Should your startup be on TikTok?


Mary Jenkins
Should your startup be on TikTok?

Users and brands alike are quickly catching on to social media’s latest sensation, TikTok. But as a startup or small business, you’ve probably wondered if the app is something worth investing time or money into.

Below, we’re breaking down what TikTok is, how TikTok marketing works, and whether or not your startup should be using it.

What is TikTok? 

TikTok is a social networking app used to create and share short-form videos, mainly centered around dancing, lip-syncing, and comedy–though the content creation opportunities are endless. The app is used primarily by users ages 16-24 and is similar to the now-defunct app Vine. 

Content on the app is limited to 60 second videos that feature everything from makeup tutorials to dance videos to cooking hacks.  If it’s visual and remotely entertaining, chances are it may end up on TikTok. But the platform is atypical of many social media outlets in that the feed is not chronological. Messaging is a loosely used component, and even avid users are learning as they go. 

The best part about TikTok is that there are hardly any rules. It’s a bit like the Wild West of social media. Even the most unassuming content producers can end up on the “For You Page” (TikTok’s home page or explore page) by simply hashtagging #fyp. 

In terms of how to use it in a startup’s marketing strategy, especially when compared to Instagram and Facebook, advertising and promotional content on TikTok is in its infancy, meaning that it’s an opportune landscape for new businesses to be an early adopter and get more awareness before the rest of the world catches on. 

Far larger companies have mainly utilized in-feed native video–vertical video ads that camouflage themselves amongst user videos on the “For You” Page–brand takeovers, and branded filters. As the world becomes even more addicted to TikTok, as it surely will, the opportunities and methods of TikTok marketing will only continue to evolve.

Should your startup be on TikTok?

We’ll be honest, the app is still relatively new. Even well-recognized brands like Netflix are never guaranteed to go viral. What we do know is that TikTok is becoming increasingly popular and stands out among competing platforms because of its authenticity and the fact that it’s just plain fun. 

Even better, the app isn’t saturated with ad content by competing brands. Translation? Now may be the right time for your startup to join. But only if your product is right for the app and its audience. 

If your startup caters to the needs of TikTok’s target demographic, those between the ages of 16-24, then TikTok may very well be the platform for you. According to a study by Millward Brown, GenZers skip ads much faster than their GenX counterparts. One way TikTok gets around this problem is by allowing users to get involved in the actual content creation. It’s smart in that it makes products and companies feel personal and authentic. If your startup has a product or service that is compatible with this form of collaborative marketing then you should strongly consider joining TikTok now.

How can startups make the most of TikTok? 

  1. Learn the App: There’s a fine line between embarrassing yourself and going viral, and few companies or people hit the nail on the head. Do your research and find out what’s cool or what’s ironic or what’s just plain silly. Sometimes the most successful campaigns on TikTok are truly the most gimmicky. Check out #chipotlelidflip on TikTok if you need proof.

  2. Connect with influencers: Even pharmaceuticals are finding a place on TikTok through influencer marketing. This fall, Mucinex launched a campaign that had influencers transform from drab to fab after using Mucinex. The campaign was strategically run during flu season and quickly went viral. The use of influencers allowed Mucinex to reach a wider audience and made a fairly boring product seem fun. A lot of bigger companies have the capital to hire the TikTok greats (if you don’t know who the greats are check out Charli D’amelio’s page) but startups can benefit from partnerships with influencers that match their target audience even if they are less well recognized.

  3. Utilize Hashtag Challenges: Brands like Guess, Chipotle, and NBA have done their best work using hashtag challenges. These challenges invite creators to participate in challenges related to the brand. Chipotle’s #guacdance challenged users to share videos dedicated to guacamole. Not only did the challenge lead to a sales increase, but it made Chipotle a trailblazer on an app previously dominated by dancing teens and inexplicably hysterical at home videos. Users will be encouraged to interact with your brand if you’re interacting with them. Pair a challenge with influencer partnerships for an even greater chance of success.

  4. Make your ads shoppable: TikTok’s newest step in advertising is called “Hashtag Challenge Plus” a shoppable ad form. Kroger recently partnered with four TikTok influencers and had them post videos of their dorm makeovers with the hashtag #TransformUrDorm. If the hashtag is clicked on it takes you to a shopping page where you can buy Kroger products.

  5. Make it easy: Create product tutorials for your company or have influencers do it for you. No more polished sales pitches, TikTok is all about relatability and fun.

  6. Forget your preconceptions: TikTok marketing is not the same as instagram marketing. In fact, it’s anti-marketing. Startups can be grassroots and benefit from this casual approach to brand growth and awareness. While some bigger companies struggle to make their ad content fit this new approach to marketing, startups can fill this void.

About Mary Jenkins: Mary is a marketing and communications intern for Swyft, which has been listed as one of the best PR firms in Austin and a top digital marketing agency in Denver since its founding in 2011. Swyft has satellite offices where it offers PR in San Francisco and Houston.

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