2019 has been a breakthrough year for TikTok. Armed with billions of dollars in funding, its aggressive marketing and appeal to creativity has seen it become the most downloaded app in 2019 pricking the ears of marketers everywhere.
As a company focused on reaching the Gen Z audience, we at Fanbytes noticed the rise of TikTok and have subsequently run over 190 TikTok influencer campaigns with everyone from Warner, Universal and STX Entertainment to unlikely brands such as the ACCA (Association for Certified Accountants)
Having spent so much time in the proverbial trenches, we’ve seen the rise of certain key trends which will shape how brands and marketers can reach the TikTok audience. In this article, I’ll share those trends equipping you - my fellow marketer - with the insights to develop strong TikTok campaigns for 2020.
Treat everyone as an influencer
A key difference in the user behaviour between TikTok and other social networks is that everybody is an influencer to some degree. Contrast this to Instagram where there is a clear distinction between those with influence -- people with hundreds of thousands to millions of followers, and those who do not, regardless of the quality of their content.
TikTok's algorithm, on the other hand, works by amplifying the most creative type of content further regardless of one's' initial follower base. We have consistently seen people shoot from 500 fans to 50,000 within one week on TikTok because they consistently delivered compelling creative content which was then shown to more people. Tiktok is a platform based on the idea that with a bit of creativity and ideation you could end up soaring up the follower charts and that is a very appealing thing to anyone who may not see themselves as an uber celebrity.
As a brand, therefore, one of the most important things you can do on TikTok is to develop content that gives people the chance to show off -as more people join the platform, this “show off” style content is going to be hugely important as a way to differentiate users and the brands who provide opportunities for people to do that are those who are going to win on TikTok in 2020.
Create episodic content
One of the most unique conventions of TikTok is the episodic nature of the platform where users tune in as if they were watching a TV show. The reasons for this is simple: TikTok content is discovered predominantly through the use of hashtags which provide people the opportunity to 'follow stories'.
This feature sharply contrasts other social platforms where silo posts are typically the norm. Creating content around a hashtag can lead to a rabbit hole of content which gets people further invested in what happens next. Many viral trends on the platform have emerged from this behaviour with people starting a trend and then following it for days.
Take for example the popular trend “30 days of X” a hilarious theme where people consistently do a specific action for 30 days - washing their toes with Dettol/ dressing up as a Disney character for 30 days which has gained insane traction on the platform with over 310 million views since it started. People tuned in every day looking to see the next “episode” of the content which led to the huge groundswell of hype and attention.
As more attention was given to the hashtag, this is further favoured by the TT algorithm and shown to more people. This type of content is the most ideal as it resonates the best with TikTok users; short bursts of content which are tied together through a mutual hashtag
If you’re a brand using this content strategy in 2020, be prepared to achieve explosive results. You will not only succeed in mirroring TikTok’s ethos but also “hacking” the virility of the platform.
Behind the scenes content
The striking difference between TikTok and other platforms is the appeal of less polished content. This lends itself to the idea of a more "behind the scenes" style content which looks like it was made in a bedroom with no real purpose to entertain. Despite looking uncoordinated, it is this type of content that achieves trending status and goes viral on the platform.
Companies who are winning on TikTok tend to lead with this approach. Take Washington Post, for example, a company who is doing exceptionally well. Instead of touting their stories or trying to lazily repurpose existing stories from other platforms, they provide an inside look into the newspaper with videos around how stories are selected, what happens during a "breaking news" story, and other similar topics. It’s this approach that has led it to become the largest news brand on TikTok with over 310,000 followers.
Another example comes from a TikTok campaign we ran with ACCA where influencers were invited to accountancy firms to show the real-life of an accountant. Whether it was showing how to negotiate contracts or speaking to clients, the content produced was far removed from the stereotypical branded message around accountancy. We were able to turn this: “dull, boring, elitist and exclusive” into this: “exciting, impactful, and relevant” and as a result, we received over 1 million views and over 100,000 hearts.
To some degree, the rawness of TikTok lowers the barriers for brands. There is less pressure on having to construct an aesthetically pleasing persona on the platform and instead, they can focus on driving real engagement by upholding an individual and authentic personality.
I predict that we're going to be seeing a lot more brands, regardless of what industry they're in, take to this approach. What's more, those who are able to do it well at scale will succeed in building a strong and identifiable brand on the platform.
2020 promises to be an insane year for TikTok. Having been the most downloaded app in 2019 and taking the Gen Z and Millennial market by storm, it's increasingly obvious that they're going to be a major player to look out for in the market. Brands who are able to effectively tap into the magic of TikTok now will emerge as the key winners of this new social media phenomenon.
Timothy Armoo is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Fanbytes.