TikTok is the platform of the moment, with the short-form video app continuing to lead the app download charts, and add users at an unprecedented rate.

And with the platform now on track to reach a billion users this year – despite losing its biggest user market in June 2020, due a ban in India – that will put it on par with Instagram, and make it one of the top five biggest social/messaging apps.

Which, of course, now sees it attracting more interest from marketers, looking to go where consumer attentions lie. And no doubt, there is huge opportunity for boosting brand awareness and even generating direct sales – but the creative focus of TikTok does mean that it requires a dedicated approach, you can’t just re-purpose content from other platforms or campaigns.

So how can you make the most of TikTok for your brand?

We recently spoke to Becca Sawyer, TikTok’s Global Head of Small Business Solutions, to get her insights into what brands starting out on the platform need to keep in mind, as well as her key tips for growing your business presence in the app.

Q: What ad/promotional elements are seeing the best response on TikTok right now?

BS: Ads that perform best don’t look or feel like ads – they embody our “Don’t Make ads. Make TikToks” motto.

We always remind brands to not overthink it. TikTok is the place where authenticity and realness is not only accepted; it’s celebrated.

We know it can feel intimidating at first, and that’s why we’re constantly working on ways to make it easier to create and share content on TikTok. Our Small Business Resource Center has creative tools and examples of successful businesses to help business owners get comfortable. We also recently partnered with Vimeo to launch templates that can help small businesses create quality video in a few easy steps.

TikTok Vimeo integration

Q: What’s the key to an effective marketing strategy on TikTok?

BS: We always encourage brands/organizations to:

  • Engage Like a User  Join conversations and build a community – brands can put themselves at the forefront of trends and conversation happening within our community
  • Think TikTok First  Creativity, culture and trends start on TikTok. Thinking TikTok first allows your creativity to scale with dynamic nature of the platform.
  • Build a narrative  As a brand/organization, you have an opportunity to not just join a conversation, but start a new conversation.
  • Create with Intent  Don’t Make Ads. Make TikToks. TikTok as a platform is designed to inspire with authentic, creative content that could only be on TikTok.

Q: What’s the most common mistake you see brands make with their TikTok approach?

BS: A common mistake from brands and businesses is approaching TikTok with the mindset that the last click is the holy grail.

Brands should be thinking about TikTok uniquely – it’s an immersive, entertainment experience, where people build and find community. Brands that show up authentically, and genuinely want to be part of the everyday conversations, will see the best results. As such, we often remind brands that engagement prior to the final click is highly valuable.

Q: What’s a good example of a brand that’s achieving strong results with TikTok marketing?

BS: The brands we see having the most success are those that embrace the creativity and authenticity of the TikTok community.

Examples of brands that have really leaned in:

  • Aerie – Aerie’s crossover leggings were sold out online for nearly two months after a viral TikTok post by Hannah Schlenker led to overwhelming demand for the product. Her single post prompted over 700,000 searches for the product alone on the Aerie website, as well as an increase of 200,000% in Google searches. The brand received a total of 130,000 emails from customers asking to be placed on its “notify me” waitlist. They’ve since used paid advertising to further drive conversions.
  • GAP – More recently, GAP’s brown hoodie went viral, with the hashtag #gaphoodie reaching 6.7m+ views and counting thanks to a post by creator Barbara Kristofferson. Although the hoodie was vintage, the TikTok community created such viral demand that GAP brought it back in stock, after ending production over a decade ago. TikTok and GAP recently partnered for the “Gap Hoodie Color Comeback”, a campaign that will decide GAP’s next hoodie release by engaging the TikTok community to vote for the next product color.
  • Sour Patch Kids (Mondelez Int.) – By consistently tapping into trends, and having fun with the community, Sour Patch Kids is TikTok’s most-followed snack brand, with over a million followers. They’ve also activated lots of campaigns based around the platform, one being its most recent April Fools’ Day #SourPatchPrankFund challenge, which rewarded TikTokers with Sour Patch Kids and money for their pranks. For the campaign, they partnered with five TikTok creators: @TheCrazyGorilla, @VirziTriplets, @SometimesMamaYells, @SantiAndMikay, and @TattedBoy92.
  • KFC – Competing in the never-ending chicken sandwich wars, KFC took to TikTok to collaborate with popular creator Lili Hayes to introduce its new chicken sandwich. The collab, which was posted on KFC’s channel, has over 1.1m likes, while #trythekfcsandwich has garnered over 208m+ views and counting.
  • Sider’s Woodcrafting is a family-owned woodcrafting shop out of Maine. They make amazing cutting boards, shelving and other custom products and have grown to over 118K followers on TikTok. The owner, Bruce Graybill, has attested that TikTok accounts for roughly 90% of his business. He recently published a TikTok about how “TikTok saved our business”.​
  • Izola’s Country Cooking is a cafeteria-style Southern comfort restaurant in Hinesville, GA. Their content often features their daily dishes created by Chef Dave, as well as messages from customers who have traveled across the country to try the food. Owners Glenn and Lori Poole have said that many of their customers found them on TikTok.
  • Lala Hijabs is run by a wife and husband team in Canada, who started their business and their TikTok account during lockdown. Sana made a video showing a hijab she customized, and a lot of her followers wanted to buy one like it. She launched her shop last year for “hand tie dyed hijabs – inspired by the beautiful colors of life,” and they have already done six figures in revenue, with zero paid advertising up until recently. They’ve since activated paid advertising on the platform to boost organic presence

Q: What would be your top tip for someone starting out with TikTok marketing?

BS: Just dive in! Read the comments. See how people are talking about the community or subject your brand fits into.

Also look at what’s going on behind the trends and culture movements. A brand’s content should look and feel the same way as the community’s posts. That way, your brand’s content will be grounded in what’s really happening on the platform, and will have a stake in the conversation. 

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