TikTok, Ya Don’t Stop

Thought Leadership

Have you tried to tally up all the venues and communities where brands are expected to be active lately? Nope? Me neither. I wouldn’t know where to start or stop. Some well-known brands with the financial firepower, like KFC, are marketing everywhere (e.g., dating simulation games, sending sandwiches to the stratosphere, and making dramatic movies starring Mario Lopez). It’s a considerable spread. But this diversification of channels is not necessarily advisable or even feasible for most brands.So, rather than wade into the weeds of whether or not you should diversify your channel and creative mix, we’re going to focus on one medium within one strategy (social) that’s getting a lot of brand love lately. Here’s a roadmap for our little TikTok journey.

  1. How do you sing the TikTok song? 
  2. Can my brand win on TikTok, too? 
  3. What are the cool kids doing?

And we’ll be up front with a strong disclaimer: with TikTok comes the responsibility to be all-in on the medium. You have to work it for it to work for you. The true benefit of TikTok comes when you put as much faith into your TikTok followers as you want them to put into you. With this mindset, positive results will definitely come your way.

How do you sing the TikTok song? 

What? There’s a song?!No. Just joking. Let’s talk about what TikTok is and how brands are using it. TikTok isn’t a platform where you can sell products or services, or a medium to place traditional ads. It is for communication, for brand personification, for showcasing interests, talents and hobbies.Now, since it’s so important, we’ll go ahead and repeat it. TikTok is not a true conversion platform. That said, why include it in your media mix?Because, when used in an engaging, on-brand manner, it’s a marketplace of exploration, demonstration and ideas, where you get to dream, play and creatively explore right alongside your audiences. And when your brand interacts in this way, you gain the opportunity to link to conversion-oriented platforms in a natural and organic manner.

Create a reason for users to visit other (revenue-generating) platforms.

TikTok should never be a stand-alone tactic. It’s part of a bigger marketing strategy. Brands can learn from how artists use TikTok to both increase awareness of their work AND create an ecosystem of connections by creating links to other mediums that allow for continued exploration.Musicians such as Mothica (Vices) and The Longest Johns (The Wellerman of recent Sea Shanty hysteria fame) blew up on TikTok featuring snippets of their songs on the platform, but they almost always mention their Spotify, YouTube, Twitch, or other places to buy, thus extending the connection and providing more robust content for consumers to, well, consume. Other creators direct people to their Etsy shop, Patreon, or company websites, with content falling into a couple of categories: 1) introducing the business and its products and services followed by Q&A sessions spawned from comments on the original video, or 2) “How It’s Made” style videos where users get to catch a glimpse of the hard work behind the products.

Demonstrate how it’s made.

It occurs so much on the platform, I had to mention it twice. TikTok highlights the “how” in snackable form. And the result varies. It may be awe or wonder, cravings or hunger, surprise or curiosity.Take this video from @CheatMeats, which falls into the demonstration category. At the time of this writing, it has been posted for less than two weeks and has already garnered 1.9 million views, over 284,000 likes, and almost 4,600 comments. Now, obviously, all 1.9 million people who’ve viewed the video aren’t from Perth, Australia, where CheatMeats is located, but they are definitely taking advantage of how much awareness TikTok can bring to them.

Foster connections. 

And what do connections, and gaining more of them, do for a brand? They grow awareness.Larger brands tend to use TikTok to connect with consumers around major milestones, like when Taco Bell announced it would be bringing back potato products to its menu. (While the original video has since been taken down, reactions to it such as this one are still available.)McDonald’s used the popular #Duet hashtag to ask users to sing their order. This let users connect with the brand while promoting their own favorite items, without McDonald’s actually promoting anything other than engagement.Meanwhile, Honda gave a glimpse of their new Civic prototype with a short hype video. They also use TikTok to promote short informational videos, like how to change out your car’s antifreeze.Still, just because the brand is popular out in the world doesn’t mean it will see success on TikTok. There are plenty of brands that have created accounts, yet they have no followers because there are no videos. So, unless a user is specifically searching for them, they are unseen.Unless a brand is out there actively connecting, there will be no new connections. And without connections, awareness won’t change either.Creators on TikTok who make a solid effort not only to create lots of content but also to connect with their audiences see the most success. Hank Green, co-creator of Crash Course on YouTube and original organizer of VidCon (among many other projects), has recently seen huge success on TikTok by regularly answering questions and comments he gets on other videos. This constant back-and-forth keeps the conversation open and also makes users feel like they are being seen.

So what? 

TikTok is a relatively new, shiny thing. And brands are playing too. What’s the standard measure of success on the platform? Read Part 2: Can my brand win on TikTok, too?Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.