Why and How Instagram Is Leaning into Video

Why and How Instagram Is Leaning into Video

Instagram Social media

Instagram isn’t just about the photos anymore. As reported in The Verge, the social networking service is embracing entertainment and video in a bid to stay competitive with platforms like TikTok and YouTube. This isn’t the first time Instagram has gone head-to-head with TikTok: as we’ve blogged, Instagram launched Reels last August as a means of connecting with TikTok’s Gen Z audience. What do these new changes mean? Read on to learn more.

Not Just For Square . . . Photos

In a video posted on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, Instagram head Adam Mosseri explained that the platform no longer wants to be identified as a “square photo-sharing app,” rather as a hip general entertainment app driven by video — and algorithms. Mosseri says focus is on four key areas:

  • Creators, where Insta’s recognition of “the shift in power from institutions to individuals across industries” underlines Instagram’s desire to empower its creators.
  • Video, which is, as far as Mosseri is concerned, where it’s at. As he notes, “Video is driving an immense amount of growth online for all the major platforms right now.” His message: Instagram users have spoken. They want to be entertained. To stay relevant, Instagram is making video a tentpole of its offerings. Mosseri promises changes along the lines of users getting full-screen, recommended videos in their feeds, including videos from accounts a user may not already follow.
  • Shopping, to reflect the leap commerce has made from offline to online, a change accelerated by the pandemic.
  • Messaging, to honor the way close friends keep connected now — not by Feed and Stories, as has been the case in the past.

Reactions So Far

Reactions to Mosseri’s announcement have been mixed. Journalists are saying Instagram is responding to the rise of TikTok and YouTube, but as noted in Axios, warn that “[a]s social networks continue growing, they run the risk of overwhelming consumers and losing what made them special and distinct to begin with.”

And while Mosseri specifically names creators as a priority in his video, some creators, specifically photographers, are feeling marginalized and voting with their feet: Digital Photography Review reports that some photographers are defecting to Twitter in order to share their work in a space they feel is more dedicated to their art. Photographer Bryan Minear is a case in point. “In my eyes, Instagram stopped caring about artists and independent creators a long time ago,” he says. Minear, who switched to Twitter as his primary social media outlet in 2019, has found a vibrant photography community there.

Although Mosseri later tried to retract some of his wording — “We’re no longer a photo-sharing app or a square photo-sharing app” drew particular ire — his initial statement has aggravated photographers who feel an algorithm championing entertainment doesn’t put a premium on quality. “Instagram has done nothing but promote video-centric features at the expense of still photographers,” Minear says. “They’ve made it loud and clear that we aren’t welcome anymore.”

What Advertisers Should Do

What does all this mean for your brand? Is this “new” Instagram a good fit? We recommend that you:

  • Re-examine how you use video in your marketing and advertising. Clearly, video is getting bigger: 86 percent of businesses use video as a marketing tool, and 93 percent of marketers who use video say that it’s an important part of their marketing strategy. Instagram is showing where its allegiance lies. If video makes sense for you, Instagram might just be a viable advertising platform for you.
  • Consider the different ways influencers on Instagram are using both video and imagery as you find influencers to partner with. Who does a great job with video? Are they the right fit for your brand?

Contact True Interactive

In short, video is hot. Trying to figure out how to embracing video in your online advertising and marketing? Contact us. We can help.

Why YouTube Shorts Matters to Brands

Why YouTube Shorts Matters to Brands

YouTube

TikTok has another challenger. As we’ve blogged, apps like Snapchat are creating their own short-video-making platforms in a bid to carve out space in an increasingly crowded field. Now Google’s YouTube has joined the party with YouTube Shorts. Read on to learn more about Shorts and what they bring to the table—for users, and for brands.

What Are YouTube Shorts, and How Do They Stand Out?

If you are familiar with TikTok or Instagram Reels, you’ll get the basic premise of YouTube Shorts: using the YouTube app, people can quickly and easily create short videos of up to 15 seconds. The videos are created on mobile devices and viewed, in portrait orientation, on mobile devices. And once you open one short, you essentially access the motherlode in that videos start playing one after the other. Just swipe vertically to get from one to the next.

Shorts, much like TikTok, provides editing tools you can use to flex creative muscle. Users can string clips together. Adjust playback speed. Add music and text. And as YouTube has blogged, creators can play off of existing content: “[Y]ou can give your own creative spin on the content you love to watch on YouTube and help find it a new audience—whether it’s reacting to your favorite jokes, trying your hand at a creator’s latest recipe, or re-enacting comedic skits.” (Notably, creators are in control of their material; they can opt out of having their long-form videos remixed in this way.)

Shorts comes to the U.S. in beta after a beta launch in India last fall. The platform enjoyed success in India, finding a comfortable niche in the wake of the TikTok ban there. Now Shorts brings its opportunities to the States.

Why Did YouTube Launch Shorts?

Shorts is YouTube’s response to the huge popularity of short-form video. Who wouldn’t want in on that action? But Shorts is also meant to be the answer to a problem faced by new creators: it’s hard to break into the video-making world. According to YouTube, “Every year, increasing numbers of people come to YouTube to launch their own channel. But we know there’s still a huge amount of people who find the bar for creation too high. That’s why we’re working on Shorts, our new short-form video tool that lets creators and artists shoot snappy videos with nothing but their mobile phones.”

Think of it as users being able to dip a toe in creative waters without having to film and edit a full video. And because Shorts are counted like regular video views, creators hoping to make money from YouTube by getting accepted into the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) can use Shorts to do so. Users must accrue 4,000 valid public watch hours in the previous 12 months to quality for YPP, and Shorts are an accessible way to meet that threshold. YouTube has also blogged that they are taking a “fresh look at what it means to monetize YouTube Shorts and reward creators for their content,” hinting at additional opportunities to come.

Why Do YouTube Shorts Matter to Brands?

The opportunity YouTube Shorts represents for creators is good news for brands, too. Why? For one thing, creators are potentially powerful sources of great user-generated content that can benefit brands – for a recent example, consider the incredible visibility that skateboarder Nathan Apodaca created for Ocean Spray and Fleetwood Mac with a TikTok video.

It’s worth mentioning that apps like YouTube Shorts are of particular interest if your target market is Gen Z or Millennials. As noted by iabuk.com last fall, short-form video is surging in popularity, particularly with these generations.

What Brands Should Do

  • Stay abreast of new apps like YouTube Shorts. Knowing what’s out there informs decision-making about where and how you want to make your brand known.
  • Understand how your target audience communicates. Are you courting Gen Z or Millennials? Go where they are. And as noted above, platforms for short-form video are a logical place to be.
  • Consider whether creating your own shorts makes sense. As Social Media Examiner notes, brands that create their own Shorts stand to get some attention: “for businesses, the strategy right now with Shorts is to get exposure and hopefully subscribers to your channel so people will see some of your content outside of the short shelf.” Meanwhile, this post from HubSpot will help you think through how to get started with YouTube Shorts.
  • Look at the big picture: YouTube Shorts is yet another example of the proliferation of short-form video. If you have not done so already, adapt your video content strategy for both brief snippets (e.g., teaser content) and longer-form content (e.g., educational tutorials).

Contact True Interactive

How can short-form video elevate your brand? Contact us. We can advise.

Live Commerce: Advertiser Q&A

Live Commerce: Advertiser Q&A

Marketing

Twenty years ago, online shopping transformed retail; today, live streaming is poised to shape e-commerce. “Live commerce” is a term applied to the partnering of streaming video and shopping. Read on to learn more about the concept dubbed “QVC for the digital age.”

What Is Live Commerce?

The QVC analogy is an apt one. Back in the 1980s, home shopping network QVC expanded shopper reach by connecting with consumers in their homes. Television was the medium; suddenly, shoppers could browse and buy in the middle of the night, from the comfort of a favorite living room chair. With live commerce, consumers can still make purchases from their homes, but the fusing of online retail with live streaming brings shoppers even closer to the energy of an in-person experience. Live commerce can take different forms:

  • Online marketplaces. Marketplaces like eBay have traditionally allowed users to buy and sell online. These same marketplaces are now responding to consumer behavior by incorporating live streaming into their platforms. The real-time interactivity replaces static exchanges with the energy and experience of actually “being” in a marketplace.
  • Live auctions. Live video streaming gives auction houses an opportunity to bring bidders from all around the world into the saleroom. The benefit? An institution like Sotheby’s can reach a broader audience with widely varied interests.
  • Influencer streaming. Using live streaming, influencers can leverage their personal brand to promote their favorite products in an interactive format. While influencer streaming got its start on social media, the practice is now common across e-commerce sites, as well. (Brands targeting Gen Z take note: influencers especially resonate with the Gen Z generation. According to Wowza, 44 percent of that demographic make purchase decisions based on social influencers’ recommendations.)
  • Live events. Events like product launches, limited edition drops, and retail holidays such as Black Friday are well suited to shoppable live broadcasts.

Why Is Live Commerce Popular Now?

Before 2020, online commerce was already gaining traction. Then the pandemic hit. According to IBM’s U.S. Retail Index, COVID-19 hastened the shift from shopping at brick-and-mortar stores to digital shopping by approximately five years. And home shopping channels like QVC, which had already started exploring on-demand video shopping prior to 2020, enjoyed a surge of popularity with Americans staying home because of COVID-19. Econsultancy reports that between March and May of 2020, viewership for networks like Home Shopping Network and QVC rose 10 percent.

The interactive nature of live commerce has made it particularly resonant during the pandemic. People are social beasts. They crave connection. During COVID-19 lockdowns, when social interaction has been limited, being able to ask questions about a product or directly interact with an influencer online helps fill that need to connect.

Who Is Embracing Live Commerce?

Live commerce is a huge market in China; according to a survey by AlixPartners, reported in November 2020, two-thirds of Chinese consumers say they made purchases via livestreaming in the previous 12 months. But United States brands are also getting on board:

  • An early adopter of livestream shopping in the US, Levi Strauss reached out to consumers afraid to visit brick-and-mortar stores during the pandemic. Shoppers could ask questions—and make purchases—during 30-minute to one-hour sessions devoted to featured products and tips.
  • Walmart and TikTok recently worked together on a livestreamed shopping event. During the “Holiday Shop-Along Spectacular,” TikTok creators like Michael Le showed off their favorite Walmart fashions on Walmart’s TikTok profile, and shoppers could buy the same products using mobile checkout.

How Should Brands Be Involved?

Live commerce can help brands connect with consumers in meaningful ways, even when physical contact is limited. Interested in experimenting with what live commerce can do for you? We recommend that you:

  • Do your research before working with an influencer. Find the right match for your brand. Does it make sense to work with a superstar? It can be more economical to work with micro-influencers who draw a strong following from a geographical region or niche industry relevant to your brand. (According to Econsultancy, micro-influencers can also generate higher levels of trust and authenticity.)
  • Pay attention to the “commerce” part of live commerce. Does your checkout process run seamlessly? Make sure it does before unrolling a live commerce campaign.
  • Continue to make customer experience a priority, even after checkout, even from afar. Live commerce can never exactly re-create the in-store shopping experience, but taking shoppers’ needs into consideration goes a long way towards building customer satisfaction—and brand loyalty. Zappos, an early e-commerce adopter, is an instructive example. By encouraging customers to order multiple sizes of an item, then making it not only easy, but free to return anything that didn’t fit, Zappos built satisfaction and encouraged return visits.

Contact True Interactive

Want to learn more about live commerce—and how digital can elevate your brand? Contact us. We can help.

Why Triller Is a Thriller

Why Triller Is a Thriller

Mobile

Have you heard of Triller? The video-making social app has been around since 2015, but only recently has it started to show signs of becoming a genuine rival to TikTok. Should marketers care? In a word: yes. Read on to learn why.

What Is Triller?

Like TikTok, Triller is deeply connected to music; introduced as a video-editing service by co-founders David Leiberman and Sammy Rubin, Triller has always employed artificial intelligence (AI) to create music videos. But by 2016, the app had also become a social-networking service that allowed users to follow one another and share the videos they created. Today, users can film different takes of themselves rapping to songs (hip-hop is particularly popular on the app), and then use the AI to cull the best clips and make a professional-looking music video. The editing is pretty painless: as refinery29.com notes, “[Y]ou perform and the app edits your video for you.”

How Does Triller Compare to TikTok?

While similar to TikTok, Triller is trying to position itself as being all about the music. The app has raised investment from artists like Snoop Dogg, and music fans are considered the prime audience for the app. Though some critics point to the fact that Triller has recently permitted users to share a wider range of content, such as quirky videos, the fact remains that the app is music friendly. One example of the emphasis on music: Triller allows users to pull complete songs from their Apple Music or Spotify playlists, as compared to the 15 seconds allowed by TikTok.

Who’s on Triller?

As noted in Fortune, Gen Z is currently “establishing the winners and losers online,” and Triller, which has started to gain traction with Gen Z, may be one of those winners. The app has certainly been flexing its muscles of late, having poached some of TikTok’s influencers. Former TikTok creators like Josh Richards have made the switch (Richards is now also Triller’s chief strategy officer). Other former TikTok luminaries—Noah Beck, Griffin Johnson, and Anthony Reeves—have jumped to Triller and signed on as investors. And performers like Alicia Keys and Eminem have used the platform to create music videos.

Advertising on Triller

According to Digiday, “Triller’s commercial model revolves around letting influencers raise money from fans, advertisers and partnerships with music labels.” The approach can be a lucrative one. As noted in Influencer Marketing Hub, influencer marketing allows brands to reach a young, urban audience through influencers who have already cultivated the kinds of relationships that make marketing successful.

In October, Triller also partnered with ad tech start-up Consumable to sell digital and video format ads meant to be placed between videos on the app. Mark Levin, CEO of Consumable, shared, “This is an exciting partnership given our collective focus on delivering innovative, bite-sized content. It combines Triller’s short-form entertainment with Consumable’s short-form digital advertising to deliver the first social video discovery platform on media publisher websites.” As noted in Business of Apps, the partnership will give marketers a crack at new audiences.

Also notable: advertising on the app can be nothing short of groundbreaking. E.l.f. Cosmetics, which set trends in late 2019 with an innovative TikTok campaign, redefined cool yet again in late 2020 by working with Triller. As e.l.f. CMO Kory Marchisotto noted, the cosmetics brand ended the year with “a big music bang,” partnering with Triller to release an entire holiday-themed album featuring not only danceable electronic beats but also plenty of “e.l.f.-isms.”

Meanwhile, Triller is going to do some advertising on its own in a big way: reportedly, Triller is gearing up for its first-ever Super Bowl ad.

We Recommend

There are lessons to be learned from apps like Triller, as 2021 ushers in a new era of music, advertising, and innovation. We recommend that you:

  • Don’t get complacent. Stay attuned to new apps and new ways of communicating.
  • That means staying in tune with your audience. Are you reaching out to Gen Z? Know what language they speak. As Triller demonstrates, music can be a key way to connect. And ad length may differ depending on your target market.
  • Finally, understand how relationships with influencers can elevate your brand. Influencers can get your product in front of users in an authentic and meaningful way. Think about which influencers might have an organic connection with your brand.

 Contact True Interactive

Triller, of course, is just one way to connect with audiences. Eager to expand your reach in a fresh way that rings true? Contact us. We can help.

Walmart Takes Aim at Amazon, Facebook, and Google with Online Advertising

Walmart Takes Aim at Amazon, Facebook, and Google with Online Advertising

Advertising Amazon Facebook Google

When Walmart recently announced that it was joining Microsoft in a bid for TikTok, the news had many people scratching their heads. But the bid makes perfect sense in context of Walmart’s growing online advertising business, an aspect of the Walmart empire that is beginning to catch more attention among brands. Read on to learn more.

The Growth of Walmart Advertising

You might not know it, but Walmart operates its own digital advertising business under Walmart Media Group. Under CEO Doug McMillon, Walmart Media Group has been building an advertising business to compete with Amazon, Google, and Facebook (the Big Three of online advertising). As reported in The Wall Street Journal, “deep-pocketed companies with large amounts of data on their customers are in the best position to mount a challenge” to these competitors.

Walmart feels ready to play in that sandbox. The retail behemoth aims to tap into its own trove of shopper data (about purchases made both online and in brick-and-mortar stores), and sell advertising services to businesses with products in Walmart stores and across the entire digital world, on sites including Walmart.com. As Steve Bratspies, the chief merchandising officer for Walmart U.S., has noted, data can give advertisers a leg up by providing insight into what a consumer might really want and need.

For example, as noted in The Wall Street Journal, a customer might buy a bicycle in a Walmart store, then subsequently see ads for bike helmets on platforms like Facebook. The ads would direct the shopper back to Walmart.com to make the purchase. It’s a win/win, with consumer needs being anticipated and met, and brands making the connection to a motivated shopper.

Walmart’s Advertising Services

How does Walmart propose to make those connections? The retailer currently offers advertisers services such as:

  • Sponsored Products ads, which consumers encounter when they are browsing Walmart.com. These ads can take many forms:
    • A brand’s products can get premium placement on the first page of a shopper’s search results.
    • An advertiser’s logo might appear, along with a custom headline, at the top of relevant search results.
    • Products can appear as part of a product carousel of relevant alternate purchase options.
    • Items can be highlighted in a “Buy Box” as the most relevant alternate purchase option on a product detail page.

Walmart Sponsored Product Ad

  • Visually compelling display ads, which keep a brand in the forefront:
    • Across Walmart’s digital properties. Content and advertising can be seamlessly merged on Walmart.com, pickup and delivery, and Walmart apps.
    • Offsite, across the web and social channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. As noted earlier, relevant ads will re-engage customers and send them back to Walmart for products.

Walmart Display Ad

Where Does TikTok Fit into All This?

Walmart’s motivation for acquiring TikTok probably has much to do with digital ad dollars. As Mark Sullivan of Fast Company points out, TikTok is a prime space for digital advertising. And Walmart clearly recognizes that, sharing in a statement that TikTok might represent “an important way for us to reach and serve omnichannel customers as well as grow our third-party marketplace and advertising businesses.”

Sullivan elaborates:

TikTok is itself in the early stages of selling ads on its app, and it has data on people’s video content choices, but it lacks data on the things people buy. If Walmart owned TikTok it could use its ecommerce user data to help advertisers put ads in front of the right TikTok users. And Walmart could be the exclusive seller of targeted ad space on TikTok.

One advertising industry insider told me that a brand—say a car company—might use a cookie to capture data on a consumer that came to its site to look at cars, then use Walmart’s ad-tech to show an ad to that same consumer on TikTok.

If Walmart had an ownership stake in TikTok, Walmart could connect its advertisers with TikTok’s young demographic, too. And let’s face it — TikTok is hot. In early August 2020, the video-sharing social networking service reported about 100 million monthly active U.S. users, a figure that is up nearly 800 percent from January 2018. Walmart clearly sees the opportunities inherent in connecting its brands with that audience.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

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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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.

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.