Why Microsoft Wants to Buy TikTok

Why Microsoft Wants to Buy TikTok

Microsoft

A couple of months ago, I mentioned on our blog that dark clouds were on the horizon for TikTok because of lingering concerns over the app’s security. Those dark clouds are here. On July 31, President Trump said he planned to ban the app in the United States because the U.S. government is concerned that TikTok poses a national security risk. TikTok’s detractors say that the popular app, owned by China-based Bytedance, could have personal data from its American users fall into the hands of the Communist Chinese government – a form of foreign espionage. But just as the issue reaching a crisis point, on August 2, Microsoft confirmed a rumor that it intends to buy the U.S. operations of TikTok. President Trump gave Microsoft and TikTok until September 15 to work out a deal, which would pave the way for TikTok to have a future in the United States. The drama is intriguing especially to the many businesses that have a presence on TikTok either through organic content or advertising. In addition, TikTok stakeholders are asking: What does Microsoft get out of buying TikTok and taking on the headaches of securing user data? Here are two reasons why:

1 TikTok Gives Microsoft a Social Media Card to Play Against Big Tech

Google has YouTube. Facebook has Instagram (and many other cash cows). But Microsoft lacks a go-to social app on which to build an advertising business. And this is a major drawback especially in 2020 as social media usage surges. Facebook’s recent quarterly earnings announcement underscored this reality: with people turning online for safer ways to pass the time during the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook’s monthly average users across all its apps has risen to 3 billion. Microsoft is missing out on a consumer-focused social app. True, Microsoft owns LinkedIn, but LinkedIn is not a business-to-consumer ad powerhouse. TikTok gives Microsoft an instant platform.

Granted, TikTok is still in the early stages of earning revenue from advertising and in-app purchases. And the app shows promise as well as challenges. According to the Financial Times, one 24-hour TikTok campaign ran by Guess logged a CTR of 16% compared to a 4% average. Kroger, which ran a #TransformUrDorm challenge, attracted close to 477 million views across hundreds of videos over the course of approximately one week. But in November 2019, The Verge said TikTok ads were the Wild West. Self-serve ads on the platform deliver CPM of $10 (compared negatively to Instagram’s $8).

TikTok has plenty of room to grow, and Microsoft sees the potential. If TikTok were fully developed as an advertising powerhouse, it’s possible the U.S. assets would have been too expensive to buy – so now is the right time to make a deal.

It’s all about Gen Z

Microsoft has been trying to build a presence with the surging Gen Z population for the past few years, and with good reason: Gen Z is set to overtake Millennials as the largest age cohort in the United States. Thus far, Microsoft has relied on gaming to connect with Gen Z, as witnessed by its development of Xbox, a Gen Z favorite. TikTok gives Microsoft another powerful way to connect with Gen Z: 60 percent of TikTok users are Gen Zers. TikTok also gives Microsoft a way to cross-promote Gen Z friendly products such as Xbox. As The Verge notes:

Microsoft could take advantage of that direct access to TikTok users with ads for Surface, Xbox, and other products, or even as another base for its game-streaming ambitions. Google is planning to leverage YouTube to integrate its Stadia streaming service, and TikTok would give Microsoft a response with xCloud game streaming. Microsoft had been planning to use Mixer for Xbox game streaming, but the service never gained enough traction, and the company was forced to strike a deal with Facebook for xCloud integration instead. It’s not hard to imagine watching a Call of Duty video on TikTok and then being able to click and instantly play the game as it streams to your phone via Microsoft’s xCloud service.

Microsoft, in addition, could reap the benefits of revenue gained when businesses tap into TikTok to advertise to Gen Z, as well – something that businesses might be reluctant to do while TikTok’s future remains in limbo.

What’s Next?

In addition to giving Microsoft and TikTok a deadline of September 15 to work out a deal, President Trump has said the U.S. government should get a financial cut of the transaction, which complicates an already tricky process. Microsoft is taking on a risk with this political hot potato, to be sure. The company has put its reputation on the line by stating that it will “ensure that all private data of TikTok’s American users is transferred to and remains in the United States.” But there is also potentially strong reward for Microsoft. With an American owner, TikTok may become a more attractive place for American businesses to build their brands with advertising and other forms of activity that would enrich Microsoft’s bottom line.

Meanwhile, as if to underline TikTok’s importance, Instagram launched on August 5 a feature, Instagram Reels, that competes directly with TikTok. Instagram Reels benefits from Instagram’s cachet and Facebook’s muscle. The pressure is on for Microsoft to land the TikTok deal.

To learn more about TikTok, check out this treasure trove of statistics.

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Online Shopping and Advertising Continue to Converge in 2020

Online Shopping and Advertising Continue to Converge in 2020

Advertising

One of the big stories of 2020 is, of course, the surge in people going online. It’s not just that people are spending more time online watching movies and connecting on social media. They’re also making purchases: as consumer behavior moves online, we’re seeing a surge in eCommerce. As reported in Forbes, the latest research suggests that COVID-19 has accelerated the progress of ecommerce adoption by four to six years—within a matter of months. What does that mean for your brand? A look at what the tech giants are doing provides some clues:

Instagram Shop

Instagram is embracing the online shopping trends with its July roll out, in the United States, of Instagram Shop. The online shopping feature allows consumers to view products on Instagram: personalized recommendations drawn from brands you as a consumer follow, plus recommendations suggested by Instagram’s @shop team.

Businesses can also add hashtags to product descriptions to make those products more likely to be featured. On Instagram Shop, shoppers can save items of interest, contact businesses, and place orders directly using Facebook Pay. In short, the feature allows brands to set up a single online store consumers can access via Instagram. Instagram Shop is set to go global in coming weeks.

Google’s Shoploop

Meanwhile, Google is making its own bid to snag the attention of online shoppers with its video shopping platform, Shoploop. Introduced by Google’s experimental Area 120 division, Shoploop spotlights products in short videos of 90 seconds or less. The videos illustrate how to use the product, and interested shoppers can make purchases online, directly from the app. They can also like, share, and save videos.

As reported in MediaPost, Shoploop “helps brands get product reviews from real people who know and use the products.” One of the beauties of Shoploop is that it streamlines a process that used to involve several apps or websites. Consumers can now discover products, see how they are used in real life, and make a purchase—all in one place. Currently, most Shoploop clips highlight skincare and makeup, but plans are already underway to expand reach to products including clothing, jewelry, and electronics.

What This Means for Brands

Store closures/state lockdowns during COVID-19 undoubtably spurred development of shopping experiences like Instagram Shop and Shoploop. But there’s a good chance that consumer habits formed during lockdown will persist indefinitely. “We are seeing signs that online purchasing trends formed during the pandemic may see permanent adoption,” notes Taylor Schreiner, Director, Adobe Digital Insights, in the Forbes article cited above.

And because companies like Google and Instagram are making it even easier for people to buy things online by giving them more access points, shoppers will have more reasons than ever to continue those habits forged during the pandemic. The headline for advertisers is this: online advertising not only creates visibility for a brand, it is becoming an increasingly important, even mandatory, strategy for brands to draw shoppers directly to their commerce engines.

The Challenge for Advertisers

The challenge for advertisers is to capitalize on all these access points, while understanding what types of advertising work best to attract engagement online. That is, what kind of ads does a brand now need to create in order to draw shoppers to their Instagram page, as opposed to their website? How should a business build an advertising presence on Instagram that complements the organic content it posts, especially for brands that sell products on Instagram? Different access points can mean different audiences: online ads will not necessarily all be the same.

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How Brands Are Succeeding with Voice Technology in 2020

How Brands Are Succeeding with Voice Technology in 2020

Branding

In December, I predicted that voice search would become smarter and more useful in 2020: “I continue to see more people using their voices to find things with their smart speakers, phones, and in-car devices,” I wrote. “But what’s changing is that people are getting more comfortable buying things, not just searching for things, with their voices.” Of course, I had no idea that a global pandemic was about to radically change our behavior, including how we use voice assistants. Let’s take a closer look at what’s been happening during the first half of 2020.

Voice Assistants Are Gaining Even More Currency

The pandemic has moved the needle when it comes to consumer openness to voice assistants. The Wall Street Journal reported,

Euromonitor earlier this year noted that consumers were buying more AI-enabled home appliances and virtual assistants, like Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa. But now, such devices have a new draw, says [head of Euromonitor’s lifestyle research Alison] Angus. “Voice-control technology limits the need to touch surfaces so much, so that’s why they are appealing,” she says.

Though states are starting to lift COVID-19-related restrictions, many consumers will remain cautious. Concerns about health and safety going forward will make voice’s touch-free nature ever more attractive.

Voice Assistants Are Increasingly Becoming An Integral Part of Daily Life

In a national survey published by Edison Research and NPR, 1,660 adults across the United States were asked about their use of voice assistants. As Voicebot.ai reports, the survey demonstrated that during the COVID-19 pandemic, voice assistant usage jumped: results reveal that more than 50 percent of smart device owners are using voice commands at least once a day now—an uptick that occurred between the start of 2020 and the beginning of April. At the same time, there is a drop in the number of people who are using voice commands less frequently. Habits are indeed changing, and the change started during the era of COVID-19.

Voicebot.ai also reports that:

  • In 2019, smart speaker owners used voice requests for an average of 9.4 different tasks a week. In 2020, that number has inched up to 10.8 different tasks.
  • Fifty-nine percent of smart speaker owners who also own a smartphone voice assistant perform different voice-related tasks with each device.

Changes in work/commuting habits during the pandemic have also informed voice assistant usage. “With tens of millions of Americans no longer commuting, smart speakers are becoming even more important as a conduit for news and information,” Tom Webster, Edison Research senior vice president, said. He believes those habits will persist, and evolve, noting that “this increased usage and facility with voice assistants will likely increase demand for this technology in vehicles once our commutes resume.”

The Business Response

Some businesses are reading the tea leaves and responding by making voice an ever more useful utility:

  • Snapchat, for example, will be rolling out a new way to sort through the million+ augmented reality (AR) Lenses that Snap makes available through its Lens Studio platform. As TechCrunch reports, “the app’s new voice search will allow Snapchat users to ask the app to help it surface [Lenses] that enable them to do something unique.” Potential applications here could range wide: imagine asking Snap to show what you will look like wearing a particular brand of makeup, say, or how a specific television might look on your wall.
  • Google, meanwhile, has launched a new voice assistant called Diya. Diya’s mandate? To help kids learn to read. According to Voicebot.ai, Diya is part of a new educational app for Android, Read Along, that aims to help parents home-schooling their kids during the COVID-19 shelter in place. Diya “listens” to kids read, correcting errors and offering encouragement and congratulations. Students can also ask Diya for help pronouncing words they don’t know how to say.
  • For Dunkin’ Brands, having a voice search strategy was already a priority at the beginning of 2020. Then the pandemic hit. Coronavirus changed the rules for food and beverage availability, and as Ad Age notes, “Dunkin’ saw a 10x rise in people using voice to search for open locations with access points like drive-through, delivery or curbside pickup.” The company adjusted to the new normal, tailoring its paid online search results to respond effectively to the uptick in voice requests. As Keith Lusby, VP of media at Dunkin’, noted, consumers were often already driving when they made their request, and couldn’t type on their phones to determine whether a nearby location could in fact serve them. “When you think about our business pre-COVID, it was nice to know when I got to the store and they had a drive-through,” Lusby says, “but now it’s determining whether I go or not. We were able to modify our results to make sure we matched what the person was looking for.”

What You Should Do

Lusby’s comment is a perceptive one, and echoes what we’ve discussed on our own blog. Brands looking to optimize voice in ads and websites will want to evaluate typical voice search queries and pay attention to the conversational text that occurs. As Lusby notes, “That’s our view of voice—meet the customer; they’re giving us more info, so let’s give them a better result.”

But how to achieve this? To begin with, advertisers want to pay attention to the nature of conversation, which tends to be more complicated than the verbiage used in a simple Google search. In short, people express themselves differently in voice search than they do in Google searches. Google searches are more brusque. Advertisers hoping to connect well with voice searches will want to write copy consistent with how people speak. “Who,” “What,” Where,” “When,” “Why,” and “How” are great words to focus on. Queries that include natural phrases such as “near me” or “can I get the number for” can also be useful/telling. In the end, sites or copy that match conversational tone are likely to help brands looking for hits from voice-based searches.

Finally, consider how you might use voice to improve the customer experience overall. As brands like Dunkin’ demonstrate, businesses can use voice technology to create a more pleasant customer experience as people continue to look for ways to avoid touching screens.

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Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Why 2020 Is TikTok’s Year

Why 2020 Is TikTok’s Year

Mobile

TikTok is having quite a year. And so, by association, is American Eagle Outfitters. According to Mobile Marketer, the clothing and accessories retailer enjoyed a Q1 sales surge online, driven in part by TikTok campaigns that connected with a young target audience eager to spend money online. The headline is this: TikTok is helping businesses benefit from massive shifts in consumer behavior in 2020.

TikTok, which is owned by the Beijing-based ByteDance, give brands a great platform for creating awareness, and more businesses like American Eagle are enjoying increases in online sales because of that platform. Read on to learn more about how TikTok is evolving rapidly in 2020.

What Is TikTok?

A free video-sharing social networking app that launched in the international market in 2017, TikTok was once predominantly dedicated to lip-synching. But now the platform, which features short looping videos of three to 60 seconds, and music and lip-sync videos of three to 15 seconds, has evolved into a short-form video content hub. And it’s becoming something of a powerhouse: according to Adweek, App Annie’s Q1 Global App Market Index identifies TikTok as the most-downloaded app in Q1 2020, as consumers continue to go online to find things to do and to express themselves at a time of social distancing.

Mobile-first 18- to 34-year-olds are the dominant market for TikTok, and one need only take a look at user numbers to recognize the platform’s significance—even beyond that primary market. Datareportal, for example, reports that  TikTok enjoys 800 million monthly active users. Those users are engaged, too: Oberlo notes that on average, they spend 52 minutes per day on TikTok.

Brands Getting in on the Action

Brands, particularly those catering to younger consumers, are taking an interest in TikTok. The platform is an ideal place to engage audiences and demonstrate a lighter side through funny videos or challenges. And during the COVID lockdown, TikTok has become a pressure valve for people cooped up inside. Examples of the wildly diverse brands who have already invested in a TikTok presence include:

  • NBA: the NBA uses TikTok to show off a lighter side, posting videos of players working out to music, for example, or the adventures of team mascots. The app’s musical features help the organization lighten up its branding; the videos still promote basketball, even as they fit in well with other quirky or musical posts on TikTok. Though the 2019-20 season was disrupted by COVID-19, the NBA has kept fans engaged by posting exciting plays from NBA stars. And players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Los Angeles Lakers megastar LeBron James, are turning to TikTok to keep fans amused with coordinated dances and funny moments.
  • elf Cosmetics: the cosmetics brand used TikTok to face COVID head-on, releasing a remix of an original song that had originally appeared in fall 2019. Changing the title of the song from “Eyes. Lips. Face.” to “Eyes. Lips. Face. Safe.,” elf paired the rebranded song with a new TikTok video demonstrating hand washing and social distancing.
  • San Diego Zoo: capitalizing on the fact that many people love cute animals, the San Diego Zoo’s TikTok account posts videos of adorable animals with fun music. It’s a simple strategy that has earned the account more than 50,000 fans. Even during the downtime brought about COVID-19, the zoo has kept up interest among its followers by posting amusing and sweet videos of animals going about their day.
  • Mucinex: Mucinex might not seem to lend itself to playful TikTok videos, but last fall the sinus relief brand successfully leaned into a popular TikTok theme: that of transformation. In the Mucinex spots, quick video edits showed influencers changing from zombie-level “too sick” to fashion-forward “so sick” after taking their medicine. The campaign generated nearly one billion views. 

So how does one become part of the TikTok revolution? The platform offers a variety of advertising options. If you are new to TikTok, we suggest reviewing this beginner’s guide courtesy of TikTok.

TikTok and Influencer/Brand Collaborations

As for what’s next, look for TikTok to increasingly help brands find influencers to work with. In the TikTok Creator Marketplace, brands can already search through the app’s top creators, a list of more than 1,000 TikTok stars including Zach King and CJ OperAmericano. The marketplace allows interested brands to gain insights into the audience demographics of a given creator/influencer, and germane details like engagement rate over time.

More Developments

Ever evolving, TikTok is also looking to live broadcasts and educational content to expand its reach and net more ad dollars. But as c|net reports, the platform won’t be nixing the familiar dance and lip-syncing videos that put TikTok on the map. Bryan Thoensen, who oversees content partnerships at TikTok, perhaps puts it best: “It’s adding more legs to the stool,” Thoensen says.

 A Caveat

There is a dark cloud on TikTok’s horizon, as the platform faces security concerns. Last fall, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Tom Cotton asked U.S. intelligence officials to investigate the security risks posed by TikTok. In a letter addressed to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, the senators wrote, “With over 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore.” The concern that the app could be used for intelligence-gathering and foreign influence campaigns by the Chinese Communist Party was also voiced.

To date, however, the negative coverage has not appeared to deter brands.

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Want to learn more about what benefits TikTok might bring to your business? We can tell you more about the options and how to get started. Contact us.

Research Shows That Having a Strong Social Media Presence Pays Off

Research Shows That Having a Strong Social Media Presence Pays Off

Facebook

Having a strong social media presence pays off for your brand – literally. That’s what research from Sprout Social shows. Sprout Social surveyed consumers and social marketers between February 28 and March 4. As reported in Mobile Marketer, the survey reveals:

  • Nine out of 10 people purchase from brands they follow on social media.
  • Seventy-five percent of people have increased their spend on companies they follow on social. That’s a 12 percent increase from 2019, a leap that’s particularly noteworthy given the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moving Forward

These findings validate what we wrote in a recent post: brands advertising on social media can connect with people who are willing to spend money even during the coronavirus era. Knowing this, how does a company move forward during such an unprecedented time? Here’s what we suggest you do:

  • Make sure you have a strong social media presence. As we’ve noted, use of social media has surged in the first quarter, with engagement on platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram spiking 40 percent or more — this despite, or even because of, the pandemic. In short, not only are people willing to spend on brands, there are more people on social, period. Brands that advertise on social will reach that larger audience.
  • Make sure your content is engaging, and that you engage with the audience. According to the Sprout Social report, 61 percent of consumers say that engagement with the audience is the brand characteristic that is most meaningful to them.
  • Complement your advertising with strong customer service. What does strong customer support look like now? Per Sprout Social, responding to people quickly is a strong barometer of customer service. As noted in Mobile Marketer, 40 percent of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of connecting through social media; and 79 percent expect a response in the first 24 hours.
  • Reach out to younger consumers in a way that matters most to them; that means a strong presence on YouTube and Instagram. Gen Z is the largest age cohort in the United States, and Millennials remain sizeable. It’s important that brands understand where Gen Zers spend their time. Right now, visual content is the key to Gen Zers’ hearts. The Sprout Social report reveals that social sharing platforms highlighting videos and photos, such as Google’s YouTube and Facebook’s Instagram, are becoming more and more popular with younger consumers. As reported in Mobile Marketer, “Almost three quarters (73%) of Generation Z said they plan to use Instagram more often, while 65% said they plan to spend more time on YouTube.” So it’s no surprise that Facebook just purchased Giphy and will integrate the business with Instagram.

Finally, make sure that you stay abreast of the various tools that are constantly made available to businesses to maximize the value of their social media spend. For instance, Google has adapted the YouTube masthead ad format for the era of connected TV.

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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

How Brands Are Succeeding with Social Media Advertising

How Brands Are Succeeding with Social Media Advertising

Advertising

There’s a disconnect between how businesses and consumers are behaving on social media during the coronavirus pandemic. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, people are spending more time on social apps such as Facebook, but businesses have scaled back their advertising during the first quarter (although in its latest earnings announcement, Facebook said that ad revenue had stabilized at the beginning of the second quarter in April). Companies that go dark on social create an opportunity for their competitors to engage with a growing audience. If you are one of those brands thinking of scaling back, perhaps you should reconsider. Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on.

Consumers Are Online. And They Are Receptive to Ads.

Life under lockdown has resulted in a spike of internet usage. The latest report from App Annie indicates that worldwide, average weekly time spent in games and apps on Android devices increased 20 percent year-over-year in Q1 2020. Significantly, consumer spending also ticked up: “In Q1 2020 consumers spent over $23.4B through the app stores, the largest quarter ever in terms of consumer spend.”

Increased time online also means an uptick in social media usage. According to TechCrunch, an April 2020 Kantar report reveals the extent of this uptick during the pandemic: Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram experienced a 40 percent+ increase in usage. Facebook usage has increased by 37 percent overall.

Not only are consumers online more, and still spending, but they are open to seeing ads. GlobalWebIndex research reveals that globally, approximately 50 percent of respondents approve of brands running “normal” advertising campaigns not linked to COVID-19. Strongest approval was reserved for businesses offering practical and informative tips to deal with the current circumstances.

As reported in Social Media Today, a recent Twitter survey provides some context as to this consumer openness to ads. One interesting finding: 52 percent of respondents said that seeing/hearing ads provides a sense of normalcy, even comfort. In other words, regular promotions are familiar. Anything familiar right now is welcome.

Brands That Are Doing It Right 

As we’ve already blogged, companies like Ford, Hanes, and Budweiser have all managed to strike the right tone in their coronavirus-era advertising. Brands that are specifically advertising on social media, and doing it well, include:

  • TOMS: in a recent Instagram ad, the shoe manufacturer acknowledges the fact that one’s workplace might look a little different right now. “Working from home?” the ad asks, over an image of cozy slippers from TOMS. The implication here is that times may be different, but TOMS shoes, familiar and comfortable, can help make these unfamiliar times better.

  • Dial: at a time when the CDC is recommending handwashing as a safety measure, antibacterial soap manufacturer Dial has created a 10-second spot for Facebook and Instagram that focuses on how to wash hands thoroughly. Dial’s name bookends the ad at beginning and end, but the focus is on customer safety. That’s a sound approach, given GlobalWebIndex research revealing 80 percent of respondents approve of brands running campaigns which demonstrate how they are helping their customers.

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The CDC recommends washing your hands as one of the best ways to help prevent you and your family from getting sick. Follow these 5 steps to wash your hands the right way every time:⁣ ⁣ Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.⁣ ⁣ Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.⁣ ⁣ Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.⁣ ⁣ Rinse your hands under clean, running water. ⁣ ⁣ Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.⁣ ⁣ #Dial⁣ ⁣ #WashYourHands⁣ ⁣ #DialUpProtection

A post shared by @ dial on

  • Bones Coffee Company: in an Instagram spot that includes a coupon code, Bones Coffee Company encourages consumer engagement while speaking to our current quarantine situation head on. “How to self-quarantine,” the coffee company muses. “1. Stay Home. 2. Get Coffee.” The message is short, sweet, and to the point: small pleasures are still in our reach. They’re just enjoyed at home right now.

Tone Is Key

Brands do need to tread carefully to build trust. As reported in eMarketer, a March 2020 Kantar survey finds 75 percent of respondents saying businesses “should not exploit [the] coronavirus situation to promote the brand,” and that brands need to be careful with their tone. The Dial ad works because Dial is sharing useful information. The TOMS and Bones Coffee Company ads work because they discuss products that people would naturally want to use at home. Although the TOMS and Bones Coffee Company ads strike a lighter tone, they fall short of outright humor, which would have made them potentially tone deaf.

In short, not all ads work in a COVID-19 world. It’s also important to remember who your audience is: age group and quarantine status are bound to shape what that audience wants to hear.

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Why Brands Are Flocking to TikTok

Why Brands Are Flocking to TikTok

Social media

Brands used to creating awareness via social networks like Instagram and Facebook now have a new option to consider: TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance. Read on to learn more about a platform that is gaining currency through a blueprint involving music, quirk, and innovation.

What Is TikTok?

A free video-sharing social networking app that launched in the international market in 2017, TikTok was once predominantly dedicated to lip-synching. But now the platform, which features short looping videos of three to 60 seconds, and music and lip-sync videos of three to 15 seconds, has evolved into a short-form video content hub. And it’s becoming something of a powerhouse: in 2019, TikTok was declared the seventh most downloaded mobile app of the decade spanning the years 2010 to 2019.

Mobile-first 18- to 34-year-olds are the dominant market for TikTok, and one need only take a look at user numbers to recognize the platform’s significance—even beyond that primary market. According to Search Engine Journal, the app boasts more than 1.5 billion users. Adweek reports that “[i]n the U.S., Messenger was the top app of 2019 by downloads . . . followed by TikTok and Instagram.” Those users are engaged, too: on average, they spend 52 minutes per day on TikTok.

Brands Getting in on the Action

Brands, particularly those catering to younger consumers, are taking an interest in TikTok. The platform is an ideal place to engage audiences and demonstrate a lighter side through funny videos or challenges. Examples of the wildly diverse brands who have already invested in a TikTok presence include:

  • Guess: the clothing brand and retailer worked with TikTok to promote its Fall ’18 Denim Fit Collection during the back-to-school shopping season. The #InMyDenim Hashtag Challenge on TikTok, which invited users to show their fashion style in Guess denim with an overlay of Bebe Rexha’s “I’m a Mess,” exhorted consumers to “Transform your outfit from a mess to best-dressed! All you need is denim!” The six-day campaign was the first branded challenge on TikTok to go viral.
  • NBA: the NBA uses TikTok to show off a lighter side, posting videos of players working out to music, for example, or the adventures of team mascots. The app’s musical features help the organization lighten up its branding—and make the athletes seem more relatable. The videos still promote basketball, even as they fit in well with other quirky or musical posts on TikTok.
  • The Washington Post: the newspaper was one of the earliest brands to adopt TikTok, and uses its account to post comedic behind-the-scenes videos and newsroom skits. Serious in other arenas, on TikTok The Washington Post demonstrates its quirky side, taking advantage of TikTok’s weirdest special effects to create funny, musical videos. The cheeky installments, meant to entertain TikTok’s young viewers, present The Washington Post’s journalists as real—and trustworthy.
  • San Diego Zoo: capitalizing on the fact that many people love cute animals, the San Diego Zoo’s TikTok account posts videos of adorable animals with fun music. It’s a simple strategy that has earned the account more than 50,000 fans. And the zoo has “dueted” with other animal-friendly accounts, like the Monterey Aquarium, to cross-promote using TikTok features, thus introducing zoo followers to the aquarium, and vice versa.

There’s still an opportunity to get in on the ground floor with TikTok: as noted in the 2019 Sprout Social Index, 89 percent of marketers are adding Facebook to their social media marketing plans for 2020, while only four percent are adding TikTok. But those numbers are likely to change. As Search Engine Journal opines, “Getting your brand or business on TikTok does not have to be difficult. But at some point, it is going to become a must.”

Advertising Options on TikTok

So how does one become part of the TikTok revolution? The platform offers a variety of advertising options, but in terms of a quick overview, note that:

  • Costs start at an average of $10 per CPM, and can go up to $300,000 total budget for larger campaigns.
  • TikTok campaigns require a minimum investment of $500.
  • TikTok ads are still in beta so you must fill out a form to set up an account.
  • The platform offers video creation tools.
  • A couple different ad formats/types, audience targeting tools, and placements and optimization objectives/goals are available.

In addition, this article from Social Media Examiner contains more insight on getting set up.

TikTok and Influencer/Brand Collaborations

As for what’s next, look for TikTok to increasingly help brands find influencers to work with. In the TikTok Creator Marketplace, brands can already search through the app’s top creators, a list of more than 1,000 TikTok stars including Zach King and CJ OperAmericano. The marketplace, launched last year and still in beta testing mode, allows interested brands to search using filters like topic, the number of followers a creator has, and location by state.

A Caveat

There is a dark cloud on TikTok’s horizon, as the platform faces security concerns. Last fall, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Tom Cotton asked U.S. intelligence officials to investigate the security risks posed by TikTok. In a letter addressed to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, the senators wrote, “With over 110 million downloads in the U.S. alone, TikTok is a potential counterintelligence threat we cannot ignore.” The concern that the app could be used for intelligence-gathering and foreign influence campaigns by the Chinese Communist Party was also voiced.

To date, however, the negative coverage has not appeared to deter brands.

Contact True Interactive

Want to learn more about what benefits TikTok might bring to your business? We can tell you more about the options and how to get started. Contact us.