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What’s The Deal With TikTok?

Let’s face it, unless you have been living in a cave for the past two years, you’ll be aware of TikTok – the rapidly growing video sharing app. You know, the one that features a random cascade of short video content comprising dance moves, skits and stunts. Tik Tok has seemed to have captured the attention of the world’s youth, including your kids. So, what’s going on and, more importantly, should you be in on the action?

Numbers, Big Numbers

TikTok has got large, very large very quickly since it went global in 2018:

  • 1.5 billion downloads
  •  800 million users
  • Available in 150 countries in 40 languages
  • Most downloaded app in 2018 – beating Snapchat and Instagram

What’s more, since lockdown due to CV-19, searches for TikTok have trebled. TikTok is now the second most downloaded app in the UK after Zoom. Approx. 66% of TikTok users are under 30 and a similar percentage of TikTok users are female.

How does it work?

TikTok users set up an account and upload short videos. Most videos are just 15 seconds or less (though you can share videos up to 60 seconds long). Often these videos consist of people lip-synching or dancing to music videos.

However, the content base has expanded with usage and this now includes all sorts of different skills and lifestyle. There are pranksters, magicians, comedians, artists, skateboarders, dancers, fashionistas, crafters, celebs and beauty experts. These all use the platform to share their video creations and demonstrate their skills. There’s a strong content bias towards humour and engagement. Content that works best is often shareable, but not deep, comedy – think dogs lip synching to songs etc. Most content has a ‘cut and paste’ raw and authentic, low production value quality that gels with the audience.

TikTok Influencers:

‘Influencers’ on the platform represent the more talented, more dedicated and technically proficient community members uploading original content. And in influencer style, we are seeing people sharing videos featuring them using their favourite products. Technically there’s also a lot of emphasis on content that creatively utilises content. From start/stop filming options, enabling effects like jumping locations, and quick change outfit hauls.

Hashtags are key as they are how you search through and find the most popular items on the platform. They can be inserted into videos and comments. By clicking the hashtags you are able to find all the related content.

In terms of promoting your content, spotting trending hashtags is a good way to generate traction. Trending hashtags (those that are prioritised) can appear as a result of paid promotion (which is expensive). Trending hashtags can also appear due to popularity. The key to getting a hashtag featured is to build its popularity. You can do this by going viral or through influencers.

Time to dip your toe?

So, should your brand be following the lead of the likes of Guess, Bulgari and Ralph Lauren? First question should probably be, is the TikTok audience relevant to you? Do you want to grab the attention of Gen Z-ers and what is there to gain? If the audience profile is currently not right for you – we’d suggest swerve it for now. Keep an eye on developments as platform demographics have a habit of evolving over time. What might not be right for now – might be right very soon.

Gen Z:

But if Gen Z-ers represent action you’d like your brand to have, now might be a good time to explore the possibilities, but beware it’s still a bit Wild West and you will need to have a defined plan and an idea of KPIs before venturing forth, as the platform’s quirky, random nature is not necessarily a great fit with all brands. However, that said, there’s three main ways that you can get involved, and at least while the platform’s new to you we’d always suggest exploring the medium in a small way initially and experimenting with content to see what performs best for you and being prepared to adjust as necessary – as you would with any digital advertising campaign.

Brand Channels:

Firstly, you can create your own brand channel and upload relevant videos through it. Test the water with content and what works and doesn’t for you, whilst carefully ensuring you don’t compromise your brand values.

Secondly, you can work with influencers, to spread your content to a broader audience, and this has proved a very popular approach with brands new into TikTok. You can match an influencer to your brand ethos and get a feel for reach whilst minimising any risk.

Thirdly, you can pay to advertise on TikTok – but remember this is still early days for TikTok advertising – and there isn’t a market yet like there is for YouTube. However, this will doubtlessly change over time.

The best bet might initially be to combine running your own channel with working with established TikTok influencers to spread your content and messaging to a broader audience. As for types of content, always remember that Gen Z-ers love the immersive experience. Engagement is key for them and you. If you can find a way to get your target customers to share videos of themselves using or interacting with your products in some way, it will result in maximum brand buy-in.

The importance of Hashtags

As we have already said, hashtags are big on TikTok and hashtag challenges are an essential and highly popular feature of the platform. Brands can also set hashtag challenges on TikTok. However, unless you have built up a popular TikTok channel, you will probably need to work with an influencer to kickstart it. Challenges can be anything from mastering a dance move to wearing an item of clothing, but the emphasis is obviously on interaction.

Once a #hashtag challenge has been launched on TikTok, people can participate with just a few clicks. You can also use influencers for Takeovers where you pay for the influencer to create content for your channel and then promote it for you through their audience. The thinking being that these influencers are best placed to create the sort of content that will resonate with the TikTok audience generally and you can channel their expert creativity to make the connection between brand and content.


Duets are another useful device that is popular on TikTok whereby a split screen of original and ‘invited in’ content creates an interesting interpretational dynamic. This leads to duel chain where one person duets another who is then dueted by another, providing a strong viral edge. Live streaming also forms a major part of the TikTok influencer ecosystem and although livestreams don’t garner as big an audience as posts, they can provide a good direct response and might be useful for things such as new product range releases etc.

Right now, TikTok is probably best for generating brand awareness rather than cold hard sales within the key 13-24-year-old demographic. Content-wise the safe bet is to hitch a ride on an existing TikTok influencer that is a good brand fit, but beyond this it’s important to understand the successful TikTok content DNA and establish how your own brand DNA can best be represented in this intriguing world where fun, heart, originality and quirkiness count more than high production values and gloss.

Here to help

If you’re looking to make your first brand steps into the colourful, madcap world of TikTok our social media team is here to help. Take a look at some of our social media case studies here or get in touch to discuss a possible TikTok brand strategy

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