With TikTok’s wide reach and quick adoption by the masses, it’s little wonder why TikTok marketing has become so popular for small businesses in recent years.
If you’re interested in adding this channel to your marketing mix, read on to learn how TikTok works, some key advantages and disadvantages to using the platform for business, and three questions to consider in order to determine whether it’s a good fit for your company.
How does TikTok work?
TikTok is a short-form video platform that launched in 2016. Since then, it’s gained a massive following, with more than a billion users in over 150 countries to date.
Creators can use a variety of in-app effects, filters, songs, audio clips, and text overlays to create short-form videos that educate, entertain, and inspire their followers. Users can also include captions to add context and hashtags to attract a target audience.
If you’re new to the platform, the TikTok for Business page provides lots of information and inspiration, including guides for both small and large companies to help you get started.
You may be able to reach your target audience quickly and cost-effectively
TikTok is one of the most-used social media platforms today. In one report, small businesses owners claim that TikTok’s organic reach is second only to Facebook and Instagram.
One reason for this is because TikTok’s main feed, the “For You” page, isn’t limited to content shared by the people and businesses the user follows. (This is a key difference between TikTok and Instagram, which pushes content from popular accounts and brands.)
TikTok’s algorithm suggests a stream of curated content that’s likely to appeal to users based on their interests and in-app actions. Anyone can go viral on TikTok, even if they just created their account yesterday, because virality is driven by interest and engagement rather than the social “weight” of the creator.
Because it’s easier to go viral on TikTok, the platform is perhaps one of the most cost-effective social media platforms when it comes to organic reach. Creating videos that are tailored to your audience will increase the likelihood that your video(s) will be shared on your audience’s curated “For You” page —even without any paid promotions behind it.
Additionally, low-budget, short-form video content tends to perform best on TikTok. All you need is a smartphone and internet connection to set up an account and create content.
Viewer-to-customer conversion rates are high
On average, TikTok users spend over 1.5 hours on the app each day. This engagement, in turn, often leads to increased revenue for brands. According to TikTok, 35% of users have bought something they’ve seen on the platform.
The creative opportunities on TikTok are endless
With a new trend or sound bite going viral on the app nearly every day, jumping on the latest trends gives you an opportunity to expose your brand to new customers. Business owners can piggyback off of the ones that make the most sense for them, which means there’s always inspiration for new content.
The best part is that you don’t have to come up with something completely unique every time you post. If you’re experiencing creative block, just log on to TikTok, search for a current trend that’s relevant to your brand, and put your own spin on it.
Take Duolingo, for instance. The language learning app and its green owl mascot, Duo, have taken chaos to new heights on TikTok. Each video on the brand’s page exudes the kind of unhinged, frenetic energy that’s almost become a feature of the platform. Whether Duo is obsessing over Dua Lipa or referencing the latest current events in its skits, the brand always seems to have its finger on the pulse of TikTok’s current trends.
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You can easily repurpose content for other platforms
In what may be an attempt to keep up with TikTok’s popularity, other apps have launched their own versions of short-form video content. Think Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and Snapchat Spotlight.
In addition to pushing your TikTok content directly to other social media platforms, you can download your videos from TikTok and upload them to these other apps yourself. This saves on time and allows you to get the most from your video content.
Of course, social media isn’t the only place you can reuse this content. Repurpose your TikTok videos—as well as the original footage you shot—in your marketing emails, long-form video content, website, and more.
Potential disadvantages for small businesses using TikTok
Running ads can be expensive for small businesses
According to Business of Apps, the minimum amount you can spend on a TikTok marketing campaign is $500. So if you plan on including paid advertising in your TikTok marketing plan, you’ll need to consider how to maximize your ad spend to get the best results from your campaigns.
Online businesses are more likely to generate revenue
While some brick-and-mortar companies have seen success thanks to TikTok creators like Keith Lee, the accessibility of online businesses means that they have the advantage on the platform—especially if you want to limit your use of paid advertising.
Say, for example, that your brick-and-mortar art supply store goes viral on TikTok. If you don’t have an e-commerce website for your store, you may not see an immediate boost in sales. Additionally, most of TikTok’s organic content isn’t localized for users. So if you see a video of a new and exciting restaurant or event on your feed, it may not even be in your area to begin with.
Your target audience may not be on TikTok
According to a Statista report, only 25% of American TikTok users in 2022 were between the ages of 50-59. Even less—16%—were between the ages of 60-64. If your target audience skews older, or is part of another demographic that hasn’t taken to TikTok yet, your marketing efforts and resources may be better spent elsewhere in the meantime.
Short-form video may not be a fit for your business
The growing popularity of TikTok and short-form video content on other apps suggests that more consumers want to see this style of content from brands. But this format doesn’t work well for every business, as it can limit the type or amount of information you’re able to communicate to viewers.
For example, B2B businesses often require information-dense content like whitepapers or complex graphs to sell their offerings and win customers, but this doesn’t translate well into short-form video.
TikTok may not be a fit for your brand’s reputation
To stand out in a sea of noise, sometimes it’s important to take some risks. The problem? More eyes on your content also means more opportunities for criticism.
Sometimes the TikTok videos businesses make can be harmful for their brand, or may otherwise portray the company inaccurately in an attempt to fit in with the platform’s playful style. When companies jump on a trend without understanding its context, it’s surprisingly easy to make content that’s tone-deaf, offensive, awkward to watch, or just extremely off-brand.
And while TikTok’s casual, conversational content style allows brands to advertise in a way that doesn’t feel artificial or fake, this style isn’t a good fit for companies that take themselves seriously or sell no-nonsense products.
If you do decide to take the leap with TikTok, be sure to consider your content from a number of angles to ensure it fits your brand image and won’t hurt your reputation.
3 questions to ask before marketing your business on TikTok
Before you start creating videos for your business, ask yourself the following questions.
1. Can I find my audience on the platform?
One way to see if your audience is on TikTok is by reviewing your competitors, industry influencers, and relevant hashtags. If there’s healthy engagement, that’s a sign that it could be a fit.
And if your target audience isn’t on the platform now, remember that this could change. Take Facebook as an example. The platform originally made for Harvard students is now used by nearly three billion people worldwide.
2. Can I provide value to my audience in this format?
TikTok lends itself well to quick explainer videos, light-hearted how-tos, life hacks, “day in the life” videos, and the like. Products and services that capture well on video—like art, food, and home decor—also tend to do well on the app.
As a result, TikTok has become a great educational tool for people who want to learn how to do things and conduct product research before purchasing. Ask yourself: Is this kind of content something your brand can deliver?
If you’re drawing a blank, think about the following to get started:
- What makes your brand stand out from your competitors?
- How do your offerings benefit your customers?
- Are there any aspects of your business or its operations that would be interesting for customers to see in action?
- What relevant, relatable, or humorous experiences can your brand cover in a short video?
- What topics or causes are you and your team passionate and knowledgeable about?
There are millions of other TikTok creators trying to go viral on the platform. To distinguish yourself from the crowd, it’s important to find what makes your brand unique and create relevant videos that lean into this.
Most of the app’s content relies on remixing and reinterpreting trends that already exist on the platform. You’ll need to put your own creative spin on these trends in a way that works for your brand and positions your offerings in the best possible light.
Start by researching the kind of content that tends to perform well for your audience and industry. For example, do industry influencers gravitate toward funny skits or tutorial videos? How do your competitors include their offerings in their organic content and sponsored posts?
Keep in mind that overall, videos that perform well tend to be entertaining, authentic, and educational.
3. Does TikTok serve my business goals?
TikTok users are big spenders. In 2021, users spent a whopping $2.3 billion on the app—compared to just $1.3 billion in the previous year.
If you want to leverage this spending power for your own business, you’ll need to connect how you use TikTok to your overall business strategy. Think about if, and then how, the platform and the content that performs best on the app can support your business, sales, and marketing goals.
For example, say that your latest hair care product isn’t selling too well because shoppers don’t know how to use it correctly. But you know your audience uses TikTok regularly, and your posts get good engagement. So, you may decide to create a set of short how-to videos that showcase how to use the product effectively. Alternatively, you can hire influencers to create TikTok videos showing how they use your product in their daily routine or offering “hair care hacks” that advertise your product in a natural way.
By thinking about how TikTok can support your business beyond branding and marketing efforts, you’ll be able to take full advantage of the opportunities this platform offers.
Is joining TikTok the right move for your small business?
As with nearly all things in digital marketing, the answer is: It depends.
It’s important to base your decision on factors like your audience, brand strategy, and the time and resources available to you.
If you’re still unsure whether TikTok makes sense for your business, consider creating a personal account, studying the content created by influencers and brands in your industry, and playing around with the platform’s features. This way, you’ll have some personal experience with the app before experimenting with a business account.