We take a look at the video platform that's captured the imagination of Gen Z and ask what is the opportunity for your brand
If you live with a pre-teen or teenager, then TikTok will need no explanation.
But for those that don’t, let me introduce you to the new video platform which, after passing the 1 billion download mark last year, is bigger than Instagram and is causing a storm – particularly with Gen Z.
TikTok came into its own last year after it merged with the lipsyncing app Musical.ly. Similar to Vine (for those that can remember it) users create 15-second videos, and then music and Snapchat-style stickers and filters can be added. It also has lots of movie studio-style special effects, including an editing tool that allows people to appear to move objects with their minds or glide across the floor.
There’s also plenty of room for an Insta-esque description and hashtags (#FindYourThrone, #HackTheSticker #PetsOfTiktok and #SunnySloMo are pretty entertaining).
The content is mainly around dancing, singing and general silliness (think putting makeup on potatoes, a choir of gummy bears singing Adele songs and different ways to drink water). With a lot of them lip-synching to music, movies and sound bites.
This light-level content makes it appealing to younger users and teenagers, many of whom already have tens of millions of followers. And while videos are generally no longer than 15 seconds, TikTok has experimented recently with longer clips and some “star” users are rewarded by being able to make videos of up to 59 seconds.
Its ease of use and engagement has led to a surge in popularity, with over 500 million users. In fact, it was the fourth most-downloaded non-game app for 2018 behind WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Facebook.
What’s the opportunity for brands?
Given its rapid rise in popularity, particularly with Gen Z, what role can TikTok play in a brand’s content strategy?
Because of its organic nature, only by immersing yourself in the unique world of TikTok will it become clear what the opportunities are for your brand.
Because the content is heavily people-led, responding to #’s and trends, it doesn’t naturally lend itself to companies. Brands such as Coke and Disney are collaborating with content creators to start to develop a presence on the platform and media outlets including LadBible and The Tonight Show have also set up their own accounts.
With a bit of creative thinking TikTok offers a great opportunity to reach out to emerging consumers, or make use of celebrity connections via campaigns, enjoying the fun and show of their personality, without the hard sell.
Some simple ways brands can get involved.
TikTok is perfect for consumer facing brands. For food and drink businesses quick video recipes with fun soundtracks will be well received and for those in retail and leisure, quick hacks and trade secret reveal videos can be made to seem ‘magical’ with the special editing effects available.
It also lends itself to humour, so there are plenty of opportunities to showcase a team and the work place by getting some of the more outgoing employees to lip-sync and dance to a song as they do their jobs, or using office-mates to recreate and lip-sync office scenes from films.
Its similarity to Snapchat makes it perfect for brands who are already targeting young adults. However, unlike Snapchat, the videos don’t disappear so brands can create and compile a series of videos that lead into each other and tell longer stories in bite sized sections.
The other opportunity is that, because you can share your videos to Instagram and YouTube, savvy brands who are already using video can use TikTok to take advantage of the special effects and editing tools to create more compelling video content and share straight to their Insta, SnapChat, YouTube and other social channels.
In addition to creating new videos, brands can also jump on trending hashtags, or hashtag challenges, and create videos to help them build a presence and become part of the community.
The platform has a huge host of challenges from the Drake-inspired #InMyFeelingsChallenge and the sport-focused #AroundTheWorld, to sillier ones like the #SharpieChallenge.
Based on the bottle flip, users flip a Sharpie, grab it in the air and draw a moustache on their upper lip. A daft idea, but the challenge has almost 14 million views at the time I wrote this blog and a great achievement for Sharpie when it comes to brand awareness.
#HydrationIsKey encourages users to post videos showing all the different ways they keep hydrated with extra points if they don’t use straws. So far the hashtag has had 10.3 million views. Reminiscent of the successful Ice Bucket challenge and no makeup selfies, these challenges are a great opportunity for awareness campaigns to reach a large and engaged audience.
As a starting point, set up a profile and become a part of the TikTok community, liking videos, commenting on them and even creating video responses to some of them.
With the ‘responding with a video’ viral style of content on the platform, there’s also a risk of quickly losing control of anything you do on the platform which, as with any activity, should be considered before any major campaigns are carried out.
With rising stars in the TikTok community, many with tens of millions of followers, there’s a huge opportunity for influencer marketing but, as with Insta and the other social channels, you have to be cautious. This isn’t a space for selling and collaborations should feel authentic and fit in with the existing influencer’s output.
There’s also ethics to consider, and brands should be mindful about the young user base on the platform and what it means if you’re trying to collaborate with big influencers that include young teenagers.
So, should TikTok be part of your content strategy?
If your brand or clients are working with a younger audience, then TikTok is a great platform for engagement. And while the market for TikTok is mainly younger, this isn’t an app that you should ignore. Instagram and Snapchat were only used by teens at one point.
It’s certainly worth taking a minute to watch some videos (and given its addictive nature you will spend the rest of the morning watching hundreds more) to decide if it’s the right platform for you.
Good comms people know what channels and styles fit their brand, or client’s brand, and TikTok is so distinctive that you will know pretty quickly if it’s right.
There are no brand accounts on TikTok at the moment but some of the global brands, such as Coke and Disney, are exploring opportunities with content creator collaborations to develop a soft presence on the platform.
It remains to be seen how the TikTok community will react to brands starting to develop a presence in what is a very authentic and organic social community.
But it’s certainly one to watch – even if it’s just for some new dance moves #TriangleDance.