Digital Mums have been hosting some amazing digital marketing trainees from We Are Digital over the past 5 weeks and their work experience placement has culminated in them creating some content for us. We are delighted to publish this guest blog post from Abdur-Rhaman Shafi. Over to you Abdur.
What is TikTok?
Around 5 years ago, an app called Musical.ly found large, but relatively short-lived, success allowing its users to share and create content, usually, as the name implies, of a musical nature. During this period of prosperity for the app, it even provided the platform for some of its young stars to be seen as genuine recording artist material. However, after a short while, the popularity of the app died down and it was eventually purchased by a company called ByteDance in 2017. Fast forward three years to the start of the pandemic. The first lockdown had struck and everyone was stuck indoors, bored out of their minds. Then, as if appearing from nowhere, a new app emerged from the depths. Only it was not a new app. It was the second coming of Musical.ly, come to save us from the mind-numbing time-loop that was lockdown life. This resurrection, however, had not been achieved without a few noticeable changes, perhaps the most noticeable change is the name. Musical.ly was now TikTok; an app that had been created and owned by ByteDance since 2016. And TikTok was taking the world by storm. Amassing over 2 billion downloads and 689 million monthly users worldwide, TikTok has skyrocketed to the second most popular social media platform in the world, second only to Instagram. Despite its massive success, TikTok is only just starting to breakthrough with older users; seeing an increase of almost 100% between September 2018 and March 2019 in the U.S alone. The app’s mission: “to capture and present the world’s creativity, knowledge, and precious life moments, directly from the mobile phone. TikTok enables everyone to be a creator, and encourages users to share their passion and creative expression through their videos.” Of course, this success has paid dividends to many of its users, some of whom have become household names. It only makes sense that businesses, big and small, should take advantage of this.
How businesses are using TikTok
Tapping into a younger market
Many businesses have taken to TikTok to make use of its appeal to younger audiences. TikTok has proven itself to be a useful tool in engaging users in a way that other social media apps such as Instagram and Facebook have not been able to. This is due to the fun and easy-going nature of the app. While likes and shares are still a prevalent factor in finding success on TikTok, it is more easily found there than on other social media platforms. This could be due to any number of factors, from the incredibly sophisticated algorithm that dictates the ‘For You’ page, to the abundance of trends and challenges being churned out by users – the result of the ever-changing and always random focus of content creators on the platform.
This ease of access and emphasis on fun, creative content has provided all kinds of businesses with the platform to engage their audiences and allow them to connect with the company in a wholly informal and personal manner. For example, many companies, such as ESPN and Innocent Smoothies, use TikTok to share memes and other more humorous content relating to the company that is less likely to be found on other sites, such as Instagram, which are used more for promotional purposes and to provide information. As such, content like ‘behind the scenes’ videos, ‘challenges’ and tutorials tend to work well for businesses on TikTok.
However, it is not just useful for showing a more relaxed side of the company and sharing memes; the relationship that TikTok helps companies to build, particularly with younger audiences, means that giveaways, competitions and updates are likely to attract interest from followers and further solidify their investment in the business. Many businesses such as Wendys will use TikTok to post updates and reminders; similar in concept to something you might find on Instagram however the execution is often very different due to the nature of much of the content on TikTok.
Advantages of TikTok
Increasing brand identity
The advantages of being active on TikTok are numerous; it has become a fundamental part of having an online presence. As mentioned above, TikTok can be used to provide users with a unique insight into a business, engaging customers and strengthening their relationship with the brand. It can also be used to increase brand identity. As always, this is most effective when a company does this in a way that fits the tone of the app: light-hearted, humorous and fun. For example, Taco Bell use food-related memes that link back to their own menu items.
Increasing brand awareness
Brand awareness can also be improved through TikTok. One method of achieving this is by use of hashtags. This is especially useful for less well-known or smaller brands that would not be able to generate a lot of traction from their posts otherwise. Another way to increase brand awareness on TikTok is through influencers. Like almost any other social media platform, TikTok has a catalogue of famous users, some of whom have found their rise on the app and others who have migrated from other channels. Regardless, these personalities can be used as a means of reaching new audiences. A good example of this can be found on the account of one of the platforms most celebrated and well-known stars; Charli D’Amelio. In 2020, she entered a partnership with Dunkin’ and has featured in several of their videos, including their most viewed which currently has 6.1 million views and 1.2 million likes.
Similar to user engagement, user-generated content is a huge benefit of marketing on TikTok. The platform allows users to repurpose the content of others using the ‘duet’ and ‘stitch’ features. This means that businesses can launch campaigns that centre almost entirely on user-generated content. This is an approach that many companies have adopted. Chipotle is one such company. In May 2020 they launched their #ChipotleSponsorMe campaign where they used six TikTok influencers to reach the masses and encourage their followers to reach out to Chipotle on TikTok, asking the chain to sponsor them (meaning send them a personalised card that enabled them to access free food for a whole year). The campaign was a huge success and racked up over a billion views in just a few weeks.
Disadvantages of TikTok
The nature of TikTok
While there is no denying TikToks use as a tool for engaging customers and improving online presence, it can be more challenging to drive traffic and to directly convert sales. The tone of the app is overwhelmingly recreational and fun and there isn’t a function that allows you to link to a website. As such, it is very difficult to drive sales or clicks-through via TikTok. Even the aforementioned campaigns only aim to encourage user creativity and interaction as opposed to any actual purchases. However, there are brands driving conversions on Tik Tok it's just good to be prepared that it's more challenging to do so.
TikToks in-app analytics are only available for 28 days. This means that in order for a company to track their long-term TikTok analytics, they will have to start keeping a record themselves. This makes it more time-consuming.
Just a trend
While TikTok has done extremely well for itself in the past couple of years, it has become synonymous with the lockdown. Many will associate the various trends and challenges that have been born from Lockdown Saviour with being something to do while they were forced to stay at home. As well as this, many apps that blew up were unable to sustain that momentum. Apps like Snapchat and Vine, the latter of which is a constant source of comparison for TikTok, are testament to this. It remains to be seen as to whether or not TikTok will be able stand up to platforms like Instagram and Facebook in the long run or if significant investment into it is a future waste that will be realised sooner rather than later.
So should your business be on Tik Tok or not?
While TikTok has its flaws, from its numerous controversies surrounding privacy (a christening of sorts, in the world of social media) to its censorship issues, from a marketing standpoint, it appears to have significant merits. While it may not be the ideal candidate for sales conversions or increasing click-through rates, it has proven itself to be a great way of engaging users and building a relationship that allows audiences to begin to peer behind the shiny facades and see a less mercantile, more relatable, side to the brands and businesses that they know, and maybe even discover some new ones.