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Don't make ads, make TikToks: how the platform became a pandemic lifeline for businesses

Formerly TikTok Ads, the global platform relaunched to offer brands and marketers the tools to be creative storytellers

TikTok for Business won ‘B2B Brand of the Year’ at The Drum Awards for B2B in 2021. With glowing testimonials from businesses that used it as a lifeline, TikTok’s business arm has made its mark with SMEs during the pandemic. Read on to learn more about its hugely successful transformation.

“We were just about ready to shut our doors, and then our video went viral on TikTok and wiped out our entire website. My wife and I were just crying. We thought we lost everything, and TikTok saved our business.” Bruce Graybill, Sider’s Woodcrafting - Brewer, ME

Last year, during the thick of the pandemic, TikTok For Business (formerly TikTok Ads) relaunched as a global brand and platform, offering brands and marketers the tools to be creative storytellers, meaningfully engage with the TikTok community, and drive real results for their business.

In just one year - following our two-part multiplatform relaunch campaign, revamped digital and social channels, and strategic partnerships with Shopify and AdAge - TikTok For Business has established itself as a clear contender for B2B Brand of the Year. Our work is bold, effective and, like the platform as a whole, inspires creativity and joy.

At a time when so much was uncertain, TikTok For Business drove countless businesses and brands to a unique platform where they are able to connect, engage and build lasting relationships with users all over the world - in a way that has never been possible before. With this brand launch, entrepreneurs were able to make their dreams a reality and small businesses -- who the pandemic arguably hit hardest -- grew at scale. And it introduced the community to businesses and products that they actually cared about, exemplified by viral hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyit (with 4.8 billion views and counting!)

TikTok For Business has completely revolutionized how the industry thinks about marketing, offering a new way to reach, connect and engage with consumers. The platform that has given hundreds of millions of people and marketers the creative access to reimagine how they tell stories and make entertaining content. Proving that you don’t need to invest in expensive productions and create polished content, you just need to get creative and be authentic.


The mission behind TikTok For Business is to show businesses how to authentically connect with consumers and drive results. Our marketing objectives over this past year were all centered around three key pillars:

Inspire: Showcase how businesses can leverage TikTok as a home of creative expression

Educate: Inform how TikTok is valuable for businesses’ initiatives through joyful and impactful narratives

Activate: Turn businesses into loyal TikTok users who rely on the platform for their business growth and share their success stories with others

‘Don’t Make Ads Make Tiktoks’ Relaunch Campaign

Over the past year, TikTok For Business has seen incredible success, exceeding all expectations and objectives that were initially set. Our story began with the global relaunch campaign that created ripples across the industry. Under the campaign and mantra, ‘Don’t Make Ads, Make TikToks’, the launch was a rallying cry to marketers, advertisers, small business owners, and everyone in between to trade out traditional marketing and unlock their creative side.

The first phase of the relaunch campaign ran from June 25 to August 31, 2020 across Facebook, Google, TikTok, The Trade Desk, AdAge, and AdWeek, with assets localized in 10 different languages, for 18 different countries, around the world.

The goal of Phase 1 was to introduce audiences to TikTok’s new and improved B2B brand - TikTok For Business, previously known as TikTok Ads. The name change, and the campaign behind it, told the why story of our rebrand narrative: Audiences are asking for something different from advertisers, and TikTok For Business is that something different.

The campaign outperformed industry benchmarks - with over 54 million impressions, a 78% click-to-visit ratio (vs the industry benchmark of 30-60%) and an average Click Through Rate of 0.13% (vs the industry benchmark of 0.07-0.10%).

In February 2021, we rolled out Phase 2 to focus on the how side of the narrative - highlighting popular small businesses from around the globe that had found success on the platform. The creative was centered around four specific themes that showcase TikTok’s unique capabilities (culture, performance, discovery, and creativity), localized in 7 different languages, and launched in 11 different countries across Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Teads, and Epsilon. By June, ‘Don’t Make Ads Make TikToks’ raised the bar yet again, exceeding Phase 1 benchmark metrics more than tenfold - with over 382 million impressions, and a global Click Through Rate of 1.17%.

Shopify Partnership & #Shopblack Campaign

In October 2020, TikTok For Business announced a strategic global partnership with Shopify, including the launch of a new TikTok extension - which has since enabled over 1 million merchants to create and run advertising campaigns, and access the core functions of TikTok’s self-service ad platform, directly from their Shopify dashboard. The announcement included a paid campaign on LinkedIn and Twitter, and organic promotion across LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. While the campaign performed exceptionally well across the board, LinkedIn drove the highest organic engagement rate (7.7%), and Twitter drove the best paid performance, with a 31% Video Completion Rate, and 1.54% Click Through Rate.

To time with the launch, TikTok For Business and Shopify also partnered on a co-branded Hashtag Challenge campaign, #ShopBlack. The campaign was a massive success - by amplifying the stories of 41 Black-owned small businesses who were already on Shopify (and given early beta access to the extension), empowering other Black entrepreneurs to share their stories with the TikTok community, and making it easy for users to discover and purchase products from these businesses. By the end of the campaign, over 8,600 videos were created using the #ShopBlack hashtag, generating over 40.3 million views.

AdAge Partnership

In November 2020, to time around Small Business Saturday, TikTok For Business partnered with Ad Age to launch A TikTok Holiday Tool Kit for Small Businesses (, a resource hub packed with educational content for small businesses to prepare for the holiday shopping season. The Toolkit was promoted via banner and programmatic ads across AdAge and AdAge Creativity, a dedicated email blast, and a "Business Cat" video series that was shared across the TikTok For Business and AdAge social channels - which drove a 16.4% organic and 83.6% paid engagement rate (5 times higher than platform benchmarks), and over 12.7 thousand page views over a one-month period.

Organic Social Growth

In mid-2020, TikTok For Business launched new handles on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube, and began to establish a strong social presence - with the goal of increasing awareness around our business solutions, and driving business users from their traditional advertising channels to TikTok’s self-service platform. Since then, the average follower growth across channels has grown by over 80%.

Then, in March 2021, we launched the TikTok For Business TikTok channel, and rolled out a new TikTok-first social strategy. And in just a few months, the TikTok For Business TikTok channel has become a go-to resource for businesses looking to get started and grow on the platform - thanks to a 4328% increase in follower growth (with 300,000+ followers and counting!), and over 15 million impressions.

Qualitative Results

After a year of successful campaigns, TikTok For Business has single-handedly changed the way that both marketers and audiences see advertising: a change for the better, backed by the results of those who joined us in taking that leap.

And the industry has taken notice. For AdAge’s annual Marketer of the Year, TikTok was ranked #1. In Kantar’s Media Reactions 2020 report, TikTok ranked #1 for ad equity globally. And Nielsen’s Authenticity Study found TikTok’s branded content to be the most "genuine and entertaining" to social audiences. Clearly, consumer attitudes toward marketing on TikTok are exponentially more positive than on any other platform.

More testimonials

“Our sales have tripled. TikTok has totally put us on the map, put us back in business, and has allowed us to continue to serve the dishes we grew up with and love.” Glenn Poole, Izola’s Country Cooking - Hinesville, GA

“The magic of TikTok is that it’s such a warm community... Its like a big small town— a small town where I want to live — and I really want to know my neighbors!” Marlene Robinson, Mrs. Robinson’s Tea - Kennett Square, PA

“The pandemic almost shut down my business, until we found TikTok. I have up to 1,000 orders a day — my employees never had to pull orders the way they do now.” Neema Causey, Candy Me Up - La Mesa, CA

This campaign was a winner at The Drum Awards for B2B. To find out more, including which competitions are currently open for entry, visit The Drum Awards website.

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