TikTok basics: all you need to know

If you’re at least a bit connected with the ever-changing world of social media platforms, you know that there’s an app that’s taking the internet by storm. Of course, we’re talking about TikTok, which has existed for quite a while now, but only in 2020, it gained its immense popularity.

It all started in 2017, when the company ByteDance launched Douyin in China, an app that was going to become TikTok internationally. Douyin and TikTok use different networks to comply with China’s censorship laws.

A couple of months later, ByteDance was purchased by Music.ly, a video streaming and sharing app, that makes use of 15 seconds long videos and features that people can use to lip-sync or make entertaining videos. These features turned out to be a fabulous addition to TikTok. [1]

Teenagers were the first to jump on the TikTok train, but others soon followed. Today, TikTok is the fifth most used social media platform, right behind Twitter and Facebook and is home to users of all ages, countries and backgrounds, and multiple brands and companies.

What makes TikTok so great?

Anybody can use it

First of all, the obvious. A free app that makes video editing so easy that even 10-year old’s or baby boomers who aren’t good with phones can make their content is undoubtedly going to be a catch for many.

Short and viral

Nowadays, when people’s attention span and patience are so short, the challenge is to manage to showcase your brand’s best qualities in just a couple of seconds. TikTok provides the perfect platform for this; you just have to make it work.

Its core value is creativity

TikTok videos are all about content, fun and, most importantly, creativity, less about crisp images and highly curated feeds, so it comes like a breath of fresh air compared to other platforms, like Instagram or even Facebook, where people might think twice before posting anything.

If your idea is good and entertaining, the technical part doesn’t matter that much.

Self-expression and authenticity matter

The evolution of social media has made us all maybe a bit too aware of how we present ourselves to the outside world. When we’re all choosing our words and images so carefully, there’s little room left for spontaneity.

TikTok might be the only social media platform where people can have fun being themselves, goofing around, laughing with friends, dancing and singing poorly. In a way, TikTok looks like the best apartment party, where we were all invited and we’re all having a great time, without fear of being judged.

It tackles important matters

You can have fun while being serious at the same time and TikTok is proof of this. Over time, the app was home to pressing matters like protests, fights for equality, and social causes and everybody could make their voice heard on the platform. While scrolling on TikTok, you can go from trending dances to celebrating natural beauty in one instant.

How do you make TikTok work for your brand?

It might come as a surprise that an app that gained popularity as a fun tool for kids can now be one of the best marketing apps, but it’s true, and, if you think about it, not that surprising. People like brands with a personal approach that also show they’re connected with the reality surrounding them. So being part of the most popular TikTok trends is a great way to achieve this.

Think in terms of posts, not ads

In order to make your TikTok brand account work, you should switch from the regular promotion-of-a-product type of posts. People don’t want to see ads in their feed. They might, however, react very well to your videos if you make it interesting for them. Make them laugh, turn your promotional post into a challenge for them, anything goes, as long as you keep it enjoyable.

Advantages of using TikTok

Audience

As mentioned before, TikTok has a huge audience always scrolling through videos, ready to be hooked by the next fresh content, and brands are already taking advantage of this. With companies like The Washington Post, Mac Cosmetics, Calvin Klein, Mercedes Benz or Burberry “smashing that TikTok game”, there isn’t any reason why your brand shouldn’t be the next TikTok trendsetter.

It might also be your chance of reaching younger audiences, especially if you’re making use of their most favorite TikTok features.

Any video can become popular

What makes TikTok unique is that it doesn’t follow the usual pattern, where your videos or images only show up in the feeds of the people that are subscribed to you, meaning if you have zero followers, it can take a while to gain popularity. Instead, any video, even those coming from accounts with zero followers, can get millions of views. And after a few of your videos gained enough visibility, it’s most likely your account followers will skyrocket too.

Still, how do you make those viral videos? You might be asking. This brings us to the next step:

Trend culture on TikTok

If there’s one thing that performs well on TikTok is trends. Easy to replicate dance routines and catchy songs, lip-syncing to some lyrics or catchphrases, tips and tricks, or transitions are some of the most common features that TikTok trends share.

Keep an eye out for trending sounds and hashtags, and use them with confidence. The well-known Adapt and improve rule is the key to success. Don’t just copy any trend; choose the ones that fit you and your brand and add them your quirky change.

For instance, the food brand, Chipotle, took the” #Me at the concert” trend, which consists of one person/object” singing” a lyric, followed by a choir of people/items and turned it into this video, in which their famous chips are singing. As you can see, it doesn’t take much, as long as you’re keeping it fun and cool.

Another option is to start some trends by yourself. The most famous example for this is Guess partnering up with TikTok to run the ”#inmydenim” challenge, in which people were supposed to show how good they’re looking in their denim outfits. This is exactly the kind of trend that works well, because it’s easy to replicate, it’s fun, and it provides people with a confidence boost while doing it, so not only will your brand grow in popularity, but it will also be associated with making people feel good.

Top TikTok campaigns in Romania

In Romania, the TikTok wave also came around, and brands joined it happily, ready to showcase their best campaigns. One great example is #MixUpYourHome, a campaign started by L2, the agency that’s behind brands like Mirinda, Gatorade, 7Up, Lemon Lemon, Prigat, MountainDew. The campaign started during the 2020 lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and its goal was to send out good vibes and invite people to find the good in any situation.

#MixUpYourHome made use of more than one social media platform, but it’s worth noting that on TikTok, it was the first national challenge that started in Romania. Influencers were invited to take part in a chain reaction, showing how Mirinda keeps their spirits up.[3]

TikTok pages don’t have to be extra complex and full of challenges if they manage to encapsulate what your brand is about and what are its strong points. The company Global Records uses their TikTok page to mix sneak peeks from their singers’ concerts with fun international challenges, done with influencers’ help, like #ShakeYourBackpack, showcasing what they can offer: good music, performers singing and dancing, and entertaining events.

TikTok Algorithm

TikTok doesn’t provide a clear explanation for how their algorithm works, but even so, some factors are indeed taken into account. Later.com divides the basics of TikTok’s algorithm into a couple of features [2]:

Individual performance of videos

The more your videos are viewed, the more they will show up on people’s ”For You” page. That means, even if you don’t have many followers, but some of your videos start gaining views, they can still reach millions of people.

Geo-Location

TikTok takes into account your geo-location, and it will first show your video to people with the same geo-location as you. This is great for raising brand awareness since it allows you to focus on impacting your community.

Hashtags and sound

These are the two magic ingredients for making yourself noticed on TikTok. Be clever about the hashtags; make use of the most popular ones, as well as the ones like #fyp, #foryou, or #foryourpage, to increase your chances of being featured in more feeds. Remember to keep the hashtags relevant, don’t be afraid to add some less popular ones if they’re related to your content because this will help the algorithm know what your post is about and who to show it too.

Posts can gain popularity at any time

If the sounds or hashtags you used for some video gain in popularity, your video can still go viral, even if it was posted a while ago. TikTok’s algorithm monitors all the videos from the platform, not just the most recent ones. [4]

How do TikTok Ads work

With multiple options when it comes to Ads, TikTok is genuinely resourceful. Some of the most popular choices are In-feed Ad, TopView, Brand Takeover, or Branded Hashtag Challenge.

Ads on TikTok come with a Sponsored label, as well as visible buttons that let you to ”download now”, ”learn more”, or ”shop now”. Viewers can go directly to your website, buy products, download music, or find out more about the company.

Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is a powerful method to use on any platform, and TikTok is no exception. For this, TikTok Creator Marketplace was created, a platform for brand and creator collaborations. Here, brands can find influencers ranked by their performance data: engagement reach, demographics, and views. This helps both the influencers and the brands, making it possible for them to meet, even if one or both of them have yet to grow a really big following on the platform. [5]

Brand Takeover

This is another great way to make your brand more approachable by letting a regular person coordinate your brand account for a while and connect with your followers.

The TikTok world is vast and complex, and you’ll discover it entirely only by exploring it. Still, one thing is for sure: honesty, spontaneity and creativity are the most important values. From there on, you can adapt TikTok’s feature in any way you see fit to make it work for your brand.

Be smart, keep it fun, be aware of your followers’ wishes, beliefs, and expectations and then… start posting!

[1] BBC News. TikTok: The story of a social media giant. Joe Tidy & Sophia Smith Galer. August 5, 2020. Available at https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53640724 (last visited on 14.10.2020)
[2] Later. The Ultimate Guide to TikTok Marketing. Jillian Warren. May 6, 2020. Available at https://later.com/blog/tiktok-marketing/ (last visited on 14.10.2020)
[3] IQads. #MixUpYourHome: un creative user journey prin Instagram, Spotify, TikTok, experiența AR, totul de acasă. Campanie L2 și Mirinda România. May, 13 2020. Available at https://www.iqads.ro/articol/50586/mixupyourhome-un-creative-user-journey-prin-instagram-spotify-tiktok-experienta# (last visited on 15.10.2020)
[4] Ibid.
[5] Distractify. TikTok Creator Marketplace Helps Creators & Brands Collab. Gabrielle Bernardini. June 2020. Available at https://www.distractify.com/p/tiktok-creator-marketplace (last visited 14.10.2020)