As of March 2023, TikTok has over 1 billion users living in 150 countries. The app is consistently one of the most downloaded apps in the U.S., meaning its user base is only expanding. While TikTok has become more popular among people over 30 in recent years, it remains incredibly popular among the younger demographic, especially those between 10 and 29 years old, which accounts for more than 60% of all TikTok users.
Over 5 million businesses actively use TikTok in the U.S. to advertise and build their brands. Most TikTok users primarily look for engaging, entertaining, or informative content that can be consumed quickly, whether it’s content created by their friends, influencers, or businesses. For example, content that appeals to humor, creativity, originality, or current trends tends to perform well, especially if it’s visually appealing and short-form.
Gymshark is an excellent example of a brand that has successfully leveraged TikTok to help build a following and boost customer engagement. As a fitness apparel brand, Gymshark’s target audience aligns perfectly with a significant proportion of TikTok’s user base. The company began its TikTok journey in 2020 with the launch of a challenge called #Gymshark66, which encouraged people to kick-start their New Year fitness journey and maintain it for 66 days (the duration it takes to form a habit). #Gymshark66 was a massive success that amassed hundreds of millions of views. Participants shared their personal fitness journeys, workout routines, and transformations, creating a supportive, health-conscious community that aligns with Gymshark’s brand identity.
In this article, learn how businesses can use TikTok to build brand awareness, engage with users, and create a dedicated following.
- Content marketing plays a crucial role in establishing your brand as an industry authority and engaging your audience.
- TikTok users spend an average of 95 minutes daily (over 1.5 hours) on the platform, making it a highly-engaged way for businesses to advertise to their target audience.
- The key to using TikTok for business success, like any other social media platform, is to understand the platform’s main users and interests.
- 80% of TikTok users are under 34 years old. TikTok users are primarily Gen Z (up to 23 years old), so content should ideally be tailored to fit their interests and preferences.
- Develop high-quality, relevant content that educates, entertains, or solves problems for your target audience.
- Businesses can use TikTok not only as a way to promote their products but also to build a community and provide valuable content to their followers.
How Businesses Are Leveraging Social Media Marketing
“Businesses succeeding on TikTok create authentic content that closely aligns with the community and the native TikTok experience. On TikTok, everyone can be a creator simply by capitalizing on trends, getting involved in conversations, and expressing themselves in a genuine way.”TikTok for Business Report
In today’s digital landscape—with a growing number of social media users and continued digitalization of commerce—social media advertising is no longer optional for most businesses. Rather, it’s an essential part of reaching customers where they are and growing a business. With so many brands already leveraging social media advertising, those that don’t are at a competitive disadvantage. Social media advertising allows businesses to keep up with or stay ahead of their competitors, even while sticking to a relatively low advertising budget.
Examples of businesses that have used social media to drive sales and create brand identities include:
- And many others
During 2021, TikTok saw a whopping 500% increase in advertisers running U.S. campaigns. The platform began promoting the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt to showcase how often people buy products after being exposed to them on TikTok.
Advertising on social media, including TikTok, has become increasingly important for businesses today for a variety of reasons. Below are some of the key benefits associated with social media marketing:
- Effectively Reaches Target Audiences: Nearly half of the world’s population uses social media, which provides businesses with an incredible opportunity to reach a vast and diverse audience. Social media platforms also have powerful targeting capabilities based on specific demographics, locations, interests, behaviors, and even social connections. This allows for more efficient and effective advertising, as businesses can reach the people most likely to be interested in their products or services.
- Is Cost-Efficient: Compared to traditional advertising methods, social media advertising can be a lot more cost-efficient. Even with a small budget, businesses can reach thousands of potential customers on TikTok and other platforms.
- Facilitates Communication with Customers: Social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and their customers in real-time. Companies can respond to comments or queries and engage in conversations that strengthen relationships and brand loyalty.
- Increases Brand Awareness and Recognition: Regular presence on social media via advertising increases brand visibility, helps create brand identities, and makes brands more recognizable.
- Can Improve Web Traffic and Conversions: Advertisements on social media can direct users to a brand’s website or sales pages, leading to more leads and conversions, as well as increased web traffic and sales.
- Provides Valuable Analytics: TikTok and other platforms provide in-depth analytics about engagement and ad performance. This data allows businesses to understand which aspects of their campaigns are working and which need tweaking, making it easier to optimize their strategies.
How Both Large and Small Businesses Can Use TikTok
“[TikTok] is a space that is a playground for brands that learn the mindset and behaviors of the platform, as people WANT to engage with brands.”Lewis Steele, Head of Social and Content, Connecting Plots
TikTok allows users to create short-term, catchy content that can be edited using filters, music, and other features. One of the best things about TikTok is its versatility—considering it’s possible to share videos, images, articles, infographics, live chats, and just about every kind of content on the platform.
TikTok is considered a type of engagement or experiential marketing tool, as it directly engages consumers through participatory experiences.
Businesses can utilize TikTok in several ways to enhance their brand presence, work with influencers, connect with customers, and drive sales and profits.
Here’s an example: One study conducted by Kantar and TikTok found that more than 30% of Gen Z users have purchased a product that they saw on TikTok. About 40% of Gen Z also use TikTok (and Instagram) to search for information instead of using Google.
Here are TikTok strategies that different types of businesses can use:
- Create Viral Content to Boost Brand Recognition: TikTok’s algorithm is known for making content go viral quickly, providing an excellent opportunity for businesses to increase their brand awareness. By creating engaging and creative content, such as challenges and live feeds, businesses can reach thousands or even millions of people in a relatively short period of time. For example, “Hype House,” a house where popular TikTok influencers and creators live together in Los Angeles, has had over 600 million views, mostly from people in their teens and 20s.
- Set Up Influencer Partnerships: Businesses can partner with popular TikTok creators who have a significant following and understanding of trends. Influencer partnerships help businesses reach new audiences, while endorsements from popular figures can boost a brand’s credibility. TikTok Creator Marketplace is a platform run by TikTok that lists thousands of profiles of TikTok creators with different specialties and focuses. Companies can search the marketplace for creators who align with their brands, such as those who are focused on health, music, art, or fashion.
- Utilize User-Generated Content: Encouraging users to create content related to a brand, possibly through challenges or contests, can significantly boost engagement and views. Given its authenticity, user-generated content helps propel brand visibility and builds a sense of community and trust around a brand. As TikTok for Business says, “Brands do best when they find their niche, actively listen to their audience, and engage with the latest trends.”
- Create Educational Content: Businesses can use TikTok to educate their audience about their products or services or about topics such as diets, fitness, or fashion. This can be done through product demonstrations, behind-the-scenes looks, or “how-to” videos, which feel more educational than promotional.
- Perform Traditional Digital Advertising: TikTok offers various advertising options such as In-feed ads, TopView ads, Branded Hashtag Challenges, and Branded Effects. TikTok ads are targeted and allow businesses to reach a wider audience beyond their existing followers.
- Set Up E-commerce Integration: TikTok has been integrating more e-commerce features in recent years, including shoppable videos and links that make purchasing convenient. Businesses can tag their products in videos, which users can click to purchase directly from the app or a brand’s store page.
- Customer Service: Businesses can utilize TikTok as a platform to provide quick customer service. For example, by responding to comments or creating videos addressing FAQs/common queries, companies can improve their customer’s experiences and satisfaction.
Small businesses or those that are on a tighter budget can use TikTok in a variety of ways:
- Showcasing Products or Services: Create videos that creatively and effectively display what your business offers. This could be a demonstration of a product, a behind-the-scenes look at how products are made, or a quick “day in the life” at your business. Understanding the latest trends, popular music, and editing styles on TikTok are also crucial in creating popular content that grows a business’s account.
- Utilizing Customer-Generated Content: Encourage your customers and followers to create content about your business, such as product reviews, unboxings, or using your product creatively, which displays authenticity.
- Collaborations With Influencers: Partner with TikTok influencers whose audience aligns with your target market. They can help your brand gain exposure and credibility, even if they aren’t very well-known yet and don’t have a massive following.
- TikTok Challenges or Contests: Creating a branded hashtag challenge or a contest can drive high levels of engagement and brand awareness. Users might participate by creating their own content, which further amplifies your reach.
- Educational Content: If you are an expert in your field, sharing tips, insights, or educational content can help establish you as a thought leader and attract potential customers.
6 Steps to Optimizing a TikTok Business Account
“It is clear that TikTok attracts big numbers. Hashtag Challenges can have incredible reach. The most successful challenges have surpassed iconic TV moments and the most viewed YouTube adverts.”Power of TikTok Kantar Survey
1. Understand Your Audience
The first step a company should take to determine how to successfully advertise on TikTok is to identify its target audience. As mentioned above, the vast majority of TikTok users (about 90%) are under 45 years old, meaning it may not be the best idea for a business to invest heavily in TikTok ads if their customer base falls outside of this demographic.
- Familiarize yourself with your audience’s age, interests, hobbies, and needs, which helps you create content that resonates with them. Use customer data and insights to personalize your communications and deliver relevant offers or content.
- 30% of adults currently have an account on TikTok, while for Gen Z, that percentage jumps to 71%. If your target audience is Gen Z or young millennials, you have the greatest chance of advertising effectively using TikTok.
- Consider tying in trends that many TikTok users are interested in, such as entertainment, music, celebrities, dance, pranks, DIY projects, recipes, and travel.
- Tailor your marketing messages to resonate with different segments of your audience. Personalization helps build stronger connections with your audience and increases the likelihood of conversion.
2. Ensure Your Profile Is Top-Notch, On-Brand, and Seamless Across Platforms
Businesses should create verified TikTok Business Accounts, which appear more professional and also feature certain tools, such as analytics about performance. It’s also wise to sign up for TikTok for Business, a centralized feature of the platform that guides businesses through creating ads within a budget.
- Fill out the bio section of your profile, explaining the main mission of the company.
- Include links to other social media accounts or your brand’s website.
- Be sure to be consistent with logos, colors, and language between different social media channels.
- Collaborate with other brands or influencers who share the same values, passions, and lifestyles as your brand so that partnerships are not confusing to your audience.
3. Learn How to Utilize the Platform’s Features
TikTok trends are always changing, and the app is constantly rolling out new features. By keeping up with the latest trends and using them in your content and ads, your brand will appear to be relevant. One TikTok analysis found that “retail companies that utilized TikTok’s creative tools delivered creative 14 times more efficiently.”
- Create content that is visually appealing, interesting, and shareable.
- Leverage TikTok’s unique features, such as Duets, Stitch, and other effects to create more trendy and likable content.
- Incorporate humor, creativity, or trends to boost engagement.
- Add hashtags to help spread your content further.
- Incorporate songs into your content to boost the odds of being discovered by more users. As the Kantar survey mentioned above notes, “Other platforms are watched without sound 85% of the time, but sound is turned on by default in TikTok. Audio cues are always present.”
4. Focus on Authentic Content
TikTok is considered a “casual and comfortable” platform, which makes sense since most users are young adults or teenagers. TikTok users generally appreciate authenticity and seek out brands and influencers that create relatable content. While professional-looking, polished videos and ads may perform well on other platforms, they’re not the best fit for TikTok. Erik Qualman, a digital leadership expert, explains, “Successful companies in social media function more like entertainment companies, publishers, or party planners than as traditional advertisers.”
- Avoid overly-salesy pitches, heavily-scripted content, or unrealistic ads that will feel out of place.
- Rather than being too polished, let your brand’s personality and creativity shine through.
- Lean on fun, quirky, and interesting content that is out-of-the-ordinary and seems genuine.
- Build real connections and a community with your audience by showcasing user-generated content, such as their real reviews and photos. “Today’s users desire trustworthy interactions online from real people with real experiences, so it’s important to build a platform that is transparent and responsive to evolving trends and consumer interests,” says marketing writer Foto Stero.
- Don’t be afraid to go against the grain, express unique perspectives, and even show vulnerability, as all of these build trust and grab viewers’ attention.
5. Create a Content Calendar to Stay Consistent
Creating a content calendar so you can stick to a predetermined schedule keeps your brand front and center without overwhelming your viewers. As Forbes puts it, “If you post too infrequently, your audience will forget that you exist and you will quickly fade into the deep dark recesses of their minds. However, if you are posting too often, you will become a complete nuisance, and they will dread seeing your posts overcrowding their feed.”
In addition to putting out new content regularly, continuously test and refine your marketing campaign based on feedback and results.
- Post regularly to increase visibility and keep followers engaged. TikTok says, “The key is to continuously share fresh and diverse content.”
- On average, businesses should post about one video per day on TikTok or up to 4 times daily, depending on the brand.
- Test how different types and frequencies of content are received, then determine how often to post based on results.
6. Analyze Data to See What’s Working
Implement analytics tools to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Monitor key performance indicators (KPIs), such as website traffic, conversion rates, engagement metrics, and ROI. Then, analyze the data to understand what’s working and what needs improvement, and make data-driven adjustments to optimize your strategy.
- Use a verified business account, which leads to greater access to insights about content performance and followers.
- Try different types of ads to test which work best. For example, TopView Ads are those placed at the top of a user’s TikTok feed when they open the app, while InFeed Ads are displayed in the full screen as users scroll. Use TikTok Ad’s Manager for help choosing which types of ads to create.
- Consider trying paid posts to get the most out of top-performing content.
- Use TikTok’s analytics to understand which content performs well and gleam insight into why.
- Have analytics guide future content and continue to tweak the overall marketing strategy as needed.
Mistakes to Avoid When Using TikTok for Business
“The beauty of social media is that it will point out your company’s flaws; the key question is how quickly you address these flaws.”Erik Qualmann, motivational speaker
Below are common mistakes that businesses make with their TikTok accounts:
- Not Following Trends: With many features and trends to try—such as branded effects like stickers and filters that users or partners can add to their videos—it’s a waste not to experiment with them. Brands that know how to use TikTok’s latest features seem more up-to-date and make greater impressions.
- Leaving Out Hashtags: Hashtags help people discover your content when scrolling through the app and looking for new users that match their interests. Hashtags can also be linked to challenges or prizes, which can rack up many views.
- Missing Opportunities for Collaboration: There are plenty of influencers waiting to work with brands on TikTok, as well as companies that are open to collaborating with other brands. Instead of a brand building a following on its own, they’re better off leveraging other brands’ user bases and communities.
- Overselling and Lacking Authenticity: As Tom Fishburne, the founder of Marketoonist, says, “The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.” TikTok users don’t want to feel like they’re constantly being advertised to or misled. Remember to lead with authentic, relatable content instead of traditional or boring ads that include too much sales lingo. Brain Clark explains, “These days, people want to learn before they buy, be educated instead of pitched.”
- Failing to Change Strategies When Needed: Business success on TikTok, as well as other social media platforms, often requires experimentation and time to understand what resonates with your audience. Don’t be afraid to test different content types and strategies to see what works best for your brand, then adjust based on analytics and ad performance.
TikTok Is One Potential Tool for Business Success
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”Peter Drucker, marketing consultant and author
Growing your brand and your business requires a multi-channel approach, usually including the integration of various social media channels. TikTok is just one tactic for reaching audiences and selling products; for the best results, a company’s TikTok account should seamlessly tie into its other channels, website, and overall brand feel, providing value to customers in a way that keeps their attention.
Here are tips for crafting a well-rounded business marketing strategy:
- Align Marketing With Your Goals: Start by clearly defining your marketing objectives. Whether it’s increasing brand awareness, driving sales, or expanding your customer base, having specific goals will guide your strategy. Gather information about your industry, competitors, and market trends. Identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that may impact your business.
- Foster customer relationships: Building strong relationships with your customers is essential for long-term success. Focus on providing excellent customer experiences, addressing feedback and concerns promptly, and nurturing ongoing engagement. Happy customers can become brand advocates and help amplify your marketing efforts through positive word-of-mouth.
- Develop a compelling value proposition: Clearly articulate the unique value your business offers to customers. Highlight what sets you apart from competitors and why customers should choose your products or services. Your value proposition should resonate with your target audience and address their pain points.
- Utilize a mix of marketing channels: Consider a combination of online and offline channels such as social media, email marketing, content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), paid advertising, public relations, and events. Each channel serves a different purpose and can help you maximize your reach.
Want to learn more about crafting a business strategy that will deliver success? Check out this article:
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