According to Hootsuite and We Are Social’s Digital 2020 Report, TikTok now has over 800 million monthly active users, up from 300 million in January 2019. That’s a steep annual rise, suggesting that marketers looking to reach Gen Z should take note of the social media app if they haven’t already. Last year, it beat the likes of Instagram and Snapchat to be the world’s fourth most downloaded app - having been downloaded more than 1.7bn times to date according to Digiday.
What is TikTok and who uses it?
TikTok users can film themselves – typically lip-syncing or doing a comedy sketch – before using the app’s editing tools to add effects, captions and music to their short-form (maximum 15 seconds) video. And forget painstakingly curated perfection; TikTok is all about quirky creativity and big performances. (Check out this Twitter thread to see what I mean.)
TikTok enables it’s mostly young users (at least 40% of the app's users are aged between 10 and 19), to become masters of their own story and profile, and offers the opportunity for their ‘performance’ to go viral, becoming a micro influencer. But even if Gen Z isn’t your primary target demographic, TikTok is still well worth considering. Firstly, Gen Z will soon be adults with disposable income, and already have buying power worth at least $44bn. That’s without even considering their influence over family members’ purchase decisions while still living at home. So even if not your target demographic right now, they’re a valuable demographic to engage with. Secondly, 26% of TikTok users are between 20-29 years old. Whether you’re an early adopter or yet to create an account, TikTok is another content marketing channel worthy of consideration for any business-to-consumer brand.
Three ways to use TikTok to increase brand awareness and sales
1. Engage with social influencers
Building your own brand account on TikTok is great, but it may take some time to accrue a loyal and engaged following. Working with influencers who already have these numbers is a shortcut that, done right, can connect with a large audience and deliver effective results.
Global fashion brand Guess spearheaded the first official launch of TikTok’s US brand partnerships with its #InMyDenim campaign, which involved influencers @ourfire (2.3m fans), @madison_willow (+983K fans) and @operamericano (+380k fans), among others.
Major brands including Google, Coca-Cola and Chipotle have since followed suit. Could your brand be next?
2. Launch hashtag challenges & competitions
An effective channel requires regular content. If you don’t have the resources to regularly post to TikTok, then launching a competition offers a great way to connect with your audience and create user-generated content.
Encourage your followers to share content using your campaign hashtag by offering an enticing reward, like a £100 gift voucher or free experience for the winner.
In 2018, the United Nations' International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched the #danceforchange challenge in support of its mission to end world hunger. Despite being rooted in such a serious topic, the campaign used upbeat music, engaging imagery and exciting challenges to inspire followers and get people talking.
"We are dancing to capture the world's attention and to share a message with young people everywhere: our generation can end global hunger, but only if our leaders invest more in agriculture and the next generation of young farmers," said Sherrie Silver, MTV award-winning choreographer and IFAD's Advocate for Rural Youth.
3. Feature adverts
Just like other content channels, TikTok’s traffic can be divided into two groups: organic and paid.
Last year, TikTok quietly introduced advertising with standard in-feed video ad units. Users now see paid-for content roughly every five videos within their feed from apps like Facetune, Digit and Grubhub. The quality of these ads, however, remains relatively low - offering a brilliant opportunity to stand out from the competition with better creative.
In addition, the relative newness of TikTok means there’s less brand competition; the platform is far less saturated with branded content than other social media platforms.
But be warned: Gen Z is the least willing generation to tolerate any form of online advertising. Anything obviously sales-y is likely to do more harm than good for your bottom line; creating authentic content is key.
Whether your business is sitting on the fence, or its biggest advocate; TikTok has become a heavily embraced channel for younger audiences - and the likelihood is your potential customers will be exploring its potential. Don’t be fearful - it could provide another opportunity for building customer loyalty.