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4 min read

How TikTok Is Redefining Digital Marketing

5/29/20 4:30 PM

One of the most popular social media apps on the planet right now is TikTok. If you know anyone under the age of 25, most likely they are glued to their phones throughout the day scrolling through TikTok. Kids all over are making and consuming TikTok videos. What people don’t know is that TikTok is emerging as a useful tool for digital marketing. With TikTok attracting a larger and larger audience, companies and brands can benefit from it in a multitude of ways.

What Exactly Is TikTok?

TikTok is a free social media app that lets you watch, share, and create short form music videos.  It was originally called musical.ly and was launched in 2014 by Chinese tech entrepreneurs Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang. It was eventually acquired by a Beijing based company called ByteDance, who already owned a similar company called TikTok and the two eventually merged.

TikTok button

How Does TikTok Work?

Basically, you can sign up on the app and view multiple users' videos and profiles. Users can upload videos of themselves dancing, lip-synching, or just having fun with popular music. The videos can only be up to 15 seconds each but you can also string videos together to feature as a story up to 60 seconds. There are many different kinds of videos featuring all sorts of different songs and sounds. People can use hashtags for labeling and sharing content. It works very similar to other social media like twitter and Instagram but with shorter form videos.

How Did TikTok Become So Popular?

The TikTok app has been downloaded over 1.5 billion times and the average user spends about 52 minutes a day on the app. If you think about how short the videos are, that’s a lot of content.

But how did it become so popular?

young girl dancing on tiktok challenge

Once muscial.ly and TikTok merged, the app exploded in popularity. This can be attributed to the short form content which can hold anyone’s attention. Even YouTube lets you skip a video after watching for 5 seconds. Also, the use of pop music to make your own video attracts an amateur audience as creators. Basically, anyone can make a video, all you need is a phone.

TikTok even provides the music as well as the editing options such as filters, images, and so on. These videos can also be shared outside the app, so people who don’t have TikTok can watch videos, they just can't make them themselves. This shareability attracts new users every day.

How Does TikTok Attract Celebrities and Brands?

The large audience of TikTok and specific demographics have also attracted celebrities, influencers, and brands. Name any famous popstar and you will find they have a TikTok. This allows them to make specific content for fans while also promoting their brand.

Take the most recent and famous example, Drake’s Toosie Slide. 

Drake’s song “In My Feelings” originally inspired a dance challenge back in 2018. Multiple users shared videos of themselves dancing to the song in different ways. Fast forward to 2020, and Drake deliberately created a song and video that can be easily replicated on TikTok with easy to remember dance moves. Coupled with the fact that more people were staying at home consuming content during the Covid-19 and another viral hit was created.

TikTok webinar

Brands like the NBA, NFL, Washington Post, Crocs, BMW, and Chipotle all use TikTok. With short form content, they can all give viewers a tease of what they have to offer. Sports organizations can offer highlights from games, celebrity cameos, and exclusive content. Brands in general can offer specific promotions for what they are selling as well. There is no limit to what you can offer audiences.

How Can Businesses Make the Most of TikTok?

TikTok allows for ads on its platform. Brand takeover ads play for a full 5 seconds when you open the app. These take users directly to a webpage or user profile on TikTok. There are also in-feed native ads they play in between stories, similar to instagram. These can also be linked to a webpage. Like instagram, there are also branded hashtag challenges that encourage user-generated content that promotes a brand. TikTok does not yet have a direct way of making money but mostly works to generate a larger audience to whatever it is you are promoting.

It’s not just for large companies either. We recently hosted a webinar interview with TikTok content creator Priscila Coreano, who had a video go viral on the app. She posted a video showing her mother making a Covid-19 mask for her father. This went viral during the quarantine, since the mask her mother made had branding for FedEx, her father’s employer. Suddenly, the video spread and her mother gained more and more orders for masks. Simple videos like that can have a larger effect than you can even imagine. Larger companies may have a higher budget to post targeted ads, but you don’t need a large budget to reach a wide audience. It just takes the right content at the right time.

TikTok, Yay or Nay?

If you want to reach a wider audience with your brand, it’s worth trying out TikTok. It’s low budget, easy to make content, that allows for a lot of creativity. As it becomes more popular, it’s a viable medium to promote your business. It helps to have a strategy for the content you post, but overall it's an emerging platform that can’t be ignored.

Jakob Muller
Written by Jakob Muller

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