Timely Topic: What Brands Need To Know About TikTok
If you haven’t downloaded TikTok yet, it’s very likely your tweens and teens have. Known as “Douyin” in China, where its parent company, ByteDance, is based, the video-sharing platform is among the fastest-growing social media apps across the world.
According to Sensor Tower, TikTok has been downloaded more than 1 billion times from the Apple Store and Google Play. Two-thirds of those downloads occurred last year alone—nestled between the number of Facebook app and Instagram app downloads (711 million and 444 million, respectively).
Needless to say, brands are taking note–particularly when it comes to TikTok’s potential for reaching the youth market.
“Gen Z and younger Millennials are an audience we are actively working to attract, and TikTok was the platform we knew we needed to meet them on,” said Grace Bateman, head of commercial content at Australian publishing house Pacific Magazines.
So What Is TikTok Exactly?
TikTok emerged from an app called Musical.ly, which was launched in 2014 by two Chinese entrepreneurs. In November 2017, Chinese tech company ByteDance acquired Musical.ly and absorbed it into its existing TikTok app. TikTok now has more than 10 offices worldwide, including in Beijing, London, Los Angeles, and Mumbai, with an office in Australia likely to open this year.
TikTok lets users create and share short (up to 15 seconds long) videos showcasing their lip-synching, comedy, and music talents. They can incorporate a vast array of songs, effects, and sound bites either from the app’s database or by uploading their own.
In its relatively short lifetime, TikTok has racked up some impressive statistics. In 2018, it was the fourth most downloaded app globally, and it also boasted the longest average session duration amongst the top social channels, at 294 seconds.
The app has enjoyed rapid expansion across Asian markets, as well. According to stats compiled by Influencer Marketing Hub, TikTok has 150 million active daily users in China and 20 million active users in India. In Thailand, one in seven people have downloaded TikTok–giving it more than 10 million downloads in a country with a population of 68 million.
Creativity And Community
The way TikTok works naturally fosters a sense of community and interactivity. Users can create “duets” by responding to each other’s videos and participate in challenges to make funny and engaging videos under one hashtag. See, for example, #haribochallenge, in which video creators arrange hundreds of gummy bears while Adele’s “Someone Like You” plays in the background.
“At its core, TikTok is a platform for creative, fun, and positive experiences. Brands we see having the most success are those that embrace the creativity and authenticity of the TikTok community,” a spokesperson for TikTok told CMO by Adobe. “TikTok’s immersive, short-form videos let brands express their content and voice creatively, using native formats, to reach new audiences, build brand affinity, and drive traffic off-platform.
In Australia, Pacific Magazines has launched its teen magazine Girlfriend and online beauty hub BeautyCrew on TikTok, creating and sharing weekly editorial content and tutorials. Pacific is also making client integration opportunities available through options such as native product integration in “how-to” videos and pre- and post-roll ads.
“We’ve already seen amazing results–more than 7.5 million organic views within our first month. We are so excited about where this platform is going that we have just launched commercial integration products so that our clients can partner with us to create TikTok content together,” Pacific’s Bateman said.
Is TikTok Right For You?
While TikTok’s playful and non-curated nature provides the perfect opportunity for brands to experiment, there are a few things brands should take into account, Bateman adds.
“It is not a premium content play, so luxury and conservative brands need to decide whether or not to lean into this style of content,” she told CMO by Adobe.
Another important point for brands is that TikTok–despite its $75 billion valuation and an anticipated IPO–doesn’t have a dedicated ad-platform (yet). This means marketers need to get creative with how they get the word out, such as by creating their own product placement and through native content opportunities.
And that they are. Clothing brand Superdry, for example, is using TikTok as a content production and influencer outreach platform while the advertising framework is still being built.
“By creating engaging branded video content on the TikTok platform, Superdry has been able to reach a new and highly engaged audience,” said Matthew Iozzi, Superdry PR and marketing manager.
Superdry launched its global brand profile on the platform in August, working with Australian influencer marketing agency Born Bred Talent to engage three high-profile TikTokers, who made guest appearances at Superdry’s newest Australian store.
“In the space of two hours, fans created over 250 pieces of branded Superdry content, gaining the new profile over 2,000 followers in less than 24 hours,” Iozzi told CMO by Adobe.
Such growth has never been experienced by the Superdry brand across other channels.
Creative product integration, versus outright plugging of a brand or product, also seems to be more effective on TikTok.
“My advice to ensure a successful TikTok campaign is to entertain first and sell second,” said Born Bred Talent founder Clare Winterbourn. “The TikTok marketing game is a relating game, and the most relatable, relevant, and replayable content will gain the most exposure. Brands who are too rigid, take themselves too seriously, and are not willing to adapt to the culture of the app will undoubtedly face challenges.”
According to Winterbourn, the platform is more naturally aligned with certain offerings, including digital or informative products, where the path to purchase is only one click away.
“For example, smartphone apps and digital products can be downloaded instantly after seeing a post, whereas you cannot purchase a can of [soda] or a new car as easily,” Winterbourn said. “Once TikTok moves into its next phase, where brands can directly sell from their own profile pages, there will be more opportunities for e-commerce to operate directly within the app.”