Five Things We Love About TikTok

After its 2018 merger with Music.ly, TikTok’s U.S. usage skyrocketed, and it became the No. 1 free non-gaming iOS app in September 2019. It was clear going into 2020 that TikTok was officially the new “it” social platform. But even with all the buzz, marketers were slow to jump on what seemed like a Gen Z phenomenon (dare we say the new Vine?). But when COVID-19 forced us all to stay home and scroll endlessly, TikTok’s demographics widened, and overall usage rose drastically — including a significant spike in users over 30 years of age — which forced brands to take notice.

After analyzing the platform for our own clients, there were a variety of reasons that stood out as differentiators that convinced us the platform should be added to the list of channels considered when creating a robust media strategy.

Below are the top five reasons to consider TikTok as a brand:

Imperfect is Perfect

The first thing to know about TikTok is it’s not a new version of Instagram. Its users don’t spend hours filtering and editing content; in fact, they dislike “perfect” content. This platform is meant to be fun and entertaining. It can be scary for a brand to let go of the expectation for super stylized content and campaigns, but the beauty of TikTok is that the unstylized content is what users are looking to see — so much so, this type of stripped-down, less controlled format is what performs best. While other platforms have become clogged with brand advertisements, TikTok has yet to be infiltrated by advertisers, and users have gotten accustomed (and protective) of their organic feeds. So as brands begin to find their TikTok voices, it’s essential to find a way around looking perfectly curated.

Kind snacks is a great example of this. Their content appears as if it was shot on an iPhone and inserts itself into the trends already happening on TikTok with their own spin on it.

Easy to Participate

Although all social platforms technically are a low barrier to entry — free and easy to create a business account and post some organic content — it’s certainly not news that to gain traction and a significant following, the heavy hitter platforms are a pay-to-play setup. Different than Instagram, and one of the more appealing aspects, much of TikTok is communal — which makes it easier to participate and jump in on a trend. For marketers, that means there’s less of a need to create your own challenge. By finding fun ways to authentically insert your brand into pre-existing trends, it not only takes less time and investment from your creative teams, but it’s more likely to resonate with consumers as this is the type of timely content they prefer.

Vineyard Vines was a brand that recognized this as an advantage early on when they brought to life their whale logo to partake in challenges — our favorite was the oversized, blow-up whale attempting the bottle cap challenge.

Easy to be Creative

While TikTok is often compared to Snapchat, the reality is TikTok’s creative platform is unlike anything on social media. With their own creative suite, users can add filters, text, music and make the product truly unique without needing expertise beforehand. It allows anyone to be a creator — not just those who have an education or background in design or video editing.  They also raised the bar for social media by allowing video replies to comments — something no other platform has. TikTok has fostered a community that recognizes and celebrates creativity because of how easy it is to make a great product.

Allow your teams to have fun with this channel and encourage talent across the organization to get involved, not just the creative department. Challenge them to create content that feels different from other channels. Just because your brand is investing in an influencer, for example, doesn’t mean it needs to be a polished, scripted piece of content — this example from Crocs drives home this point.

The Algorithm

The “for you page” on TikTok is a black hole of new content. Its algorithm practically runs on two things — hashtags and the music, which is different than other social platforms like Instagram, which takes the user’s entire profile into account before recommending it to someone. If a user is watching TikToks with “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion on repeat, or endlessly scrolling through #Karen videos, they can expect this content to keep hitting their feed. TikTok will quickly adapt to the user’s taste to offer the most relevant, interesting, fun, quirky, head-turning videos that people can’t stop watching. Since the TikTok algorithm takes into account the individual video more than the profile as a whole, your videos on TikTok can still get millions of views, even if you’re short on followers, bringing back the concept of “going viral.”

Authentic Self-Expression

TikTok is a judgment-free zone (don’t @ us, Planet Fitness …). In fact, much of the content on TikTok is a little cringey — but here, cringey is encouraged. One minute you’re watching a dance challenge, the next you’re watching a toddler try to resist the M&M’s put in front of them. There’s truly a community for everyone. As true Gen Zers say, the TikTok users’ golden rule is “don’t yuck my yum.” And people really don’t yuck others’ yums. It’s a platform where consumers and brands alike can strip away the expectations that happen with the stylized content, and truly embrace self-expression.

For brands, this means the ability to test your personalities in a different, less corporate way and find your brand’s true voice.

The best way to truly understand TikTok is to download and explore for yourself. Thirty minutes on TikTok will show you that authenticity is key, and there are endless ways to participate and get in on the conversation. When building a TikTok strategy, it’s imperative not to lose sight of the platform’s key differences and unique qualities. To be successful on TikTok, the content can’t be a rinse and repeat of what you put on other platforms. Connect with your audience by embracing the channel for what it is and showcasing your brand’s fun, creative, humorous ways. Although it may feel intimidating to put your brand “out there” in an unpolished, quirky way, that’s exactly the type of content TikTok users want to see. So if you’re going to implement a TikTok strategy, be prepared to release the reigns and tap back into the roots of content creation.

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Eleni Philipon is an Integrated Media Planner at GYK Antler. Eleni’s career in advertising started in the Boston agency scene building large-scale B2B campaigns, but then it took her back to her roots in New Hampshire and to the B2C space. She’s worked on brands including Sweet Baby Ray’s, Visit NH, MBTA Commuter Rail, Mimecast, Sullivan Tire and Dartmouth Hitchcock. When she’s not pouring over media plans and planning campaigns, she’s probably on a 4,000-footer in New Hampshire’s White Mountains or in Maine.
Olivia Cimeno is a Media Planner specializing in Social Media at GYK Antler. Working across a variety of CPG and D2C accounts, including Cedar’s Foods, Sweet Baby Rays, Wahlburgers and YORK Athletics ensures she’s never bored and always hungry. While she spends her spare time filling her feed with pictures of her two English Bulldogs, you can usually find her executing on everything from organic and paid to influencer campaigns.
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