lifestyle PR + digital media

Is it time to get on TikTok?

November 26, 2019

When is the expanding land of social media too much? 

This is a question I, like most users, ask myself every time a new social media channel starts to gain momentum. But it’s been years since a new channel seemed to truly break through. Vine came and went (RIP); Google+ is donezo (praise be); and while being a #VSCOgirl is a thing, that app’s attempts to break through as a social channel haven’t been particularly widespread.

So, naturally, when I learned that TikTok has now been downloaded 1.5 billion—yes, with a B—times worldwide, I found myself asking this question again, and with more urgency. Do I, on a personal level, need another social media channel to eat up my time? (The answer, always, is no.) 

But given that there are plenty of signs that TikTok isn’t going anywhere, we as marketing professionals should educate ourselves about the channel and its potential benefits to our clients.

A cursory scroll through the app makes clear that TikTok is a place for LOL-worthy content. It’s a lot of teens, a lot of filming in bedrooms, a lot of comedians trying out jokes. TikTok has established itself as the internet’s home for silly, goofy, imperfect content, a stark contrast to the hyper-filtered Instagram aesthetic. (Sidenote: shoutout to Vine for cultivating that vibe long before TikTok existed—A Potato Flew Around My Room is and will remain one of the Internet’s greatest treasures.)

Thinking through a brand lens, it’s clear immediately that brands on TikTok need to harness that vibe that has made TikTok lovable in the first place. Brands first need to decide whether silliness, lightness, and fun is part of their brand identity. If it isn’t, TikTok probably isn’t the right channel for them. 

The difference in vibe between TikTok and Instagram also means that a TikTok strategy has to be different than Instagram or Facebook. (Of course, admitting that the strategy needs to be different than the other major channels means more work for us as marketers. We’re not touching on Shiny Object Syndrome in this post, but HERE is a great piece about how PR pros can balance their current workload with new platforms.)

Something akin to the #ChipotleLidFlip—Chipotle’s first foray into a TikTok strategy—isn’t going to make sense for every brand. But brands that can find fun, funny, silly content ideas will resonate with TikTok’s users.

Another huge consideration for brands deciding whether or not to jump on TikTok? Demographics, duh. According to MediaKix, 66% of TikTok users are 29 or younger. So, like with any channel, brand managers must determine how much overlap exists between their target demographic and TikTok’s users. 

Lastly, brands must consider the ad capabilities on TikTok. The app offers a variety: branded lenses (similar to SnapChat’s custom filters), biddable ads, and branded takeovers are similar to ad options with other channels. But TikTok offers another ad option, too, that feels very TikTok: the hashtag challenge, wherein advertisers can create a challenge for users (which both encourages user-generated content and creates better chances of virality). 

Brands must decide whether these ad options ladder up to their goals for social ads, and whether their targeting capabilities are sufficient. 

Are you a TikTok user? Are you implementing the app into your clients’ social media strategies?