How to Exploit TikTok for Marketing Gain and the Risks You Need to Consider
Should TikTok be a part of your social media marketing strategy? It depends.
TikTok is no longer the new kid on the block.
It’s been five years since the app first launched and we’ve seen it explode in popularity during quarantine last year.
Besides that, TikTok has a tremendous marketing potential, which makes understanding the app even more vital for marketers.
But with that potential also come certain risks.
In this article, I’ll walk you through both the benefits and risks of TikTok marketing so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not it’s worth the effort.
Let’s first define what makes the app different from other social networks that your business might be using already.
How Is TikTok Different from Other Apps?
1. Laser focus.
Social networks like Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn do allow users to create and share videos, but they are primarily centered around other types of content — like photos or micro-blogs.
TikTok, on the other hand, is entirely dedicated to video format.
If we compare TikTok to other video-based platforms like YouTube, it becomes clear that TikTok perfectly caters to a younger audience that craves quick and easy entertainment.
While most YouTube videos are at least 10 minutes long, TikTok videos cannot be longer than 60 seconds.
3. Virality Opportunities.
TikTok’s “For You” feed shows users videos from people they don’t follow so everyone can potentially go viral, even if they don’t have a large following.
How Is TikTok Used in Marketing?
#1 Influencer Marketing
Many brands opt for partnering with larger TikTok creators, who then share sponsored content with their audience.
The key is choosing an influencer who makes sense for your brand.
They should share your brand values and target audience, i.e. create the type of content that aligns with your brand.
#2 TikTok Ads
There are three main types of ads on TikTok:
a) In-feed ads. In-feed ads are similar to videos that are naturally shared on TikTok. They appear on users’ feeds among other TikTok videos and feel organic.
b) Brand takeover ads. Brand takeover ads are full-screen videos that are displayed to users immediately after they open the app. They minimize the possibility of users ignoring or missing the ad.
c) Branded hashtag challenges. Purchased hashtag challenge ads are displayed as banners on the discover page. Brands can also choose to add a shoppable feature to the banners which takes users to their website and lets them continue their checkout process.
Many brands encourage users to create content that promotes the brand via hashtag challenges, contests, and giveaways.
You can purchase a hashtag challenge ad — but you don’t have to.
You can simply come up with a branded hashtag and let your audience find it organically.
This might mean you’ll get less exposure or that you’ll have to wait until your challenge gets some traction, but it could be worth it.
And here’s why.
Hashtag challenge ads are quite pricey. And by that I mean they have a flat fee of $150,000 for six days (Influencer Marketing Hub)
Of course, you’ll need to spend even more money on promotion.
What Are the Benefits of TikTok Marketing?
TikTok has an enormous user base. Currently, the app has around 800 million users worldwide (Oberlo).
Combine that with gigantic virality opportunities and it’s clear that TikTok is the winner among social networks in terms of how many people your ad could reach.
2. Unsaturated market
TikTok ads are fairly new. The app launched a beta version of its self-serve ad platform in 2019.
Compare that to other social networks that have been “molesting” their users with ads for years now.
The audience became desensitized and much better at recognizing (and avoiding) ads on these networks.
TikTok ads, on the other hand, come in refreshing formats that users are less likely to associate with sleazy marketing tactics.
Besides that, there’s still less competition on TikTok than other major social networks.
3. Ads that don’t feel like ads
Apart from brand takeover ads, most TikTok ad formats feel organic and natural.
In-feed ads in particular blend nicely with the rest of the content shared on the app. To maximize this advantage, make your videos more entertaining and less salesy.
What Are the Risks of Using TikTok for Marketing?
It’s no secret that TikTok has garnered quite a bit of controversy.
Many countries have publicly stated their concerns about how the app handles personal data.
Though you’re probably aware of Trump trying to ban the app in the U.S., you might not know that many other countries have done the same.
India imposed a two-week ban on TikTok in June due to pornographic content (The Guardian).
Bangladesh did the same when declaring “war on pornography” (Futurism).
And it’s not only governments that are concerned.
Companies like Amazon were allegedly asking their employees to delete the app from the phone, while the US Army blocked the app on all military-issued phones back in 2019.
While other social media networks collect data on their users too, here’s why Zak Doffman, a cybersecurity expert, deems TikTok more dangerous:
„That dataset, in the hands of an adversarial foreign government, is a risk — a very serious risk, in a world where social media is used to push propaganda out to users who tap those platforms as a primary source of news.”
What that means for marketers is TikTok marketing doesn’t come without risk.
TikTok may be banned or blocked at any point and many people are boycotting the app.
It wouldn’t be wise to make TikTok your sole marketing channel — maybe not even your primary marketing channel.
If you do decide to give TikTok a try, make sure you’re still investing in other social networks and building your audience there as well.
Before you dive straight in, consider if TikTok fits your needs.
The majority of TikTok users are in their teens.
If your brand is catering to, say, Boomers, then TikTok marketing doesn’t make much sense.
Another thing to consider is data privacy. Concerns about the Chinese-owned app may lead to it being banned in some countries again.
This means you shouldn’t rely on TikTok marketing alone to grow your audience and drive conversions — but it could, and probably should, be a part of your social media marketing.