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It seems that there’s a new social media app popping up almost every day. It’s almost impossible to keep up with all of them, and it’s literally impossible to predict which ones will survive, thrive and become trendsetters. Honestly, figuring out the proper way to utilize a social media platform for marketing purposes – especially for the small business and entrepreneur clients we serve – is sometimes a daunting task, with little or no reward or guarantee that it will matter in six months.

So if you haven’t heard of TikTok, you’re probably wondering why we’re even discussing it. In fact, our fearless leader pushed back a little when I told him that we needed to make this one a priority.

If you’re above the age of 25 and never heard of TikTok, that’s no surprise. I myself only learned about it when I booked a commercial for the application last June. I worked for a half day, dressed as a mechanic, while laughing at funny videos on the app. And the very next day I drove to Comic Con in San Diego, where I saw everything from 20 story buildings to pedicabs, all draped in TikTok advertising.

Don’t Despise Small Beginnings

TikTok started as a couple of different apps, mostly for videoing yourself doing lipsync karaoke. Back then, it was called Its parent company in China, ByteDance, bought the app and combined it with its Douyin video editing app to create TikTok – launching under that name in 2018.  

By the end of 2019, TikTok reportedly had more than 500-million active users. That’s almost HALF of the active users on Instagram, which has been building for 10 years, with the help of Facebook for the majority of that time.

And since people have been self-isolating due to the Coronavirus, TikTok has had a second exponential explosion of users. Unique visitors just from the United States have increased more than 93% since October of 2019! When numbers are finally released, it would not surprise me to see that the app has crested 7-800 million active users. In fact, a leaked presentation claims they’ve already nailed that.

While 52-million active users in the United States may sound like small potatoes, that’s exactly why it’s the perfect time for many businesses to come on board.

Avoid the Demo-lition

Before I get into all the great reasons you should consider creating a presence on TikTok, let me share the one gigantic caveat.

The largest demographic of TikTok users, by far, is between the ages of 16 and 24. Let me repeat that:

The largest demographic of TikTok users,
by far, is between the ages of 16 and 24.

That’s probably why you haven’t heard of it – or just caught rumblings of it from your kids or younger family members. So if your business strategy does not include consumers under 30, it’s most likely a waste of your time and resources to invest in TikTok now.

The demographics may change – Facebook and Instagram are both aging gracefully at this point – but don’t count on it. Bookmark this article for later and work on your other marketing efforts.

Standing on the Brink

For those of you still here… There are numerous pros to claiming some virtual property on TikTok. Think of this as social media insider trading – giving you the boost up before everyone else finds out.

One of the biggest bonuses to TikTok is that it’s extremely easy to get on board. Download the app and use the camera on your phone. You don’t even need the latest iPhone pro camera – an iPhone 5 or a Galaxy 2 camera is just as good. TikTok is the one platform where lack of high production quality is not a barrier to entry. And because it’s still growing, you have room and freedom to experiment and even fall on your face without a bunch of negative consequences.

Also, pretty much any editing tool you might need for a TikTok video from adding effects, text and music – thousands of licensed songs free to use – to tightening your clip is right there in the app.

Inspiring Minds Want to Know

And not only does TikTok allow you to see and steal borrow from be inspired by other users videos – the platform and users highly encourage it, if done well.

Because it’s so new, there has still been no solid analysis of how the TikTok algorithm to recommend videos actually works, but it seems it’s much easier to go viral on this social media platform than others.

It also helps that as of a year ago, May 2019, according to only 4% of social media marketers had an active presence on TikTok. That number has surely grown, especially since the platform has rolled out advertising potentials since those numbers were published. But there is still plenty of room for growth and huge potential to become the instant leader in your niche of the TikTok world.

About That Niche…

I’ve talked before about the unattributed marketing quote, “The riches are in the niches…” TikTok is the ultimate expression of this concept. About the only reason you can truly fail on TikTok is by not selecting and targeting your videos at a specific niche.

But it’s also incredibly easy to establish yourself and your company in a very specific niche – and quickly dominate it.

And while a 15-second video clip platform may not seem like the best way to build your business, if you work it properly, there is potential for a huge user transfer – hook new people and potential clients on TikTok, then port them over to your Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, etc. In fact, there’s already a large wave of people integrating TikTok & YouTube and TikTok & Instagram. So you can bolster your audience here, then truly engage with them there.

TikTok is actually designed for this type of integration – once you create your video on TikTok, you can save it to your phone, post it to Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp and more.

But first… You guessed it! Strategy!

TikTok forces you to summarize and target your message. 15 seconds is actually longer than most people think it is. But it’s also a lot shorter than most people’s videos – corporate or otherwise. Remember when YouTube released their stats that most people tune out after 8-10 minutes? Quibi, for one, is betting millions of dollars that that’s still true.

But here’s the thing – limits force creativity. Look at something as simple as playing Charades or Pictionary. The time limit often drives you to think outside of the box to get the message (i.e., actor, film or object) across to your guessing teammates.  The constraint of 15 seconds of video, if you let it, means you create stronger, more focused and specific messages.

You’ve probably heard of the Pareto principle – 20% of customers give you 80% of your income. And you spend 80% of your time dealing with 20% of your customers – although, we usually get this wrong and waste time dealing with the 20% troublemakers who supply very little of our income.

I’m going to give you permission to walk away from 80% of less than ideal customers. I assure you that if you take the time to do some serious strategic work, the 20% of customers you keep and focus on will not only make up the loss of income, they will also decrease the stress and mental anguish the discarded customers are causing you. And if you’re aimed at your ideal customer, you’re more likely to attract more of the clients you want and fewer of the others.

The 15-second TikTok rule helps you to implement the ideal customer strategy. No more hemming and hawing, trying to make sure you appeal to 5 or 10 or even 3-4 proposed ideal customers. 15 seconds – one message. With this platform, your 2-3 TikTok videos, each appealing to the specific niche where your perfect customer is … And leave worry behind along with all the added tension.

And remember – you can repost these highly targeted videos on your other social media pages, and link TikTok to your other feeds as well.

Okay, But 15 Seconds of What?

I’m glad you asked. Your first step, is, again, to make sure you understand your target customers and what they like and want. The first rule is that you’re not here to sell anything. Seriously. The younger your target audience is – and on TikTok, it’s primarily Gen Z – the less tolerance they have for advertisements.

As I mentioned earlier, TikTok’s roots are in music, creativity and humor. It helps if you embrace the DNA of the platform. No, you don’t have to sing or be immediately humorous – although it probably won’t hurt.

For businesses on TikTok, incorporating a more personal tone, sharing the culture of your workplace, or taking us behind the scenes videos will do well…often with less talking and more of the included music tracks adding to your scenes.

If you want to really take a chance, and show your crazier side as the owner or entrepreneur face of the business, this is the app that will reward that risk. Or forgive you if it falls flat.

Find a creative way to take part in the hashtag challenges, or use the trending dances and songs. Again, there’s no penalty for looking a little silly on this platform. Look through the hashtags for your chosen niche (more on those hashtags in a moment) and see what other businesses and individuals are doing. As I mentioned before, TikTok is the place to steal like an artist – I mean do an homage to others. Your unique take – your brand story and personality will differentiate you from your fellow niche-rs. So go ahead and copy their idea, with your unique spin.

Above all, BE AUTHENTIC. I cannot emphasize this enough. Even targeting the right, narrow niche will fail if the people who come across your video feel like you’re a poser. This also goes back to the low bar for entry. The majority of TikTok’s are shot on phones. And not like that John Wick snowball fight they did on the iPhone 11 Pro. Just the standard camera phone.

In that same vein, this is NOT the place for explainer videos, training tapes, reairing your commercial or chunks of a high paid industrial effort. Trust on TikTok is built from unique, fun content that allows the viewers to see you – even if you are that guy who can’t resist a terrible dad joke.

But a simple, light-hearted video that shows off your products? Perfectly fine – just skip the sales pitch. TikTok isn’t the place for a call to action.

Nothing Up My Sleeve… 

There are two “magic” ingredients that almost always guarantee a viral TikTok – pets and kids. If you’re like us, or many of our clients, you may have pets that hang around the office – invited or not. If you can incorporate these volunteer corporate mascots, great! Even if it’s just a video of 15 seconds of you trying to talk an unwilling pet into doing their part, people will love it.

Bring your daughter (or son) to work day? Perfect! Put the kids on camera explaining what mom or dad do. Get them rolling their eyes at that dad joke. Get them to help teach their parent or other folks in the office how to do a hashtag challenge dance.

And hey, you don’t have to put them on camera, either. Have the child hold your phone and narrate, in their “kids say the darndest things” way whatever you’re doing or trying to do.

You’ll be able to look at your engagement on each video to see how well it’s performing and you can create more in the same vein of whatever’s working.

Leading a #Hashtag Fugitive Fleet

Just like Instagram (and Twitter, although seemingly less so lately), the true social power of TikTok is buried in the #hashtags. Even without followers, especially when you’re just beginning to post content, the right hashtags can bring more views to your videos. You’re limited to 100 characters in a caption, so try and utilize the strongest, narrowest hashtags to get eyeballs on your content. Think of it like website SEO for TikTok.

Be careful of double entendres and innuendos unless you mean to use them. Years ago, a business consultant shared a story with me of a company that marketed writing utensils. They wanted to utilize the Edward Bulwer-Lytton idiom in their marketing, and one of their associates quickly grabbed a URL to go with that. Sadly, the site attracted a different crowd than they were expecting at www.mypenismightier…  

On the other hand, if you DO mean to tease an innuendo, lean into it, if it fits your brand and culture.

You should also create your own brand specific hashtags. Chipotle and Guess have both had runaway success with this – creating brand hashtags and specific campaign hashtags. In 2019, Chipotle created the #GuacDance campaign – a branded challenge with hashtag. At the time, it became the highest-performing branded challenge in the U.S. And it wasn’t just posting dance videos. In addition to 250-thousand video submissions and more than 430-Million video starts over 6 days, Chipotle restaurants served a record more than 800,000 sides of guacamole. That’s a 68% increase over their standard usage.

But don’t go overboard – use ONE or two main company hashtags and only one specific hashtag for a dedicated campaign. That way, it’s more likely that it will get shared by all the users joining in, and makes it trackable and measureable.

Finally, hashtags are also what you can use to stalk your competitors and other users on TikTok for the best content and hashtags. Just use the discover tab (the magnifying glass), enter your hashtag, tap on search, then select tags and you will see the number of users using this hashtag next to the name of the hashtag you have searched.

You Mentioned Advertising Earlier…

Yes, around August of 2019, TikTok rolled out some more traditional advertising approaches, although the most popular ones are still those that understand and employ the fun TikTok narrative.  

  • Infeed Native Content: This type of ad is similar to Snapchat or Instagram story ads and supports multiple features like website clicks or app downloads. They play full screen – are entirely skippable – and can only be 9-15 seconds in length. Remember what I said about Gen Z having no use for explicit advertising? While you can very specifically target who sees these, most users are gonna swipe up, unless you’re delivering undeniable content like those unskippable YouTube Geico commercials.
  • Branded Lenses: Branded lenses work for TikTok videos just like the Snapchat 2D, 3D & Augmented Reality (AR) lenses do for faces and photos. If you decide to go this route, shoot for fun, creative lenses that people who could care less about your brand will want to use. Yes, in this case, go wide.
  • Brand Takeovers: This lets brands take over TikTok for the day. They can create images, GIFs and videos with embedded links to landing pages or hashtag challenges. As you can imagine, this gets pricey pretty quickly, even for a smaller scale platform. These aren’t really designed for small businesses – with one possible exception
  •  Hashtag Challenges: Instead of trying to make a hashtag challenge go viral on your own, you can use promoted hashtags to get more engagement. Now, honestly, if you’ve done your strategic work and know your niche, you are probably just as capable of generating your own viral hashtag challenge. But the wild success of many of these paid campaigns is worth mentioning, because once the paid campaign is over, the hashtags still linger and grow. So if you need a push, you can do a brief ad spend, then hope it continues to build organically. You can even add a shoppable component to the hashtag – guiding users to your site.
  • Influencer Takeovers: These are not coordinated or implemented with the platform’s creators, and technically aren’t part of their ad offerings. But influencer takeovers allow you to align your brand with TikTok “stars” that already have significant followings. Of course, you’ll want to only reach out to influencers whose audience matches your target market. Rather than pay the platform, you work out a deal – money, trade, barter – anything goes as long as you both agree to the terms of the partnership. Then the influencer uses your product, recommends it, or creates an engaging video with it. Really, the sky’s the limit with creativity in this area. And everything is posted with the appropriate hashtags.

Time Is Ticking Away…

Should TikTok be a part of your marketing attack plan? If your clients are 16-25, or the parents who purchase things for them, it’s entirely possible.

However, if you haven’t done the crucial strategy work, how do you even know the demo- and psycho-graphics of your ideal customer? Too many businesses rush into marketing plans, grasping for goals and targets that aren’t clearly defined. Sometimes, even with the best intentions, they let go of their vision just trying to stay afloat. They end up serving clients that cause them stress and mental anguish – clients outside of their target market – because they’ve lost track of, or never completed, their business strategy.

Here at Grow the Dream, we don’t want that to happen to you. We’re here to help you BUILD and GROW your business dreams and step into your ambitions. If you need to do the strategic work, or you need a refresher to get you growing towards the sun again, let us do a free consult to see if we can help you.

Right now, while many of us are stuck at home, unable to do “regular” business, might be the perfect opportunity for you. Or if the problem is finding the time to implement the strategy, we have solutions to assist with that too. Please reach out. We want to help in any way we can.

Update: 6/25/2020:

TikTok announces TikTok for Business, housing all of their marketing solutions for brands including access to TikTok ad formats, TopView, Brand Takeovers, In-Feed Videos, Hashtag Challenges and Branded Effects. And launched their newest feature — AR effect Brand Scan.

TikTok is also launching EduTok, an e-learning center, to advise marketers about ad options, with product guides and resources to help launch campaigns. Now users and brands have even more ability to make a meaningful and positive impact on their communities.