How to grow on TikTok: Powerful TikTok marketing tips for your brand

Unless you live under a rock without Wi-Fi, TikTok needs no introduction. The social video platform exploded onto the scene in 2018 and hasn’t slowed down since. Today, the app has one billion monthly active users and has been downloaded 2.6 billion times.

In its early days, TikTok was seen as the domain of the Gen-Z crowd. But this is changing. The TikTok audience still skews young, but its percentage share of users under 24 is dropping. Meanwhile, millennial users — with their buying power — are on the rise.

And marketers are taking notice.

To the dismay of the teens who popularized the platform, corporations have landed on TikTok in a big way. Walmart, Chipotle, the NBA and NFL, and even Hewlett-Packard all have their own accounts.

There may have been a time when TikTok wasn’t the best fit for all brands. But now, with ads available for business accounts and big brands finding creative ways to engage consumers on the platform, TikTok is becoming a viable channel for brand marketing.

This article explores the unique beast that is TikTok marketing, including best practices for making TikTok videos and tips for growing your audience.

What is TikTok?

Let’s cover this quickly, then jump into the meatier stuff. As we mentioned earlier, TikTok is a video-based social media platform. But the platform differs from other social channels in a few important ways.

Users upload a variety of videos with a focus on absurd clips, dances, and confessional-style humor. That said, TikTok content is constantly evolving so it’s best to let go of any preconceptions that may box you in.

Built-in mechanisms on the platform help to define TikTok’s uniquely collaborative and iterative style of content creation. One such mechanism is the Duet feature. Duet allows users to respond to a video in split-screen and build upon it. In this way, content on TikTok spreads organically as users build on the theme or joke, or simply build on the format itself.

One example of this iterative style is an absurd clip by TikToker Bella Poarch. It remains one of the most liked TikTok clips of all time.

Bella posted a clip of herself lip-syncing to a snippet of the song “M to the B”. She used a face tracking effect on a video of herself making faces alongside the song and created a Disney-esque clip that’s endlessly rewatchable. And repeatable. In the last six-months, the collaborations and imitations have turned the original clip into a format that has become recognizable in and of itself.

These are just a few of the ways TikTok has positioned itself as unique. We could talk endlessly about this, but the best way to understand TikTok is to get on the platform and scroll — which shouldn’t be too hard as it’s completely addictive.

Why target TikTok?

It’s no wonder some brands are hesitant to jump onto TikTok. Initially, the platform resisted paid marketing efforts and favored individual content creators. This has changed, but not all brands have followed suit yet.

TikTok is also a lawless place. The comment section is known for its brutal takedowns of unpopular content, which can be intimidating for brands.

But hangups aside, TikTok isn’t going away anytime soon. So if you’re serious about video marketing, you need to get serious about making TikTok videos. Here’s why.

Your competitors are doing it

If your arch rival is winning hearts and minds on TikTok, you better follow suit — and quickly. As we mentioned early, TikTok isn’t a niche platform for dancing teens anymore. It’s a money-making content machine and should seriously be considered as an official channel for your marketing efforts.

Your competitors aren’t doing it

This might seem like a huge contradiction, but hear us out. If you find out your competitors aren’t touching TikTok, consider cornering the market before they do.

You want to get creative

There are fewer rules on TikTok. Unlike the more established platforms, TikTok content should steer clear of obvious marketing tropes. Your MO for creating branded content on TikTok should be to have fun, not push an agenda. Cut loose and be creative.

You want to test-drive content

At this stage of the social media life cycle, TikTok content isn’t super polished. Content isn’t expected to be overly branded and perfect. In fact, just the opposite. Users expect TikTok content to be raw, topical, shot on phones, and unscripted. It’s the perfect playground to test drive content and see what works.

COVID-19 has reduced your marketing channels

Marketing has changed a lot in the last year. Many traditional marketing channels like billboards, retail space, and events are unavailable (or unreliable) as different countries go in and out of lockdown.

TikTok noticed that user downloads went up significantly during the pandemic, so it’s a more secure marketing channel than anything physical at the moment. If you’ve lost some of your marketing capacity, TikTok might be the gap-filler you’ve been looking for.

Getting started with TikTok video marketing

If you are starting your TikTok video marketing strategy from scratch, here are a few steps to get you going.

Spend time on the app

Before you jump into your first video, spend some time on the app. Figure out how features are used in practice rather than in theory. And make sure you do your research off-app to track trending hashtags and songs.

Set a schedule

TikTok content creators recommend posting 1-3 times per day. We know, it’s a lot more than you would post on other channels. But this frequency speaks to the type of content you’ll be posting — quick, spontaneous, and fun videos work best on this platform. Don’t spend hours agonizing over what to post. Just make sure you post regularly.

Dedicate time to video creation

Another necessary evil of TikTok is that content should be bespoke. While content from Facebook, Instagram, and even LinkedIn can be effortlessly repurposed and re-shared, TikTok content is a style all its own. It takes a bit of time to finesse and figure out.

The perfect example of bespoke content is Washington Post’s bid for TikTok stardom with their dedicated TikToker named Dave. Dave manages the Post’s TikTok seemingly by himself alone in his apartment while slowly losing his mind in perpetual lockdown.

Now, we’re not saying you need to lock a dedicated TikTok employee in their home to get the work done. But do give your TikTok content the time and space it deserves to shine.

Align business goals with your content

Your TikTok content shouldn’t look like an advertisement, but it should align with your high-level marketing and business goals.

Crocs, for example, does a great job of posting videos that feature their products in a fun way. Part of their #crocsgames2020 campaign was posting and reposting videos of people using Crocs as substitute sports equipment. This is effective at aligning the brand with an active lifestyle, but still sticks to the absurdity expected of a TikTok video.

Define your TikTok audience

Your TikTok audience will be different from your audience on other channels. This is true even if the people who follow you on other channels start to follow you on TikTok. Those same people will use TikTok differently than, say, Facebook and expect a different style of content from you. Of course, the same can be said of any social media platform. But it is even more true with TikTok’s, given the platform’s niche style.

Take some time to figure out which of your customer personas uses TikTok and how they use it. The more you define these two pieces of information, the better informed your TikTok video marketing strategy will be.

Create a dynamic strategy

That being said, don’t let yourself be boxed in too much by your marketing strategy. TikTok is all about experimentation and play, so create space in your plan for this. And most importantly, permit yourself to pivot to trends as they come up. The lifecycle of trending content on TikTok is shorter than other social platforms so if you see a trend that works with your brand, don’t wait. Jump on it quickly.

Tips and tricks for growing your TikTok audience

Create campaigns that encourage sharing

More so than other social platforms, the currency of TikTok content is participation. Even the cleverest video or campaign falls flat if it doesn’t allow the audience to recreate and share in the content making process.

A participation campaign should be trendy and self-serving, allowing users to benefit from participating. For example, the Guess #inmydenim campaign was hugely successful but conceptually simple. It showed outfit transformations from something casual into Guess denim. It allowed the participants to show their personality and crack jokes as well as show off their personal style.

We’re not saying you should jump on any and all trends; your audience will see right through that. But if a trend is appropriate to your brand and you can do it justice, book yourself a ticket on the bandwagon.

Trending songs are a good way to reach new users. On the TikTok platform, songs are discovery portals — you can find content that’s linked to a specific song. But remember: trending songs aren’t necessarily new releases, so don’t rely on music charts for song selection. There are plenty of old hits that get resurrected unexpectedly by TikTokers. Like Boney M’s Rasputin.

Follow trend reports

Once you start making TikTok videos regularly, you’ll notice trends in-app. But it’s also worthwhile to follow trend reports so you’re not missing anything. TikTok regularly publishes detailed reports broken down by country, and there are also plenty of other blogs that add their two cents.

Pay attention to the first three seconds

TikTok videos have to be short (under 60 seconds in most cases), but it’s the first three seconds (or less) that matter the most. According to Facebook, people are quick-draws at assessing videos on mobile — they only spend 1.7 seconds on a piece of mobile content before swiping away, compared to 2.5 on a desktop. And the way the TikTok platform is designed makes it even easier to quickly swipe onto the next video if you’re not interested.

Bear this in mind and start strong with a burst of movement, action, or color to hook the viewer.

Keep it short

Once you have their attention with a strong opening, keep the video short. Even though the platform allows for 60 seconds, aim for under 30 seconds if possible. According to the latest video marketing statistics, 33% of viewers ditch a video after the first 30 seconds, so this is a good benchmark for length.

Cross-post on other social platforms

Earlier, I said you shouldn’t mindlessly repurpose Facebook or Instagram video content for TikTok, as TikTok content is a unique breed. But you can absolutely repost your popular videos from TikTok onto other channels.

Think of TikTok as a testing grounds for what works before shifting those videos to your more established channels.

Cross-post with ease using Biteable’s video cropper tool. Re-size your TikTok videos and upload them to your other social platforms in a matter of minutes.

If you have a popular video, consider creating a series. When Aussie comedian Jimmy Rees had a viral COVID-19 video, he turned it into a series called “Meanwhile in Australia”.

If the formula is working, let it work.

Use text in your video to support your message

You might notice that the majority of TikTok videos come with captions. There are a few reasons for this. First, in the early days of TikTok, the app merged with another Chinese app called Musical.ly. Musical.ly was designed for lip-syncing videos, so the TikTok blueprint was always meant to focus on music. Most TikTok videos are overlaid with music, and captions do the work to convey the joke and dialogue. Second, most users watch video without sound, so the captions have to work hard to help viewers understand what’s happening.

Evolve with the platform

Even though it hasn’t been around for that long, TikTok has already evolved into a completely different type of social platform than when it first arrived. The most helpful advice for any video marketer tackling TikTok is to never be complacent. Always look for new opportunities and new ways to evolve your TikTok content.

TikTok your way to video marketing stardom

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