What Is TikTok Marketing? Basics and Examples for 2024

What Is TikTok Marketing? Basics and Examples for 2024

If you have ever gone down the TikTok rabbit hole, you know how influential the social media platform can be. It’s precisely this attention-consuming power—the average TikTok user spends almost an hour a day scrolling through the app—that makes TikTok a valuable social media marketing tool. The trick, though, is for brand marketers to understand what TikTok is and how to use it to their greatest business advantage.

Whether you bring in social media marketing experts to manage your TikTok initiatives or decide to leverage the unique power of the platform on your own, this article will give you the overview and orientation you need to make TikTok an integral part of your organization’s marketing messaging strategy.

This article will address:

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a short-form, video-sharing app. Users create videos on their own or by incorporating the sounds, song snippets, features, and effects the app provides. While TikTok videos previously maxed out at 60 seconds, users can now create three-minute videos. People interact with other users’ TikTok videos by scrolling through their “For You” feed and stopping to like, comment on, and share videos that resonate with them.

There’s a wide array of content on the platform, including dancing, fitness, tutorials, fashion videos, and videos covering trending topics. TikTok is fun, engaging, and invites anyone with a smartphone—so, basically, everyone—to make and post videos, share videos others make, comment on videos, and follow friends and influencers.

TikTok history: Platform metrics and success

TikTok traces its nascency to 2016, when Chinese tech titan ByteDance released a video sharing service called Douyin. Douyin was designed to be used as a social network like Facebook and Instagram, both of which had been banned in China.

A year later, ByteDance acquired Musical.ly—a Chinese social media app widely popular with teens around the world—that featured users sharing 15-second lip-sync videos. The two apps were merged in 2018 and were released worldwide as TikTok.

By early 2021, the TikTok app had been downloaded 2 billion times, with users posting and commenting on videos in 155 markets in 75 languages. Its nearly 690 million active users—100 million in the U.S.—post more than a billion videos per day.

TikTok’s marketing potential has not been lost on businesses. Since launching TikTok For Business in June 2020—a program offering brands the opportunity to promote their services and products through paid ads—TikTok’s revenue has grown immensely. TikTok’s 2020 revenue was estimated at $1 billion, and with more and more brands jumping on TikTok, there’s no reason to think that number won’t grow exponentially over the coming years.

Who uses Tiktok?

Close to 90% of Americans recognize TikTok. As you might expect, the majority of TikTokers—almost two-thirds—are between 10 and 29 years old. While Gen Zers and the younger millennial crowd may have been the first to use TikTok, older millennials and Gen Xers are following suit. Even some baby boomers are getting in on the act.

While half of adults aged 18 to 29 use TikTok, 20% of people between the age of 30 and 49 use the app and 14% of 50- to 64-year-olds are TikTok users. Over half of U.S. TikTok users have an average income of at least $75,000, indicating that the app is starting to resonate with older, higher-income earners.

Even though TikTok account ownership seems pretty balanced between genders—53% of accounts were created by male-identifying users and 47% by female-identifying users—that could be changing. Recent usage numbers indicate that female users are taking over TikTok feeds. In March 2021, for example, 61% of active TikTok users were female-identifying.

Why use TikTok as a social media platform for your business?

The phenomenal growth and reach of TikTok make it an attractive vehicle for social media marketing. Given its popularity and the frequency with which users access the app, TikTok can be a great vehicle to:

  • Increase brand awareness. TikTok’s huge audience base means that if you get just a few influencers or frequent users to mention your brand, you can reach thousands of viewers in a matter of days.
  • Increase product awareness. TikTok is a great platform to introduce a new product or increase the visibility of existing products. In particular, the videos lend themselves to product demonstrations.
  • Increase revenue. Links from your channel to your website provide an opportunity to convert users to buyers, bringing in revenue.
  • Encourage brand engagement. TikTokers love to jump on a brand bandwagon and create their own versions of a trending song, dance, or challenge video.

Popular video types on TikTok

Typical TikTok videos feature some type of performance for entertainment, demonstrate how to do something, or provide a platform for opinions and advice. Users attract the interests of viewers with hashtags, which indicate a category or trending subject they want to associate with.

The most popular hashtags are #entertainment (535 billion uses as of July 2020), #dance (181 billion uses), and #pranks (79 billion uses).

Other popular categories of TikTok videos include:

  • DIY and home renovation
  • Food, recipes, and cooking
  • Makeup, beauty, and skin care
  • Fashion
  • Life hacks
  • Comedy
  • Sports and hobbies
  • General advice
  • Product reviews
  • Service reviews
  • Pets

These topics are what trend organically on TikTok, so they provide a good framework for marketing products that align with the interests of TikTok users. Topics that appeal to a more discrete audience—like construction industry videos or high-tech tutorials—are better suited for a platform with wider video parameters and a less whimsical audience, such as YouTube.

Examples of popular videos

The following are examples of business videos that have become popular on TikTok:

Starbucks

This Starbucks how-to video explains how to turn a pink drink into a frozen treat. The DIY video has received more than 116,000 views, 19,800 likes, and over 450 comments.


Levi’s

This Levi’s fashion video gives some background on Levi’s influence on pop culture during the turbulent 1960s. It’s garnered more than 420,000 views, almost 40,000 likes, and around 180 comments.


Red Bull

Popular energy drink brand Red Bull leverages its motorsports sponsorships on TikTok with videos that depict car racing and clever commentary. This one got 191,000 views and over 34,300 likes in three days.

TikTok ads types

Like other social media platforms, TikTok offers organizations the opportunity to promote their brands and products through paid advertisements. TikTok For Business offerings include:

In-feed ads

In-feed video ads are full-screen short-form videos that appear as users scroll through their “For You” feeds. The ads strive to be entertaining and relevant to the targeted audience, with a call to action (CTA) at the end that lets viewers know exactly what you want them to do. These ads can run for up to 60 seconds with sound, and users are free to like, comment, and share the in-feed ads.

Bose Image

As an example, singer/rapper Jaycee created a TikTok ad to promote his new single “Lie to You,” taking care to produce a video that appeared native to the platform. His day-in-the-life video showing how he created the single clicks through to his Spotify channel where users can listen to and download the song. The results? More than 8,500 unique clicks in two weeks, with an overall result of 300,000 impressions and a nearly 2.30% click-through rate (CTR).

Brand takeover

TikTok brand takeover ads can be a great way to create brand awareness and drive sales. A brand takeover ad will appear as soon as a user opens the app. The pop-up ad takes over the user’s screen for a few seconds before converting into an in-feed video ad.

Brand Takeover

Some brand takeover ads—in the form of GIFS, videos, or still images—appear on the user’s “For You” page, usually with clickable links to the brand’s TikTok landing page or hashtag challenge. These ads are usually fast; either a three-second static image or a three- to five-second video without audio.

TikTok promotes the use of brand takeover ads by offering a case study of Too Faced’s use of the platform. The cosmetic company created an ad using its recognizable logo to present a full-screen, five-second video with targeted messaging enticing its Gen Z audience to try its “Lip Injection Extreme” lip gloss. The ad—geared to the U.K. market—garnered 7.6 million impressions in just one day, gaining 1.3 million clicks to its product page with an almost 18.40% CTR.

TopView ads

Where brand takeover ads are in the user’s face as soon as they open the app, TopView ads appear immediately after the user has begun scrolling through the videos on the app. Like brand takeover ads, they typically run for 60 seconds and are designed to capture the user’s attention once they’re already using the app.

Branded hashtag challenges

Hashtag challenges are extremely popular on TikTok. Branded hashtag challenges are sponsored by companies to bolster brand awareness. TikTok users are challenged to create videos showing themselves performing a specific action, such as doing a certain dance, reinventing a popular video, or performing an athletic feat. Each TikToker posts their video along with the corresponding hashtag. While prizes are sometimes awarded, most of the time the challenge is just for fun.

Many people remember the Jimmy Fallon challenge where users were asked to videotape themselves rolling on the ground like a tumbleweed to western music and then post the video on TikTok with the hashtag #TumbleweedChallenge.

Adding in the hashtag meant the video would be clustered with all the other videos. Thousands of people uploaded videos and the number of #tumbleweed engagements exceeded 10 million.

Branded effects

Branded effects are brand-sponsored visual effects similar to Instagram filters and Snapchat lenses—such as being surrounded by floating hearts or having bunny ears shooting out of your head, to name just two examples. TikTok branded effects can be found on the first page of the effects panel.

They are often used by marketers in conjunction with branded hashtag challenges. For example, Australian energy drink brand V Energy created a #VMakeItHappen campaign using a branded effect that turned a “V” hand signal into a microphone and can of V Energy.

Interest vs. behavioral targeting

TikTok provides opportunities to target users by interest and behavior.

With interest targeting, TikTok allows businesses to select an interest relevant to their target audience and direct their ads to that audience. With behavioral targeting, businesses seek certain people based on their behavior on TikTok within the past seven or 15 days. It’s as easy as selecting a particular behavior and a video category this behavior applies to. Behavior targeting can help you reach active TikTok users.

How to use TikTok for your business marketing

Business marketing with TikTok has the potential to be extremely effective, provided you use the potential of the platform to your greatest advantage.

To begin, qualify for a TikTok For Business advertising account. After you go through the steps to become an advertiser and have access to the TikTok Ads platform, you can log in to access your dashboard. Once you’re ready to begin, consider the following as you set up your TikTok marketing strategy.

Define your end goals

As with any marketing strategy, begin with defining your end goals. Are you looking to increase brand awareness? Do you want to direct traffic to your website? Are you hoping to convert viewers into customers? Do you hope to accomplish a combination of these goals?

Knowing where you want your campaign to take you will help you decide which type of TikTok promotions to incorporate into your campaign.

Research your audience

TikTok makes it easy to target audiences by general demographics and interests and even by devices. As importantly, it allows you to click on any video to see how many total likes, comments, and shares your video has garnered.

The information can also help you understand audience play time, traffic sources, and your actual audience demographics. The more you come to understand who you’re reaching with your TikTok content, the more you can take advantage of that intelligence to increase the visibility and reach of your videos.

Understand trending videos

Jumping on TikTok trends is another consideration when devising your marketing strategy.

New trends—certain dances, skits, comedy sketches, and soundtracks—are constantly appearing throughout TikTok. Keeping up with what’s happening on TikTok so you can join in these trends can accelerate the success of your brand advertising, while failing to know what is trending can make your campaign fall flat and out of step with the latest trends. Not only is TikTok’s algorithm designed to boost the exposure of videos that are trending—which means your audience reach expands—but you also gain credibility among TikTok users as being a brand that’s “in the know.”

You can also discover trending hashtags on the platform by scrolling through the TikTok discovery page and looking for hashtags that suit your brand or message. Videos based on these hashtags almost guarantee that you’ll reach a larger audience.

For instance, TikTokers are posting videos of psychic phenomena, fortune-telling, and other supernatural topics using the trending hashtag #witchtok. Brands might want to promote a Halloween-related sale or item leveraging this trending hashtag by creating videos in the genre and tagging them.

Start a branded channel

If you want to promote your brand on TikTok, consider creating a branded channel and posting content daily or even several times a day. While this sounds like a lot, keep in mind that the production requirements for a TikTok video are a lot less cumbersome than what you might be used to when producing content for YouTube or Facebook. With TikTok, frequency is king.

Maintaining your own branded channel gives you the opportunity to cross-promote with other brands and leverage the power of influencers. Some brands with TikTok channels are Starbucks, Taco Bell, and Walmart.

Find relevant influencers to promote your brand

One of the best ways to get your brand noticed is to create a TikTok influencer marketing campaign. While promoting on your own can be effective, strategic use of influencers can accelerate brand awareness and bolster a campaign’s visibility. However, the key to successful influencer marketing is finding the right influencers to make and share videos to promote your brand to their followers.

Choose popular TikTok influencers who also appeal to the same niches as your primary target customers. If you’re targeting runners for a line of athletic shoes, for example, it’s a good idea to find an athlete/influencer who will post a series of videos jogging, running, and engaging in other fitness activities wearing your shoes.

If you need help finding relevant influencers, consider engaging with an  experienced, independent TikTok influencer marketing specialist through Upwork.

Consider hashtag challenges

Hashtag challenges are one of the quickest ways to get your brand off the ground. Your brand can easily start a hashtag challenge of its own, either on a well-established TikTok channel or through influencers. Since an estimated 35% of TikTokers participate in hashtag challenges, leaving this out of your TikTok marketing mix could result in lost opportunities.

Take a cue from Colgate’s 2020 Mother’s Day hashtag challenge, when the toothpaste brand challenged TikTokers to “#MakeMomSmile this Mother’s Day! Whether it be breakfast in bed 🥞, a surprise delivery 🎁, or a dance-off challenge 💃, let your creativity guide you and share how you#MakeMomSmile 😁.” One participating video showing four generations of moms received 1.9 million likes and 19.9 million views.

Measure with TikTok analytics

Ultimately, the best way to gauge digital marketing campaigns is through analytics. Not only does keeping an eye on the data tell you what is and isn’t working in your content creation but you can also learn a lot about what other types of content your followers are watching, as well as when they’re most active (so you know when to post videos). This information can also help you when setting up your TikTok ads.

If you’re using TikTok Ads, you can use this information to help you do a better job when setting up targeting for your ads.

Examples of brands succeeding with TikTok marketing

Brands across categories have had great success with TikTok marketing. The following are just a few examples of companies getting TikTok marketing right.

Target

Target’s TikTok channel has around a million followers and its videos have received over 4 million likes. Not only does Target boast a large number of influencers touting its brand but it leverages the influence of brand partners, as is seen in this video partnership with Ulta Beauty.

Chipotle

If you spent any time on TikTok in 2019, you probably witnessed—or even participated in—the “guac dance” challenge. The most popular hashtag challenge of the year, the #GuacDance asked guacamole fans to dance to and for avocados, following the viral video featuring children’s musician Dr. Jean performing the "Guacamole Song." The #GuacDance challenge received more than 250,000 video submissions and 430 million video starts in just six days, demonstrating just how effective a hashtag challenge can be.


Guess

Guess, the iconic clothing brand best known for its line of jeans, took the DIY and fashion categories to a whole new level with influencer @yolandainthecity mixing it up in this video to the tune of 332,000 views and close to 51,000 likes. Promoting the brand through an influencer (@yolandainthecity has over 370,000 followers) and creating a video that spans a couple of popular categories (#diyprojects and #vintageclothes) was a winning TikTok combination.

No Kid Hungry

Nonprofits are beginning to feel the power of TikTok, leveraging the platform’s popularity and leveraging its donation stickers, which vetted charities can use to seek donations. One such nonprofit—No Kid Hungry—is partnering with popular Britney Spears impersonator @dearbritney. The TikTok influencer has raised thousands of dollars for the charity’s campaign to end childhood hunger through her live channel feeds. Here, @dearbritney reports on her latest fundraising efforts:


NBA

The NBA was an early TikTok adapter. By focusing on the lighter sides of the game—comedy memes and players busting some moves—the NBA shows both hardcore baller fans and fun-loving TikTokers that it has more to offer than game highlights.

Here’s an example of a short video that packs a lot of branding punch. The sports video features then NBA hopeful Scottie Barnes hamming it up at a photo shoot in advance of the 2021 draft. (He was picked up by the Toronto Raptors.)

Amazon

The purpose of the #AmazonFinds hashtag is to promote the Amazon brand while users post TikTok videos of their favorite Amazon purchases. Aided by brands sharing the videos and linking to their TikTok accounts to their Amazon shops, #AmazonFinds now has over 12 billion views, a number that is increasing every day.

In this video, TikTok influencer @teresalauracaruso—who has 2.9 million followers—posts part 27 of an apparently unlimited number of videos sharing her #AmazonFinds. With 2.6 million likes and over 40,000 shares on this video alone, it’s easy to see the brilliance of the #AmazonFinds campaign.

Conclusion

TikTok creators are only beginning to scratch the surface of how the platform can be used to enhance marketing and sales initiatives. While most of the examples in this article show how big brands are adapting to the TikTok platform, there’s a lot of potential for small businesses to take advantage of this lighthearted and fun platform.

TikTok offers both organic and paid avenues for business promotion. If you’re ready to get started with your own TikTok campaign, an independent TikTok marketing expert on Upwork can help your business find its own unique niche on the platform.

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What Is TikTok Marketing? Basics and Examples for 2024
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large Fortune 100 enterprises, with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and freelancers to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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