TikTok Marketing in 2021: The Supersede Media Guide

Guide to TikTok Marketing

In a few short years, TikTok has risen from newcomer to major player. Despite this, marketers are still struggling to work out how to approach the app.

TikTok marketing is still a fairly new artform, and it can be difficult for those who are unfamiliar with the platform to know how to use it. Many still contemplate dismissing the app out of hand. However, there are big opportunities for those who take the plunge into the world of short-form video.

In this guide from the Supersede Media team, we’ll run through how to go about setting up your very own TikTok marketing campaign. From the stats to the strategies, we’ve got everything you need to know about marketing your brand on TikTok.


TikTok: the basics

If you’re not already a TikTok user, you might need a quick primer on how the platform works. So, we’re here to help! Let’s go through some of the basics.

What is TikTok?

If you’re considering marketing on TikTok, it’s likely you’ll know at least a little about how the platform works. But, if you’re still none the wiser, the short answer is that it allows users to upload short-form videos. Though some users are able to upload videos as long as three minutes, most have a runtime of no more than 60 seconds. Combine this with the ability to simply scroll down to reach a new video, and you’ve got a formula that helps to keep users watching. In fact, it’s thought that the average user spends around 45 minutes a day on the app.

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is headquartered in China. Nevertheless, the app targets a global audience, while a parallel service, Douyin, serves the Chinese market. The two apps’ interfaces are almost identical, but there’s no content-sharing between the two. In 2017, TikTok acquired and merged with rival app Musical.ly, taking in its existing user base. By early 2021, the total number of TikTok users hit a staggering 689 million. But who exactly is using the app?

Is TikTok just for teens?

The common perception is that TikTok is an app primarily for teens and young adults—or, more broadly, Gen Z. And to an extent, that’s true. About one-third of US TikTok users are under 20, as are similar proportions in several European countries. Here in the UK, it’s estimated that around a quarter of 15–25-year-olds use the app, compared to 9% of those between 26 and 45 and just 2% of over-55s.

Nonetheless, it’s become clear that TikTok’s user base has started to diversify. In the wake of the pandemic, the app has become increasingly popular amongst older millennials and younger Gen Xers.

Comscore estimated that, between January and April 2020, the share of US TikTok users between 18 and 24 fell by 5.8%. That’s not because fewer of them are using the app, but because growth amongst older demographics has outpaced them. The share of 25–34-year-olds increased by 5% in the same period, and that of 35–44-year-olds was up 3.2%. In raw numbers, there were 5 million US users in the 25–34 bracket in January 2020 and 11 million in the same age group just three months later.

This doesn’t suggest, of course, that TikTok has ceased to be primarily geared towards younger audiences. But it gives those of us in the marketing industry pause for thought before dismissing the app out of hand.


TikTok marketing: the state of play

TikTok logo displayed on a phone
Image source: Franck via Unsplash

Now we’ve got some background information, it’s time to take a look at marketing on TikTok. Before diving into a how-to guide, it’s good to get some detail on the overall landscape.

Which businesses are already advertising on TikTok?

Getting an exact figure as to how many brands are on TikTok is tricky. When social media management platform Hootsuite polled their followers in late 2020, however, only 7% responded that they were already using TikTok. Meanwhile, 85% either had no immediate plans to use the app, or felt that it didn’t suit their brand.

In some ways, this is fairly understandable. Though popular amongst younger audiences for a few years, TikTok really burst into the mainstream fairly recently. Additionally, its brand-facing arm, TikTok for Business, only came onto the scene in June 2020. That means that businesses have had much less time to build up a strategy for the app than they have for the likes of Twitter and Instagram.

However, those businesses choosing not to jump into the world of TikTok at all could be missing a trick. There’s more to the app than lip syncing, after all—and it could be very lucrative for your brand.

Why TikTok should be part of your marketing strategy

Not yet sure about marketing on TikTok? Here are some reasons why you should get onto your audience’s feed.

  • TikTok ads are (generally) less intrusive than their counterparts on other social networks. Take YouTube, for example—it’s quite likely that you’ll hit ‘skip’ on that pre-roll ad as soon as you get the chance (and let’s not even start on those mid-video ads). With TikTok, your content will likely seem less out-of-place when it shows up on your audience’s feed, helping to boost engagement.
  • Speaking of engagement, we’ve already touched on the amount of time spent on the app. However, you may not realise that this figure has been growing over time. So, not only are you tapping into a growing user base, but also one that’s becoming increasingly involved in TikTok over time. It’s a win-win.
  • TikTok gives you the chance to try out new forms of video marketing in a way that feels more natural. You don’t necessarily need a big video budget here—instead, you should aim for something that fits in with the feed. In fact, going for a more authentic feel when you highlight your products could be a better move than a slick campaign!
  • Though some brands have started catching on to TikTok, many still don’t feel it’s right for them. That gives you the chance to steal a march on your competitors and benefit from the platform months or years before they even come on board.
  • If you’re trying to target younger audiences, then TikTok is a no-brainer. In fact, if you’re trying to attract under-30s, then it’s likely to be far better at attracting the demographics you want than the likes of Facebook. However, its user base is already more diverse than many think—and that trend is set to continue over time. So, even brands with older buyer profiles should keep an eye on TikTok for the medium to long-term.

TikTok forbids the marketing of certain products and services. Some topics, such as gambling or political advertisements, are banned internationally; others, like alcohol, are prohibited or restricted on a territory-by-territory basis. If you think that this may affect your business, and want to check whether you’re able to advertise in your market, check out TikTok’s Help Centre.

With so many reasons to get started, the logical next step is to find out how to do just that. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the strategies to employ when marketing on TikTok!


TikTok marketing: strategies

Team of people meeting around a table
Image source: Dylan Gillis via Unsplash

So, you’ve decided that you want to build your brand’s presence on TikTok. It’s time to start working out your plan of action.

As with any form of social media, there are multiple ways in which you can market on TikTok. These range from more traditional paid forms of advertising through to fostering organic growth. Influencer marketing gives you an additional lane to pursue, and could be a better option for your brand. In this section, we’ll guide you through your options in each of these routes.

① Advertising

The first route you can take on TikTok is a ‘conventional’ ad campaign. We’ve put the word in quotation marks because, while some aspects of it will be familiar to anyone who’s executed a paid campaign on social media, others will be totally new. There are several types of TikTok ads to choose from:

  • TopView — This ad format is great if you want to make a big first impression. That’s because TopView ads appear as the first video a user sees when they open TikTok. TopView ads take the form of videos, and can last up to 60 seconds. Pricing for this ad type can vary, but as the prime slot on the app, it’s not cheap. In fact, reports have indicated that TikTok may charge over $2 million per day on holidays in the US market.
  • Brand Takeover — This is essentially a slimmed-down version of the TopView format. Instead of a 60-second-long video, you can choose between a 3-second JPG or a 3 to 5-second video. You will, however, still appear first when a user opens the app. So, if you’re able to tell your brand’s story in just a few seconds, then this could be a great option. Current rates stand at £32,700 per day for 6 million impressions as a minimum.
  • In-Feed Ads — This format comes closest to the kinds of ads you may see on other platforms. Essentially, an In-Feed Ad is a video of up to 60 seconds that will appear in the user’s feed in much the same way as any other video on TikTok. This gives you the chance to market your brand in a more organic way. It’s best to try and replicate the feel of a normal TikTok video as best as possible. In-Feed Ads can also be cost-effective, coming in at £6.30 for 1000 impressions.
  • Branded Hashtag Challenge — If you think that your brand has the potential to go viral, then why not try out a Branded Hashtag Challenge? This format allows you to set the theme of your campaign and invites TikTok users to generate their own content to join in. It’s a great option if you’re looking for a deeper level of engagement, and can help turn customers into brand advocates. At present, this costs £77,700 in the UK for 6 days, throughout which you’ll be featured on the Discover tab.
  • Branded Effects — Want your brand to stand out with a fun, unique campaign? Branded Effects can do the trick. Users will be able to use your effects on their own videos, promoting your brand via their content. From 2D and 3D lenses to AR effects, there’s plenty of scope for your business to let its creativity shine. To get your effect featured on the Discover tab for a 10-day period, the price in the UK ranges from £19,500 up to £62,200.

② Start your own channel

TikTok app open on a phone
Image source: Hello I’m Nik via Unsplash

Paid advertising is, of course, only one part of the story. With TikTok, you also have the ability to create an account for your business to build organically.

Your first step is to create a specific business account on the app. To start with, you’ll simply need to sign up for an account using the standard registration form that appears when you first download TikTok. Once you’ve done this, go to your Me tab and click the three dots in the top-right corner. Click Manage account and then Switch to Business Account. You can then select the category that fits your brand best, from electronics to beauty. And that’s it—you’re ready to start creating!

What kind of content works best on TikTok?

An essential part of building your brand on TikTok is understanding that the content must feel native. So, if your plan was to repurpose your existing content from Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board. In fact, a good place to start is to simply download the app and spend some time scrolling! That way, you’ll get a better idea of what TikTok content is like, and how to create branded content that fits the platform’s look and feel.

TikTok themselves put it best with the slogan ‘Don’t make ads. Make TikToks’. Instead of the same old formats, this is your opportunity to marry your brand’s existing image with a new style of content. While there’s no hard-and-fast rule regarding what works and what doesn’t, you should consider…

  • Humour — Many of the most popular brands on TikTok use humour to great effect. Obviously, you should aim for a tone that fits in with the app. If you’re still hoping that a tired old image macro will do the trick in 2021, you should probably do a bit of research first.
  • Engagement — Getting users involved is a huge part of success on TikTok. Branded challenges can go a long way, and if your video can be easily replicated, then all the better. Pro tip, though: if your challenge only benefits your brand, users won’t get on board. Make it fun and worthwhile to take part—for example, by offering giveaways.
  • Relatability — Many brands can project a stuffy image. TikTok gives you the ability to break free from this and humanise your business. Your tone of voice should be conversational, not corporate. Discussing day-to-day problems in a way that users can relate to is another big plus.
  • Music — TikTok has outpaced streaming services as the place where new hits are made. Using viral music (or other sounds) on TikTok can help your content feel more native, and allows you the freedom to create bold, innovative and (crucially) fun content.
  • Instant impact — Yes, TikToks can last for up to 60 seconds. But let’s face it: as you scroll through the app, you’re going to swipe straight past something that doesn’t immediately catch your eye. Grab the user’s attention within the first couple of seconds and you’re onto a winner.
  • Trends — With new viral sounds, songs, challenges and themes arising every day on TikTok, you’ve always got the chance to jump onto a new trend. Don’t be too overt in including your brand here—you should feature your business or product in a way that feels natural, rather than trying to shoehorn yourself into a trend.

③ Reach out to influencers

Smiling woman wearing a headscarf taking a selfie
Image source: Good Faces via Unsplash

The third strand of marketing on TikTok involves content created by influencers rather than by your brand itself. We know that there are still some people out there who flinch at the mere mention of the word ‘influencer’, but it’s time to get over the hang-up. If you want to market to younger demographics, then this is one of the best ways to go about it. That’s because…

  • Content created by existing influencers will almost definitely feel more natural on the app than an ad
  • They have a direct connection to the audiences you want to engage, and speak in their tone of voice
  • Influencers come with an existing following, saving you the hassle of building one from scratch
  • It allows your products or services to be shown off in ways you might never have thought of yourself

Influencer marketing can prove hugely beneficial to your brand. So, how do you go about it?

Firstly, you’ll need to reach out to a suitable influencer. ‘Suitable’ is the key word here, as brands often make the mistake of simply looking at follower counts rather than cultural fit. It’s better to work with an influencer with 20,000 followers who creates content that fits your specific niche than someone with 2 million followers on an unrelated topic.

You can go about researching influencers yourself simply by spending time on the app. However, a great resource to tap into is the TikTok Creator Marketplace. This is the official platform for brands to arrange collabs with creators on TikTok, and enables you to filter by:

  • Country or Region
  • Topic
  • Reach
  • Average Views
  • Audience Country or Region
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Audience Device
  • e-Commerce Anchor

After filtering, you’ll get to view influencer profiles in detail. Here, you can dive into a wealth of metrics, from total views, likes, comments and shares through to audience demographics.

Next, it’s up to you to select the creator(s) you want to get in contact with, and to tell them a bit more about your brand. You should also set out the reasons why you want to work with them, and some basic details about your campaign, such as dates. You’ll also have the option to set a fee here, though this is typically negotiated later.

Assuming that you manage to strike a deal with a creator, the next part involves the content itself! Our advice here is not to micromanage. The influencer you work with will know what works for their channel and appeals to their audience. So, don’t give them a script—let them put your brand into their own words.

Finally, you’ll want to track the success of your campaign! If you’ve decided to use TikTok Creator Marketplace, then you can make the most of the inbuilt Campaign Reporting Tool. This gives you insights relating to the number of engagements, likes, comments and shares received. This can further be combined with traditional forms of tracking, such as Google Analytics or Moz, to give you a fuller picture.


Summary

By now, you should have a clear idea of whether TikTok marketing is right for your brand—and, if so, how to go about getting your brand’s name out there. Here’s a quick reminder of the key points…

  • TikTok still has a predominantly young audience—but there is some growth in older age groups
  • Successful marketing on TikTok means adapting to fit the platform’s overall vibe
  • There are plenty of ways to try out paid advertising on TikTok, from TopView to In-Feed Ads
  • If you want to create your own organic content, aim for humour and relatability
  • Staying on top of popular trends and music can help you to fit in
  • Make your TikToks attention-grabbing within the first couple of seconds, or users will scroll past you
  • Influencer marketing can be a powerful tool, and Creator Marketplace allows you to leverage it
  • Track the success of your campaign via Campaign Reporting and traditional tools

And that’s it for our 2021 guide to TikTok marketing! We hope you’ve found some useful gems here and are raring to go. Stay tuned to the Supersede Media blog, where we’ll be sharing more useful guides in the months to come, and updating this post with all the latest from TikTok.

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