One question we have seen asked a lot recently is if a business should be looking at using the social network TikTok. But also, we simply get the question – what is TikTok? In a nutshell the answer is that TikTok is a social media platform that basically exploded everywhere over the last year, and no, right now you probably don’t need to be overly concerned about having to be on TikTok as a brand, but it may not stay that way for long!

Are TikTok and Musically the same thing?

A few years ago an app called was gaining popularity. It was a space where you could upload video snippets of yourself singing along to songs, as we all love to do. In August 2018, the Chinese firm ByteDance took it over, developed it further and migrated the existing users to TikTok. Bang – TikTok is born.

This new app had filters, special effects and was interested in much more than just lip-syncing. This social media platform has a purpose unlike the other main players in our world of social media. It’s not to share information or status updates; it’s all about having fun, being entertaining and watching others do exactly the same.

How TikTok works

But how does TikTok work? Simply, users upload short video clips (between 3 and 60 seconds) of anything they like but it’s mainly dancing, singing, being funny, doing magic tricks – essentially focussing on creativity and life’s ‘moments’, and pop a snippet of music in the background. It’s a mobile app rather than desktop and it’s easy to do whatever you want from a smartphone – engage and react with other videos, follow other users and get lost in a world of snippets of entertaining fun moments.

In making this the remit of TikTok, the developers have captured the imagination of the 500 million active users, which is rocketing the app ahead of Twitter and Snapchat in terms of users – 41% of whom are aged 16-24. TikTok is HUGELY popular with a younger audience.

Who uses TikTok?

TikTok is setting some pretty impressive statistics, even more impressive when you know that the app is on the list of the most 10 downloaded apps of the last decade; it’s actually the most downloaded app on the Apple Appstore for the 5th quarter in a row.

Some impressive figures even when we consider that massive popularity in Asia has helped to boost these numbers, but the fact is that right now, TikTok is growing, its use in adults is growing, and last year over 1 million videos were viewed daily.

Why TikTok is popular

TikTok is popular among young people because it’s easy to use and fun, and there are no boring grown-ups to spoil it all (like on Facebook where everyone’s elderly aunt seems to be lurking). There are loads of options in terms of music, stickers, and effects which are addictive. People come to TikTok to be entertained and produce their own silly content which is rubbished by many but the power of being entertained and being allowed to produce your own silly content is not to be underestimated. It’s a network that has been designed with younger people in mind and in that it’s certainly fulfilling its potential.

So, where does that leave us from a marketing perspective?

Right now, absolutely nowhere, is the reassuring answer we have for you. There currently is no space on the platform for ads; you can’t include clickable URLs in your posts to drive traffic to your website and most crucially the TikTok audience want to engage with funny, light-hearted, trend heavy content that lasts for less than 15 seconds. For any marketing strategy to work in the world of TikTok you need to immerse yourself in the very ethos of TikTok, crucially you have to understand TikTok.

If your brand’s audience is under 18s then you need to worry but if not, then there are easier networks to try and master right now.

TikTok and Brands

There are some examples of global brands that are carving the way. In some countries you can get paid TikTok ads at a big cost. Other brands are engaging with influencers and using them to spread their brand. TikTok is great for hashtag challenges and global brands again have been seen retaining influencers and celebrities to drive their challenges.

At the time of writing Epic, the team behind the hugely popular Fortnite, have just launched a TikTok weeklong contest. They are asking users to upload an original dance move which they will incorporate into the game. The challenge works by using the hashtag #EmoteRoyalContest. Celebrities are cross posting from their other social media accounts to endorse, promote and invite more people to get on over to it.

These types of challenges represent the quintessential core of TikTok in that it is constantly changing. Since its launch, it has consistently been evolving, reflecting the appetite of its users. Trends and memes are shifting at speed and TikTok appears to be doing an amazing job of keeping one step ahead. It allows users to share how they feel in this moment, right now. But this sort of in-the-moment activity poses a challenge for social media marketers.

Debate is continuing regarding whether TikTok can maintain and continue its current trajectory, and we will be watching with interest. Will they introduce a swipe-up feature like on Instagram? Will they allow people to hyperlink content to a website or online store? Will they make advertising more accessible to small business as Facebook have mastered? Will Social Bods ever get themselves on there and make a hilariously entertaining video that captures the attention of the millions? Who knows!

Will TikTok replace Instagram?

TikTok is massive and growing but it’s still behind Instagram in terms of users, though it’s growing at a faster rate than Instagram did in its first months. TikTok is ahead of Snapchat in terms of users, but Instagram is, for now, the biggest photo and video sharing network in the world and is still popular with an older user base (Instagram’s main age demographic is 13 – 17 years old but closely followed by 18 – 29 year olds who have a little more buying power and as such, are more attractive to brands).

Instagram has the swipe-up feature and you can link to your blog or shop (albeit in a limited way), which is useful to brands and influencers. Instagram is also a lot easier for brands to advertise which isn’t necessarily a good thing for non-commercial users, but it will seal the deal for businesses of all sizes.

Instagram has a very different grown-up feel to it compared to TikTok, so while the two networks are primarily visual sharing networks, they appeal to two different crowds, or at least to individuals at different stages of their lives.

What businesses need to know about using TikTok.

Your business should be looking at TikTok if…

  • Your target audience is 13 – 18 years old
  • Your brand is fun and entertaining

You don’t need to worry too much if….

  • You have a marketing strategy which utilises paid social media advertising
  • Your audience is mainly over 30s
  • Your brand isn’t visual or entertaining

For now, we are experimenting on TikTok using our blogs and whatever else we have that is appropriate for TikTok. We also have the big advantage of having a testing team of seven young people aged from 8 – 18 close by on what feels like a 24/7 basis. We haven’t been able to ignore the rise of TikTok in our own homes and we won’t be ignoring it for business once the time is right.

Are you on TikTok?

Social Media Marketing

This post is part of a series –
How to do Social Media for Business

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