Social media is a fickle field, as platforms often come and go nearly overnight. Still, few had as successful of an entry and as explosive of a growth spurt as TikTok, the nigh-unavoidable short-form lo-fi video-sharing app.
With 2 billion downloads in early 2021 and surpassing 3 billion since, TikTok has easily become the most downloaded non-Facebook app on the App Store, with a user base of over a billion monthly users.
TikTok as a content platform began in 2018 and was created from a merger between ByteDance’s social network Douyin, and the popular lip-sync video app Musical.ly. Conceptually, TikTok differentiates itself from its short-form video peers like YouTube and Instagram in a number of important ways: its user base, the type of videos it promotes, and the way businesses portray themselves on the app to tremendous success.
Nearly half of TikTok’s current user base is between ages 10 and 29, and over half of the user base is female. Its monthly active user count is well over a billion, a considerable audience size. Because TikTok’s user base is predominantly young, this also shapes the kind of content that TikTok popularizes. However, don’t let that keep your business away from the platform. While the largest age group is under thirty, TikTok has grown in all age groups, and even baby boomers are joining in on the fun.
Born out of a music app centered around quick 15-second lip-sync duets, TikTok’s current video trends tend to range from funny trends and running jokes to popular memes, short infomercial content with influencers or influencers creator input, and a general person-centric perspective.
Unlike Reels, which often feature higher production levels and require a more refined look to gain popularity, TikTok explicitly promotes lower-fidelity video. Beauty brands focus on sizzle reels for their new releases on Instagram but use TikTok to share videos from local and popular creators unboxing, trying out, and reviewing their products.
Because of its uniquely young audience, blazing-fast growth, and low video production costs, the marketing potential on TikTok is absolutely immense. But it’s also easy to blunder and mess with your brand’s image. The right strategy is needed to make the most out of the platform.
TikTok, the Rebirth of Vine
TikTok’s greatest strength is that it demands a far lower barrier of entry than other existing platforms. Video platforms like YouTube and Instagram have been racing to promote higher production values and more polished content, while TikTok embraces user-generated content, lower-quality video, and behind-the-scenes content.
People come to TikTok to see employees having fun, making jokes, joining in on popular trends, doing dances, and integrating their product or service into lighthearted video ideas. Even corporate TikTok videos are more personality-oriented, whereas Reels focus more heavily on the visuals of the product.
TikTok caters to fun & lighthearted content. The first & most important rule when creating videos is to have fun with it.
- Kayla Tucker, Social Media Strategist
If you have ever seen a Vine, or remember Vine’s heyday in 2012 and 2013, TikTok is very much filling that exact void – short clips, improvisational or skit comedy, funny trends, and a big focus on creative personalities and a creator-driven ecosystem.
How TikTok Promotes Content
One of the unique things about TikTok is that you have little to no control over the kind of content you get to see on the platform by default.
While you can sort by the creators you’re following, the platform defaults to showing you an infinite scroll of algorithm-picked videos determined by the type of content you click on, like, and interact with the most. Much like the Discover tab on Instagram or the Reels tab between Instagram posts and carousels, TikTok’s For You content is entirely algorithm based, meaning you see what the app thinks you want to see.
Understanding how the For You algorithm works is crucial to TikTok success. You can’t just get your foot in the door – a significant ranking factor is video completion.
As a result, TikTok videos need to be very short. The idea is that you create something that people will not scroll away from, will stick around and watch, and will hopefully generate interaction. Not at all a tall order! Here are a few key things to keep in mind.
Step One: Be Funny
You can do a lot with a good sense of humor, but it can be especially vital on TikTok. Brand and social media managers must match the tone their audience is looking for – a good way to start is to look at the kind of content your larger competitors in your industry are using to grow their audience. If you can’t find many examples in your industry, look for businesses in adjacent niches, and see what kind of content hits best.
There’s really no harm or foul in using other people’s ideas here – trends are a key part of what makes TikTok work in keeping with the younger audience’s obsession with meme culture and referential humor.
Don’t be afraid to mix things up, either – many videos and video trends are ironic or develop their own inside jokes. Duolingo’s TikTok account is a great example of a brand that spun off into its own subset of jokes and garnered a huge TikTok audience as a result. Of course, the danger with comedy is that jokes don’t always land.
Step Two: Collaborate
TikTok is a great place for brands, but not necessarily because of branded TikTok videos. The real goldmine is the popular creator’s comment section.
Brands have paid exorbitant fees to have their products sponsored or featured in a popular TikToker video, and for good reason. Impressions on TikTok can easily shoot into the millions, generating traffic to your brand.
Pick your collaborations wisely. Influencers are a great tool, but they can be expensive, and if the audiences don’t match up, you will be wasting your time and money.
Step Three: Be Useful
The basic tenet of all online content still applies to TikTok videos – even if they’re the most consumable and disposable of all short-form video formats, TikTok videos still need a hook and some kind of value proposition. In other words, if it isn’t funny or entertaining, it should at least be interesting or inspiring.
Step Four: Utilize Trends
Trends, trends, trends! TikTok trends change on a nigh-daily basis, so there’s almost never a shortage of ideas for how you can take advantage of the next trend.
Be sure to keep an eye on trending TikTok videos and on your audience’s greatest interests.
Step Five: Testing
This is no different from Reels, YouTube shorts, or any other kind of content – once you’ve started making TikTok videos with a particular angle, test their efficacy before continuing. What does your audience resonate with the most? Are people responding well to your team’s humor? Do they like your inspirational posts better? Or are they interacting more heavily with the informational short videos?
Making it big on TikTok is never guaranteed, just like any other social media platform. But by virtue of its growth and current user base, TikTok has quickly become one of the best places to grow your brand’s overall web presence and audience size. However, don’t be discouraged if your content hasn’t found its place yet. Keep trying things out, experimenting with TikTok’s video tools, and work with us to gain better insight into how TikTok for business can work for you.