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TikTok: Everything your small business needs to know

7 minute read

Monique Holtman

Originally launched in 2016, TikTok has been described as ‘the Instagram for the mobile age’. The platform allows users to create short-form mobile videos where they can showcase their lip-sync, dancing and comedy talents as well as participate in challenges.

Featuring stickers, filters and augmented reality, individuals can get really creative with their content.

Most of the app’s users are young – 41% are in fact aged between 16 and 24. This has been an intentional move by the creators who chose under-18s as their target audience from the very beginning. Ranked one of the fastest growing social media platforms in the world with more than 500 million active users worldwide, TikTok clearly understands the younger generation.

What about TikTok for business however? Should it be part of your social media strategy? How does it work and what type of content should you be creating? Below I’ll cover everything you need to know.

How does TikTok work?

The aim of TikTok is to create and share vertical, looping videos between 15 and 60 seconds long. With an extensive editing toolkit, a huge music library and a large selection of filters, stickers, GIFs, emojis and other effects, users can fine-tune their content to clever and comedic effect.

Videos and slideshows can be uploaded or created in the app with stop and start recording, timers and other effects.

The site’s extensive music library and integration with Apple Music is where the app really stands out from other social media platforms however. Users can add, remix, save and discover songs via playlists, videos and more. 

Just as with any social media platform, engagement plays a big role on TikTok. Users can follow accounts, give hearts, comment, post reactions and share other videos.

Some accounts also have the ability to livestream on TikTok but you need to have at least 1,000 followers before you can do this.  

To find out how to use TikTok for business, have a read of this step-by-step guide which explains everything from how to set up a profile and search for videos to creating your own content and participating in duets and challenges.

The video below is also a great introduction to the site, ideal if you’re new to the platform:

Is TikTok right for my business?

With Gen-Z heading to TikTok to embrace their creative side, more and more brands are starting to experiment with the site as well. The likes of Elf Cosmetics, Guess, HP, Gymshark and Nike are using the platform to engage with younger audiences and show their lighter side.

Is the platform right for you however? It may be worth getting yourself a TikTok account if:

  • First and foremost, Gen Z is your target demographic. This is the younger generation born from 1995 who have known and loved technology since they were born.
  • Your KPIs align with the platform. What makes TikTok for business different from other social media platforms is that it’s great for increasing brand awareness. There’s less of an emphasis on generating traffic or leads. It’s more about posting funny videos and participating in challenges than promoting a specific product or service.
  • It’s fitting for your business. There are some companies which have to stay professional and a fun video platform therefore might not be appropriate. It’s also worth considering whether or not your business is visual. For example, an accountant may struggle to generate content on TikTok whereas a bakery has lots of different products they can get creative with.
  • You have time to integrate a new social media channel into your marketing plan. How often will you be able to post? Do you have time to check in and engage with your followers and those who are creating content for you? If the answer is no, you’re better off focusing on your existing marketing activities rather than trying to learn and manage a brand new platform.

What are the benefits of TikTok for businesses?

One of the greatest benefits of TikTok for business is that you can really have some fun with your marketing campaigns. Creating and sending out entertaining videos is a great way to attract followers, ensure your brand is memorable and build lasting relationships with your customers. Best of all, you don’t need any specialist equipment to create great videos, the app does everything for you.

What’s more, you’re far more likely to go viral with a video, especially if you attach a challenge to it (like the ice bucket challenge for example). If you’d love to create content that captures the attention of huge audiences, have a read of ‘The recipe to creating viral online marketing campaigns for small businesses.’

Another big benefit of TikTok for business is that if you manage to create a challenge that people love, your content is created for you. Take Pepsi India for example. They created the #SwagStepChallenge where users make a Swag sign using their hands which triggers Pepsi branded sunglasses. When they nod their head, the glasses also flip in the air.

Pepsi recruited Indian film actor, producer and television personality, Salman Khan to be their brand ambassador and he regularly encouraged his followers to take part in the challenge. Other popular creators such as Nisha Guragain took part in the challenge and with nearly 22 million followers, it meant the campaign really took off. #SwagStepChallenge became the fastest brand hashtag challenge to reach one million uploads and it currently has over 36 billion views on TikTok.

As with all the other social media platforms, users can search hashtags to find content they’re interested in. This means that if you’re using the right hashtags, new followers should be able to find you easily.

Just like Instagram, TikTok has a discover page. Videos are categorised by topics such as food, beauty, sports, animals, fitness and art which means that people can find your content easier – providing you’re using the right hashtags of course. You can also see how many times the hashtags have been used which gives you a good indication of trending and popular topics.

TikTok Discover

Last but not least, if you set up your profile as a business account, you can get some very helpful analytics about your content and followers. Being able to understand your followers better and analyse the content they’re engaging with means that you’ll be able to establish an effective and successful TikTok strategy.

What are the cons of TikTok for businesses?

Because you’re creating video, learning how to use TikTok can be time consuming. There are lots of different features to familiarise yourself with as well as camera angles, lighting and editing. You also need to be very creative to get noticed. If creativity isn’t your strong point, TikTok might not be appropriate for your business.

Another downside to TikTok is that your posts are limited to 100 characters. While you can write much longer blocks of text on Facebook and Instagram, you don’t have space to say much on TikTok. This means that again, you need to get really creative with your copywriting.

You can’t include a link to your website on your posts or anywhere in your account. You can however include links to your Instagram and YouTube channels and this will show up as a button on your profile.

How could my business use TikTok?

If you’ve decided to give it a go, below I’ve listed some great suggestions for how to use TikTok as a small business.

1. Challenges

Hashtag challenges are incredibly popular on TikTok and they have the potential to go viral very quickly. You can try creating your own like Pepsi India did or if there’s a popular one going around at the moment, it’s worth participating in (providing it’s appropriate to your business).

Some hashtag challenges which went viral in 2019 include:

  • #HariboChallenge – people arranged hundreds of gummy bears as a crowd while Adele (also a gummy bear) sings ‘Someone Like You.’ This challenge has received nearly 45 million views on TikTok and is great publicity for Haribo even though they didn’t start the campaign themselves.
  • #FakeTravel – users pretending to fly in a plane when they’re actually sat at home was so popular these videos have received nearly 200 million views so far. 
  • #MicrowaveChallenge – this caught on very quickly and involved people spinning themselves around like a microwave plate to the song by Japanese artist, Joti, ‘Slow Dancing in the Dark.” With nearly 250 million views, this is a perfect example of how participating in these challenges can help you to reach out to new audiences on TikTok. 

2. Duets

This feature allows users to create videos and play them in a split-screen format next to another video. Some people choose to duet with people they know and deliberately leave room for another person to be built into the clip. Others take this opportunity to duet with their favourite celebrity.

When using TikTok for business, duets offer a great way to collaborate with other industry professionals, influencers, clients you’ve worked with and happy customers. You can also use it as a fun and creative way to answer some commonly asked questions.

3. React videos

A really great way for businesses to engage with other users is through react videos. Rather than simply clicking ‘like’ on someone’s post, you can record your reaction. This is a far more personal way of engaging with other accounts and it means they’re more likely to remember you.

Customers will also be able to send you their reactions which acts as great feedback for your content. What’s more, they can customise your video based on their reaction and then share it on their profile. This is a fantastic way to get other users to generate content for you and increase brand awareness.

4. Influencer marketing

Using someone with a large following to promote your product or service is a great way for companies to reach out to a lot of people, attract new followers and improve brand awareness.

A brand which has done this really well is the American cold and flu medicine provider, Mucinex. Over the flu season last year, they worked with a handful of popular creators to promote their product. 

If you’ve never done this type of marketing before, have a read of this blog, ‘Should your business or brand be considering influencer marketing?’ You can also learn how to choose and approach potential influencers in this Instagram marketing guide.

5. Advertising 

A big benefit of TikTok for business is that you can advertise on the platform to grow brand awareness and reach new audiences. It’s similar to other social media advertising and Google AdWords in the sense that you can create different campaign types, add keywords, choose your budget and even select an advertising objective (such as driving traffic to your website or getting people to download your app).

You can also choose where your ads will display, target your ads to specific audiences and even schedule them to go out at a specific time. You can find out more about advertising on TikTok by visiting the website.

Summary

There certainly is a lot to get your head around when it comes to social media’s latest addition. Videos take a lot more time and effort to write and create than simply posting a photo with a caption.

You may also be concerned about the young demographic of the platform. It is however worth considering that some social media sites tend to be adopted by younger audiences first and then gradually make their mark on older users. If you have the time to invest in TikTok for business now, it could make sense to familiarise yourself with it in case it’s eventually embraced by older audiences too.

Mobile video consumption is also rising by 100% every year and online video is expected to make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2022. This means that regardless of whether or not you decide to embrace TikTok, video is definitely something that brands are going to have to familiarise themselves with.

After completing her degree in Journalism, Monique began her career at a digital marketing agency. It was here she discovered a passion for online marketing with a particular focus on content creation for the web. Six years ago Monique set up her own copywriting business, Copyworks Group, which specialises in creating content for websites, blogs, newsletters and social media pages.

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