Your essential TikTok guide
TikTok is rocking social media, leaving other platforms playing catch-up. This short-term video platform has broken download records, and is now the go-to app for connecting with customers and prospects. TikTok will help brands looking to present their products to a qualified and engaged audience. With an e-commerce and monetization model on the cards, brands need to up their game or get left behind.
ByteDance’s TikTok was launched in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. Downloaded more than 3 billion times, it’s one of the most popular video-sharing apps in the world.
In 2018, TikTok had a mere 55 million monthly users. June 2020 saw 700+ million monthly users. 2021?
Lockdown supercharged TikTok.
Hours can be lost on TikTok, as users scroll it’s dashboard, never running out of content. The TikTok algorithm uses AI to learn users’ interests, and present relevant videos. New challenges. New dance routines. It’s addictive.
Conversations about TikTok have increased since the end of 2017.
Gaining traction during H1, to peak in July 2021.
Analytics period: Aug 2016 - Jul 2021. Source: Social Media Trends 2022.
When the world moved online
On Twitter we shout, we’re mouthy, the noise makes your ears bleed. Instagram sees us posing, puckering up, self-promoting. TikTok… how crazy can you be?
When the pandemic forced us online for shopping, work, communication, and entertainment, social media became our lifeline. It kept communication channels open. We were informed.
And for entertainment? Yep. We went crazy. TikTok provided an antidote to our boredom.
TikTok gave us a place to release our frustration at being trapped. From the safety of our homes, we could learn a trending dance, share a joke, and try a new challenge.
TikTok gave us a place "to inspire creativity and spark joy."
Blake Chandlee, VP of Global Business Solutions and Head of Ad Sales
A platform that tempted Gen Z away from Instagram, TikTok became multigenerational. Adults flocked to the channel, celebrities - never missing an avid audience - followed. Inevitably, brands recognized the opportunity that a locked down audience presents, and got creative.
Okay, it’s time to demystify all things TikTok and break down some key information that you need to know about one of the most exciting players in the social media space now.
Table of contents
- Why TikTok?
- What is TikTok?
- Who uses TikTok?
- TikTok went viral with COVID
- Celebrities on TikTok
- How does TikTok work?
- What does a TikTok feed look like?
- How can brands use TikTok?
- Using TikTok for marketing
- How can influencers use TikTok?
- How to become a TikTok influencer
- Analytics tool
Media consumption is rising, as predicted by Nielsen’s US team, who stated that it would increase by up to 60% with people stuck at home.
While that will include old and familiar platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram - it’ll also be reflected in TikTok consumption.
TikTok became the first non-Facebook mobile app to reach 3 billion downloads globally.
According to Sensor Tower data, TikTok was the most downloaded app globally in Q1, 2021, with almost 383M first-time installs.
Q1, 2021, saw an estimated $919.2M in consumer spending.
Consumer spending has now surpassed $2.5 billion globally.
For our Social Media Trends 2022 Report, we spoke with Shant Oknayan, TikTok’s General Manager, Business Solutions, Middle East Africa, Turkey, and Pakistan.
“At TikTok, we believe that businesses of all sizes deserve to be discovered, and we empower brands to grow through creative content and storytelling. Today’s consumers are increasingly tech-savvy and place a premium on keeping up with the latest trends. They are also looking for short, fun, snackable content on the go. Combine these two forces and it becomes increasingly difficult for brands to compete for user attention, especially with ads - because people have told us time and time again, they don’t like ads.”
We don’t like ads!!!
It all started with Musical.ly, a short-form video streaming and sharing app that focused on lip syncing to music and sharing funny videos.
In August 2018, Chinese company ByteDance took over and migrated all user accounts and content to a new app. In China, known as Duyin, and TikTok across the rest of the world.
TikTok allows users - creators - to upload and edit short vertical videos - max 60 seconds - set to a background “sound.”
These sounds can be snippets of songs or voice-overs from TV shows, movies, or any sort of pop culture.
In addition to the sounds, creators have other creative elements available to them on the app such as filters, quick cuts, and stickers, that they can use to enhance their videos.
Creators can also record their own voices to upload a voiceover that can be used as a sound.
The types of videos that usually go viral on TikTok include dance routines created by an individual, then copied across the world with various creative spins.
But, TikTok isn’t a social media platform just for dance routines.
Most of the types of content you see on other social media platforms can be found on TikTok, but in a unique, short, and creative format.
From kitchen hacks and self-help videos, to comedy skits, beauty & fashion tutorials, you won’t struggle to find any genre of content on TikTok, delivered in raw ways you probably haven’t seen before.
TikTok is about self-expression and authenticity. Users create a TikTok to make people laugh or evoke shock. Creativity is the only rule.
You’ll sound smart if you say this 🤓 Follow for more ##facts♬ B.B.C. News Theme - TV Theme Tune Factory
Additionally, the platform has been used to fight misinformation about COVID-19. There is an in-platform feature that users can access for information from the World Health Organization.
Following my exclusive last week, I looked into the NHS nurses going viral, why TikTok are donating big £ and why coronavirus is bringing more British politicians onto the app for @BBCBreakfast ft. @tiktok_uk and @MattNavarra. Self-shot and edited by me ✌️ pic.twitter.com/GqPPLlpvGG— Sophia Smith Galer (@sophiasgaler) April 22, 2020
Official bodies also adopted TikTok as a platform on which to publish health information during the pandemic. Ex UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, shared videos encouraging people to stay at home. While the World Health Organization - WHO - with 2.9M followers, regularly posts videos promoting health and wellbeing.
It’s #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth 💗Subscribe to WHO @Viber chatbot on women’s health & learn how to check your breasts: https://vb.me/148e7b♬ original sound - World Health Organization (WHO)
TikTok, determined to play its part and offer support during the pandemic, “pledged $250M globally to support front line medical workers, educators, and local communities deeply affected by the global crisis. As part of this commitment, €62M will support healthcare workers, educators, and local communities in Europe, while €18M in ad credits will help businesses in Europe to rebuild.”
It’s widely thought that the “TikTok Generation” is Gen Z.
However, in 2020, while Gen Z still dominated, we saw Millennials embrace the platform, and the odd Boomer.
Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers following Gen Z onto TikTok.
Stats from March 2021 show that Gen Z accounts for 25% of TikTok’s active users in the US. But we can see other generations increasing.
@keke.janajah♬ Savage - Megan Thee Stallion
Can’t really blame them. We’re all looking for light relief at the moment.
The pandemic and the increased popularity of TikTok has seen the global online conversation spiking.
In February 2020, just before the world went into lockdown, there were a total of 11.2 million mentions of TikTok online. By the end of March 2020, this number increased by 150% to 16.5 million mentions, and by the end of April it reached a staggering 22.9M.
To find out what people were saying about TikTok online, I used Conversation Clusters, Talkwalker’s data visualization tool. It’s a tool that helps visualize and understand the context around any topic at a glance, from millions of results - media, consumer, social data - in under a minute.
Conversation Clusters show the context of conversations surrounding TikTok.
Of all the conversations, TikTok celebrities dominated. There were also trends driving conversations, including Drake’s Toosie Slide challenge, the “Bored in the House'' challenge, and other home-based challenges.
This type of content led to much excitement in the TikTok community as creators find comfort in their collective experience of being locked down.
Celebrities love an audience, darling, and TikTok gives them a global stage to perform on.
TikTok sent me something♬ original sound - Jack Black
Jimmy Fallon - The Tonight Show - entered a paid partnership with TikTok, launching a challenges section on his show, with TikTok used as a platform for the challenge.
He encouraged viewers of his show to try the #TumbleweedChallenge - yep, they have to roll like tumbleweed - and share on TikTok.
Even Fallon took part...
Jimmy takes the #TumbleweedChallenge! Show us your best tumbleweed!♬ #TumbleweedChallenge - FallonTonight
The tumbleweed challenge went viral, collecting over 10M engagements in a week.
TikTok uses celebrity partnerships as part of its world domination plan, with partners coming from all over.
To post content on TikTok, and promote the channel on other social media platforms.
The power of TikTok has also created new stars. Lil Nas X, the artist behind the song, Old Town Road, was a college dropout sleeping on his sister’s couch before his hit single. A song that went on to break an all-time record for longest run at No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100).
Lil Nas X tried to promote his song as a meme for months - without success. Then he dropped it on TikTok, and his hashtag #yeehaw blew up.
His song was available as an 'original sound’ on TikTok and was quickly adopted by thousands of TikTok creators using it to make videos - resulting in more than 67M plays.
Proving that TikTok is a platform that can help you find, build, and engage an audience.
While Lil Nas X achieved phenomenal success, there are other non-celeb accounts that have reached celebrity status. The Grandad Joe account - obvs, not a Gen Z - kicked off with a video of Joe looking down in the mouth in a ravaged supermarket. It went viral, collecting 42.5M views.
The TikTok algorithm favors engaging content, using machine learning to evaluate the quality of the videos.
TikTok shows a new video to a small number of users in between popular videos. The hashtags used on the new video determine which users see it, as the algorithm finds users who have previously engaged with the hashtag.
The algorithm then calculates how much of the video is watched as well as how many likes, comments, shares, and downloads it receives. If a video performs well - speculations are 1 like for every 10 views is the metric - then the video is shown to more people.
If a video then receives 20% more likes in one day, TikTok shows it to even more people, causing it to go viral.
Because of the way the algorithm works, a TikTok feed is not chronological. There are no time-stamps. Comments on videos are also hidden, unless you click on them. You’ll see two sections on a TikTok feed - Following and For You.
- The Following feed shows you content uploaded by creators you follow.
- The For You feed shows you content curated based on the TikTok algorithm. It also features ads between every five or six videos - the natural evolution of any social media platform, although they somehow seem less intrusive on TikTok.
One thing’s for sure… your feed won’t have that polished, picture-perfect vibe to it that Instagram has. TikTok is way more anarchic.
TikTok doesn’t have display ads. It doesn’t claim to be a marketing channel. But… having become so popular, so big, so global, brands have realized that they can’t ignore it.
To stay relevant to younger generations, they have to exploit this new marketing channel. Generation Z influencers are a powerful force and can increase brands’ engagement figures.
For example, MAC Cosmetics worked with three TikTok influencers in September 2019 for a hashtag challenge ad campaign called #YouOwnIt. A total of 635,000 videos were created, with around 1.6 billion video views - in just 6 days.
Under normal circumstances, TikTok presents an engaging way to build brand exposure - through...
- Creating a channel for the brand
- Advertising on TikTok and/or
- Collaborating with influencers to create & amplify brand content
Brands can hone in on their influencer collaboration choices by closely observing who is delivering quality content with the current limited resources.
Forget about fancy holidays, restaurant and hotel reviews - influencers today have to work with their sheer creativity and prove that they can add value.
- Family influencers are offering creative ideas for home activities to engage children in
- Food influencers are tapping into their inner chefs
- Fitness influencers are providing at-home workouts or live sessions
And the list goes on.
Likewise, brands have to work hard to think outside the box and engage their audience on TikTok in a relevant way. They need to be in tune with current pop culture and online trends.
Brands also need to be brave enough to experiment and have fun. Because that’s what TikTok is all about.
In return, brands will get fresh brand exposure through user-generated content created by and targeted at the increasingly lucrative Gen Z and Millennial markets.
We've already seen the growing popularity of TikTok, and with such a vast global audience, the platform has become the go-to marketing channel.
While Gen Z have embraced short-form video content, brands can struggle to produce an ad that comes across as spontaneous. Which is what the TikTok audience expects. Go too commercial, and users will flick past you.
The reason I shared so many TikTok examples in this post is so that you can see what's expected. What's working.
Brands have to grab consumers' attention, and win their trust.
So, here are some rules of thumb...
Don't sell... Entertain
TikTok users are looking for light relief. A laugh. A highly polished advert breaks the fun spell. Consumers - regardless of age, but particularly Gen Z - recognize and reject hard sell ads. Be authentic.
Hashtags help users find content, so including in your ads will grab eyeballs. A branded hashtag can bring valuable user-generated content.
Offer help and support
This became even more important during the pandemic, with governments and the healthcare industry offering advice on how to stay safe. Addressing fears and concerns.
Work with influencers
This tip works across social media channels. The trick is finding a TikTok influencer that's relevant to your brand, product, and target audience. TikTok provides a creator's marketplace, so you can search for influencers.
Jump on trends
I know I'm repeating myself, but it's important. KEEP IT FUN! Read the room. Follow the trends. Join the challenges.
Don't be late
Trends again. They can kick off without warning, and die while you're planning your contribution. Your brand's videos don't have to be created in a studio, with a full camera crew. Get your mobile out and hit the record button.
So, social media influencers have a golden opportunity to shine and prove that they can deliver sky-high ROI - probably more than ad campaigns would right now. We know that celebrity influencers make a fortune, but non-celebrity influencers can also earn millions from brand partnerships and sponsorships.
TikTok is no different to other channels, and has been handing out the cash in an eye-watering way.
Earlier in this post, I said that while Gen Z still dominates TikTok’s user base, other generations are jumping on board. But, when it comes to influencers, Gen Z influencers are the highest paid.
So, who’s in the TikTok influencers A Team?
Addison Rae Easterling - an LSU student - joined TikTok in July 2019. She reached one million followers by October - the same year - from sharing her dance routines.
Her first sponsored post was for Fashion Nova, an online clothing store. Her primary source of earnings came from branded merchandise and sponsored content from Daniel Wellington - watch company - and Reebok.
- 85.5 million TikTok followers
- Estimated annual earnings of $5 million
@addisonre how I use @itembeauty AIR HUG everyyyy day 🧡 #itemcofounder #wereanitem ♬ I HEAR YOU [INSTRUMENTAL] - Vicetone
Charlie D’Amelio also started using TikTok in 2019. Her dance videos went viral, and she was invited to participate in the opening for the Jonas Brothers in Brooklyn.
She’s appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show, and was employed by Prada to talk about her time at the Paris Fashion Show. A partnership with EOS Cosmetics followed, and an appearance in a Super Bowl commercial.
- 128 million TikTok followers
- Estimated annual earnings of $4 million
@charlidamelio dc @Fred 🤦🏾♂️ ♬ original sound - livethelifethatyoudread
With everyone at home these days, the audience’s time is virtually guaranteed. The trick is to keep it. How can influencers capture and retain people’s attention and ensure they’re delivering engaging content that also adds value in these troubling times?
TikTok’s engagement rates have already proven to be miles ahead of any other social media platform right now.
Quick TikTok case study:— August Noble (@AugustNoble) January 30, 2020
About 3 months ago we started DMing and sending free product to anyone with a decent following (5k+).
We’ve sent ~100 units costing ~$2k.
Yesterday a review video did over 2 million views and we did over $50k in sales (avg. day ~$8k).
If you want to start building an audience base so you can go viral on TikTok, don’t post the content you post on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook.
TikTok is engineered in a unique way that specifically favors content specifically created for its platform. Here’s the twelve steps to becoming a TikTok influencer...
- Check TikTok out. Scroll through the posts to understand how it works and what kind of content engages the audience.
- Take note of which ‘sounds’ and hashtags are trending on TikTok.
- Invest in good equipment if you can - videos in 4K/HD tend to perform better, and always use good lighting.
- Put a unique spin on a trending sound - think of ways you can be original, funny, and/or add value.
- Keep your videos short, as they generally perform better. For longer videos, try to capture attention in the first three seconds.
- Familiarize yourself with a video editing tool - once a video is on TikTok, you’re limited to certain editing options. If you use a third-party editing tool, you can play around with your footage as much as you want to before uploading it to TikTok.
- Use relevant hashtags in your caption - it’s always good to have a niche that you target with these hashtags.
- Join TikTok hashtag challenges or duets to get more eyes on your content.
- Share your TikToks on other platforms - one of the reasons TikTok has been doing so well is how easy they’ve made it to share their native content. By clicking the share button, your video will automatically brand itself with the TikTok watermark and add your handle to it.
- Lather, rinse, repeat. The more you push out content, the more you’ll be able to experiment with what works and what doesn’t.
- Post 2-3 times per day - morning, afternoon, evening. Consistency is key.
- Monitor your analytics to understand your audience better.
@jera.bean HOW BRANDS ARE USING TIKTOK: DUOLINGO 🎯 PART 4 @duolingo #howbrandsareusingtiktok #brandsontiktok #duolingo ♬ Similar Sensation (Instrumental) - BLVKSHP
Hey, if you become a successful TikToker, don’t be surprised if you get stopped on the streets by fans, because if you go big on TikTok, you go really big.
So, we've established that as a brand, you have to consider TikTok as a marketing channel.
But you're going to need to measure performance and prove results. You're going to need an analytics tool. A consumer intelligence platform.
Tick Tock Tick Tock... time for a free demo!