How B2B Brands Can Use TikTok Without Ruining It

My TikTok feed is chaotic. In under a minute, I can watch enough content to produce a Ted Talk on why the pyramids were indubitably built by aliens, show you how to build a functional boat out of marshmallows, and recap 10 reasons that prove I am likely a hologram.

For the sake of science, I will admit that I’m guilty of mindlessly scrolling through these clips into the wee hours of the night. At first glance, TikTok’s audience, which skews younger, may not seem like the ideal place for a B2B brand. But my tailored algorithm isn’t all cute cat clips and conspiracy theories. Educational content also works, taking the form of basic advice for topics like writing resumes and learning about the stock market.

Today, TikTok has over 1 billion monthly active users between the ages of 13 and 40. And based on personal experience, the platform’s algorithm has gotten very good at recommending related content on the “For You” page—including posts that come from brands. That’s part of the reason why the average time spent per user has doubled in the last six months.

Now comes the big question: Should B2B brands use TikTok? It depends. The platform isn’t saturated with advertising, but many B2C companies are already active. Based on what I’ve seen, TikTok may not be right for every B2B brand, but if they’re looking for some new and creative opportunities that just make sense, here’s how they can join the platform without ruining it.

1. Embrace emotional targeting

B2B brands don’t always tug at the heartstrings of the audience when they’re selling technical products and services. However, this perceived bias toward rational selling could be holding back marketers—especially those interested in TikTok.

Gyro UK, a B2B specialist agency, found that 62 percent “of business decision-makers rely on gut feelings when it comes to their final choice.” Regardless of the complexity of your product, you are still selling to people, and people have emotional needs.

In Contagious: Why Things Catch On, UPenn professor Jonah Berger came up with the acronym STEPPS (social currency, triggers, emotions, public, practical value, and stories), which outlines what marketers can do to make their content stick and increase the likelihood it gets shared.

With that in mind, consider taking a step back from self-serving, promotional content and letting your employees post some videos of their snoring pets–because what’s more amusing than that?

Jokes aside, TikTok allows brands that are selling a seemingly unexciting product to establish an emotional connection to their audience. Take Lysol’s “#HealthyHabits6Step” trend, for example. Thanks to a catchy custom song, users are provided a lighthearted, engaging way to bring awareness to a critical COVID-19 initiative. The average person may not feel particularly attached to a cleaning company, but the creation of this hashtag brings an interactive element to the rather humdrum topic of personal hygiene.

Even though Lysol is B2C, you could still adapt a similar model for a B2B company, adding a sprinkle of exhilaration to mundane activities—be it personal hygiene or work.

2. Teach us (quickly)

Educational courses are lead gen machines, just ask HubSpot, which offers a phenomenal set of online marketing courses. So what do HubSpot and TikTok have in common? They both utilize chunking. HubSpot’s short, segmented videos and TikTok’s one-minute post limit give creators the ability to publish educational information that viewers will retain better.

One of my favorite educational TikTokers is Hank Green, also known for his Crash Course YouTube videos that got some of us through school. Hank posts a plethora of short, personable videos answering questions you may have always wondered about but never found the answer to (click here if you were wondering what fire tastes like).

@hankgreen1Reply to @mafflack Ask me more moon questions. I love the moon. ##askhank ##tiktokpartner ##learnontiktok♬ original sound – Hank Green

Some people have built their entire brand on TikTok by emphasizing educational advice. Laine Blazevich hops on the latest dance trends to pass along internship advice to students. He’s the perfect balance of cringy, yet relatable—and the short video format takes away part of the information overload that makes the internship process stressful.

And as I promised above, you don’t need to jump on the latest trends in order to see success on TikTok. Ben Pryor keeps it simple while he teaches you the ins, outs, lefts, and rights of the stock market through graphics. His tone is conversational, making it easier for him to address the demands of his particular audience.

Larger finserv companies may feel out of place at first on a platform like TikTok, but people like Pryor are proof that there’s an audience for every industry. By focusing on personal finance advice or small business tips, finserv companies can cover basics and build trust in a relatable way.

3. Highlight company culture for recruiting

I’m guilty of using Brobdingnagian words to make myself seem smarter (see what I did there?). But when it comes to building a team and establishing trust, there’s no need to overcomplicate things. You want your audience to know your brand as clearly as possible.

At Contently, I think you know how much we value storytelling by now. One of the main reasons stories work so well in marketing is because of their relatability. It’s vital to take a step back from promotional advertising. See the value in creating content that doesn’t haggle your audience for their contact information, or else they may become skeptical of your intentions and how you value their business.

One of America’s most reputable daily newspapers, The Washington Post, has done a fantastic job of utilizing TikTok to emphasize their exceptional company culture. Their company mission is to portray news truthfully and unbiasedly and reach the public at large. On their main website, they do just that by presenting current events in a factual, clean and serious format. However, on TikTok, they bring a playful and relatable element to their brand with their employee Dave Jorgenson (also known fondly as Washington Post TikTok Guy).

@washingtonpostEveryone say bye to Madhulika, a legend 👋♬ original sound – We are a newspaper.

Jorgenson breaks down the current events that The Washington Post publishes with a humorous component so they are easy to understand. In a digital age where face-to-face connection is often minimal, these small efforts show that real people just like you and I are behind big brand names. This can do wonders when it comes to establishing company culture, especially if you are looking to recruit new employees.

4. Get to know TikTok and post frequently

In the “2021 TikTok Benchmarks & Strategy Guide for Brands,” Conviva discovered that the top 20 company accounts on TikTok averaged about 5x more posts per year than all other users, and those who posted 2000-2499 times over the year gained a whopping 6 million followers, on average.

So if you’re going to try TikTok, make sure to commit.

Conviva Tiktok report

Granted, the biggest brand accounts tend to have a creative advantage since they can post sports highlights (ESPN) or movie clips (Netflix). But regardless of your industry, the key to TikTok growth is putting in the time. The audience will appreciate it if you learn what works on the platform instead of shoehorning in whatever you have on your YouTube page.

As you’re doing your research, here’s a final piece of advice: Don’t succumb to teen stereotypes. If something feels cringy or oversaturated, it’s okay to skip it. Users will thank you for not trying to co-opt the latest trend.

Nonetheless, I encourage you to embrace this strange, magical world. TikTok, like the universe, is chaotic. You may not be able to master it right away, but at least you can learn something—even if it means finding out you’re a hologram.

Image by Sommersby

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