Should Your Brand Utilize TikTok?

Social media platforms come and go, and are a great way to promote your company. Some become an instant hit, others take a while to grow in popularity, and others sink into mediocrity. Coupled with the behaviors of viral media, it can be challenging to decide when and where to invest your time and resources.

A beloved meme, for example, might be used for years and years. Others may only last a few months. It’s the same for social media, with platforms like Quibi, Signal, Parlor and, of course, the major leagues including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

Yes, the big players are here to stay, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right place for your business to be engaging with audiences. TikTok, for instance, has become a downright sensation, but compared to some of the other platforms out there, it may or may not be right for your business.

What is TikTok, and what makes it right or wrong for a particular brand?

What Is TikTok?

At one time called Musical.ly, TikTok is an incredibly popular social media app, like Facebook or Twitter, where users constantly share bite-sized videos. At 15 seconds each, the videos run the gamut of comedy, music-inspired, political, and personal content.

It’s mobile-exclusive, so everything is shared, engaged with, and viewed through the mobile app. There is a basic web interface, but most of the experience happens on mobile.

The company makes money by offering in-app purchases. Users can buy proprietary coins for $1 up to $100, which they “tip” to their favorite content creators.

It was the most downloaded app in January 2020, and it has an install base of about 800 million active users. Those are some remarkable numbers. It makes a lot of sense for brands to at least consider marketing on the platform, especially if they want to appeal to the socially conscious younger generation.

Should Your Brand Utilize TikTok?

Consumers are tired of fake, cheap, and disingenuous marketing content. And with the world in a rather tumultuous state, it makes sense why. For that reason, many brands are now focused on creating authentic content above all.

With an emphasis on user-generated videos and anti-marketing marketing, TikTok is the perfect platform for building clout. It’s also unique in that there are no other types of content, besides the quick 15-second videos. However, its users can comment on, like, and share individual posts.

How do you know if it’s the right platform for your brand, though?

1. You Want a Community

Most TikTok trends and viral campaigns start with a single video, and then the community issues responses to the video. Duets, challenges, and clips that are edited or added onto are an excellent example of this in action.

It means that even though TikTok isn’t structured like a traditional community — think Facebook’s Groups — many of its users still engage as if it is. If you already have an active and supportive community, or you intend to grow one, TikTok is an excellent place to be.

2. You Have a Young Install Base

TikTok users are primarily young adults. The only other platform with a similar demographic is Snapchat, but people tend to spend a lot more time on TikTok.

If your core audience is in that age range, starting a TikTok brand account is one of the best things you can do to engage and interact with them.

3. You Prefer Influencer Marketing

Influencers on Instagram are a joke these days, but the marketing strategy works fantastic on TikTok, where content creators have a more personal stake.

Most of the trends involve a type of interaction, where one user will do something and then the community will either copy or follow up. This aligns well with influencer marketing, where creators are often seen buying, using, or endorsing various products and services, ultimately encouraging their followers to do the same.

4. You Understand Generation Z

Generation Z takes everything we know about successful and effective marketing and turns it on its head. They care about important social and cultural issues. They are interested in authentic, genuine, and realistic content. They’re family- and community-oriented, so they respond favorably to friends, family, and influencers.

Moreover, their attention is fragmented, and although they love to watch videos, they spend most of their time watching short TikTok and Instagram content rather than long-form media. Their interests are also erratic in some cases, which makes targeting them difficult.

An ineffective or poor attempt at reaching them can also have dire consequences. You don’t want to go viral for the wrong reasons, or because you’re out of touch. If you understand the generation, know what they’re looking for, and truly get how to engage with them, TikTok is your best bet.

5. Your Focus Is Local

TikTok may be used internationally, but local marketing seems to do best on the platform, particularly when it involves a niche community or focus. The proper use of hashtags and identifiable text when sharing content is key.

Where was the video taken? What store or location is featured? Why do locals care? Why would they want to visit and create content of their own?

When Brands Should Ignore TikTok

Like any social media network, TikTok is not ideal for every business or marketing venture. Here are some major flags that you should be avoiding TikTok.

1. Your Customers Are Over 30

If your customers are older, then TikTok isn’t going to give you a solid return. Yes, there are some elderly and middle-aged users, but the majority of the demographic is younger.

2. You Don’t Have the Time

The TikTok community thrives on personal, fast-paced viral events like memes, humor, and unfiltered, raw content. If you’re planning to spend your time creating cliched and overly branded content, then TikTok is not for you.

You must have time to invest in engaging with the community and creating highly personal content everyone can get on board with. A manager sharing videos about their day would be quite popular, for example. Similar videos where workers engage with customers or go above and beyond could also be a hit.

However, promoting product after product is not going to go well. The same is true for blatant advertisements.

3. You Don’t Follow Trends

To make an impact on TikTok, you must constantly be on top of viral trends. If a hashtag is trending, it’s time to create a post about it. If another user’s video is popular, it’s time to respond or follow up.

TikTok moves at lightning speeds, which means if you blink you can miss out on opportunities. You need to keep a pulse check on what’s happening at all times, which means you need to be ready to create fresh content all hours of the day and night. That’s easier said than done.

Ready to Begin?

So, there you have it! Those are some reasons why you should — and shouldn’t — invest time on TikTok. The good news is that if you decide not to, there are many other platforms to focus on.

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Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a prominent digital marketing agency prior to becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.

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