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Should Your Business Be On TikTok?

A get-started guide to the hottest social platform

Working in digital marketing, any new social media platform that makes a meteoric rise to the top echelon catches our attention. Recently, TikTok has risen to the No. 4 position worldwide behind behemoths Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. With more than 1 billion active users worldwide, and 2.6 billion downloads so far, this entertaining social media platform should be on every business radar.

How TikTok Got Started
The history of TikTok has two branches. First, Chinese tech giant ByteDance started a social sharing app named Douyin in 2016. In 2017, ByteDance acquired the financially troubled app Merging’s format into Douyin, users could create 15 second videos, tapping into the platform’s vast database of songs, filters and movie clips to lip-sync to. ByteDance then shut down and released a slightly different international version of Douyin as TikTok.

TikTok’s Rise
TikTok evolved quickly, including other forms of content beyond lip syncing videos. It prompts new users to select what they want to see on the app—choosing from categories such as DIY demos, challenges, comedy, cooking, sports, beauty treatments, etc. There is still plenty of lip syncing, though, including pets talking in funny voices (or maybe that’s just on my TikTok feed, lol). The app provides access to popular songs, images and video clips through their licensing agreements with arts and entertainment companies.

Users sharing their TikTok videos to platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube helped the app grow exponentially.

TikTok also has a well-honed algorithm that “learns” a user’s interests. TikTok users typically browse the “For You” section, which uses an algorithm to showcase content that’s personalized to the user based on their past activity. Videos are displayed one at a time and users scroll down to see the next video.

TikTok’s programming follows the philosophy that good content will rise to the top, allowing new creators an equal chance at success. The process of how a video is introduced and grows is the same no matter how many followers the creator has.

Whenever a new video is uploaded, the algorithm will display it to a small number of users. Videos with good engagement (likes, shares, watch time) will be shown to more users with similar interests. The video can go viral if the process is compelled to repeat itself by continued user interaction.

Should Businesses Tap Into TikTok?
If you’re wondering whether your business should take a chance on TikTok, in a word, yes. If your business has target demographics under 40 you should consider adding TikTok to your mix, just based on market share. Nearly 65% of users are aged 20 to 49, with an additional 25% from the next younger generation. Incorporating TikTok into a social media strategy means that businesses can connect with the largest consumer group now and in the future. 

Currently, the platform is not oversaturated with business content, allowing good opportunities to create authority in the space. However, with any new marketing effort, you should start with a good plan.

Man watching a video on his phone

Setting Up TikTok for Business
Here are the four essential steps to incorporate TikTok into your business social media strategy.

1. Set marketing goals. Today, TikTok video length has been extended to one minute (externally created videos can be longer). Brands will want to stick with the quick, easily-digestible format that appeals to the younger-skewed demographic. So, the first step is to spend some time on TikTok so you can get to know the feel of the platform. I would suggest doing this before creating a login and profile. Gather some ideas of approaches from other successful trending types of posts. Keep these tips in mind during your review and planning phase:

  • Many businesses choose to use TikTok to build brand awareness and trust. 
  • While each post should have a purpose, consider how your brand can accomplish these goals while keeping with the brief, entertaining nature of the platform.  

2. Create a consistent profile. You want to keep your branding consistent across all social media platforms. This means using the same profile photo and a bio aligned with company branding standards. 

Here are the simple steps for creating a TikTok profile for your business:

  • Download the app to a mobile device.
  • Log in with a business email and password that’s meant to be shared (not a personal account).
  • You’ll be redirected to the feed. Tap the person icon labeled “me” on the lower right corner of the screen to go to your profile.
  • Click “edit profile” to update your profile picture and bio to match your brand. You can also link your business Instagram and YouTube accounts.
  • Save and finish.

3. Get the algorithm working for you. Go through the feed and interact with brands that are a good fit for your industry or individuals within your sphere of influence and network. This process helps train the algorithm about your interests. TikTok will also suggest social media influencers for you to follow. 

4. Choose Targeted Content Categories. At this point, you should be developing a realistic content strategy. Part of that is choosing content categories. There are endless options here, but here are a few of the most successful ones to give you some ideas:

  • Hashtag challenges. Used both commercially through a sponsored post and organically by non-paid posts, hashtags can call attention to a movement or campaign. One successful brand, ELF Cosmetics, got great attention asking people to post pics under their #EyesLipsFace challenge. Movements for causes have gone viral and attracted celebrity attention with hashtag challenges. Since hashtag challenges were already ingrained in modern culture on other social media platforms, expect this effective trend to continue. 
  • Testimonials. Imagine how powerful it is to show a messy home (before) and a sparkling clean home (after) for a cleaning service. How could your business visually show success in 15 seconds? Watch TV commercials with the sound off and you will see what is visually appealing.
  • Tutorial videos. Ok, I admit here I have watched dozens of quick hacks on how to apply makeup. They are addicting! But the same tutorial concept can be applied to just about any product. Just think quick and visual.Service companies can also benefit from tutorials. I could turn some of the content of this article into a social media how-to video with some screen grabs. Keeping it light or even funny will be a good fit for the platform.
  • Sneak peeks. We all loved when the curtain was pulled back in the Wizard of Oz. You can offer a behind the scenes look at where the magic happens at your company, too. This strategy helps make a personal connection with customers, and can increase sales and brand loyalty. Authenticity and transparency is a way to help brands rise above the clutter of information on the internet in 2021. When you are authentic in words and actions, customers will speak volumes on your behalf. 

    Sneak peeks are also a great way to bring audiences along on a new product or service journey prior to launch. Share a few funny clips and get people talking and sharing to build awareness and momentum.

  • Influencer marketing. Social media gave birth to a new form of online marketing—pairing businesses and products with people and organizations that have an expert level of knowledge or a significant amount of followers in a particular field. While influencers are paid, it does save company resources from having to create content in-house. Look for an influencer with values aligned to your brand, then define clear goals and brand guidelines. Beyond that, allow influencers creative freedom—that is what will result in an authentic endorsement.

Cross-Posting and Repurposing
You can use the same key factor that helped TikTok rise to social media fame: cross post to other social platforms. Share your TikTok videos on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Snapchat. As I’ve mentioned in many previous articles, video marketing captures the most attention over posts with just an image or no image at all. And, you are making one effort to create a video then repurposing it across multiple platforms, reaching different audiences. This increases your ROI.

Brief TikTok videos are also a great way to provide a teaser, compelling a user to watch a longer video on YouTube. Remember all of those cosmetic videos I watched? After watching a time-lapsed 15 second video showing me how to create a smokey eye look, of course I am going to go to the YouTube page to watch the full tutorial. 

Final Tips
There are a few key considerations to keep in mind as you start creating content for TikTok. 

  • As mentioned, keep it short—15 seconds if possible. Shorter videos have higher completion rates and engagement
  • Vertical videos feel more authentic and appealing on TikTok’s mobile-first feed. 
  • You do not have an option to post on TikTok without audio. However, don’t assume viewers will have their sound on. If you post something that needs explaining, consider using captions. 
  • A recent change restricts business accounts to a specific database of songs, images and video clips, so brands can no longer create videos on the app with popular songs under TikTok’s licensing. Only personal accounts can use popular songs and clips.
  • Make sure to include a strong call to action telling the viewer what to do next. This could include clicking the link in your bio or subscribing to your TikTok content. 
  • Do use hashtags that are repeated on other platforms and cross share posts.
  • TikTok’s counterpart in China, Douyin, has a much more advanced algorithm, including diverse e-commerce aspects. On Douyin, customers can directly and immediately purchase items they see in videos. Expect more advancements to the global version, TikTok, in the future.

The TikTok phenomenon continues to grow every day, and should be a serious consideration for your social media marketing for the rest of 2021 and beyond.

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