Jun 15 2022 Mindy Zhang Blog Social Media Strategy The Do’s and Don’ts of TikTok Marketing Populated by twerking ducks, gummy bears singing Adele, and skateboarders drinking cranberry juice to Fleetwood Mac, TikTok is an inherently ridiculous place. As such, it’s easy to dismiss the platform as a passing trend that’s used exclusively by Gen Z. But by the numbers, TikTok may surprise you. According to eMarketer, TikTok is the third-largest social network in the world. And with 94.1 million US monthly users, it’s clear that Gen Z is not the only generation tapping in. In fact, more than half of US TikTok users are over the age of 25, and more than 30% are age 35+. Adult users in the US will spend an estimated 46 minutes per day on the platform in 2022 (a number that would be even higher if it included users under 18). That’s higher than any other platform—including YouTube! From an ad perspective, TikTok is eager to tap into its explosive growth: the platform recently added new features to create opportunities further down the funnel, such as collection ads, search ads, and interactive add-ons. Pleasantly surprised yet? That’s what TikTok is all about! To reduce any unpleasant surprises as you test and learn on the platform, check out some “do’s” and “don’ts” for TikTok marketing below. Do: Be Authentic The age of the perfectly filtered Instagram post is over. Experts across the board agree that brands can’t afford inauthenticity. So, what exactly does authenticity look like? Across platforms, consumers want to buy from brands whose internal actions align with their external messaging. On TikTok specifically, users tend to feel closer to brands that publish unfiltered, human content. As the platform itself puts it, “authenticity and joy are unique and ownable aspects of the TikTok community, not only for users but also for brands and businesses looking to make an impact.” This is one of the most important tips for marketing on TikTok, as users love to pounce on messaging that strikes them as fake. Check out the following TikTok video for a great example of brand authenticity: Fenty Beauty partnered with beauty influencer @golloria to highlight the lack of darker shade options in makeup. The authenticity here comes from the fact that Fenty Beauty doesn’t just talk the talk—the brand offers a truly inclusive range of makeup shades, and partnered with a well-known influencer who was willing to use and promote their products. @fentybeauty Beauty for AWLLL skin tones 👏🏻👏🏼👏🏽👏🏾👏🏿 We’ve understood the assignment since day 1, periodt! 💯 @golloria came thru with her perfect shade match using our #EAZEDROP Blurring Skin Tint in shade 25 ✨😍 ♬ original sound – Fenty Beauty Do: Blend In On TikTok, you have to blend in to stand out. While the idea might sound complicated, marketers are well-versed in the practice of tailoring content to specific platforms (you wouldn’t run an audio ad on CTV, would you?) In addition to the basics (video orientation, length, etc.) blending in on TikTok means making your brand’s content similar to the rest of the content users are interacting with on the platform. We’ve already covered one characteristic that’s important to blending in—authenticity—but there are others to be aware of. Silliness is a big one (did we mention the twerking ducks?) TikTok is an entertainment platform, after all! Challenges are also huge: upload a video that shows a specific action or dance accompanied by a hashtag, and if the content is captivating enough, TikTok users will copy your action and upload their own video along with the hashtag. Granted, goofiness and viral challenges might not be your brand’s bag, and that’s OK! The point here is that marketers should have a solid understanding of what other content looks like on TikTok to inform the creation of their own. Check out the following TikTok from a home goods brand that blends right in. Instead of “selling” their products outright, the brand tapped into TikTok’s ASMR user base and told a story about how home appliances can improve one’s day. @smarthome008 My wife is not home for the day,so happy 🥳🥳#smarthome #asmr #homegoods ♬ original sound – Smarthome shopping Do: Know Your Options Once you’ve spent some time perusing the wild, wild world of TikTok content, it’s time to dig into the platform’s advertising options. In-feed ads are the standard and what might automatically come to mind when you think about TikTok advertising. These native ads look like organic TikTok videos and are added into a user’s feed as they scroll. However, TikTok also offers brand takeovers, TopView Ads, branded hashtag challenges, and even branded effects, which allow brands to create their own custom TikTok filters. As with the above “blend in” recommendation, this is all about knowing the playing field. Take some time to read up on the different ad formats available within TikTok, and from there start strategizing about which ones are a good fit for both your audience and your product or service. Check out the following video to see how Mucinex engaged TikTok to create a branded effect of their mascot, Mr. Mucus, doing what so many TikTok users love to do—dance! @josettepimenta The looks we got while filming this 🤣 #BeatTheZombieFunk #twitch #zombie #tiktok @lizzyrichyo DC: @twitchtok7 @allisonholkerboss @ellendegeneres ♬ #BeatTheZombieFunk – DJ Nightshift Don’t: Ignore Competitors Let’s kick off the “don’ts” with a no brainer: as with marketing strategy in general, it’s key to perform competitive audits to see what has and what hasn’t worked for the other players in your space. Since TikTok is more of a wild card than other advertising formats, competitive intelligence is especially important here. Perusing competitor feeds will also help you to identify what other industry influencers and personalities are doing. Check out the following video for an example of how competitive analysis can spark ideas: the featured #TargetChallenge, in which two friends visit a Target and each buys things they think the other would enjoy before unboxing together, could be adapted for almost any brick-and-mortar store. @jcstrudel Target challenge with @julie24601 😘 We did not discuss a price limit beforehand 😬#targetchallenge #fyp #bff #target #PerfectAsIAm #ArtLessons ♬ original sound – JC Don’t: Hop on Just Any Bandwagon TikTok is the home of viral challenges, and it can be tempting to participate in all of them (OK, maybe not all of them). TikTok is fickle: viral trends rise and fall, interests come and go, and sometimes it all seems to be happening too fast for a brand to thoughtfully weigh in. But for all TikTok’s virtues, it’s still a social media platform—and when advertising on social, brand safety must be front-of-mind. With misinformation and disinformation proliferating on social platforms, it’s critical to perform a “brand safety check” on any new trend before joining in. So: when you spot a trend or challenge you think would be perfect for your brand, take a few moments to get to know the premise, research the users who kicked it off, and spend some time with the content others are creating around it. Checking if the people, groups, or audiences behind the trend pose association-based risks is truly priceless, given the lasting consequences of hopping on the wrong bandwagon. Check out the following video to see how Panda Express tapped into TikTok’s ASMR community. ASMR is one TikTok trend that isn’t going away, and Panda Express approached it thoughtfully: with a full video shoot and an influencer contract. @officialpandaexpress A little treat for your eardrums. 🍤👂#PandaExpress @funnyasiandude ♬ original sound – Panda Express Don’t: Lead with Sales Finally, salesiness is a no-no on TikTok. Again: this is an entertainment platform! Plus, its giant user base is mostly made up of millennials, Gen Z, and the succeeding generation, Generation Alpha—users who are too digitally savvy not to scroll past anything that remotely looks like an ad. Herein lies the challenge for many brands: while it can be fairly simple to repurpose an ad concept across display, CTV, and audio, repurposing that same concept on TikTok is a different beast. On the flip side, TikTok offers a refreshing creative challenge for marketers, asking them to think about audience entertainment (and a nice potential boost in brand awareness) first, and CTAs second. Check out the following example of B2B brand Shopify sidestepping the sales and prioritizing the entertainment: @shopify oh my boss you mean me hahahaha #fyp #shopify #smallbusinessowner #wellthatsyou ♬ original sound – Charlie Mosey TikTok Marketing – Wrapping Up There’s an awful lot to consider for brands branching out into TikTok, but the platform’s mantra for advertisers says it all: “Don’t make ads, make TikTok videos!” Those brands that approach their TikTok marketing strategies from the perspective of TikTok users—who seek entertaining, authentic, and unique content—will be well on their way to TikTok marketing success. — On the hunt for more social advertising tips and tricks? Check out Basis’ Resource Center!