How TikTok challenges brands to think differently

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Influencer’s chief executive officer Ben Jeffries sits down with TikTok’s head of creator solutions for Europe, Julien Wettstein, to discuss the platform’s newest venture, TikTok For Business, and how their most recent campaigns have encouraged brands to reconsider traditional marketing strategies.

Q: TikTok is a relatively new platform, so to kick things off, please could you just tell us a little more about the platform itself?

A: TikTok is the world's leading app for short-form mobile video and our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy. With TikTok, anyone can create and share short videos from their mobiles, which means it is easy for anyone to express their creativity, whatever their interests or ideas. Our video editing tools, effects and sounds mean that creating content is both simple and fun.

As well as creating content, you can discover a wealth of amazing content made by other Creators. The "For You Page" - where people spend most of their time on TikTok - is personally tailored so users are served content that fits within their interests. Anyone can become "TikTok famous" because we use a content graph not a social graph, prioritising the content you create and not the size of your following. This means you can go viral on TikTok without a single follower.

Q: You don’t refer to yourselves as a social media platform. Why is this? What sets TikTok apart?

A: We don’t refer to TikTok as a social media platform because we don’t see ourselves that way. We are a video-sharing app, and we think of TikTok as an engine of culture creation, fuelled by our highly engaged creators and users. This means that, first and foremost, we are a destination for entertainment, and that is driven by the joyful creative expression of our creators.

Q: You recently launched the TikTok For Business platform. Could you go into a little more detail on this?

A: TikTok For Business is our new global brand and platform that is home to all current and future marketing solutions for brands. Our goal with the platform is to give marketers the tools to be discovered and connect with broader communities around them, whilst the solutions we offer to brands through the platform are designed to give brands and marketers the tools to be creative storytellers and meaningfully engage with the TikTok community.

So whether it's a branded hashtag challenge campaign, connecting with creators directly via creator marketplace, or doing an impactful brand takeover using our TopView solution, TikTok For Business brings all the solutions together in one place so all brands can quickly and easily start working with us to build amazing campaigns.

Q: Your campaign slogan for the launch of TikTok For Business was “Don’t Make Ads, Make TikToks”, encouraging brands to reconsider traditional marketing. I’d love to hear more about the thought process behind this.

A: “Don't Make Ads, Make TikToks” is designed to challenge advertisers and marketers to think differently. We wanted to help them see the very different proposition that our platform and solutions offer when it comes to engaging with existing and new audiences. One key difference of course, is the chance to run campaigns directly with TikTok creators, meaning that you won't produce ads, but content that feels native to the platform.

By taking a "Don’t Make Ads, Make TikToks" approach, brands’ stories will slot much more seamlessly into all the other TikTok content that is created naturally on the platform.

Q: There are many brands doing incredible, engaging campaigns on TikTok. It would be great to hear some examples of a couple that stand out to you.

A: One amazing campaign that launched in July and will run over four weeks on the platform is our partnership with Beats by Dre.

Beats by Dre has teamed up with Ashnikko to collaborate on the creation of the music video for her new track “Daisy”. Through the #BeatsDaisyChallenge campaign, Ashnikko has been calling upon the TikTok community to be part of the track's music video, which will be made using content created on TikTok.

The track centres around self-expression through colour by incorporating the four new PowerbeatsPro headphone colours: Glacier Blue, Spring Yellow, Cloud Pink and Lava Red.

The campaign marks Beats by Dre’s first campaign with TikTok, anchored in two of TikTok’s premium products – Hashtag Challenge and TopView. Hashtag Challenges enable brands to directly engage TikTok’s community in UGC, while TopView provides full screen 60-second immersive content that is served as soon as a user opens the app.

So far there have been over 6 billion views of the #BeatsDaisyChallenge hashtag on TikTok.

We've also run brilliant campaigns with the likes of Converse, Mercedes Benz and Balenciaga - proving that no matter the industry or the marketing objective, TikTok is a great solution for engaging with audiences in a new, different and impactful way.

Q: Creators are at the heart of your business. How should brands work with Creators to produce the most engaging content possible?

A: The most important thing to bear in mind is to ensure any creator you work with can stay true to themselves. Authenticity is a core part of what TikTok and our community is all about, so if a brand wants to work with a creator, they should be respectful of that.

To help facilitate brand and creator connections we have the creator marketplace; a platform that helps brands effectively partner with innovative creators on paid brand campaigns to drive awareness and attract new customers, as it matches the right talent to the right campaigns. Additionally, we have the creator solutions team in-house, who support the entire process from client campaign brief to creator engagement and evaluation.

Q: There is such a vast range of Creators on the platform. What are some of the most niche things you’ve come across?

A: You can discover almost anything on TikTok - make-up artists doing visual effects, ASMR, dancing paramedics, “talking” cats, houseplant hacks and DIY tips - the list is endless. Some of my favourites include @The_PastaQueen who might not be very niche, but specialises in making videos of incredible looking pasta recipes that I need to try more of. Another person worth a follow is @architectrussell who is a British chartered architect that's lived all over the world and is currently based in Tanzania, and his passion for architecture, culture and travel is just incredible. And let's not forget Tadpole Girl on @.baby.frogs. Quite seriously, there is something for everyone on our platform.

Q: During lockdown, TikTok launched the #LearnOnTikTok program, which sees the platform provide grants to Creators producing educational videos in order to help facilitate learning. Why was this so important to you as a business?

A: We want people to turn to TikTok not just for entertainment, but to learn something new, to acquire a new skill, or simply get inspired to do something they've never done before. People were already doing this, and it's a trend we wanted to get behind and accelerate.

So we're now collaborating with educators, subject matter experts and non-profits, such as @English.heritage, @maxklymenko and The @PrincesTrust. Together, we've helped deliver an extensive learning experience - from life hacks to science tutorials, motivational tips to quick cooks - to ensure people can access learning that is personal, local and specific to their everyday lives.

This initiative is showing that entertainment and learning can come together on our platform and be genuinely useful to everyday life.

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