5 Steps for B2C Brands That Want to Use Tik-Tok

Short-form videos are one of the top content marketing trends for 2023. Ninety percent of marketers who leveraged this type of content in 2022 plan to continue using it. And 21 percent of marketers who didn’t use it in 2022 will work it into their strategies this year.

You know you need to leverage this medium if you’re not already. But where does this content need to live?

Consider TikTok. It was the most-downloaded app in the U.S. in 2019, 2020, and 2021. While TikTok is most popular with Gen Z (beating out Insta), its popularity is growing with Millennials and Gen Xers. About a third of the adult users are over 30. Worldwide, the app has over 1 billion monthly active users. While that’s still fewer than Facebook or Instagram, many brands see it as a great place to connect with their audience.

TikTok has unique benefits that separate it from Instagram.

TikTok is not just the go-to place for entertaining content. It’s a place to unwind and decompress and has evolved into a place to learn and grow. I follow accounts that teach me how to have fun with watercolors, take care of my plants, be a better leader, and manage a PR crisis. I’m even using the app to plan a trip to Scotland for my fiftieth birthday.

As you consider your content for Tiktok, it’s important to note that, while the platform is often compared to Instagram (and many believe the Zuck is changing IG to better compete with TikTok), it’s not the same. The biggest difference between the two is how audiences interact with the content.

Instagram is well-known for its curated imagery. It works well for creators who focus on aspirational content and have audiences who want to live their ideal life. Think: any of the Kardashian clan.

However, the TikTok crowd seems to favor content that appears more real. Even when creators use filters, they add an element of fun, and their use is transparent—viewers know they’re in play. The comments section also plays a key role on TikTok. Some of the best interactions happen there. Some accounts even highlight the hilarity in the comments as a major content input.

TikTok is also where many popular memes and trends begin. All those funny videos you see on Insta Reels? Yeah. They were popular months earlier on TikTok.

If you’re thinking of dipping your toe into the clock app, here are five things you need to consider to help you connect with your demographic and grow your audience.

1. Don’t jump right in.

The biggest mistake you can make is assuming your audience will interact in the same way as they do on other social media platforms.

Consider BuzzFeed. It dominates on YouTube (20 million followers) and IG (6 million followers), but it’s not doing as well on TikTok (1.4 million followers). Surprising? Not when you look at the content. For one, BuzzFeed reposted a lot of its IG content straight to TikTok, which has a completely different vibe. (Tip: If you’re going to repurpose content, you’re better off creating content first for TikTok and reusing it on Instagram.)

One of its worst-performing videos (77 likes and 7 comments) didn’t use the transitions well and addressed a topic no one cared about (should you call it NYE 2019 or 2020?). They missed by not connecting with current trends on the app and by not understanding the vibe of the TikTok community in order to effectively engage in a conversation.

If you don’t have a personal account yet, set one up and start listening. Watch content by other brands in your space or even those that are “space adjacent.” Look at how consumers interact with content. What content does well? Start following creators who interest you to gather inspiration.

Take the time (at least a couple of weeks) to explore the app and get a feel for the community that lives there.

2. Stay true to your brand’s voice.

Don’t leave your brand’s voice behind as you plan and create your content. It’s important to stay authentic to who you are as a company. If you’ve established a cheeky, irreverent voice, keep it. If you’re a little more “middle of the road,” stay there. Now is not the time to change who you are to fit what you think the platform requires. You can still have fun on the platform, but sincerity is key.

The Washington Post, which has been around for almost 150 years, has 1.5 million followers on its account.

The Washington Post on TikTok

There is literally room for everyone on the platform.

3. Use the trends to your advantage.

One of the elements that sets TikTok apart from other social media apps is the trends—these are sounds and music clips, hashtags, filters, hot topics, and even duets and stitches. When looking for content, users will often search by a sound or filter (not just by the hashtags) to see how creators put their spin on a trend.

Here are three examples from different brands using the same trending sound:

AllState on TikTok Chipotle on TikTok NFL on TikTok

Let’s talk about duets and stitches. A stitch is where you start a video with a five-second clip of someone else’s content, then you add your commentary to the remainder of the video (i.e., you digitally “stitch” the two together). Stitching allows users to answer a question or comment and expand on something another creator did.

Netflix uses the stitch feature to promote new television series and movies. When launching the docuseries, The Tinder Swindler, Netflix created the hashtag #wildthingsforlove and asked viewers to stitch their video and share some of the craziest things they did for love. The hashtag has almost 11 million views as of January 2023.

Netflix on TikTok

Duets show two creators side-by-side. In some cases, the creator you’re following will provide commentary on an original video by another creator. That “commentary” is sometimes verbal, but other duets show the commentator silently making facial or hand gestures or just sitting while the other creator talks.

Andy Dooley, a fitness coach, dueted this video shared by ESPN:

ESPN on TikTok

Both stitches and duets leverage the platform and ideas of other creators. The original creator is automatically credited in the video. While there are entire accounts dedicated to duets, brands that want to build an engaged audience should duet sparingly. Think of them as a garnish to your TikTok strategy. Use them too much, and people will wonder if you have anything original to say.

4. Leverage influencers.

If you are looking for influencers to partner with and raise visibility for your products or services, TikTok is a great place to find them.

Big names like the Kardashians or Ryan Reynolds often come to mind when we think of influencers. But they represent only part of the influencer universe. Micro-influencers, or creators with ten to fifty thousand followers, may have a highly engaged audience primed and ready to connect with you.

Before you reach out, identify a few (five to 10) influencers you think might be a good fit, and follow them “silently” (meaning, visit their profiles without clicking the follow button). Watch how often they post, what kind of content they post, and how their audience engages. You may find that they’re already fans of your brand.

After a few weeks, smash that follow button on your top faves. Like some of their content and consider commenting. Then, reach out to your number one and two and see if they’d be interested in partnering with you.

SweetV Jewelry, a company that has become internet-famous for crowns and tiaras, partners with several TikTok creators. They send the creators crowns, or the creators purchase the crowns themselves and share the love. Authors, comedians, and “regular” fans of the brand wear the crowns in their videos. SweetV reposts many unboxing videos, taking advantage of user-generated content.

TallGlassofCline on TikTok

5. Search is important.

Even Google (which has a TikTok account) is watching the clock app. Gen Z users are flocking there to find restaurant and product reviews, answers to questions, and more. TikTok is becoming the new Google.

Think of your account not only as a social platform but as a search engine.

It provides an ideal platform for answering common customer questions and highlighting features or new releases. Showcase testimonials. And, if it fits, you could explain popular trends relevant to your brand. (Like, what is the Croissant Army, and does it mean I’ll get a never-ending supply of buttery, flaky goodness if I join?)

TikTok gives you an opportunity to leverage your expertise and become a trusted source for your audience. With the right mix of creativity, partnership, and timely insight into trends and topics, you may find yourself building a highly engaged community.

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Image by alexander shatov

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