TikTok: open for businessJune 2021
TikTok for Business. It may, until recently, have sounded like an oxymoron. But although TikTok was founded as a forum for Gen Z-ers to lip sync, dance and make amateur music videos, today it’s growing fast — and growing up. Now a channel through which to start conversations, address a huge breadth of topics and reach increasingly diverse audiences. A space for businesses to think and be original, connect to contemporary culture and reach hundreds or thousands of young people, pretty much instantly.
But if the thought of promoting your business via video to an audience of 689 million digital natives, with high creative, social, environmental and moral expectations, yet incredibly short attention spans, makes you break out in a nervous sweat, don’t worry. TikTok may be a great new tool for business marketing, but it’s also a place to have fun. And a successful starting strategy might be to not take it all too seriously.
“ TikTok may be a great new tool for business marketing, but it’s also a place to have fun. And a successful starting strategy might be to not take it all too seriously.”
TikTok for business
Over the past year and a half, TikTok has grown its audience, expanded its functionality and revealed plans to cater to a more commercial demographic. As part of this, the platform has launched TikTok for Business, enabling brands to create a business profile in the app, receive tips on everything from producing creative to driving performance, and draw on TikTok’s own expertise to help map out a successful video-content approach.
“Create a business profile in the app, receive tips on everything from producing creative to driving performance, and draw on TikTok’s own expertise to help map out a successful video-content approach.”
According to TikTok, over 1000 major brands are already using TikTok Business Accounts, and, for its most active brands, each post receives an average of 200,000+ content views. For newcomers, it’s also worth knowing that 48% of TikTok users don’t have an Instagram account. And for those that do, in Germany at least, users spend an average of 145 minutes daily on TikTok compared to 115 minutes on their Instagram. All this means that businesses can enjoy a centre-stage position on TikTok, and be given the chance and space to shine, without intense competition.
Don’t make ads. Make TikToks.
Once a business profile is up and running, brands can upload relevant videos, initiate TikTok Challenges and join in on Duets, pay to advertise, or work with content creators to create more diverse content and reach a broader audience. Or, even better, why not have a dabble in a little bit of everything? But whether it’s a Hashtag Challenge, a case study, a tutorial video, a glimpse behind the scenes or a paid advertisement, keep in mind that the hard sell on TikTok normally meets with a hard no. Be led by the imagination inside you, not the salesperson. The most successful content on TikTok is truthful and unvarnished. Often funny. Ideally surprising. And something that opens dialogue and allows for reciprocity, rather than being overt or insistent.
“ The most successful content on TikTok is truthful and unvarnished. Often funny. Ideally surprising. And something that opens dialogue and allows for reciprocity, rather than being overt or insistent.”
Other ticks for tiktok-ing
Another useful thing to consider when getting started on TikTok is that it’s a super-fast-moving world where a thirst for newness prevails, so content should be timely and swift in pace, addressing current conversations, or igniting new ones. It’s also a kingdom where sound steals the throne, equally if not more important than visuals, so prioritise sound when conceiving your video, and make use of catchy sounds or songs to grab attention.
Use hashtags sensibly, as these provide TikTok’s main navigation tool. Unlike other platforms TikTok uses pretty generic hashtags, so don’t go too wild with your selection (unless you’re running a branded TikTok Challenge). And don’t forget to show the TikTok algorithm a bit of love. That means engaging with your audience instead of always waiting for them to engage with you, and not being put off if one video doesn’t perform so well. One of the most liberating things about TikTok is that every video is a chance to start anew, and in terms of engagement, a completely fresh slate.
“One of the most liberating things about TikTok is that every video is a chance to start anew, and in terms of engagement, a completely fresh slate.”
Content creating and creators
The real engine behind TikTok is user generated content. That’s real content, by real people, with real loves, hates, beliefs and opinions. So when creating your video, show the people behind your business, not just the business itself. UGC outperforms non-native ad creatives and 6-second video views on TikTok, so consider working alongside some of TikTok’s established content creators who already have a loyal following and can act as a useful bridge between brands and consumers, while enabling your brand to reach new audiences. Content creator partnerships can take multiple forms, from paid posts on an influencer account, to paid ads with content creators, to organic branded hashtags involving these content creators. Chipotle, X-Box and Amazon are all great examples of brands that have trusted existing TikTok content creators with their creativity, and to amazing results.
“Consider working alongside some of TikTok’s established content creators who already have a loyal following and can act as a useful bridge between brands and consumers.”
Let your creativity lead the way
Ready to get started with TikTok for Business? Just remember to keep it honest, offer up knowledge quickly and willingly, capitalise on current trends and join current conversations. Know your audience, and Gen Z’s distaste for the hard sell. Prioritise speed, sound and those vital first few seconds. Trust and embrace successful content creators. Celebrate people, rather than pushing products. And, instead of glorifying your brand, reveal a company with a sense of humour, an ability to have fun, and a willingness to take risks. And perhaps most importantly of all: keep trying. TikTok is all about trial and error. Sometimes you need to get it wrong to get it right. So leave your business spiel at the door, veer off-brand and enjoy TikTok for what it is: a space to let your creativity lead the way.
Illustration: Gosia Malgorzata