TikTok is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and underestimated platforms to hold court in the current zeitgeist of social platform usage. Boasting the top spot in app downloads for 2020 and having totted up billions of downloads globally to date, it is fair to say the platform has proved itself on the world stage against the big players in the social media space. So if now is the time to start paying attention, then how do brands unlock the opportunities that TikTok can provide?
In recent memory, it has been pleasantly encouraging to see the increasingly strategic stance that many brands appear to have taken when it comes to defining their digital ecosystem and what role it has in the customer journey. It certainly seems that we are heading away from the homogenised approach that was typical of recent years, and the conversations around measurement and metrics seem to be far more advanced.
In terms of where this intersects with PR the same is true; deeper understanding of the value of an editorial approach to social content operations and more tempered expectations in terms of what growth will look like. So too, then, should TikTok be considered – with a clear understanding of the audience, the mechanics, the pitfalls, yes, but also knowing what it is your brand is looking to achieve, whether TikTok as a platform helps you uncover that effectively, and whether you have the bandwidth within your in-house or agency partner resource to execute it properly.
You will no doubt know TikTok as being a platform for Gen Z. Overwhelmingly this is the youngest platform in the modern marketing arsenal in terms of sheer demographics, and when we see that 41% of the world’s 7 billion-odd inhabitants are 24 or under then it becomes an almost impossible channel to ignore if your target audience falls into that bracket, or even if it’s skewing slightly older.
Of course, content is expensive and brands are already shelling out large sums to power their content pipelines. You might think there are efficiencies to be exploited here, but TikTok’s magic sauce is the creativity it unlocks within the app – so it is not as simple as resizing an asset to span multiple platforms as is the typical approach for many content operations. Using the app to generate the right look and feel for ‘good’ content on TikTok is a completely new content stream, requires understanding of the kind of content that works well etc. So if you don’t have the bandwidth to execute a test given these considerations, then where is the opportunity?
Perhaps the most fruitful route into TikTok is through an influencer program. As a channel, influencer has proved its place in the mix and brands are expected to spend up to $15bn by 2022 on influencer partnerships, so we know the budgets are there. The relationship is much the same; selecting a group of influencers on TikTok holds the same transactional elements of any other influencer agreement. You buy their reach, their understanding of their audience and ultimately you unlock the opportunity to speak to a whole group of people who would perhaps otherwise not give you the time of day. This is ever more the case for TikTok: creators understand the platform and know how to use the creative opportunities in the app and they know how to speak to the people who follow them in a way that works. This is the most logical way to unlock the opportunity TikTok holds for brands, and with marketing budgets already allocated toward influencer then it is also in many cases going to be the quickest and easiest way to test the waters.
Ultimately, the opportunity on TikTok is only going to be uncovered, or proved to not be the case, by getting involved. It is an imperfect platform built not on highly polished creative but experimental and rough-around-the-edges pieces. It doesn’t need to be perfect, and it could even be argued that higher production quality is against the ethos of the platform, so the barriers to doing a test are arguably some of the lowest you could find in the social content space, but undoubtedly, this is even more so the case if you enter the fray through an influencer campaign.
George Cathcart, social lead at Threepipe Reply.