TikTok has been on the rise since 2018, after its official launch in 2016 with Chinese startup ByteDance. The platform was originally known as Musical.y, a video streaming and service app that generated over 200 million users before moving all of them over to TikTok in August 2018.
TikTok has proven it is one of the fastest growing apps in social history. In October 2018 it was the most-downloaded photo and video app in the Apple store globally, and the app reportedly has amassed over 500 million monthly active users.
So what does this mean for advertisers and ecommerce retailers? How can the industry take advantage of another social platform to maximise sales, revenue and brand awareness? With the ecommerce industry now all over the future of TikTok, the main focus is now what can advertisers do to monetise this platform and use it to their advantage?
Unlike other social media channels, like Instagram or Facebook, TikTok content isn’t about a perfectly curated feed, nor is it best for brands to portray their own unique look, but rather to fit to the trends and what's popular on TikTok at the time. Authenticity on social media has grown in importance, and the content that does well is not super edited and polished. Rather, it is genuine and organic.
TikTok advertising offers multiple types of ads, from hashtag challenges to spark ads. Several brands have utilised techniques like TikTok challenges and contests to get users to generate brand-related content. Brands are also leveraging hashtags, in similar ways to other social media platforms to gain brand recognition and promote their marketing campaigns.
What are the steps to a good marketing campaign on TikTok?
As a brand, it is critical to figure out how to get as many people as possible to see your ad. TikTok will push your video to a niche target audience, and depending on how that audience reacts to your video (in terms of views, likes and shares), TikTok will expand your reach to other users, and continue to do so the more you post.
Whilst ecommerce brands’ goals are often focused on customer acquisition and new purchases, this is not necessarily easy (or quick) to do on TikTok. To do so, it’s crucial to build a base of followers that are engaged with the content and are part of the online community.
Similar to other platforms, hashtags are essential for getting your content out to the correct niche, and expanding your reach massively. Branded hashtag challenges are one of the most popular in generating engagement. A three to six day campaign can be built and reinforced with user-generated content on the hashtag challenge page, if the correct hashtags are used.
Trends on TikTok are constantly changing, and it's critical to jump on the trends as quickly as possible. For brands, organic and fresh content is what will get you to the top of the ‘for you’ page with trends. Unlike content campaigns on other platforms that require a lot of planning, shooting and prepping for post, by the time this is all done for TikTok, the trend would be over.
Which brands have used TikTok to leverage their brand presence and image?
A well thought-out campaign was designed by fashion brand Hollister as part of their ‘Back to School’ activity. Their use of two of the biggest content creators on the app, Charlie and Dixie D’Amelio, gained them 2.5 billion views in 6 days.
Their involvement in the ‘Back To School’ jeans campaign started out with the sister creators trying on the different jeans while dancing to a popular song which quickly became a viral dance trend - this skyrocketed the brand's engagement.
Taking advantage of fellow app users getting involved with the dance trend, they turned it into a hashtag challenge, using the hashtags #MoreHappyDenimDance and #HCoContest. Using this would give creators the chance to meet the sisters in person. The contest went on to drive a massive 2.5 billion views for #MoreHappyDenimDance hashtag and 53.2 million for #HCoContest, both within six days.
Another example of a brand using TikTok well includes the brand MasterCard, that leveraged the hashtag #PricelessWave. They launched this to celebrate the return of the UEFA Champions League and European football after the end of the pandemic. Users on the app were encouraged to create content showing off their football skills, raising their arms in the biggest wave ever and using effects to add celebrations graphics. The campaign generated over 2.1 billion views.
TikTok was also used by Chipotle burritos to showcase its food production, products and customers. They used the platform to announce the launch of a new product - their quesadillas. With the use of audio and #ChipotleRoyalty content with influencer David Dobrik, who promoted the products on the app as well as YouTube with his following of over 12 million. Winners had their orders featured and won $10,000. The brands following grew by 1.5 million and has 28.2 million likes.
In 2020, TikTok announced that three new ecommerce integrations were in development. One of these integrations were affiliate links - when a purchase is made using the link, the creator gets a commission of the sale. These are most popular with content creators that have a high following. For example, the brand Gymshark has ‘Gymshark athletes’ that use an individual link to purchase on the website.
Secondly, now that TikTok is focusing towards monetising the platform, brands are able to showcase product catalogues via a Shopify integration. Launching the integrations in Autumn 2021, allowing merchants to widen their presence on paid social media and reach TikTok’s 1 billion monthly users.
This also allows more than a million merchants to run promotions on TikTok without leaving the Shopify dashboard. After a test which started in the USA, Shopify has now expanded their TikTok partnership to 14 different countries. Now, UK based Shopify merchants of all sizes can access the core ad functions of TikTok.
Lastly, live steam shopping videos with TikTok content creators has had a huge impact on monetising the app. The set up works similarly to a TV shopping channel, however this time it's created for Gen-Z. With a live streaming video ecommerce feature, viewers can purchase products promoted in videos in just a few taps.
As the app continues to grow and invest in new tools and integrations, video is becoming more prominent in the way ecommerce brands focus their advertising on, if TikTok remains at the top of all social networking platforms.
We may see a huge shift in content types and the way this content is presented to users. Ecommerce integrations are a key focus for TikTok, so brands and retailers (and Shopify merchants especially) should begin strategising on how to build a presence on the platform.