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.
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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