TikTok marketing: The ultimate guide
TikTok marketing: The ultimate guide

When it comes to marketing, one social media platform holds the keys to the kingdom. With over a billion monthly active users, TikTok has proven that it’s not just for lip-syncing teens. 

In fact, according to apptopia’s global list, TikTok had 656 million downloads in 2021 alone. Thus, earning the title of the world’s most downloaded social media app. If this data tells us anything, it’s that TikTok is one of the best marketing tools for businesses. 

In this guide, we break down everything you need to know about TikTok marketing. From TikTok marketing strategy to the benefits of TikTok for business, we’ve got you covered.

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What is TikTok?

Let’s start with a quick overview of what TikTok is. The home of lip-sync videos, viral dance trends, and wacky challenges, TikTok is a video-sharing platform that became an instant hit with Gen Z. And this popularity hasn’t waned, with Gen Zers making up a whopping 37.3 million of TikTok’s 78.7 million users in the US.

For the uninitiated, TikTok has been touted as Vine’s younger, prettier sibling. Vine, which closed its doors in 2017, was the platform du jour for millennials across the globe. The video-sharing platform allowed creators to share six-second looping videos, sparking a wealth of creative and amusing content. With both platforms focused on short video content, comparisons between the two platforms were inevitable. 

In fact, many of TikTok’s most famous creators started out on Vine. Take the hilarious creator Quenlin Blackwell who began her rise to fame on Vine as @quensadilla. She has successfully managed to transition from Vine to TikTok, growing her five hundred thousand Vine followers to a staggering 7.7 million TikTok followers.

In short, TikTok has experienced exponential growth since it burst onto the scene. Powered by an increasing distrust for ads, the platform has become the best marketing platform for brands. The raw, uncut style of TikTok video content resonates particularly well with Gen Z who trusts influencers more than traditional ads.

A brief history of TikTok

Are you ready to take a trip down memory lane? We’re breaking down the history of TikTok and its rise to global fame. 

TikTok was originally launched in China in 2016 under the name Douyin. The platform quickly gained mass appeal, prompting its parent company ByteDance to launch an international version a year later.

The story doesn’t end there. 

TikTok then managed to do what very few Chinese apps have done before. It broke into overseas markets. In November 2017, TikTok acquired Musical.ly for a billion dollars. This acquisition allowed TikTok to import eighty million users, mostly located in the US, into the platform. The rest is history.

What may have started out as a video-sharing platform, has blossomed into a video-service platform and leading marketing platform offering content for every niche imaginable.

That’s not to say it has been all smooth sailing for the platform. 

TikTok has been on the receiving end of a number of controversies. The platform was banned in India and Pakistan in 2019 for “morality issues”. It also almost had to sell its operations in the US to a holding company following Trump’s executive order, although this was later overturned by the Biden administration.

Here’s a quick recap. Despite setbacks, bans, and a number of clones hitting the market, TikTok continues to reign supreme as the fastest-growing app in the world.

What is TikTok for business and why should your brand leverage it?

If your business isn’t leveraging TikTok for business, you could be missing a trick. 

We’ll explain how. 

TikTok for business is a part of the platform specifically designed for advertisers. It guides marketers on how to create a TikTok marketing strategy. Using its eLearning center, businesses can learn everything from TikTok advertisement to setting budgets for Tiktok marketing campaigns. In a nutshell, the platform walks businesses through the full ad creation process.

So what’s the point of TikTok for business? 

According to TikTok, its goal is to empower brands to get creative by showing them how to make authentic ads that engage viewers. With the help of TikTok promotion, TikTok Ad management, and the recently announced Marketing Partner Program, the platform is opening up for advertisers. Marketers can now choose from five different formats to create their ads.

However, since TikTok marketing is a relatively new phenomenon, many businesses are still figuring out the different types of TikTok ads and how best to use them. To give you some inspiration, we’ve broken down each type of ad and some of the best TikTok ad examples below.

1. Top View Ads

Top View ads are videos that aim to boost brand exposure. Rather than bombarding users with an ad as soon as they open the app, Top View ads appear as the first in-feed posts after three seconds. Following that, the ads appear on TikTok’s For You page (FYP), filling the entire screen and lasting for as long as sixty seconds with auto-play and sound.

V Energy is a great example of how Top view ads should be used.

In 2020, V Energy partnered with TikTok to host the very first TikTok New Year’s Eve live show. As part of a larger campaign that utilized several ad formats, V Energy used Top View Ads to promote the show. The brand challenged creators to come up with their own V Energy trick shot and later transformed the content into a TopView ad, prompting the hashtag #VMakeItHappen.

The ad was a huge success. V Energy gained five thousand new followers just one day after the TopView ad went live.  What’s more, the TikTok NYE show became the 2nd most-watched live stream in Australia. 

Source: https://www.tiktok.com/business/en-GB/inspiration/v-energy-342 

Bottom line: There are plenty of perks to Top View ads. Not only can businesses put their brand front and center with no competing content, but they can tap into a wide audience. With an engaging ad, TikTok’s Top View ads can skyrocket brand awareness in next to no time.

2. In-Feed Ads

In-feed ads are short five to fifteen-second ads that appear on TikTok’s FYP for one day only. Users are directed to the ads when they open the app. The ads are full-screen, vertical videos that allow users to like, comment, share and engage with the videos.

In-feed ads are popular among advertisers because they can add a Call To Action (CTA) button to the video, driving conversions. Brands can get creative with in-feed ads, adding multiple CTA buttons to encourage viewers to download your app, shop now, or visit your website. 

Adobe had monumental success using in-feed ads during its #WomenCreate campaign to celebrate female creativity. To kick it off, Adobe asked micro-influencers like @kopperfinch to share their work and personal experience of imposter syndrome. Then, the content was turned into in-feed ads with a link to Adobe’s landing page. The ads garnered over a million video views, sixteen thousand clicks, and a spot in the TikTok ‘Top Ads’ showcase.

@kopperfinch

Trying my best to say sayonara to imposter syndrome so I made a sound #australian #digitalcreative #impostersyndrome #womencreate #iwd2021 @adobe

♬ original sound – Kopper Finch

Recap: In-feed ads offer advertisers a golden opportunity to add CTAs to video content, reach a wide audience, and create ads that appear native to the creator.

3. Hashtag challenges

Hashtag challenges give brands exclusive access to a hashtag. Using this popular ad format, businesses can create custom challenges and invite TikTok users to create content in response to the TikTok challenge. Popular challenges include dancing or doing something that lines up with the brand and posting the video with the accompanying hashtag. Hashtag challenges run for six days.

Branded hashtag challenge ads appear at the top of the discovery page. When users click on a hashtag, they are directed to a TikTok landing page. From there, they can watch other videos using the same hashtag challenge.

Here’s an example.

Having only ever posted three videos on the platform, Hewlett Packard (HP) isn’t exactly known for its TikTok prowess. However, as the official technology sponsor for Coachella 2022, it made a splash with its #HPCoachellaDreamland challenge. 

As part of two experiential marketing campaigns, HP set up ​​a pop-up installation at Coachella to encourage festival-goers to take a rest from the festival and get creative. It partnered with famous TikTok influencers like Kyle Huber and OurFire to kick off the challenge. With over one hundred and seventy-six million views, the #HPCoachellaDreamland hashtag challenge was a roaring success.

@ourfire

sometimes we need to step into our dream to make it a reality like us at #HPCoachellaDreamland ☁️#ad

♬ Underwater – RÜFÜS DU SOL

To sum up: Hashtag challenges are a creative way to boost engagement and build brand awareness. 

4. Brand takeovers

TikTok brand takeover ads pop up when users open the app, taking over the full screen for several seconds before turning it into an in-feed video ad. They also appear on TikTok’s FYP. Brands can choose between GIFs, static images, or a three to five-second video, adding a link to their website. 

Makeup brand Too Faced had major success with a brand takeover ad to promote its new cruelty-free lip-pumping gloss. The ad achieved staggering results, with over a million clicks and an 18.38% clickthrough rate.

Source: Jungletopp

In a nutshell: Brand takeover ads grab users’ attention with a strong visual image. This builds mass awareness and makes it easier for users to recall a brand’s ad. 

5. Branded effects

TikTok branded effects allow brands to create an ad using custom filters, lenses, and shareable stickers. Using branded effects, businesses can utilize 2D, 3D, or AR effects to add product images to their TikToks. The ads can last up to ten days.

Netflix created a branded effect to go alongside its branded hashtag challenge #TribesChallenge. The objective was to promote a new show airing in Germany called Tribes of Europa. A team of German TikTokers used Netflix’s bespoke branded effect and the #TribesChallenge hashtag to kick off the campaign. The campaign saw a startling one and a half billion video views.

@its_trixi

#TRIBESCHALLENGE My style, My Tribe: The Origines! Choose your Tribe ☺🙈 Be part of my Tribe & tag me and @NetflixDe #Anzeige #TribesOfEuropa

♬ Tribes of Europa – Clinton Shorter

Review: Branded effects engage audiences and spark creativity. Users can have fun with the effects to make unique videos, while the brand gets high-quality user-generated content.

Benefits of TikTok marketing for your brand

Thanks to the tremendous growth the platform have seen since its birth, TikTok has a massive audience for brands to tap into: a highly engaged audience too. With an engagement rate of nearly 18% with micro-influencers on the platform, that is reason enough for your business to define a killer TikTok strategy. 

In this section, we touch on just some of the benefits of TikTok marketing for your business.

1. Boost brand awareness

TikTok marketing can build brand awareness, driving traffic to your website and other social media platforms. The proof is in the pudding. Brands that have successfully made the leap to TikTok are already seeing phenomenal results,

Take the language-learning app Duolingo.

Thanks to a rather genius TikTok strategy and an iconic green owl, Duolingo has fast become one of the most talked-about brands on TikTok. Duolingo’s rise to TikTok mega fame is largely due to its creative social media team who expertly jumps on the latest trends and actively interacts with users. 

Duolingo may have already been a household name before it began its TikTok campaign, but that’s not to say fledgling businesses can’t get a slice of the pie. It’s not only big-name brands that can achieve viral status. In fact, almost anyone can go viral on TikTok with the right content. Regardless of follower count.

Candy Me Up did just that. Not long after opening her candy business, owner Nema Causey was on the brink of closing due to the pandemic. In a bid to save her business, she turned to TikTok. 

Nema jumped on the Jelly Fruit Challenge viral trend, posting consistent content that targeted her niche audience: candy lovers. She quickly gained almost a million followers, enabling her to pivot to e-commerce. Thanks to her valiant efforts, she now receives a thousand orders a day from TikTok.

@candymeup

Reply to @mtmkidsmag Thank you!!! LINK IN BIO ORDER!!!!!!!

♬ original sound – CandyMeUp

2. Tap into new audiences

TikTok has long been known as the Gen Z platform. And, while roughly 37.3 million TikTok users are Gen Zers, data indicates the average age of users is increasing. Interestingly, 42% of users are now aged between thirty and forty-nine

What does that tell us? These figures suggest that TikTok is fast becoming a cross-generational app. Therefore, brands can reach audiences across a wide range of age groups.

Guess witnessed this firsthand in its 2018 #InMyDenim campaign.

During the week-long campaign, US users were directed to the #InMyDenim hashtag challenge when they opened the app. With the help of influencers such as Sharla May (the brains behind the famous @ourfire account), the brand challenged users to showcase their best Guess denim outfits using the hashtag #InMyDenim.

The campaign was a resounding success, racking up more than thirty-eight million views, over five thousand user-generated videos in six days, and 14.3% engagement. More importantly, Guess was able to connect with new Millennial and Gen Z audiences.

@ourfire

Don’t you wish getting ready was this easy? 😂❤️🔥 #inmydenim #sponsored @guess

♬ #inmydenim I’m a Mess – Bebe Rexha

3. Connect with audiences on a deeper level

TikTok is known for its creative branded challenges and user-generated content, both of which help businesses to connect with audiences on a deeper level.

In fact, data revealed that 56% of users and 67% of creators feel closer to brands they see on TikTok, responding particularly well to human, unpolished content. Data also found that 45% of users felt more connected to a brand when it offers value on the platform, such as educating them on a topic or product.

Since joining the platform, Chipotle has given us a masterclass in TikTok strategy for brands. Connecting with audiences in an entertaining and totally authentic way, the brand shares user-generated content, dance challenges, and Chipotle recipes. Audiences resonate particularly well with the behind-the-scenes footage Chipotle posts featuring actual employees, like this viral TikTok of a Chipotle crew member. 

4. Drive sales

If we’ve learned anything in recent years, it’s the power of the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag. With more than seven billion views, this hashtag has been behind brands from every niche selling out overnight. 

Beauty brand Clinique experienced this firsthand. 

Despite first hitting the shelves back in 1971, Clinique’s “Almost Lipstick” in Black Honey underwent a revival of epic proportions in September 2021. Thanks to TikTok users publicly heralding the shade as flattering for everyone, the hashtag #blackhoney gained over twenty-eight million users. 

Since becoming a firm favorite amongst TikTokers, the product has been flying off the shelves. 

@clinique

#BlackHoney looks great on everyone. 😍 The transparent pigment merges with the tone of your lips to create something yours alone. #CliniqueBlackHoney

♬ original sound – Clinique

5. Build community

TikTok has shown that there is a niche for everything. Whether it’s self-care, fashion, cleaning, or fitness, TikTok has it all. This is good news for businesses that want to tap into a niche audience. 

For example, Aquarium of the Pacific. The Aquarium shares fun and educational content that gives animal lovers a behind-the-scenes look at the life of its resident sea animals. As a result, it has created a community of highly-engaged followers.

6. Get feedback 

One of the biggest perks of TikTok is that it gives brands direct contact with users. This is a fantastic opportunity to get feedback from customers. Businesses can leverage this feedback to improve their products. Of course, not all feedback is created equal but it gives brands a golden opportunity to understand what their audiences want.

After Graphic Design graduate Emily Zugay made a hilariously sarcastic TikTok recreating famous brand logos, the NFL showed off its playful side by responding to the video. This led to Emily recreating the NFL’s logo and the official NFL account answering with a redesign of their own. The playful back and forth gained the NFL some new followers and showed that they respond to user feedback. Even if it is tongue in cheek.

How to create a killer TikTok marketing strategy

Ok, we admit that some of the most iconic brand moments on TikTok have been accidental (we’re looking at you Ocean Spray, and Fleetwood Mac). That being said, a killer TikTok marketing strategy is a surefire way to put your business on the map.

Follow these five steps to build your brand’s TikTok presence, nail TikTok influencer marketing, and achieve TikTok fame. 

1. Learn the landscape

The first step to achieving viral TikTok success is getting familiar with the landscape. A smart way to start is by researching your competitors. By getting to know who your competitors’ audience is and the content that they resonate with, you can tailor your TikTok strategy to engage these users. A word of warning, though. TikTok is all about originality, copying content is a major no-no.

Now you know who your audience is and how your competitors operate, you will need to learn how the TikTok algorithm works. This will increase your brand’s chances of going viral and maybe even get featured on TikTok’s For You page.

2. Set goals 

TikTok isn’t all fun dance challenges. In order to leverage the full marketing potential of the platform, your business needs to set clear goals. Your goals should be aligned with business objectives. For example, is your main goal to reach new audiences? Or perhaps you want to promote a new product? Does your business need to improve its brand image? 

Put simply, setting goals will form a clear roadmap for your TikTok marketing strategy and keep you on track.

3. Find your niche

As we’ve already seen, you name the niche and TikTok has an audience for it. When developing a TikTok strategy, your brand should find its niche audience. This will boost the chances of the TikTok algorithm pushing your content out to the right audience. What’s more, your brand is way more likely to get high engagement on content that is aimed at a certain audience. Businesses can use the TikTok marketing API to create customized segments that target specific audiences.

Here’s the thing about TikTok. It is a platform that celebrates creativity. So, get inventive with your content, see what works, and embrace the madness. 

The Fowlerville Library is an excellent example of a brand that experimented with content until it found what worked for its audience. The library created a series called “One Star Review” where they read one-star reviews for books and ask users to guess what the book is. With over ninety-one thousand TikTok followers, it’s clear Fowlerville found the content its followers want.

@fowlervillelibrary

EPISODE 26! Comment your guesses & we’ll post the reveal tomorrow & pin it in the comments! #library #librarytiktok #onestarreviewguesswho

♬ Classical Music – Classical Music

4. Define an influencer marketing strategy

Instagram may still be the leading platform for influencer marketing, but TikTok is snapping at its heels. So, why are 45% of marketers now using TikTok influencer marketing? The short answer is trust. 

Customers trust influencers and user-generated product reviews more than traditional ads. A great influencer marketing strategy should aim to provide customers with valuable, educational content and adopt a non-salesy approach. Additionally, the success of a brand’s influencer strategy will depend on the influencers they choose to work with. The best influencer partnerships are with creators who are aligned with your brand, message, and values. 

Gymshark has been slaying the Instagram influencer marketing game for a long time. In a bid to target a younger audience, it has turned its attention to TikTok. For its 2019 “66 Days: Change Your Life” challenge, Gymshark partnered with six fitness influencers with high TikTok followings. The influencer-led campaign was a triumph, with the campaign hashtag #gymshark66 amassing over forty-five million views.

@gymshark

We still can’t believe this happened 😮 tag your biggest supporter 💜 @demibagby #gymshark #gymshark66 #ladieswholift

♬ original sound – Gymshark

5. Consistent posting

What do all the biggest players on TikTok have in common? They post consistently. If your business wants to build a TikTok presence and grow its follower count, you will need to post high-quality content on a regular basis. 

There are two common questions you should ask when developing your TikTok content calendar: 

TikTok recommends posting one to four times per day, provided that the content is relevant and adds value to your audience. 

In terms of the best time to post, since TikTok is a global platform there isn’t really a set answer to that question. It really depends on how big your audience is and where they are located. 

6. Measure success

No TikTok marketing campaign is complete without analyzing the results. The platform provides TikTok analytics for business accounts to gauge how their content is performing. Using TikTok’s analytics dashboard, you can analyze key metrics such as profile visits, follower activity, and engagement on videos.

So, what should you do with this data? TikTok analytics can help your brand to improve. By understanding what type of content is getting the most views and when your followers are engaging, you can tailor your content to suit your audience.

Analyzing social media data can be time-consuming, especially for businesses with accounts on multiple platforms. A social media management tool offers a quick and easy way for businesses to see account statistics and measure how their content is performing.

Final thoughts

TikTok marketing has become one of the most powerful marketing tools for businesses. From driving sales to building brand awareness to connecting with your audience, the benefits for brands are undeniable. To leverage TikTok for business, you will need a creative TikTok marketing strategy and a bit of patience. Trust us, the results are worth it.

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Nicola Wylie

Nicola is a content writer and journalist with a SAAS focus. She harnesses data to tell compelling stories that inspire action ✨ You can usually find her researching the latest SaaS innovations and sharing her insights online 👩‍💻