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A marketing guide to TikTok

08 Nov 2019
By Nick

New social media apps pop up all the time, but only a select few really become a worldwide success. TikTok is quickly gaining popularity and is being tipped to rival the main platforms very soon.

Haven’t heard of it? Don’t worry, this summary will bring you up to speed:

What is TikTok, and how does it work?

TikTok is a social video app where users share short clips, usually around 15 seconds long. It’s similar to Vine but has more features like filters, music and augmented reality and are great fun – like this one:

It’s owned by Chinese company ByteDance, who acquired in 2017, before re-branding it to TikTok. In 2018 it was the world’s fourth most downloaded app, ahead of Instagram and Snapchat!

Common videos are lip-syncing, dancing and funny skits. Users can gain likes/comments, like other platforms, and TikTok has its own influencers.

Most notably, rapper Lil Nas X shot to fame with his song ‘Old Town Road’ which started as a meme before exploding in popularity and topping the charts, all thanks to TikTok.

Who is the target market for TikTok?

It’s hugely popular with teenagers, as most users are under 24. They have over 500m active users per month. Users tend to respond to a viral hashtag or challenge.

Advertising on TikTok

Its marketing platform is fairly new, and brands are currently exploring the best ways to advertise on the app. Here are the current ad campaign options:

  1. Biddable Ads: Fully self-serve ads are not available just yet, but biddable ads can be set up via a TikTok rep. The only available ad type is a standard in-feed video ad, which has three action models (CPC, CPM and CPV – six seconds). Targeting only includes age, gender, and state-level geo-targeting for now, but they’ve promised more interest and behavioural targeting over time.
  2. Brand Takeover: Limited to one advertiser per day, this type of ad appears as soon as a user opens the app, meaning the ad is front and centre. You can then push viewers to an internal or external destination.
  3. Hashtag Challenge: As mentioned, teens love to participate in a challenge. This ad campaign encourages user-generated content, increasing the chance of going viral. A TikTok representative partners with the brand for six days during the length of the campaign.

Should my client be advertising on TikTok?

If the client has a young target audience, then paid ads are definitely worth exploring. Just keep in mind that a large proportion of the user base are teenagers, and sometimes younger: “The company says it is most popular with 16- to 24-year-olds but there is evidence that many users are under 13, which is against the app’s rules,” according to the BBC.

TikTok don’t disclose their ad sales numbers, so for now we can’t see how popular it’s been from a brand perspective compared to other platforms, but it’s regarded as an emerging force and Forbes recently described the app as a “sleeping giant“.

Has there been any TikTok controversy or negative press?

In February 2018 they were fined by the US Federal Trade Commission, agreeing to pay $5.7 million to settle allegations they illegally collected personal information from children under the age of 13, including names, email addresses and their location.

A BBC investigation found that some younger fans are being exploited by influencers on the app. Content creators are able to make money through live streams, where their fans can send them ‘digital gifts’ which cost anywhere between 5p and £49. Some promise to share their phone numbers with fans in exchange for gifts.

How have the other social platforms reacted to TikTok?

Last month Mark Zuckerberg openly criticised the rival app, accusing them of censoring content that its Chinese owners deem politically unfavourable, like the recent protests in Hong Kong.

Facebook launched ‘Lasso’, their own version of TikTok, at the end of 2018. It’s very similar, letting users film 15 second videos with access to a large catalogue of music to overlay, based on an algorithmic feed.

“We’re trying to first see if we can get it to work in countries where TikTok is not already big before we go and compete with TikTok in countries where they are big,” Zuckerberg said at a meeting in July.

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