Why you should get on TikTok ASAP [bumper guide for brands]

TikTok is an over-hyped, flash-in-the-pan, spare-time-demolisher for kids, right?

It’ll be old news by summer, right?

Businesses can turn a blind eye, surely?


Oh, so wrong.

Mark my words: TikTok offers big opportunities for brands.

Smart marketers getting in early are already reaping major rewards, way before competitors have even sat down for their “should we start thinking about TikTok?” meeting.

But there’s a secret to success on this powerhouse platform. One huge factor that the brands cashing in on early TikTok fame have nailed, and the brands failing miserably have completely ignored.

We’ll get onto that secret – and how you can master it – very soon. In fact, I’ll even give you a whole TikTok starter kit so you know exactly how to get going yourself.

But first, let’s take a closer look at TikTok’s meteoric rise.


How TikTok got turbo-powered

The Beijing-based app merged with Musical.ly back in 2018 and has since hit a whopping 400 million daily active users globally.

It’s currently the second most popular app in the world.

That’s a rapid rise in anyone’s book and has seen TikTok become a household name.

Facebook founder Mark Z even tried (and failed) to add the app to his portfolio recently – which just goes to show what a social media force TikTok has become.

So what has it got that other apps don’t?

Well, that’s simple: fun.

The videos are short, sweet, amusing and entertaining – a little Vine-esque at heart. They’re talent, challenge or silliness based, with a few how-tos thrown in for good measure.

This type of content lends itself perfectly to viral popularity – hence why TikTok has exploded onto the scene with such gusto.

@priya.g.a.autonWait till the end ##fyp ##waterchallenge ##waterdrop♬ original sound – priya.g.a.auton

A TikTok taster

Opening the app leads you straight to the “For You” section containing a stream of user generated videos.

As you might expect, this is powered by an algorithm. It uses AI to make personalised recommendations for each viewer, so there’s never a shortage of entertainment.

From the get-go, TikTok floods you with high energy, easy to watch, swipeable content.

Videos autoplay from the second you open the app – giving you literally no chance of peeling your eyes away.

Sound is also a major part of the app. Most users shoot their videos to license-free songs, clips from popular culture, or use their own tracks, sounds or voices.

@capitalofficialI just took a DNA test…😱 @lizzo @itswillmanning ##lizzo ##dnatest ##foryoupage ##fyp ##music♬ original sound – capitalofficial

The nature of TikTok’s community is also one of its biggest strengths. The content encourages users to join in and be a part of something.

This supportive foundation of togetherness is refreshingly different.

Other social networks are known for promoting edited and filtered “perfect lifestyles”, which can leave users feeling alone, insecure and even inferior.

But TikTok users like to keep it real.

And of course, it’s almost obvious that an app built on the premise of celebrating your true self would be a victory with Gen Z. Younger generations are all about originality. And they are increasingly seeking out companies and influencers who do the same.

But here’s something that might surprise you.

While TikTok is dominated by youngsters, it’s a playground for older demographics too.

Nearly 30% of users are aged over 30. And that percentage is growing.

With all of that in mind, it’s really no surprise that brands want to get in on the TikTok action.


Brands jump on board

Day by day, more brands are figuring out that the business case for investing in TikTok is strong.

So, aside from its ridiculously fast growth, what’s the appeal?

Let’s start with our long lost friend – organic reach.

Just like the early days of Facebook, TikTok’s unpaid reach can be insane.

This is fabulous news if you’re a small or medium size business that can’t afford the $20,000 minimum ad spend (!) – let alone get access to TikTok’s ad manager.

It goes without saying that advertising on TikTok will become a big thing in the future. Some brands are already seeing success with ad formats like:

  • Brand takeovers
  • In-feed native videos
  • Hashtag challenges
  • Branded lenses (2D, 3D and AR)

But for now it’s very expensive and pretty exclusive.

So in the meantime, organic opportunities to connect with such a highly engaged audience are a definite incentive.

Also, although the audience is younger overall and not necessarily in a “purchase frame of mind”, TikTok still offers important advantages from a commercial point of view.

By joining in with the fun, brands can connect with future customers on a peer-like level, building loyalty that will pay off in both the short and long term.

If you learn the ropes early, you’ll also have an advantage over competitors by already being in the swing of things by the time by the time advertising goes mainstream. You’ll also be able to test and monitor content to see what works.

Already thinking “that’s great, but TikTok’s just not right for us”?

Consider this…

Almost any business type can become a success on the platform.


Watch and learn from these guys

If the Washington Post can nail it at 142 years old, you have no excuse!

The publication churns out videos like you wouldn’t believe thanks to Dave Jorgenson and the team. And the best part is, they’re actually hilarious.

@washingtonpostYou got this, Drew ##newspaper♬ Taking Chances – Céline Dion

Initially it may sound off-brand for a hard-hitting newspaper to be creating light-hearted content… but don’t be fooled.

The combination of child-like humour, breaking news and insider sneak-peeks are the perfect recipe for a successful and native TikTok profile. They’ve even got senators joining in on the action too.

But just because you might not be a content-making business like The Washington Post, doesn’t mean you can’t take off on TikTok. The opportunity is there for everyone whose business is relevant at least in some way to a younger demographic.

e.l.f. cosmetics proved this when it teamed up with agency Movers+Shakers and TikTok’s own marketing team to create the fastest TikTok campaign to reach one billion views to date.

Enter the #eyeslipsface challenge.

Together they created a 15-second song in the style of popular platform songs with e.l.f’s core principle at heart: cosmetics for every eye, lip and face.

@brittany_broskithis is me every time I beat my face lol ##eyeslipsface @elfcosmetics ##ad♬ eyes. lips. face. (feat. Holla FyeSixWun) – iLL Wayno

Is it anything totally standout from other challenges on TikTok? Not really.

All that was needed to take part was for users to showcase their own eyes, lips and face in time to the song.

But that’s where the magic lies. It was simple, easy and contagiously fun. And it was oh-so TikTok.

With the help of a few paid influencers the ad campaign went wild.

We’re talking 3 million user generated videos. And people got super creative. Responses ranged from sexy to ridiculous, even celebs like Reese Witherspoon couldn’t resist joining in.


Revealed: the big secret to TikTok success

The secret can be summed up in just one word…


Authenticity is the driving force behind TikTok, and it’s a make or break factor for brands.

As quickly as users will call each other out for being fake or missing the mark, they’ll do the same to brands too.

Take note of this.

Your content needs to feel authentically you and authentically TikTok. You’re in for a tough time if you get one or the other wrong.

Being authentically you could be an issue for those confined by rigid and corporate brand policing, which can make it difficult to show a more human and creative side. But being authentic doesn’t mean you have to give up your brand guidelines or risk reputational damage.

Far from it!

Instead, use your brand differentiators as the inspiration to produce great content that shows everyone what makes you extraordinary.

That is what will set you apart you from other brands on TikTok.

Remember that consumers these days are ready to make genuine connections. But you need to give them reasons to buy into you and your values, as opposed to just your products.

Now, in terms of being authentically TikTok, you’ll need a platform-specific strategy and content bank.

For a long time it’s been too easy (rightly or wrongly) for brands to repurpose posts across multiple platforms. And mimic the approach on each too.

When it comes to TikTok, that’s a big no-no.

You’ll need a dedicated strategy so you can produce and publish the kind of content users want to see.

Not sure how to even begin? Don’t worry.

Keep reading and we’ll get you up and running in no time.


TikTok starter kit

Here’s a 6-step plan to get you started on TikTok.

Step 1: Get to grips with TikTok

Obviously the best way to check out the competition and how the app’s used is to have a look for yourself.

Sign up. Start scrolling. Follow some people. Play around.

If you don’t start understanding the nature of TikTok, it’s likely you’ll blindly create the perfect YouTube vid instead. And that just won’t cut it.

Learn by watching and experimenting. Your organic business profile is the best place to find your feet before you eventually apply those ad dollars.

You’ll also want to prep your team to take on TikTok. As a minimum, you’ll need:

  • Camera (smartphone will do)
  • People willing to star in your videos
  • Plenty of concept and theme ideas

At the next level up, we’d be talking music production equipment, editing software and comedy writers.

Step 2: Get hashtag savvy

It might feel old school but hashtags are key to getting your content seen. Especially when using a platform as trend-focused and timely as TikTok.

One thing businesses do time and time again is focus on brand-specific hashtags. But this is never enough.

At the most basic level, you should use hashtags that relate to your content (dur!). If you want people to find what you’re making, you need to label it correctly.

Next, use the hashtags your target market is using. Do your research to find popular hashtags that ideally aren’t over-saturated or spammy. Choose ones that link to what your customers are interested in.

But be sure to use appropriately. If your video is about the Antarctic, please don’t use #nailart.

Last but not least, mix it up! Test a mixture of niche and popular hashtags to see what gets you the best reach and result. Experimenting is the key to any content development.

Step 3: Get on top of the latest trends

I’ve mentioned how TikTok culture is based on allowing everyone to take part, right? Well your company is no exception.

Don’t sit on the sidelines watching everyone else.

Be part of the conversation.

Get involved and join in the fun.

Staying on top of the latest challenges and topics will push your reach above and beyond.

But if you really want to level up your TikTok game, make trends of your damn own.

Become a content leader and then you’re really winning.

Step 4: Get in with the right influencers

You’ve probably noticed already that things work a little differently on TikTok.

And that goes for influencers too.

Unlike on Instagram, this isn’t about pretending someone uses [insert product]. #ad.

Again, it all comes down to authenticity.

Leverage influencer power to promote your brand’s challenges, how-tos and topics. It’s a lot different to the direct hard sell often seen on social.

Picking the right influencers who are a hit with your market can make your campaign skyrocket. And this links to knowing your audience, and TikTok’s audience, inside out.

Influencer marketing is perfect if you have budget to spend but still can’t access the advertising dashboard.

Paying for services or gifting your items can be handled outside the app. And the content created as a result is authentic (ding, ding, ding!) as hell.

If you don’t believe me, google “Chipotle #GuacDance” right this second. Avocado condiment orders rose 68% in one day alone. How? One word: influencers.

All you need to do is research and make contact. Lucky for you, I happen to know an agency that can help [wink emoji]

No budget to spend? No problem. Put energy into your own challenges and trends. Make them engaging enough and influencers will follow organically.

Step 5: Get creative

You have 15 seconds (okay, up to 60 if you stitch clips together) to do something cool enough to get everyone watching.

What’s it going to be?

Let your imagination run wild because there are no limits to how creative you can be on this platform.

Leave the corporate mentality behind and let loose. This is your brands’s chance to show its fun, silly, wacky side.

Take advantage to the max.

There’s really only one rule to remember: veer as far away from traditional-looking ads as you can. Direct selling is the quickest way to become TikTok enemy #1.

So for best results, get your team’s most creative minds on the job.

Step 6: Get going!

If you’ve covered steps 1-5, there’s nothing left to do but start filming and hit publish!

Give your profile some time to build traction and, as with any social media activity, be sure to monitor, test, trial, tweak and analyse.

Other than that, just enjoy! We can’t wait to see you TikTok-ing sometime very soon.