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14 March 2019

Is it time to turn to TikTok?

Digital Trends

TikTok has become one of the most downloaded apps in the app store, since being created only 3 years ago by the Chinese company, ByteDance.  

With a young user base, TikTok has great potential for brands that are specifically targeting Gen Z and young millennials. And there are signs that the app is coming of age. TikTok is growing user share explosively, testing and integrating  in-app ads, and it’s attracting the eye of regulators.  

TikTok looks like it might start playing in the big leagues. Is it time for marketers to start paying attention?  

Here are our thoughts on how TikTok can be leveraged to target young, musically inclined audiences.  

Who uses TikTok? 

TikTok’s expansion has been explosive. After becoming popular in East Asia, it rapidly gained traction in the US, seeing a sharp increase in user activity globally.  

The popularity of TikTok is also increasing in the UK as it was listed 7th in Apple App store. TikTok is the new kid on the block, and with a firm grasp on the Gen Z and young millennial audience, it is poised to give the ageing Facebook and controversy riddled Instagram a run for their money. 

Unique Features of TikTok 

Mobile Only

TikTok is only available on mobile devices. It enables users to create short 15 second videos, usually focused on dance, lip syncing songs and acting out short skits. These can include music and sound effects. Some of the most popular content on the platform is comedy, life hacks, food , pets, pranks and stunts. Unlike competitors, TikTok offers advanced visual effects and editing techniques to enhance videos and make them more engaging. The app focuses solely on video-content, which remains consumers’ favourite way of being reached by brands. Think of TikTok as a modern-day Vine. Short, snappy video content that is usually light-hearted.  

Minimal Branding

TikTok is has minimal adverts. This helps create a playful environment that users enjoy. But this can only last so long. TikTok is a business, and will be keen to maximise profits and tap into brands looking to advertise on their platform. Pair this with the fact that they’re already testing ads and it’s clear that the platform will integrate paid advertising soon.   

Rewards for Creators

To reward creators, TikTok has a similar system to Twitch. It enables users to buy coins on the app and donate “emoji-like gifts” to their favourite creators during livestreams. Gifts can then be converted into actual money by creators. Once they reach a certain level of popularity, creators can become “crown” users, the verified equivalent of their competitors. Spend in the TikTok app is high, with $3.5 million spent on TikTok coins in October 2018. Of that amount, 43% came from the US, while the close second were users in China who had spent $1.4 million. This helps to reinforce the fact that TikTok is increasing in popularity in the West. 

Perennial Content

A unique feature on TikTok is that posts don’t have a shelf life. Videos will keep on being recommended to users as long as they perform. In order to measure performance, TikTok relies on the four following factors: likes, comments, repost and the rate of full play. These metrics will help inform KPIs when working with content creators on TikTok. 

Build for Collaboration

Collaboration is key to TikTok’s success. Users create duets with strangers on the app by responding to their videos, thus feeding an endless stream of reactions. This feature, if properly used, could be leveraged by brands. By collaborating with crown users and creating fun pieces of content users could interact and play with, B2C brands could increase their visibility among TikTok’s core audience.  

Which brands are currently using TikTok? 

Some brands have started influencer partnerships with crowned TikTok Creators and are leveraging the features of the TikTok platform. Brands like Coke and Guess have used TikTok to run campaigns to target their Gen Z audiences. Coke used the platform to encourage content creators to duet with each other by sharing a Coke. Guess ran a campaign with a very typical TikTok style by leveraging the acting and dance aspect, with Guess clothing as the main feature.  

Coke’s TikTok campaign is particularly interesting. They printed song lyrics on cans and challenged users to incorporate the songs in their videos. Each favourite song lyric reflected something about the influencer’s personality. It gave their fans an insight into music they like and provided those who wanted to recreate the videos with a chance to show off their favourite music too. The campaign was launched with crowned users and generated more than 900,000 video responses from the target group. 

How can brands drive engagement on TikTok? 

There are 3 key principles to a successful campaign on TikTok. These are: 

  1. Collaborate, don’t dictate – Allow TikTok creators to have the creative freedom to post content that is natural and authentic on their channels, while still producing the agreed deliverables for the brand. 
  1. Focus on driving engagements to ensure content half-life – TikTok posts are not watermarked with a date and time of posting, which means that older content stays valid. The way to ensure older content stays relevant is by creating content which drives engagements such as likes, comments and duets.  
  1. Partner with ‘Crowned’ users – Successful brand partnerships on TikTok have all involved the TikTok equivalent of verified content creators. This ensures that content is seen, due to the high reach of Crowned creators, and engagements from their fans. 

Is it just a one hit wonder? 

TikTok is on the rise and has a strong potential. The rapid growth of its user base and the considerable amount of time users spend on the app every day are signs that ByteDance has created a strong concept. Growing numbers of in-app donations to content creators also signals the emergence of new influencers who have a strong and loyal following.  

Considering the accelerating rate of engagement from users, now is the time for brands to start harnessing the capabilities and potential of influencers on the platform if they want to reach young audiences in a playful way.  

By Zak Khdir, Fariha Rahman and Paul Bancilhon  

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