What TikTok’s revolutionary platform offers marketers

For marketers, the opportunity in adding TikTok to the media mix is its unparalleled ability to reach huge audiences on a new canvas, through a new breed of creative and authentic brand communications.

TikTok is a ground-breaking short form video platform fuelled  and sustained by the positive creative expression of its users. Joyful, irreverent, witty and entertaining user-generated content is the app’s entire reason for being and, it turns out, the key to its enormous popularity – according to market-intelligence provider Sensor Tower, TikTok is the most downloaded non-game app in the world this year. 

For marketers, the opportunity in adding TikTok to the media mix is its unparalleled ability to reach huge audiences on a new canvas, through a new breed of creative and authentic brand communications.  

Image: Marketing Week

Breakthrough global growth

TikTok is the world’s most downloaded video app, seeing explosive growth in global markets. Sensor Tower data shows it has achieved 2 billion total downloads globally. 

The TikTok principle is simple but compelling: ‘Inspire Creativity and Bring Joy’ is its mantra, which it does through a familiar-looking interface, with all the features users expect to see – such as swiping, liking, commenting and hashtags.  

Anyone who visits TikTok will know there’s no one thing that defines it. It’s an incredibly diverse world of creative videos and, because it’s based on a content graph not a social graph, with a clever algorithm, no individual’s experience is similar to the next. Yes, TikTok is an app for short form video on your phone, but it’s also much more. For users, it delivers amazing, personalised content; for Creators it gives a host of tools that allow them to get creative and experiment; it’s helping new artists get discovered and existing artists get rediscovered; and for brands it provides huge opportunity for creativity and audience engagement.  

TikTok’s real appeal comes in its authenticity, where everyone feels free to show their true selves. This often manifests in tongue-in-cheek humour and a feeling that anyone can get in on the joke (like dance-battling with your dad or putting Crocs shoes on your pet’s head). TikTok has an extensive array of in-app tools  including licensed music from global stars such as Lewis Capaldi and Dua Lipa, kooky soundbites, and branded effects, so users can create and upload looping, sound-on videos of up to 60 seconds. The unique ‘react’ feature then allows users to film themselves reacting to another TikTok video, and the extremely popular ‘duet’ feature displays two videos side by side as one person joins in with the other.

Image: Marketing Week

A place for authenticity and creativity

TikTok is a place where everyone belongs – it’s an inclusive platform that encourages users to be their authentic selves, while finding a community that does the same. Communities have sprung up around anything from comedy to dance, cooking, sport, fashion, animals and more.  

For example, in the sporting world, content creators include ice skaters, weightlifters, boxers and acrobats, who have all found their niche on TikTok and are producing inspired and inspirational videos. The recent Isolation Games challenge conceived by England hockey player Sam Ward (@Samuel_Ward13) saw Team GB (@TeamGB) partnering with TikTok in challenging users to go head to head with top athletes to recreate 2020’s cancelled summer of sport in their own homes. The hashtag (#isolationgames) received over 518 million views in just a few weeks and is still rising – a testament to the power of the platform to reach vast numbers of people. 

There’s also a thriving LGBTQ+ community featuring drag queens plus gay and non-binary couples, covering beauty, travel, fashion and more.  

Because it’s so diverse, users get to see glimpses into the daily lives of people they may not otherwise see. The main reason for this is that TikTok transcends the generational divide. Despite being thought of as a platform for the young, you get grandmas and grandpas doing the two-step, even whole families posting videos. TikTok viewers are gen Z, millennial, gen X, boomers and older. Just ask 87-year-old Joe Allington (@grandadJoe1933), the unwitting TikTok star whose humorous isolation videos have seen him gain a staggering 1.7 million followers since quarantine began.  

With users and Creators coming from all walks of life, TikTok is a place where cultural trends come alive. The content you find here is defining the zeitgeist before it reaches the mainstream, providing a launchpad for musicians such as Lil Nas X, whose track ‘Old Town Road’ started as a TikTok meme before becoming a breakout hit.  

Scroll through the videos, and you’ll pick up on massive global trends, from culinary crazes – such as Korean-style Dalgona whipped coffee – through to the newest dances. Just take Drake’s new single ‘Toosie Slide’. A short snippet of the song appeared on a TikTok video posted by the Atalanta hip-hop dancer, Toosie, a few days before its release. In it, he and friends are doing a simple dance step to the then-unnamed song. The song fragment and dance instantly went viral on TikTok and beyond. After its release, Drake confirmed he had commissioned the clip in the full knowledge it would make ‘Toosie Slide’ a TikTok hit before its official release. 

The variety and inherent virality of its content means that what happens on TikTok rarely stays on TikTok. Cross-platform sharing means videos are regularly posted on other social networks, such as Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram – there are currently 46 million posts with the hashtag #TikTok on Instagram. A brand’s TikTok content can trend globally, on multiple apps, in a matter of hours. What happens on TikTok today will be driving global cultural conversation tomorrow. 

TikTok is a highly effective way for brands to expand their appeal to new audiences. By embracing the joyful spirit of the platform, brands can demonstrate themselves to be in tune with the open and inclusive attitudes of today’s consumers. It’s a place where they, like the users, can be their authentic selves. 

The key role of Creators

Creators are one of TikTok’s biggest selling points for brands seeking to partner with users who have built engaged communities. Creators are the beating heart of TikTok’s global community. Their ingenuity helps make TikTok an entertaining, inspiring platform for people around the world, while encouraging others to join in and express their own creativity.  

Creators come from different fields of interest and expertise and can help brands create content, impact millions of fans, bring credibility to and even shift brand perceptions.  

Remarkably, their ability to do this has not been affected in anyway by the global lockdown. The shelter-in-place order makes no difference to Creators, as TikTok, by its very nature, is an indoor platform. Creators have always filmed themselves goofing around at home or in their bedrooms. This is part of their attraction; their videos happen in the most familiar of settings, their own home or street. Creators are not bragging or broadcasting their ‘best life’, quite the opposite. They’re making fun, relatable content with the aim of amusing, entertaining and educating. A glamorous location adds nothing to the quality of their content. 

TikTok‘s unique video format empowers Creators with authentic self-expression, which builds a more close and trustworthy relationship between them and their audiences. TikTok now has its own ‘Creator Marketplace’ where brands can find the right Creators to work through evaluating their follower numbers and demographics.  

For Creators’ content – as with all user-generated content, organic branded content and indeed ads – the name of the game on TikTok is fun. Marketers who understand this quickly and develop a tone of voice that suits the platform can make a real connection with an advertising-fatigued global audience with an unquenchable thirst for snackable content.

The innovative ad formats available to brands

Once a brand establishes its presence on the platform, they are ready to start exploring TikTok’s suite of pioneering ad formats. Each of these six offerings complements and amplifies content in a different way, allowing brands to experiment with and develop their communication in the TikTok universe.

TopView: This premium placement will be the first video a user sees when opening the app, before merging into the first video of the feed. It offers the largest possible canvas, occupying the whole screen for up to a minute, allowing brands to deliver the purest expression of their creativity. Balenciaga, Apple, Samsung, Adobe and Universal Pictures are all getting in on the action.

Hashtag Challenge: The most popular format, allowing people to see a brand’s personality, it involves creating a video with a sponsored hashtag and encouraging users to share content under the same hashtag. Converse, Nike, Mercedes, Clarins and Subway are just a few of the brands that have already run one of these campaigns to great effect.

Hashtag Challenge Plus: This enables brands to integrate a Branded Effect into a Hashtag Challenge to generate more brand-related conversations, drive engagement and empower user intent.

In-Feed Video: Exactly as it sounds, this allows brands to place their videos within a user’s personalised ‘For You’ feed so they appear natively alongside user-generated content. Sound-on and full screen, they can be accompanied by the brand name and a short description or call to action to click through.

These ads can be created in the TikTok Ads platform, and can be targeted by variables such as operating system, gender, age, network, location, device and interest, and by more than 500 industrial category labels.

In-Feed ads can also be set to target custom and lookalike audiences, and be optimised towards conversion goals – for example, an app download or a click-through to a landing page.

Branded Effect: This allows brands to create elements such as filters or augmented reality objects that users can add to their videos. Examples include Face Zoom, Green Screen and Disco effects.

Business Privilege: Brands that reach a minimum ad spend threshold get Business Privilege status. This verifies branded accounts with a certified blue ‘V’ badge. These accounts enable brands to gather all of their branded content together on their TikTok page, while customising it with a purchase link and pin-to-top videos. They can also analyse follower distribution and monitor content performance on a data-management platform.

A growing number of industry-leading brands, including McDonald’s, Selfridges, Mercedes-Benz and Complex are all taking advantage of this great facility. However, if these powerful brands aren’t proof enough of this option’s effectiveness, perhaps Apple recently joining their ranks with its own Business Privilege TikTok account will persuade you. Let’s face it if the tech giant recognises the advertising potential of the platform, who can argue? It’s time to get on TikTok.

Source: Marketing Week

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