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What Marketers Need To Know About TikTok

tiktok-logo Written by Michael Del Gigante

The social media world is constantly changing—and just as marketers become comfortable with the current platforms, new ones arrive on the scene. Today, TikTok is making waves among marketers with its fresh new approach and rapid growth.

So, what is TikTok, and how can marketers use it to the fullest? Is it just a trend, or is it here to stay? Here are some answers from MDG Advertising’s social media specialists:

How Does TikTok Work?

TikTok originally launched in 2016 under the name “Douyin” in China, and began gaining popularity in the U.S. after it combined with in 2017. The app lets users share, create and interact with videos whose length is 15 seconds or less. Users also can combine multiple videos, uploading and sharing longer videos in the app.

Like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook stories, content is vertical, mobile-ready, and compatible with AR and visual layers. However, pieces don’t automatically disappear, making it more like a Facebook or Instagram account.

Why is TikTok Popular?

TikTok offers users a fresh way to present short-form video, with trending challenges featuring hashtags and the ability to collaborate with others. This creative, community-based app has been downloaded more than one billion times—even without including China, Sensor Tower data shows. Sensor Tower also estimates that throughout 2018, TikTok was downloaded 663 million times while Instagram was only downloaded 444 million times.

Plus, the app is heavily utilized once it’s downloaded. TikTok currently has more than 250 million monthly users (this excludes most users in China). In comparison, Snapchat currently has 298 million active monthly users.

What’s Causing TikTok’s Rise?

Oriented around music and challenges, TikTok’s content is both targeted and universally appealing. The fun, fast nature of the content also appeals to audiences on the go.

It’s also is easy to join and use—like YouTube, TikTok makes it simple for visitors to switch from one video to the next. Additionally, users don’t have to create an account to view content; they can view videos from multiple TikTok creators simply by swiping.

Powerful machine learning and AI also support TikTok’s platform, which offers “For You” suggestions to keep users engaged. This personalized approach has proven effective: data from Comscore Mobile Metrics revealed that each month, UK social media users spend more time on TikTok than every other platform except Facebook.

How Can Brands Advertise on TikTok?

Just as Snapchat and Instagram were several years ago, TikTok is popular, but its advertising tools don’t reflect its large user base. However, the platform does have ads, which usually appear once the user launches the app. This is still in development, as most campaigns are simply advertising downloads.

Today, challenges are the top way brands engage users on TikTok. To have their hashtag featured on popular videos, brands pair with the platform, paying TikTok influencers to create customized pieces.

Is TikTok a Passing Trend?

Although TikTok is a popular app with millions of users and a large influencer base, marketers remain unsure of its longevity. The same elements contributing to its rapid rise—little vetting of accounts and a young user base—are raising concerns about children being exposed to questionable content. The app will have to start monitoring new accounts without destroying its community-focused, open feel.

Additionally, other networks have seen TikTok’s success and are now adding similar elements to their platforms. Just as users saw with Snapchat stories, app features are very easy to copy—and the imitation often stunts a new app’s growth.

It’s possible that TikTok could adjust and thrive even with so many challenges, but that remains to be seen. What’s important for marketers to know, however, is that this mobile-ready, short-form video app is precisely what appeals to today’s consumers. In China, marketing spend on short-form videos is predicted to surge to 134% in 2019, and another 71% in 2020.

Short-form video’s popularity will probably grow at a similar pace throughout the world. Although TikTok itself may not remain popular, marketers must continue to focus on this dynamic, user-friendly content as they engage audiences.

About Michael Del Gigante, CEO of MDG Advertising

In 1999, CEO Michael Del Gigante founded MDG Advertising, a full-service advertising agency with offices in Boca Raton, Florida and Brooklyn, New York. With his unique insight and decades of industry experience, he turned what was once a traditional ad agency into an integrated branding firm based on an innovative 360-degree marketing philosophy that provides a full spectrum of traditional and digital advertising services.