancing to comedy skits to organizational hacks. In other words, the world is your oyster when it comes to being a creator.

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What does Branded Content look like on TikTok?

Brands from all industries are using TikTok to enhance their social presence and gain traction from consumers. Sometimes branded content feels authentic for its niche target but other times it feels like a waste of 15 seconds for the user. Here are what the top ads look like.

Branded hashtag challenges are a way brands advertise on TikTok at no cost and they seem to be a popular approach. These challenges encourage users to curate videos around the hashtag to either win a prize or get a feature on other social media platforms. Several companies and organizations have gotten in on the action, including the NFL.

Brand takeover ads allot one brand a day to be the featured ad, that is shown the moment someone opens the app. These ads lead directly to external or internal landing pages. Brand takeover ads tend to get in the way when users open the app and end in an instant skip, not gaining much traction unless the ad features a beloved TikTok star (aka Charli or Addison).

In-feed ads are essentially just promoted videos that can last anywhere from five to 15 seconds while users scroll through their feed. These appear as an organic post and are lightly marked as sponsored. Maybellines recent in-feed ad campaign earned 48.7K likes and almost 3,000 comments in one day, increasing their brand awareness by 80% proving they found success in using TikTok for advertising.

Successful Tiktok brand entries

An easy way a suitable brand can advertise on TikTok is through organically posting to their own profile and continuing to build an audience. In all probability, this could be extremely hard to achieve as TikTok users want exciting content– not commercials for products. But for brands like Chipotle, Gymshark, and e.l.f. Cosmetics, organically posting has worked in their favor. 

Chipotle has won over the TikTok community with its consistency, creativity and inspiring burrito-building videos. Their content is a great example of how a food chain can connect with their consumers over the web. They even took their tok’ing one step further and started a branded hashtag challenge for National Avocado Day that got 250,000 submissions and 430 million video views in six days.

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Gymshark has managed to rack up more than 1.5 million followers and nearly 25 million likes on their page. Their content ranges from insanely challenging workout routines to hilarious fitness memes. They entice their viewers and leave them wanting more, which is important when building brand awareness.

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e.l.f Cosmetics is a brand that has a good understanding of the sponsored content on TikTok. They have their own branded hashtag (#eyeslipsface) that has been so effective at reaching their target audience. Their own content consists of slow-motion video with original music that grabs attention in less than 10 seconds. They’ve also worked with influencers to diversify and amplify their social media presence. 

Unsuccessful Tiktok brand entries

Not every brand is built for TikTok though. Buzzfeed, who are true content leaders on other social platforms, flopped while trying to utilize TikTok for follower growth. The reason: they were repurposing their content that was specifically built for other platforms. What works on Youtube and Instagram is different from what works on TikTok (and vice versa).

Burberry was another brand that joined the TikTok community and attempted to do a challenge but ended up receiving a ton of backlash. The branded hashtag coincided with a collaboration they had coming up, which celebrated the new Thomas Burberry Monogram collection. Their videos reeled in a ton of hate comments and it showed that their target market just didn’t have a presence on the app.

What Makes a brand successful on TikTok?

The companies that have a good understanding of the community and of TikTok as a whole are most successful on the platform. They’ve benefited either from organically posting content or creating branded hashtags that brings the community together. Users also resonate more with brands when they can identify a face or a group of people to that brand. Not only does using influencers make a brand more relatable, but it also centers content around specific individuals.

How to determine if your brand is right for TikTok

When deciding whether or not your brand should join TikTok, the main consideration should be your audience. The app has a very specific culture and users love quirky unfiltered content, so if your creative team isn’t willing to jump on trends, participate in challenges or think outside of the box, then the app may not be the place for your brand.

Because the app is growing exponentially, brands are diving headfirst at the opportunity to inform and engage with potential customers. The influence the platform has made on its users is remarkable and because of this, TikTok has released a set of community guidelines for brands, creators, and viewers to follow. Their guideline list is extensive, so we linked it here. What’s important to note is how serious they are about their community. TikTok values its foundation of creative expression, but if a video goes against the guidelines, users gain the risk of getting the boot.

Will Instagram Reels take away from TikTok hype? 

Before the launch of Instagram’s new feature, Reels, it was criticized as a copycat of TikTok. After only a week on the app, we see a fair shot at competition, especially for brands in the beauty and fashion realm right now.

As TikTok faces a potential US ban, the push for Reels really came into play. Reels offers a “safety net” for users and brands to create 15-second videos, spice them up with effects, text and music, instead of a potential disruption to brand partnerships.

Since Instagram has evolved over the years with its analytic features, Reels offers stronger advertising infrastructure than TikTok. If Reels dominates like it’s sister feature, Stories, Instagram can serve as another platform for brands to advertise successfully, and more analytically, through both organic and paid content. Reels may be better for you if your brand leans towards more filtered, proper, and traditional aesthetic-branded content as well.

Although some doubt Reels will make it big, we see the success brands have already made on, such as such for-profit clothing store Ivory Ella. Their influencer partnership with Gabby Murray caught over 17 million views in the first 24 hours of Reels. It seems as though Instagram might have the upper hand for short-form videos, but only time will tell.

So, should your brand be on TikTok? 

To put it simply, it depends. In reality, TikTok is not the ideal platform for all brands. It depends on the brand’s target market and their ability to play by the rules set by the TikTok community.

As we’ve seen, brands that upload organic content or advertise with sponsored content do well because they understand their audience. TikTok fills a major market gap– it brings content to viewers so they don’t have to go out and search for it, and the algorithm helps too.

You might think TikTok is all fun and games for users, but we see it as a huge marketing tactic. It truly just depends on your creative strategy and not letting the Gen Z sensibilities deter you. If you’re thinking about changing up your social media marketing strategies, we highly encourage you to look more closely into TikTok.

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