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The clock is 'Tikking': How do brands excel on TikTok?

By Joshua Hopson

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The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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April 9, 2020 | 5 min read

As social media use skyrockets in the age of coronavirus, TikTok offers brands a way to rebel against social distancing (digitally, that is. #StayHomeSaveLives). The non-stop entertainment feed provided by the social media world’s newest behemoth connects users in more ways than ever before.

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If we’re honest, this conversation has been on the cards for months now, COVID-19 or not. When social media applications announce their arrival with burgeoning popularity, brands are often cautious. Some aren’t of course, and that can align perfectly with those that have innovative and youthful brand personalities (the types that dive right in to the latest ’big thing’).

More often than not, the out of touch brand dad appears and stumbles around in front of the audience it has spent years trying to reach. Of course, TikTok may not be the social media of choice for the luxury FMCG brand with a targeting strategy based on over 50s (but never say never!). For the generation that many brands have been desperately searching for in recent years, TikTok could provide the newest opportunity to reach them.

As coronavirus and the era of remote working boosts TikTok usership further, how do brands excel with our new social plaything, in our new socially distant world?

Who are you?

Just because everyone’s on it, doesn’t mean you need to be. Aligning your brand’s personality and voice to different channels (and their respective audiences) is a key part of social strategy. TikTok’s environment of humour, interest and music-led content is clear, but if your brand can’t tap into that, maybe you shouldn’t be there in the first place. Or understand what your brand needs to do to change that – and if that’s a sensible move.

Let TikTok do the work

TikTok got there without you, so maybe you should follow its lead. Trends and challenges are the lifeblood of TikTok (#the10touchchallenge; #papertowelchallenge; #Stairshufflechallenge) and are primarily user-generated, with very few brands having success starting their own. That’s not to say there aren’t some that have succeeded.

TikTok content features music heavily (“The first thing you’ll need is a pair of headphones. There’s just no way to enjoy TikTok with the sound off” – WIRED) and it’s not just a trend, it’s built into the app. With song snippets providing the soundtrack to the majority of content (with challenges often connected to a specific track), you need to make use of this library. Sure, you can use your own sound, but using a TikTok library track will increase the likelihood of your content being found, and helps you tap in to relevant music.

The cream of the crop rises to the top of TikTok just like other social channels, so don’t be afraid to use it. Influencer strategy has solidified its place in brand campaign strategy and communications in recent years, and TikTok offers another avenue for this. As with all influencer content, ensure they align with your brand and that content remains authentic to you and them. Audiences will spot money grab influencer spots a mile off.

Creativity is still key, but use the app

Staying close to relevant trends and challenges is important, but don’t just think you can do the same thing and get traction. Make sure you put your twist on it and get people excited (Gymshark does a great job of sticking to trends, but adding their own feel). That doesn’t mean heavy editing though, make use of TikTok’s native effects and stick to them. They’re more authentic to the platform than any in-house editing will be (that’s right, we don’t want your TikTok video editing work!) and your audience will know that.

Fast on your feet

It’s simple, but it’s true – brands need to stick close to relevance. TikTok is all about up-to-the-minute challenges and trends, and brands can’t spend weeks deciding how to jump on the bandwagon. Get in there quick, or don’t bother.

Connect with coronavirus

Brands still need to perform, with or without coronavirus. It is all too easy for brands to make concerted efforts to reference COVID-19 and leverage it for brand building (for a great read on that, see here). Having said that, the lockdown and remote working related consequences of the global pandemic are the TikTok trend of the moment.

Use TikTok to connect your brand with audiences and consumers emotionally, in a way that’s authentic for you. Make them engage by putting a face on the brand (not necessarily a continuous or famous one) and giving them a human side to interact with.

As TikTok continues to increase in usage, more and more opportunities for brands will emerge and best practice tips and tricks will adapt and evolve. For now, keep things authentic, relevant, interesting and pick a damn good music track.

Josh Hopson, creative at Threepipe


Content by The Drum Network member:

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You hear a lot about brand story telling these days. That’s lovely. We aren’t just here to help entertain but also to encourage people to put their hands in...

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