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The Definitive Guide to TikTok Marketing


Last year a 60-second video posted by popular creator ‘Rocking Dadi’ on TikTok amassed over 3 million views within two weeks after it was uploaded. Tiktok is fundamentally realtering the demography of social media content in India. So as more cross-generational content gets uploaded on the platform, how can brands approach TikTok marketing? Before we deep dive into the different advertising avenues on the platform, here is a backstory on how TikTok started.

Today, Tiktok has a global presence across 150+ countries and 75+ languages, but it all started out in 2016 in China, in the form of a lip-synching app called Douyin. Owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, Douyin was quick to acquire 100 million users in China within 200 days.

Now, Bytedance wanted global expansion. So it acquired another Shanghai start-up called Musical.ly in 2017. Musical.ly was also a lip-synching app but it had made inroads into the US market and showed better potential as a global app. Bytedance merged the best features of Douyin with Musical.ly and created TikTok.  

Since September 2018, in terms of monthly installs, Tiktok is the most downloaded social media app in the world, having 1.5 billion users.

Tiktok Audience & Social Media Pyramid

Evan Spiegel, the founder of an instant messaging app Snapchat, tried to distinguish the audience of various apps on the basis of the social media communication pyramid. He viewed the pyramid based on user needs in the following manner:

Social Media Pyramid

Social Media Pyramid

1.      The base of this pyramid, comprising of the widest user base i.e. those people who want to express themselves. He stated Snapchat users in this category.

2.      The next layer above the base, comprising of those users who relate their social media accounts with their status. Although narrower, the users of this category are the ones who want to accumulate likes and shares to enhance their status.

3.      The top of the pyramid i.e. the narrow tip comprises users who want to show their talent for the purpose of entertainment. This group of users has to work towards gaining the talent or skill of dancing, singing, etc and produce entertaining content and the users of Tiktok fall in this category.

Well, such categorization works for an app developer, but then what kind of categorization works for you and me? You want to produce and share video content and as a user, you wish to understand your audience. Hence, if I were to categorize the audience, the following pointers could help.

1.      The Audience of Tiktok content is made up of Tiktok users as well as those who get to view your TikTok content on other social media. Many users today, see it as a tool for creating short videos with just a few clicks.

2.      While Facebook, Twitter, etc look at pretense and a lack of authenticity poorly and try to educate users about storytelling, Tiktok has embraced the fact that pretense, character creation, and unauthentic videos are, in fact, “storytelling.” In principle, every social media appears free, but in practice, TikTok has given so much freedom in video content that it had to be banned by many Governments. Ultimately, the Tiktok audience wants to be entertained.

3.      More than two-thirds of Tiktok users around the globe are not aged more than 30 years. In the case of the USA, 60% of Tiktok users are aged between 16 years and 24 years. In India, the majority of users are 18-35 years old and come from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Hence, one can say that tech-savvy youth are quick to consume content on TikTok, and the app is becoming the breeding ground for the next generation of content creators and social media influencers.

4.      The TikTok audience not only sees it as an app to go viral but also as an app to collaborate with other users in a limitless display of 15-60 second videos with fun features like lip-synching, cheesy special effects, reaction videos as well as popular hashtags like #HeyGirl, #ThatsMyType, #Eboys, and #eGirls. Tiktok has, in fact, captured the essence of a lot of subculture references in its hashtags.

TikTok Marketing: Success Stories

The Kids Wear Fashion Brand Hopscotch and it’s #MomsRapchallenge: The subculture of spontaneous “shayari” (poems) is much older than one thinks. Every generation in India has had its fair share of casual poets and parody singers, and the same has reflected in countless brand campaigns over every decade. Being a fashion brand for kids, Hopscotch gave this a fresh twist of getting Moms to create rap songs to the amusement of an audience comprising of Moms as well as Kids. In no time, the videos of the campaign had over 4.8 billion views on Mother’s Day.

FoodFood, the Food and Lifestyle Channel and its #FoodOfIndia campaign:  As Indians, we are proud of our food, and we relish the fact of showing the world that it isn’t just Punjabi, Mughlai, Konkani or South Indian Cuisine but much more. Moreover, homecooked recipes are still considered the best. FoodFood, tapped into this desire of the Indian audience, getting amateur and professional chefs to share their handpicked cuisines that best represented the #FoofOfIndia and represented homecooked meals as well as popular street foods. Participants could also win food hampers worth Rs. 10,000/-. The campaign was a success, and it garnered 536 million views.

Zomato, the Food Delivery App and its #ZomatoRidetoFame campaign: A good way to build your brand is to create a reward system for your Point-of-Sale representatives. In the case of Zomato, it is the delivery partners who pick up the orders from the restaurants or caterers and deliver the ordered food to the customers. The  #ZomatoRidetoFame is one such initiative where Zomato encourages its delivery partners to share their talent in the form of a TikTok video and declared prize money of Rs. 1,00,000/- for the most popular participants. The campaign has already mustered 339k views and also boosted the morale of many delivery partners.

Getting Started with TikTok Marketing

The keyword for marketing success on social media is “Relevancy,” and TikTok marketing is no different. The key objective of TikTok videos is entertainment, and the 15-60 second videos have to capture the intended message without compromising the entertainment.

As the above-mentioned case studies, the most obvious approach has been to stimulate user-generated content, which may or may not be brand-centric. Still it captures the attention of the intended audience and gets them to identify with the brand.

Apart from this, there are ready tools like the self-service ad platform and many simple techniques to market yourself on TikTok organically.

Advertising on TikTok with Self-Servicing Platform

Self-serve advertising platform includes those features of an app which let the user pre-define the parameters and metrics for their online advertising, especially for a specific set of creative types and their ad placement.  

Furthermore, such platforms allow the user to also segregate placement on the basis of device-based traffic i.e., audience categorization on the basis of consumption on Desktop, Mobile Web, or App.

The Self Servicing Ad Platform of TikTok has been tested in its Beta Phase and it has shown great promise to many advertisers, in terms of TikTok embeds, who find it very convenient to create hashtag campaigns, onboard influencers, and quickly populates user-generated content without having to curate it to stringent parameters.

Marketing on TikTok with Organic Promotions

Where other apps cite monetization and transaction features, organic growth of promotions has become the forte of TikTok as it banks upon User experience. How, good quality content can not only stand out in a stream of content which is free from strict curation, but it also has the power to influence the creation of a string of user-generated content that is an interpretation of the same brand and the same theme from the user’s perspective.

A flood of amateur advertising which yields professional influencers and professionally viable content that drives through an organic connection of collaboration between users rather than a commercially pushed through the advert. It changes the consumption strategy from a push to a pull, and the ser has the choice to engage or refuse without having to wait for a while before skipping an undesirable ad.

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