What is TikTok Exactly? Here’s What You Need to Know

tiktok for business

There’s a big possibility that you already know what TikTok is.

If you have a single social media account, you may have already heard of it. You’ve probably even watched a TikTok video without being aware that it was one. It might have been one of those funny meme videos or a goofy dancing video with a humorous voiceover. The video-sharing app is the hot new place to be.

Wait—What’s TikTok?

The Beijing-based TikTok is also a social networking app similar to Facebook and Instagram, but everything is in the form of videos. Most people use it for care-free content meant to make you laugh, lip-syncing challenges, and dance videos. Staying true to social networking, these videos can be shared everywhere outside of the app. You see them on your Facebook timelines, your friend’s Instagram Stories, and even in YouTube compilations. 

It’s got a quality that’s uniquely it’s own. When you see a TikTok video, you know it.

TikTok is quickly proving that it’s a force to be reckoned with, serving as a main source of video content and giving other platforms a run for their money. It might be reminiscent of Vine, although TikTok humor is perhaps a younger, more dynamic and vibrant version. It usually caters to younger audiences as it fully captures their type of humor, lets them express their creativity, and follows the latest trends and viral news.

Even though it’s still a relative newcomer to the social media scene, with the app being originally launched in China in 2016 and then making its way stateside a year later, TikTok is working its way up the ladder. According to Datareportal, TikTok has 800 million active users monthly (although to be clear, that number varies based on the source).

It might not have been taken very seriously in the beginning. However, it’s safe to say that this has all changed. The platform is growing at an alarmingly rapid pace, forcing brands to pay closer attention. With a reach this huge and exponential grow this significant, it’s time to give the platform a second look.

Can your brand benefit from the app? If so, how? How exactly can social media marketers use it? 

Let’s dive in a little more and cover a few main points that you can consider to get you started.

First, identify whether TikTok fits your brand and your marketing campaigns. 

TikTok is unlike your more “traditional” social media networking app. It doesn’t rely heavily on the image and caption format like Facebook and Instagram. And while it’s video-centric, it isn’t really known (at least, not yet) for hosting long-form content like YouTube can.

It keeps the videos within a “snackable” length, making them easier for the audience to consume—and also easier to binge-watch. They’re up to 15 seconds, although you can connect videos to make one long one that’s up to 60 seconds. You can also upload even longer videos that you recorded outside of the app.

However, especially considering our diminishing attention span and need for instant gratification, shorter videos currently reign supreme. And because they’re so quick, they’re also much more “raw” and organic than video campaigns you might see on other platforms. They appear less rehearsed and orchestrated, and more authentic. There might not be much fancy equipment—just a simple video shot with a smartphone.

In fact, TikTok’s slogan is “Real People, Real Videos.”

man recording video of himself

Does this make sense for your brand? If so, you might be in the right place.

What about the type of content specifically?

Now, while the app mostly caters to humor, there is indeed a (much smaller) population of informative and educational videos.

Users might spend hours on TikTok for nothing more than a good laugh. But make no mistake about it: The potential here is nothing to scoff at. And sure enough, big-name brands like CocaCola and Google are using the app to advertise. That’s no coincidence.

So, yes, consider whether the app fits your brand in terms of the length of the typical video and the humorous take most of them utilize. But also consider the kind of audience you’re trying to reach—which brings us to our next point.

Look at who your target audience is.

GlobalWebIndex released statistics saying that a huge chunk of TikTok’s users are teenagers. More specifically, 41% of TikTok’s users are between the ages of 16 and 24. If you want to reach, convert, or engage with that age bracket, then TikTok could perfect for your brand. You’ll have a reason to believe that they’ll care about what your brand is offering.

Identifying the age range of the audience you want to reach is one thing. However, you also need to understand how your audience behaves and interacts with content, which is a huge factor. What do they want to see? What are their goals? Do they have a longer or shorter attention span? What kinds of products and services are they interested in? What do they care about?

If you can answer these questions, then you can more easily determine if TikTok is beneficial for your brand and also how to use it.

For instance, as seen in the statistics provided by GlobalWebIndex, the behavior of TikTok’s users is overwhelmingly participative. 55% of the active users have also uploaded a video themselves. In other words, more than half of TikTok’s young market is content creators themselves.

Learn about your audience’s inclination to engage with your brand’s content. Understand their intentions in using the app. Really dive into their wants, needs, goals, and problems. This will help you better hone in on how your brand could potentially use and benefit from the app.

To create more effective content, there’s yet another factor you need to consider.

Set a primary objective for your TikTok content.

With TikTok being a straightforward yet versatile app, it can be easy to get lost into its features and functions. You can create all types of videos easily in just one platform, which can be a double-edged sword. From the beginning, it’s important to be clear on what your objective is for your brand and not get lost in simply making silly videos—something that you can do in a matter of minutes.

You have several options when it comes to beginning to determine your general objective. Here are a few examples.

Snackable Content

The easiest type of content to stick with when using TikTok for your brand is snackable content. These are videos that can be easily and quickly consumed by your audience. There are dozens of possibilities when it comes to snackable videos. They can be informative, entertaining, or both at the same time. They can focus specifically on your product or service, more generally on your brand, or something else entirely that’s only loosely related.

Think about it this way: What relevant ideas can you convey in a matter of seconds?

What’s great about using TikTok as a platform for snackable content is that it offers numerous filters and transitions that can disrupt scrolling and grab the attention of the user. This also gives you an opportunity to at least somewhat brand your content, if you want to. And at a minimum, it gives you a little creative freedom, so that you can find unique ways to stand out from the rest.

Trend-Jacking

Another marketing objective for TikTok could be trend-jacking. Trend-jacking is latching on to an existing trend to place your brand into the viral sphere of the internet. There is a plethora of interesting and entertaining trends within TikTok, and these trends usually even go beyond the app. This is where so much of the power of this platform lies. Viral TikTok videos usually go multi-platform, reaching the audiences of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

One fair warning to keep in mind is that trend-jacking can potentially either make or break your brand. It may seem easy to let your brand adapt to the latest viral trends, but you have to still keep in mind your brand’s image and tonality as well. Find a trend that can let your brand be itself without sacrificing its original creative direction. It’s not just about being popular online. You want to be popular for all of the right reasons.

Be the Trendsetter

If you think trend-jacking is too risky, or that social media marketers in your field are already using that type of content too much, there’s still another option to explore: letting your brand set the trend. Since TikTok has a high audience engagement rate compared to other platforms—with its users largely being content creators themselves—there’s no harm in creating content with the intention of starting a viral trend of your own.

Bear in mind that TikTok shares at least one quality with the other apps. You want to create content that encourages viewers to engage with and respond to you. If you’re going to use the app for your brand, remember that it’s not about you. It’s about them.

A challenge when using TikTok for your brand is that you have to be creative.

Creativity is one of the main selling points for TikTok, but it also makes for a challenging task to undertake. As explained by Oberlo, TikTok is a subculture for its young audience, specifically Gen Z. Having so much freedom to be creative can be immensely powerful—assuming that you know how to go about it.

It’s about catering to the type of content that TikTok is known for, while also catering to the average person who uses it while also getting your message across. If you lose focus on who exactly you’re trying to reach and what their qualities are, then your TikTok campaign isn’t likely to fair well. (To be clear, this can be said for any social media platform.)

So, what’s the bottom line? Should your brand start using TikTok for marketing purposes?

The only way you’ll know is to test it and find out. You can experiment with both organic videos as well as paid advertisements. There’s a lot of money to be made here, considering the purchasing power of the platform’s target audience.

Just be aware of what kind of content you’re creating and ensuring that it aligns with your branding. Fitting in with TikTok is important, but not at the expense of your messaging.

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