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TikTok rolls out data-based targeting tools for brands. Here’s what you need to know

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By Kendra Barnett | Senior Reporter

February 8, 2023 | 7 min read

The ByteDance-owned social app is expanding its suite of capabilities for promoted organic content, with an eye toward small businesses and independent creators.

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TikTok is rolling out new capabilities designed to help creators and small brands more effectively connect with their audiences / Marie-Michèle Bouchard

TikTok, the popular video-sharing app that has amassed some one billion global users, today announced that it’s rolling out a handful of new features within its promoted organic content offering.

In particular, TikTok is peddling new capabilities to small businesses and creators, arguing that these features will help “to target their desired communities and choose exactly how they can interact with their ads,” per a brand statement released today.

Here are the details:

What’s new

A handful of new tools aim to improve reach and targeting via Promote, an organic post-boosting offering available to all business accounts on TikTok. Since its launch in 2021, Promote has been, well, promoted, as a means by which businesses and independent creators can expand their reach and drive engagement. A study conducted by Neurons on behalf of TikTok finds that seeing an organic TikTok before a paid advertisement boosts brand recall by 27% – an argument for investing in promoted organic content rather than blatant video ads on TikTok.

The new tools include the following:

1. Profile page calls-to-action: By selecting the ‘more profile views’ goal within Promote, brands and creators can boost organic content that presents viewers with a call-to-action that links directly to the advertiser’s TikTok profile page.

2. Message-focused calls-to-action: The new ‘more messages’ option in Promote allows advertisers to include a call-to-action that takes viewers directly to the advertiser’s TikTok inbox. This feature, TikTok said in a statement aids small businesses “who rely on interactions with customers to make their sales – including service businesses, B2B brands and businesses who take custom orders.”

3. Promoting others’ content: For the first time, brands running partnerships with independent creators will be able to promote creators’ live videos or posts to help drive views. Plus, using this tool, creators can also help boost the content of other creators and brands that they support.

4. New targeting parameters: As part of the package of updates, TikTok is expanding the audience targeting capabilities available through Promote. Creators and brands can now target based on location data – adding to a roster of categories including gender, age and interests. Promote users can allow TikTok to automatically select an audience for them, or they can choose to set unique parameters based on these categories.

“We are committed to expanding our suite of features to empower advertisers of all sizes to grow and meet their goals, whether it’s to build your audience on TikTok or engage with potential customers,” the brand said. It hinted that additional advertising updates are in the pipeline.

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Why it matters

TikTok’s sway among advertisers is growing. In fact, for the first time in nearly a decade, Google and Meta no longer eat up a majority of digital ad spend, per recent Axios data. TikTok’s share, on the other hand, is rapidly growing – in 2022, it’s estimated that the platform generated nearly $10bn in ad revenues, over 50% more than the year before, according to research from Insider Intelligence.

At the same time, however, TikTok is coming under increasing scrutiny from US lawmakers, many of whom fear that the platform, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is being used to advance Chinese surveillance – and some of whom have called for outright bans of the app. Tensions are only rising around issues of national security and China’s surveillance regime in the wake of the Biden administration’s decision last week to shoot down a Chinese aerial balloon suspected to be a surveillance device.

Despite growing criticism and concerns about data security and privacy, most experts don’t foresee widespread advertiser pullback. “For now, advertisers likely don’t see a reason to scale down or end their relationships with TikTok, so long as a complete ban is currently unlikely,” Justin Sherman, a senior fellow at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, previously told The Drum.

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