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Should You Be Marketing on TikTok?

8 min read
May 8, 2020

Just two years ago, it felt like the social media landscape was entrenched, and it wasn’t going to change anytime soon. Instagram and Snapchat have been in the game for nearly a decade now. Facebook and Instagram have been out there even longer. While not as popular, Pinterest has also found its niche and become a well-established social media outlet. In the meantime, Google had a tough pill to swallow with Google Plus eventually turning out to be a flop. 

All those channels have provided marketers with new ways to reach their target audiences. Initially, marketers had to figure out how to reach potential customers organically and without spending money on ads. Each social medium has to start monetizing at some point, though. So, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that they all eventually built advertising platforms. Just when it felt like we all had this social media marketing thing figured out, TikTok came onto the stage. 

Where did TikTok come from?

I have to admit that I’m one of those people who said I’d have to be out of my mind to start using TikTok. It just looked so childish and cringeworthy to me. It still does. I mean, what’s the appeal of silly 15-second video clips of people lip-syncing or dancing? But hey, I’m a marketer, and a little voice inside my head was telling me I shouldn’t just ignore TikTok like that.

To give you a little bit of a background, TikTok has only been available worldwide for less than two years. ByteDance, the owner of the app, acquired musica.ly, which was a popular lip-syncing app in 2018. Having already launched Douyin for the Chinese market in 2016, ByteDance merged both apps and released TikTok in the United States in August 2018. It only took three months before it became the most downloaded app in the US in October of that year. Later, it turned out it was the most-downloaded app in the App Store in 2018 and 2019. 

That’s a big deal, and there are no signs of it slowing down. TikTok was downloaded over 300 million times in Q1 of this year. According to Sensor Tower, the analytics company that provided these stats, this is the best result to date of any app for a single quarter. To give you a bigger picture, TikTok now has more than two billion downloads in total, which is twice as many as just 15 months ago. 

And when it comes to the recent past, TikTok was downloaded 100 million times worldwide between March 20 and April 28, according to another data company, Apptopia. It came in as the second top free app in both iOS and Google Play stores in the US, only behind Zoom. All those numbers seem to indicate that it would be crazy not to jump on the bandwagon and start marketing to its users. But is that really a good idea?

Before you start marketing on TikTok

There are a few fundamental questions you should ask yourself before you start marketing on TikTok. While it’s tempting to just start blasting your content, hoping it sticks, we all know that’s not how good marketing works. You have to be more strategic and think about how it fits your brand and marketing strategies. 

The first and most important question is, are you a B2C or B2B brand? I know, I know, H2H, which stands for human to human, has been making the rounds lately. It’s meant to encompass both B2C and B2B because, at the end of the day, we all sell to other people. I love the idea and the message behind it which is to make marketing and sales more, well, human and less “businessy.” However, the distinction between B2C and B2B feels stronger on TikTok than anywhere else.

As much as I’d love to say TikTok is the right place for B2B marketers, we’re not there yet. TikTok is mostly used by people between the age of 16 and 24. That’s 41% of the total user-base. Sure, the twentysomethings, who make up the older part of that demographic, can be at the beginning of their careers. Still, most of the time, they are not the ones making the purchasing decisions on behalf of their companies. 

I’m in B2B, and I still want to give TikTok marketing a shot

I understand that. It’s difficult to pass up the opportunity to at least try marketing your brand on TikTok, especially considering all those impressive stats mentioned above. Who am I to tell you not to do it? Before you start your marketing adventure with TikTok, here are a few tips on how to fit in with the TikTok community, and stay true to your brand at the same time. 

Do you want to create another channel for communicating with your audience?

You should answer this question before you even start doing anything on TikTok. The reason why it’s so important is that there are already quite a few social media outlets that you’re probably using for your business. It’s difficult to juggle them all, and adding TikTok into the mix could be a bad move. 

You don’t want to spread yourself too thin and undermine your established channels at the expense of mastering ways to engage with a new platform. Also, if you’re already successful with Instagram or Facebook, there might be no point in trying to excel with yet another medium. Or, more importantly, your target audience isn’t there yet, and engaging there doesn’t make sense.

Does it feel authentic for you to join TikTok?

Some brands will fit in better than others. It’s purely because of their brand personalities and the tone of voice they use. I am going to share an example that has just popped into my head. Working from home has seen us use collaborative tools more than in the past. 

The two direct competitors that are most talked about are Slack and Microsoft Teams. If you’re familiar with them and think about it for a while, one of them feels more casual, and the other is way more official. These are both B2B products, but Slack feels a lot more in line with the content that’s shared on TikTok. I wouldn’t be surprised if they joined TikTok. Even more so, knowing their communication style and ads, I’d be thrilled to see how they leverage the platform. When I think of Slack on TikTok, it feels authentic. On the other hand, a Microsoft product would just feel odd to me. Ask yourself how your brand fits in. 

Think of what kind of content your audience wants to see

So, you did your market research, and it turns out that your target audience is there. This means your brand can potentially benefit from marketing on TikTok. Now, think of what you’re going to post there. Is it going to be purely product-oriented content? Or, maybe you want to share the marketing tactics you use and their results? There are numerous ideas for what to post on TikTok. It’s all up to you and how you want to engage with your audience. A good idea would be to showcase how you solve your customers’ problems.

A product or service you sell might be difficult to market in a way that would resonate with the TikTok crowd. If that’s the case, what I think would work best for a B2B brand is the behind the scenes content. Consumers want to see the real people behind the brands we know. Those real people help us build a stronger connection with a brand. TikTok seems to be a perfect place for that, especially with ‘in-the-moment’ content growing in popularity. Or, you could also go for bloopers to show the reality of creating video content, just like we did recently. 

Help your marketers build their personal brands

Another idea to take advantage of TikTok marketing is to get your marketers on board and help them build their personal brands. In fact, it could be easier to communicate with your target audience this way than using a company profile. Personal profiles are more trustworthy than business ones. 

As silly as it sounds at the moment, over time, you or your marketers can become TikTok marketing thought leaders. In turn, this has the potential to be beneficial for your brand. As your TikTok audience matures, they will move into decision-making positions and will be more likely to buy from you. On the flip side, we’re already seeing trends in the TikTok demographics shifting towards people in their 30s and 40s joining the platform. This is good news because the wait for your crowd to mature will be shorter than expected. 

Employer branding is as important as ever

TikTok is a good place for employer branding. Finding top talent is getting increasingly difficult, especially in the tech scene. Employers are in a race to recruit the best people out there to help their companies grow faster. 

A competitive salary is important, but that’s not the top reason for people switching jobs. Most of the time, people are bored and are looking for new challenges. Sometimes, the atmosphere in the workplace changes, and they feel like they don’t fit in anymore. Showing your company culture and the benefits of working for you are good ideas to lure talented people. The way you make them feel about your company can be the deciding factor for them choosing you and not your competitor. 

TikTok marketing isn’t for everyone

I understand if you’re in B2B and you’re still on the fence about marketing on TikTok. Compared to other social media, this is an extremely young platform. It’s difficult to judge the marketing impact it’s going to have in the years to come. There aren’t very many benchmarks to learn from, too. 

Still, if you have the capacity to explore yet another marketing channel and its characteristics are in line with your brand personality, go for it. In the worst-case scenario, you’re going to be another B2B brand that isn’t meant to be on TikTok. And that’s not a bad thing either because your business might perform better on the other platforms.