What is TikTok, and Should You Be on It?

A wildly popular Chinese social media app is taking off in America among the young trendsetters, rising to the top of the charts in September 2019 as the No. 1 free non-gaming app. TikTok allows users to film, edit and publish short videos. It’s similar to the six-second video app Vine, which was bought out by Twitter in 2012 and later discontinued when competitors such as Instagram introduced similar (but slightly longer) video features. TikTok, however, allows videos as long as 60 seconds – and users can add music, GIFs and hashtags.

How can brands use TikTok?

Because TikTok is currently a mobile-driven app, it allows for natural, authentic, user-generated content that consumers can relate to. It’s mostly used to capitalize on pop culture trends; users can find the short clips by following trending hashtags.

On the organic front, brands that already have brand affinity and recognition can garner word-of-mouth advertising. A video of a teenager eating a burger stacked with 10 patties at a Whataburger in Allen, Texas, went viral, but it was more than the eating challenge that made it spread like wildfire. The fact the teen who shot the video told a story with each clip resonated with the fans watching it. Other users post funny videos showcasing brands without even having to call them out, like in this example.

But how can you be proactive about TikTok content?

  • Creating your own content. You can make creative videos on the fly depending on what’s trending within the app. This sort of timely content raises your chances of reaching more consumers. Brands like Chipotle have already capitalized on the opportunity.
  • Hashtag challenge. You can encourage user-generated content by asking fans to participate in a challenge using a specific hashtag. This is part of TikTok’s managed service sponsorship and has potential for virality, as users can create and share their own short videos about your brand – offering their own authentic take on the creative.
  • Partnering with influencers. Much like Vine, TikTok does have a space for creators to become influencers; but unlike Vine, TikTok is working on ways for creators to monetize their work and create significant revenue – which could mean a bigger pool of influencers your brand can tap for sponsorships. Although ads are becoming available, brands might benefit more from using influencers as spokespeople – knowing it’s a platform that favors content creators.

“TikTok is a platform that favors content creators and influencers. It allows for natural, authentic, user-generated content that consumers can relate to.”

Can brands run ads?

Although TikTok has started testing ads on the platform, ads aren’t available in all markets yet and aren’t all fully self-service.

  • Current ad products: In-feed video ads with cost per click (CPC), cost per thousand impressions (CPM) and cost per view (CPV) as action models. Other available ad formats require managed service placement.
  • Targeting capabilities: Age, gender, state-level geo-targeting; over time the platform will add interest, behavioral and more granular options.

Although there’s not an official minimum spend, we do recommend making an investment large enough to show significant results and learnings. More self-service options and API integrations are in the works.

Should your brand use TikTok?

TikTok may not be a viable platform for everyone. Consider:

  • Audience – TikTok currently appeals most to Generation Z.
  • Approach – You must be able to execute content in the moment for greater exposure.
  • Creativity – You must be willing to experiment and try new creative tactics.

Competitors to watch

Other social media competitors, like Facebook, see TikTok as a threat and are adjusting their platforms to compete. Even Mark Zuckerberg said in a meeting to his employees, “I kind of think about TikTok as if it were Explore for Stories,” as mentioned in Buffer. Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

  • Facebook and Instagram will tweak their Explore tab to be more focused on Stories. This could be a great opportunity for your brand to elevate Stories creative and calls to action to reach more people, especially if you don’t have the manpower to tackle a new platform like TikTok.
  • Facebook is working on a TikTok-like app called “Lasso” and testing out in different countries where TikTok hasn’t launched to compete more directly with TikTok.
  • Google is considering acquiring a similar app called “Firework,” according to Business Insider. The U.S. startup was valued at over $100 million this year and could easily launch Google back into the social media industry after the sunsetting of Google+.

It’ll be interesting to see how long the TikTok hype lasts; but given that its app downloads keep increasing, you should keep an eye out and consider testing your creativity on the platform.

Want to talk to a pro about what social media platforms are right for your brand? Get in touch

Tags: Web & Digital, PR & Social Media

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