Why Your Brand Should Tread Lightly on TikTok

You may be wondering if your brand should be on TikTok. As the fastest growing social media app, TikTok has over 70 million active monthly users in the US, and its user base grew 800% between January 2018 and June 2020.

Although the platform’s notorious funny videos and dance tutorials helped it steadily grow its user base before the pandemic, during worldwide quarantines popular content rapidly expanded into other categories like education, activism, cooking, and fashion tips. And while some companies have begun dipping their toe in the TikTok waters, it’s clear that branded messages and advertisements don’t always fit into the landscape of casual entertainment. So if you’re thinking about giving it a try, here are some things to consider first.

The majority of TikTok users in the U.S. are under 30 years old. If Gen Z is not a core target audience for your brand, consider whether it’s really worth investing in adding a new social platform to your marketing strategy. With that said, TikTok’s algorithm allows you to target a highly specific audience based on interactions with specific hashtags and videos, as well as by language, location, and device type. When used correctly, it can be a great way to engage a younger demographic.

TikTok trends come and go very quickly, so it’s important to jump on them while your content is still relevant. As an example, the entertainment company Lionsgate frequently produces TikTok videos that incorporate humorous trending sounds or popular celebrities currently starring in its movies and shows. Rather than planning out content weeks in advance as you may have grown used to on other social platforms, start by simply spending time on TikTok each day to monitor what’s trending, and have your team standing by to quickly produce branded videos or ads when you determine the timing is best or the topic is most relevant to your business.

ryan reynolds tiktok

Since most users still head to TikTok for entertainment, any paid ads should feel like amusing, organic material that people will enjoy watching and interacting with. Most people on the platform follow individual creators they identify with or trust to reveal helpful “life hacks.” This environment of equalized access to information, combined with a user base that’s grown up on social media, means that TikTok users examine every post and advertisement on the platform with a critical lens. If your product or messaging isn’t relevant, thoughtful or original (or worse–it’s obvious you’re just there to turn a profit), people may be resistant to being force-fed your content.

Prepare to monitor and respond to comments. TikTok’s highly engaged user base presents a great opportunity to add a more interactive dimension to your marketing. But it also means the comments section usually becomes divided quickly, whether a post is about a politicized issue, a small business or even a recipe. Some users will expect a response, and others will criticize your response, so it’s important to think ahead of time about what is right for your brand and where there may be potential pitfalls based on differing opinions.

User-generated content may be far more successful than paid advertising. I have used the app since early 2019, and when celebrities and marketers began to enter TikTok as a means of promotion, users were disappointed that the app had been “taken over.” The idea of content creators as an occupation, however, has become more normalized, so people are supportive when they see their favorite creators promoting a brand or product. It’s harder to rely on, but just one video can make a lasting impact on your brand. In November 2020, TikTok user @hannahschlenker posted a video in a pair of Aerie leggings, and TikTok users were jealous. Aerie managed to sell out of the leggings within a week, and is still struggling to keep them in stock today. Aerie made Hannah a brand ambassador, and she now regularly creates sponsored content to promote the releases of their new products.

According to eMarketer, TikTok’s US user base is expected to grow from 78.8 million users to 84.9 by 2022, and 97 million by 2025. It is a great tool to reach and connect with a specific audience, and is one of the fastest growing social media tools. But, there is a need to weigh the ROI. Your team will need to prepare to monitor comments, and keep up with consistent creative output and community management, as well as stay authentic to your brand.

sophie wachs profile
Sophie Wachs Marketing Intern Sophie is a Junior at Northeastern University majoring in Communication Studies.

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