It’s fun, it’s collaborative, it’s addictive, and it is the most downloaded app – TikTok is all the rage right now. While most users might have the perception that TikTok is a frivolous app, the smart brands and influencers realize the true potential of this platform. It might come as a surprise to many that the platform has 800 million monthly active users! That is more than double the entire population of the United States of America. And what’s more, a TikTok influencer have an average daily watch time of 52 minutes. To put that in perspective, users are dedicating almost an entire hour out of the available 24 to this platform. This makes it the hottest new social media platform in town.
A common misconception regarding TikTok is that it is mainly used by pre-teens and teens, and hence adults need not pay any heed to it as a serious platform. Why? Because it’s assumed that the users have no purchasing or influencing power, and the messaging is mostly frivolous. This assumption couldn’t be more wrong.
People across age groups, demographics and geographies are flocking to the app while savvy brands and influencers have already recognized this. In this blog, we discuss everything there is to know about this revolutionary new platform and how to use it as an effective tool for social media marketing.
What Is TikTok And How Did It Start?
TikTok is a social media platform that lays the focus on what matters the most today – video. The video-sharing platform has gained massive traction among younger GenZ users who have flocked to the lip syncs, viral dances and challenges on the app. For a lot of us older users, it’s almost an extended version of Vine – the 6-second video platform that introduced us to the world of video sharing.
Many TikTok celebrities like Zach King and King Bach, who have millions of followers on TikTok, were originally viral Vine stars. Although Vine never took off the way it was expected to, TikTok has. Since its launch in 2016, its growth as a platform has been phenomenal and exponential, making it on par with several social media sites.
The parent company ByteDance first launched the platform Douyin in China, forming the basis of what we globally know as TikTok today. While TikTok and Douyin are essentially the same platforms, they exist as separate entities to cope with the strict censorship laws of China. Simultaneously in 2017, Douyin purchased Music.ly, a popular platform where users could create and share lip-sync videos. This opened up a whole new world of possibilities for TikTok.
This was what was going to be their key selling point among the teen market. What started as a teen-centric platform in 2016 has become an essential marketing avenue in 2020 for people of all ages. From entertainers to celebrities and influencers, everyone is on TikTok. The short attention span of the modern user is an added advantage to explain its success. As of 2020, it is the most downloaded app monthly in the world.
How The World Has Moved Towards TikTok
While studying the vast majority of social media users in the world, it is clear that a large proportion of them would be a potential target audience for TikTok. There exists a clear opportunity to be tapped into. Creative and innovative content creators, be it brands or influencers, can find an engaged audience base through TikTok. Brands and creators who realized the potential of the platform and adopted it early on have witnessed a massive surge in following through with the first-mover advantage. The ultimate upside is the minimal investment it takes to post engaging content on TikTok.
Brands like Chipotle and Guess already have a massive user base on TikTok in less than a year! This includes a new demographic that their traditional marketing efforts might have missed. The beauty of TikTok is the level playing field. Got 0 followers? Not a problem! It doesn’t take away from your chances of going viral. The adage ‘content is king’ has never been truer than on TikTok.
Once TikTok figures out how to integrate the ‘link in bio’ feature, the sky’s the limit for driving traffic to brand websites just like Instagram. Currently, the feature is available only to select users but a complete roll-out of the feature seems inevitable. For now, users do have the option of adding links from their TikTok profile to their Instagram and YouTube profiles.
One can see that the platform understands its potential for businesses based on recent developments. More and more brands continue to push ads on TikTok, either through influencers or with curated hashtags, and the results for most of them have been nothing short of sensational.
Learn how TikTok is re-shaping current cultural trends. Read our blog: TikTok’s Influencer Culture: What Makes It Unique.
A New Age Of Content With TikTok
TikTok was created to capitalize on trend culture. While original content performs well, the platform was designed to easily replicate or jump on the bandwagon of existing trends, making content creation easier and giving it the necessary mass appeal. Even celebrities jump on each other’s trends. Be it the #toosieslide, #bussit, or #catchmeoutside trends, celebrities like Drake, Justin Bieber, and Cardi B are often seen participating in viral trends resulting in billions of views.
The far-reaching effects of dance trends on TikTok are mind-blowing. Soccer players like Neymar and Antoine Griezmann are often seen performing famous dance moves from #fortnite as a celebration after scoring a goal. If a music artist can get a dance trend from their song viral on TikTok, it is a golden ticket to success.
Of course, it isn’t just restricted to dance moves. Just like YouTube, different niches have their dedicated audiences. Be it comedy, animals, lip syncs, fashion, pranks, transitions, or fitness, content is being consumed on TikTok every second of the day. The most unexpected trend of TikTok is how the most basic trends go the most viral. Cats jumping over objects, pranking neighbors, and lip-syncing Korean songs are trends that are performed by millions around the world every day on the platform.
For inspiration, take a quick spin through the ‘Discovery’ section to see what the algorithm recommends to you. Whether they’re simple challenges or complicated routines, the amount of talent on the platform from across the world is truly mind-boggling.
For best practices, read our blog: 5 Top Tips For Budding TikTok Creators.
Why TikTok Works
1. Every video works on merit
The most distinctive feature of TikTok is that videos can go viral even if the profile posting has a low number of followers. That is because the TikTok algorithm judges the performance of a video based on the individual interactions it has, and not based on the performance of the overall profile.
Instagram and YouTube have a somewhat biased algorithm that, after a certain point, only promotes the content of already viral profiles and creators. This makes it hard for new creators to get the same sort of traction and creates a frustrating glass ceiling. TikTok has circumvented this bias and constantly encourages creators to post videos in the hope of going viral. This, in a way, motivates creators to create engaging content and constantly post on the platform.
When a video is posted, it is shared with users on their ‘For You’ page in between other popular videos, allowing users to discover you. If the initial interactions are positive or even promising, it gets bumped higher to a bigger pool of users irrespective of how other videos on the profile have performed. More interactions here can help the video leapfrog into global virality and helps the overall reach of the profile. It also gives users a sense of ownership by helping them feel like they’ve discovered a new viral profile that they had a hand in pushing up the ladder.
2. TikTok algorithm
Several indicators are taken into account in the TikTok algorithm, which till date remain a closely guarded secret. What are these indicators? The primary one taken into account is interactions. This includes all the different ways in which a user comes into contact with a video. Rewatches, views, shares, comments, compilations, and likes all play a big role in determining the performance of a video.
As the aim is to get noticed by the masses, there are two kinds of videos that work. The first is plain entertaining videos. These don’t have to be the most creative in the world or have a high level of production value. If the video can make someone laugh, it will most likely do well. The second is informative videos.
There’s no denying the fact that a vast majority of the audience on the internet gets most of their information from social media. If you can crunch something informative into a bite-sized video on TikTok that makes the audience feel like they’ve learned something, they will appreciate it. The easy shareability of videos on TikTok fosters a sense of community where if a user engages with a video, chances are they will share it with their tight-knit community, leading to a spike in its interactions again.
3. It works across geographies and demographics
TikTok has employees in multiple countries who aid in mapping out the geo-tagging system that the TikTok algorithm works on. It can be observed that when a video is first posted, the algorithm geotags it and shows it mainly to users within the same geography before taking it global.
This helps small businesses and brands who can successfully use the platform to increase local brand awareness, leading to tangible growth in their business. From a local audience, videos that perform well are then rolled out on the ‘For You’ page internationally. The speed at which this happens varies for every video. There have been instances where videos get comments from different parts of the world just a few hours after being posted!
Another key factor is that TikTok videos are largely demographic agnostic. The bite-sized content format makes it hard to pigeonhole videos into pockets based on any sort of demographics. Be it age, gender, or financial status, everyone can enjoy everything.
There have been instances where kids consume science or informative content to educate themselves or seniors above the age of 60 consume dance and lip-sync content that might be considered frivolous content otherwise. This ability to cut across geographies and demographics truly makes content democratic and brings the world to your fingertips. Be it an individual or a brand, TikTok helps create a level playing field for everyone.
4. Amplification of hashtags
While the far-reaching effects of hashtags on social media are well known, another factor to cluster content on TikTok is sounds i.e the music used in the videos. This is a whole new dimension that helps increase the discoverability of content as a user can choose a sound and consume all the videos that use the said audio in their videos.
Even with hashtags, TikTok videos use trending hashtags to get discovered on the Discovery pages based on relevance and interactions. These hashtags are usually a part of the caption and help boost discoverability, similar to other social media platforms.
While there is no guide to successful hashtags that work on TikTok, the ones that are present on most videos are #fyp or #foryourpage as this helps boost the chances of a video appearing on the ‘For You’ feed. It is recommended to include a combination of hashtags that are trending as well as niche and unique for your content. Unlike Instagram, the TikTok algorithm is intuitive and studies your hashtags to understand what type of content it is.
This machine learning ability helps slot your videos with similar content based on hashtags to give you the best chance of being discovered. The same principle works with sounds. If the sound chosen for a video is being searched for a lot, it boosts the chances of your video being discovered and prioritized on the TikTok app.
Get discovered more effectively on TikTok with information from our blog: Make The Ultimate Use Of Hashtags To Become A TikTok Influencer.
5. Virality is timeless
Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok videos can go viral anytime. This includes older videos. On YouTube, if a video doesn’t go viral within a certain number of days or weeks, chances are it’s past its use-by date and will never go viral. Thus creators move on to new videos in the hope that those go viral.
That isn’t how TikTok works. You could post a new video every day and a video from a few months ago could suddenly go viral. Any video can be discovered at any time. The algorithm is constantly monitoring the performance and interactions of all the videos on a profile. If an aspect of your older video, say a sound, goes viral for some other reason, it boosts the chances of that older video being discovered now with a spike in popularity, even if it’s been idly sitting on your channel for months without any likes.
One more key factor of the TikTok algorithm is that it pushes out content in waves. As new users are constantly joining the app, the same content is pushed out in waves to different users on their ‘For You’ page for them to discover. This keeps the hope of every video alive in the instance that it goes viral several days after being posted. In a way, TikTok doesn’t allow content to die.
How Brands Make The Most Of TikTok
While TikTok is positioned as a content creation platform that encourages individual creators to share content on their page, there is a commercial side to it that tangibly benefits brands and businesses as well.
The 4 main types of ads on TikTok for brands to use are: In-Feed Ads, TopView, Brand Takeover, and Branded Hashtag Challenges. In-Feed Ads, as the name suggests appear within a user’s feed but are demarcated from other original content with a ‘Sponsored’ label. This helps brands lay out their value proposition as these posts also come with a clickable pop-up that gives the users a direct call to action. These include ‘Shop now’, ‘Download now’ or ‘Learn more’, thereby cutting out any pretense from the content. The real magic, though, is through music content. TikTok has a massive influence over music content and this allows musicians an opportunity to promote their music through regular content.
Creators can use the song as a sound for whatever their video is and this gets linked back to the original musician. The genius of this strategy is that instead of creating one singular music video and hoping it goes viral, musicians use these content pieces as de facto music videos that promote their songs at no added cost! The sheer cost-effectiveness of using content creators on TikTok at a fraction of the cost has helped multiple brands get massive returns on their marketing efforts here.
Even a brand like the NBA is using TikTok to increase its global reach with over 10 million followers currently who access content in a format that is unbelievably easy to consume.
TikTok Is Designed For Influencers, Influencer Marketing
Make no qualms about it – online influencers are modern-day superstars. The reach that a brand can get by collaborating with a popular influencer on a single piece of content is phenomenal. Many TikTok influencers have a captive and engaged follower base in the millions and this is a potential gold mine for brands when it comes to increasing their reach.
Several brands have in-depth influencer marketing strategies on TikTok and, through a first-mover advantage, have seen exponential returns on their marketing campaigns on the platform. Some brands can go the extra step and create a ‘House’ on TikTok and enlist multiple influencers to create content for them there. Alpha House and Byte Squad have millions of followers and this encourages brands to flock to them and leverage off of their reach.
TikTok has been extremely proactive in identifying the role that influencers on their platform play in the world of e-commerce and launched the TikTok Creator Marketplace – a ready-to-use platform where brands and influencers can collaborate to create content that gets seamlessly rolled out as In-Feed Ads to boost the discoverability for both the brands and the creators. They match brands with creators based on performance metrics and audiences to facilitate campaigns conveniently.
Figure 1. TikTok Creator Marketplace. Source: TikTok
TikTok isn’t as tried and tested as a social media platform for influencers as compared to other established platforms. However, with untapped markets, conversion tools, and readily available insights, TikTok has the potential to become the world’s largest platform for influencer marketing globally.
The Art Of Crafting A Perfect TikTok
1. Using the available tools
Unlike other platforms where all the work goes into creating and editing the content before it just gets shared on the platform, TikTok itself works as one of the easiest editor tools with a wide array of cool tools and features that make creating content a breeze. The user-friendly nature of the app combined with an intuitive layout makes it a fun experience to create captivating content that is engaging and interactive.
From the time you download the app and login to the time you start shooting content, TikTok has one of the smoothest learning curves among video platforms. Once you master the readily available tools on the platform, it is child’s play! While it also has the option to upload a video from your camera roll, it is also super easy to create a video from scratch on the platform. Once you tap on the ‘Create Video’ button, you can choose from a variety of effects and recording tools that are readily available on a panel on the right of the screen.
To increase the ease of shooting a video, the ‘Flip’ option allows you to choose which camera you want to shoot with – either the front-facing selfie camera or the primary rear-facing camera.
2. Filters, Speed & Quality
Effects that would usually take a professional editor several hours to do in regular circumstances are readily available at the click of a button on TikTok. If TikTok aimed to empower anyone and everyone to become professional video creators, mission accomplished! For example, the app has a speed tool. This allows you to adjust the speed of a video, or certain parts of a video, to suit your needs.
Looking for a hyper-fast chase sequence like an action movie or a slow-motion running sequence like Baywatch? No problem! With a click of a button, you can adjust the speed for individual segments of the same video. Next up is the beauty tool. Every video created by big production houses goes through an airbrush tool that smoothens the skin and removes blemishes on the protagonist on screen. In TikTok, the integrated AR filter does it for you within seconds, ensuring every video is of celebrity quality.
The biggest home run for TikTok is the array of filters. They give any filtering software a run for their money with readily available ones that can be applied before or after recording a video. These filters are categorized to make it easy to choose the right one for the kind of video being recorded. Check out Sarah Grego for tips on which filters work best for her.
For hands-free recording, the timer feature allows an auto-record countdown and this is complemented by the flash feature that gives you the essential lighting while recording a video.
3. Characters and voices
As discussed previously, sounds and music are a massive part of TikTok videos. From the top of the screen, creators have access to a vast library of music overlays and sound effects to accentuate their videos. This can either be specifically curated sounds or popular and trending sounds using the ‘Discovery’ tab. The beauty of TikTok is that every sound effect used is in the public domain and hence creators can use pre-existing sounds from other TikTok videos with the ‘Use this sound’ option.
Compliment the sounds used in a video with the unparalleled options of video effects. The effects available are in the thousands and cover every major video category including trending, new, workout, beauty, aesthetic, interactive, animal, and artistic. These effects can also be added before or after shooting a video, based on availability. These help you create high production level videos in a matter of seconds with multiple characters, effects, and sounds.
4. Recording & editing a video
After selecting the necessary effects and filters, it’s to roll. As mentioned earlier, the countdown option allows you to truly commit to the performance by going hands-free and without the need to hold down the record button throughout. All you need to do is select the duration of the video and you’re ready to go! The video stops recording at a pre-set point or when you click the stop button.
Whether you choose to go hands-free or hold down the record button, TikTok allows you to adapt and improvise by letting you shoot a video in segments, not dissimilar to Vine. You can just pick where you left off after the previous segment. You can also delete any segment at any point if you’re dissatisfied with it for multiple retakes until you’ve got the perfect shot.
Once you hit the checkmark after recording, TikTok now directs you to the editing suite where the magic happens. All your effects, filters, sounds, trims, and volume controls can be accessed here. You can also adjust your video by restructuring its order and add custom voice overs at this point. You can further add quirky elements to your video with stickers, texts, emojis, and effects here.
One tip to keep in mind is to record all the footage you need before entering the editing process. Even if you have excess footage, it can easily be removed here as per your needs.
5. Sharing and publishing on the platform
After all the bells and whistles have been added to your masterpiece, it’s now time to roll out your video for the world to see. An essential part of the video is its caption with all the necessary hashtags and keywords for discoverability. Just like the video length, TikTok encourages short captions with quirky terms for better results.
A call to action that brings about interactions is always a great option. Set your video to Public, Friends, or Private, and hit publish to share your TikTok video. It is also recommended to activate the Duets feature. This allows users to create a video reacting to your video and is a great boost for visibility, reach, and virality!
Leveraging Social Media For Cross-Promotions
Like any piece of content on the Internet, you need to market this on all your social media channels with a link for users to easily gain access to your video. If you have a decent-sized following on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, it helps to have these followers watch your video ASAP for the initial boost after publishing the video. This helps increase interactions, increase your TikTok following and boost the overall performance while simultaneously giving you further content ideas. TikTok videos get shared directly to your camera roll and you can share them anywhere with the push of a button.
Once a video is published, all you need to do is open it, click share and then save it to the device. There is a symbiotic relationship between TikTok and Instagram, as TikTok videos are just 15 seconds long by default. This makes for great Instagram stories. If you have sufficient followers on Instagram, you can share the video on your Insta stories with a ‘Swipe Up’ option that redirects viewers to your TikTok. They also work well on your Instagram feed, barring the fact that Instagram feed dimensions are 4:5 while TikTok video dimensions are 16:9.
Similar to all social media platforms, analytics plays a key role in assessing performance and metrics on TikTok. While users who create TikTok for a bit of fun don’t need to take analytics as seriously, brands and influencers need to rely on analytics to assess their marketing campaigns and returns. Hence, it is imperative to update to a Pro account for analytics. Switching to a Pro account is completely free and provides unrestricted access to all metrics.
The three dots on the top right corner of the TikTok screen give you access to a ‘Manage my account’ option that lets you seamlessly switch to a pro account. Once you select the industry of your business, your account gets updated instantly. The newly accessible analytics section gives you access to 3 main tabs – Overview, Content, and Followers.
The Overview gives you a quick analysis of all your metrics and analytics. This includes Video Views, Follower Count, and Profile Views. You can adjust this to reflect data either from the last 7 days or 28 days. This is a great way to easily get an idea about your growth or decline without diving too deep into the numbers. Spikes and troughs are represented through a graph, allowing you to read further into particular aspects of the graphs you wish to investigate further to replicate peas or avoid troughs.
This is a tab where you gain access to data for your posts and how they have been performing over time. You can view individual videos posted and how each of them has performed over specific days in the chosen period. Your trending videos will give you a detailed understanding of what content is being appreciated by viewers and how they have been trending. These trending videos can give you a deeper understanding of themes, sounds, hashtags, or formats that seem to resonate with the audience, helping you create the necessary supply to feed the demand.
Moving away from your content, this tab helps you understand your audience better. It shows you your growth rate in terms of followers over 7 days or 28 days with a detailed breakdown of their geographies, activity, and demographics, as well as what content they have been consuming over this period. As a brand, this is crucial to understand if your content is reaching the right target audience for an increased brand awareness that you can eventually convert into brand loyalty. If there is a gap in these demographics, it gives you an opportunity to course-correct and reassesses your strategy. The most crucial takeaway here is when and how your followers like to consume their content so that you can align your posting strategy with it.
Tips To Grow Your Followers On TikTok In 2021
Once you’ve identified your target audience and utilize analytics to get a proper understanding of how they operate and consume content on TikTok, it helps to bridge the gap between what you’re creating and what they want.
- Identify your target audience properly
- Create content that entertains the audience
- The content should also educate them about your brand
- Capitalize on hashtags, sounds, and trends
- Engage with them through challenges and calls to action
- Study analytics to post content at peak times
- Leverage your other social media presence to cross-promote
- Engage with them through influencers and trends that they seem to consume the most
TikTok is the next big thing in the world of social media content creation and chances are that if you wait too long to jump on the bandwagon, it might be too late. Never before has a social media platform provided content in a way that aligns itself with audiences of today, and brands and individuals alike need to take advantage of this before they miss out. With this blog, we believe you have all the information you need to carve a niche for yourself on TikTok and create content that gives you the following you deserve.
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