It’s all about TikTok! In a recent episode of Test. Learn. Grow., co-hosts Myles Biggs and Allyn Reynolds were joined by Level employees Jenna Bluedorn, Tim Fitzgerald, and Kristen Hayes for an in-depth conversation about the social media platform and the marketing opportunities it offers.
Rather listen than read? Tune in to the full podcast episode for three things to consider before launching a TikTok media strategy.
For this round-table discussion, Myles and Allyn were interested in hearing a number of perspectives when it comes to TikTok, a video-focused social networking service, and its emerging trends, the do's and don’ts, and everything in between. Jenna Bluedorn, Level Agency’s digital marketing lead, is currently in a Ph.D. program where she’s studying emerging social media, including TikTok. Her academic perspective is paired with hands-on experience helping clients navigate in platform. Media analyst Kristen Hayes is also working in platform, running tests to help clients maximize TikTok’s marketing potential, and Tim Fitzgerald is the head of Level’s Media Center of Excellence—our go-to guy for all things related to media strategy.
The evolution of TikTok content
If you’re familiar with TikTok at all, you know that content posted there tends to evolve across channels. What starts as a TikTok post frequently makes it way to Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Instagram reels, and beyond. And one of the first points our trio of experts makes is that TikTok is not a standalone content strategy—it’s part of a larger ecosystem. The demographic of TikTok is young; they’re trendsetters and thought starters. But to only advertise on TikTok would rarely hit your wider audience, since you also want to reach the parents, families, friends, and co-workers that are also relevant to your marketing strategy.
Keeping up with trends
As we just mentioned, TikTok is where trends start, and we all know how quickly trends can rise and fall in the media space. So, what does that mean for your TikTok marketing content? To take advantage of what this platform has to offer, you might want to move more quickly with the creative process than you do for other outlets. If your advertisement incorporates a TikTok trend, it’s going to perform better if that trend is still ongoing. Kristen provides the POV as an example. On TikTok, a POV refers to a trend in which the video shows the viewer's point of view of a certain situation and can be a great marketing tactic. But that same POV that’s trending right now may provoke some eye rolls in two months when similar content has been viewed millions of times.
Another suggestion for TikTok marketers: lean into your organic content, too. As Jenna explains, the paid and organic content on TikTok feed into each other much more than you might see on other social media platforms. Someone that sees your paid ad on Facebook may never see your organic posts unless they follow you. But TikTok doesn't have the same “follower” culture. While it’s possible to follow the accounts you like, you’re still being served content from everyone that relates to your interests, so that opportunity to reinforce your paid ads with your organic content is much stronger.
It’s not for everyone
The popularity of TikTok is immense, and it can be a great addition to your marketing strategy—but it’s not for everyone. First, consider the time-to-market for your creative. Do you have a lot of compliance circles to jump through? If it takes your brand considerable time to get content live, TikTok might not be the place for you. Second, consider your demographic. TikTok typically skews young. That’s not to say that there’s not an outlier for an older demographic, but it’s not the norm. And as Jenna recommends, “I think right now with this more emerging social media, we want to play into the norms.” And third, consider the product itself. TikTok can be the perfect home for e-commerce products like cosmetics, or even furniture—items that lend themselves well to clear demonstrations and how-it's-used, lifestyle messaging. If your product is a high-investment item with a longer sales cycle, consider using TikTok in a smaller, supporting role.
TikTok dos and don’ts
Our experts agreed on this first piece of advice: don’t make your ad feel like... well, an ad. TikTok users don’t want their experiences interrupted, and coming across content that feels very much like an advertisement can cause negative reactions. Similarly, don’t use the same content you’re using on your other social media platforms. Make your creative look as native to the platform as possible. And please, no matter what you do, don’t place a static ad on a video-focused platform!
As we mentioned earlier, TikTok differs from other social media platforms because you don’t necessarily have to follow any of the creators you love. The TikTok algorithm will show you that content because you’ve already watched them for longer periods of time than other creators, or you’ve engaged with the content with likes and comments. So, as a brand, think about what your core users like and what they’ll engage with. Speak to that, and you’re likely to show up on their pages—you’ll already be hitting your intended audience, so now you just need to show them why yours is the product or service they want.
One final “do” when marketing on TikTok: allow people to engage with your content. TikTok has a feature that allows you to turn off the comments on your ads. But interaction is a huge part of TikTok, so while it can feel risky, Jenna likes to think of it this way, “no press is bad press, in this case. It’s not a review. It’s nothing that’s going to last... It might be better to let people interact with that and see how it goes.” Those comments are qualitative data that you could quantify into a reaction to your product or brand and use it to drive your business. (Keep in mind that receiving hundreds of negative comments is another conversation. At that point, consider whether the ad should continue running at all.)
Advice for your creative teams
There's a whole ethos out there about how one piece of content can take on multiple lives across platforms—“shoot it once and cut it up 57 times,” as Myles describes. We’ve thrown that out the window with TikTok, so how do you operationalize content creation without totally breaking your current creative production processes? We suggest trying to let go of perfection. As Kristen explains, “I think one of the things that people like about TikTok as a platform is that there’s not the pressure for things to be 100% perfect.” That’s not to say that your video should be low-quality, but it is okay to head into the creative process for a TikTok ad with a different set of expectations than your other social platforms usually carry. Jenna agrees. “I think you can have one person really generating those videos, [going] really light on the editing. You could even edit it in platform. I don’t see it taking more than a couple minutes.”
We’re also big proponents of the MVP (minimal viable product) approach when it comes to TikTok creative. A lower-budget ad means we have lower CPMs, so we have more room to test and see what happens, then iterating off that and keeping it out there for less time. Make small bunches of ads to cycle on for short bursts—that ad that you put all your energy into and run for a long time just won’t work here.
So, is TikTok really for me?
As is the case with a lot of emerging social media, the answer is—we don’t know yet. If your demo skews only older, it’s probably not the platform for you. TikTok, for now, is a space for younger consumers that have disposable income, maybe for the first time. They want to be shown things that they want to buy.
We know TikTok can work for direct-to-consumer products or experiences, like cosmetics and furniture, or a study abroad program, for example, but for other untried brands? We challenge our teams to figure out how to make it work for other lines of business. TikTok is going to continue to be a player in the world of social media marketing, so we need to figure it out; that’s how we’ve approached a lot of new platforms over the years. We challenge you to do the same. Even if you don’t think you perfectly fit the mold, you can find ways to creatively advertise or be present on the app. We suspect brands that actively invest in an organic TikTok strategy could see a huge impact on their paid search volume, website traffic or app downloads.
The final takeaway
For our final thoughts on TikTok marketing, we’ll throw it back to Jenna: “If I wanted you to take away one thing from this whole conversation, it would be test it, make it natural, make it feel in-feed. And, you know, it’s cheaper. That’s the bottom line. The CPMs are cheaper than other social platforms. So, don’t rely on it as a sole strategy, but build it into your strategies for testing and see how you can diversify your brand presence. And then come to us if your tests aren’t working—we might have a better way to do it.”
Want to talk about adding TikTok to your marketing strategy? Schedule a consultation today.
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