How to use TikTok: The ultimate guide for marketers

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Even if you don’t use TikTok, you know a bunch of people who do use the social media platform. In the seven years since the app launched, TikTok has acquired over 1 billion active monthly users. This user base is larger than Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest — social media sites that have all been around far longer.

You might think that TikTok is just for Gen-Z. This isn’t true, however. TikTok is the fastest growing social media platform and the leading destination for all types of people who want to share shortform videos.

Despite its growing popularity, TikTok is a notoriously tough nut to crack. There’s no clear definition of TikTok’s algorithm. TikTok content instead relies on a spider’s web-based engagement structure which as a video gets more engagement, pushes the video to more users’ feeds. The higher your video’s engagement rate, the more people will see it.

Creating compelling TikTok-friendly micro-content that aligns with your brand’s tone of voice, doesn't sell too hard, but still makes it clear that you have something to sell, is challenging. When done correctly, TikTok provides an incredible avenue for brand awareness and elevation. TikTok should now be included as table stakes in social media marketing strategies everywhere. This guide will help you learn the basics of TikTok and how you can get started on the platform.

What is TikTok?

Tiktok is a video creation and sharing platform filled with creative and popular content. TikTok videos (or TikToks for short) last between 15 seconds and 10 minutes long, making it perfectly appealing to those with short attention spans. It’s also great for users who want to create TikToks as there’s no pressure to fill up a large amount of time or energy. As a result, content on TikTok can often come across as very natural and authentic appearing as though many videos were filmed when the inspiration strikes.

Although TikToks are short, the time constraints shouldn’t hold back creators who have more to say in the three minutes available. Often, creators will make multiple videos around one topic, almost like episodes, and place each successive video in the comments where users can find the each installment in the series.

Other social media sites have taken note of TikTok’s success. Instagram Reels mimics TikTok’s short video content — and Instagram recently has started feeding content of users that you don’t follow into your feed. So as you’re scrolling down your Instagram feed, you now see content from accounts that you don’t already follow. Instagram clearly aims to increase user engagement and virality through this strategy.

How to use TikTok: Getting started.

Creating your account.

TikTok is a mobile app, so you’ll need to first download the TikTok app from iOS app store or Google Play. Once downloaded, open the app and you’ll be given the option to sign up for an account. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete your sign up.

Creating your first TikTok.

Within your TikTok account, the ‘+’ icon in the center of the menu at the bottom of your screen will take you to create mode where you can put together your first TikTok. Before you start recording, you can make use of a menu on the right-hand side of your screen to add filters, change the speed, add flash, set a self-timer and so much more. At the top of the screen, there’s also an option to add sound.

When ready to start filming, hold the red record button. You can stop and start recording multiple times and this will create multiple clips (called scenes) that you can individually edit later. Once you have all your scenes, hit the checkmark icon.

At this stage you can edit your TikTok to perfection by adding text, captions, a voiceover, stickers, filters, etc.

Of course, it can be challenging to edit videos within the TikTok app. The settings are tools aren’t intuitive. Sometimes, videos that are all edited using only native tools suffer from a sameness of look and feel. Check out the Adobe Express video editor where you can quickly and easily add your unique style to videos.

Once your video is finished, press ‘next’ to add a caption, hashtags, tag friends, and toggle various privacy settings on or off. Press ‘Post’ to publish your TikTok or ‘Draft’ to save it for later.

Edit your video in Adobe Express

How to use TikTok as a business (and how to make money on TikTok).

1. User-generated content (UCG).

TikTok is based on UGC, so use this to your advantage — it’s free advertising. This is particularly good if you have a physical product to push. For example, Nike has received over 929 million views on its hashtag #Nike, which shows users wearing their clothes. Nike then reuses this content on its own page to push the products it showcases. Remember, people tend to prefer to buy from people.

Many brands have also seen success from creating their own TikTok challenges as part of larger marketing campaigns, like Chipotle’s #ChipotleLidFlip which saw huge influencers such as David Dobrik joining in. The campaign achieved 104 million views, 111,000 video submissions and 59,000+ participants. All of that visibility for a campaign that didn't cost the brand a penny to execute. These brands certainly understand how to use TikTok to their advantage.

While it’s still a relatively new platform, now is the best time to advertise on TikTok if you have the budget. Advertisements tend to increase in volume as platforms grow and become more established, heightening the competition you'll face. The platform hosts a variety of ad types, meaning you can get creative without having to do the hard sell:

Brand takeovers: These are the more prominent ads that land on a user’s feed as soon as they open the app, and usually link to a brand’s external website. Only one brand per day can take this spot, so it’s a huge gateway for ramping up views. But also comes with a huge price tag.

TopView ads: TopView ads appear as a full-screen takeover for 5-60 seconds when a user first opens the app.

Video ads: Created through the TikTok video ads manager, these are video ads that appear as organic TikToks. Any interaction with a video ad leads to a link for the product being advertised.

In-feed ads: These are ads you can create yourself through TikTok ads manager.

Pangle ads: These are ads that have been placed through TikTok’s audience network. This can cover Rewarded Video ads, Interstitial ads, Native ads, Banner ads, App open ads, and Icon ads.

Playable ads: These are simple internactive mini-games – only available in applicable regions.

Image ads: Image ads are still images that include a brand or app name and advertising copy (available through the Global App Bundle and Pangle Placements which aren’t available worldwide).

Spark ads: Spark ads are organic content from a TikTok account that has been converted into a Spark ad. They won’t disappear once you stop paying to promote them, unlike other ad types.

Carousel ads: Carousel ads are avaialble only in TikTok’s news feed app series, Buzzvideo. This format consists of 10 images (each with their own caption).

Branded hashtags: Hashtag challenges are TikTok’s bread and butter. It’s worth attempting to come up with your own challenge, or dance routine that you can sponsor. It’s great for engagement as it encourages millions of users to participate, spreading your brand further and wider. For example, Aussie’s #JustAddGlitter challenge ramped up over 21.5 million views. (Check out our guide to hashtags for inspiration and best practices around how to best us hashtags).

Branded effects: One of the best things about TikTok is the many filters you can use to edit your videos. As a brand, you can also pay to create a branded effect that will automatically be included in the top 10 trending list for 10 days. So if you sell coffee, you can create a filter that virtually puts your cup into a person’s hand.

3. Find your sweet spot.

The TikTok community is about entertainment, so finding an aspect of your brand that you can use to your advantage (e.g. a funny co-worker, the most common things you hear in your job, or even the office dog) will be essential to your success.

The easiest thing to do is jump on existing trends and hashtag challenges, but put your own spin on it. Be sure to use the right hashtags and try adding effects to ramp up views while showing off your creative side.

TikTok trends are always changing, with new ones coming and going every day. Lip syncing and dancing will always have a place on TikTok — but when it comes to what dance, or what sounds to lip sync, you’ll need to be browsing the discover page on TikTok daily in order to catch the specifics.

Most TikTok trends revolve around a particular sound clip, some kind of challenge, or a common joke. For example, the #TellMeWithoutTellingMe trend is a fun TikTok trend where you tell your audience some information by showing it in your TikTok and not explicitly stating it. One example of this trend could be a TikTok with a caption stating ‘Tell me your dog is an introvert without telling me your dog is an introvert’ and then the video showing a dog avoiding other dogs at the dog park. Another example is the ‘main character’ TikTok trend where the content shows people living their lives in a mini vlog-like style, but every element is romanticized for that ‘main character’ feel.

Because sounds themselves often becomes trending, you can always click on the sound used in a TikTok to view other uses of the sound to get a better idea of how the audio is being used. Trends can also be spotted by using the ‘Search’ function in TikTok to see suggested searches for a clue as to what content is popular at the moment.

Spend a lot on time on Instagram? It’s likely that you’ll still be able to pick up on TikTok trends without even entering the platform. A great deal of TikTok content is re-posted on Instagram as Reels so as long as you’re keeping abreast of one of these two social networks you’re sure to stay in the loop on most of the current trends.

How to be an influencer on TikTok.

As with most social networks, TikTok comes with its own selection of influencers. But how do TikTokers make money? Well, TikTokers make their income through a combination of gifting, brand partnerships, and selling merchandise.

If you use TikTok often, you may have noticed that many TikTok ads feature popular TikTok influencers. In fact, it can take you a minute to realize that you are even watching an ad because many are well-disguised as ordinary organic content. This approach 1) keeps people form scrolling past the ad the instant it pops up, and 2) makes people want to stay and watch the content even once they’ve realized it is an ad.

This approach has been pretty successful for TikTok and its influencers. As a result, brands are always clamoring to work with TikTok influencers. TikTok partnerships may come in the form of ad creation, where influencer is invited to film content that is used to advertising, or the influencer may simply be asked to talk about a brands products or services on their own channel. Influencer marketing on TikTok can be very effective as many TikTok influencers have managed to build a loyal following due to the often authentic and personable nature of the influencer’s content.

How to gain followers on TikTok.

As is often the case with social media marketing, if you make great content, the followers will come to you. There are, however, a few ways in which you can maximize the reach of your content to get more eyes on your TikToks, and more followers on your page.

However, before we get into it, it’s important to note that follower count is not the most important metric to chase when it comes to TikTok. TikTok is great at putting content from a variety of creators into people’s feeds, whether you’re following them or not. In this context, an individual piece of content’s engagement is by far the most important metric.

Nonetheless, if you’re still wondering how to gain followers on TikTok, then begin by identifying your target audience. After all, how can you create content that you expect to perform well, if you don’t know who you’re creating it for? Decide who you’re targeting, and carry out some research to get an idea of the kind of content they enjoy.

In general, it’s amazing to participate in TikTok trends and challenges, but only if its relevant to your brand or business. You know your target audience and what they’re interested in. Jumping on every TikTok trend regardless of your audience’s taste is a mistake. Your followers will lose interest and ditch your account.

Once you’ve mastered your content, improving your reach on TikTok can be simple with a few extra tweaks and habits such as using appropriate hashtags, engaging with other creators, and posting at the optimum times (whenever your audience is most likely to be online).

Cross-promoting your TikTok content on other channels such as Instagram as Reels, will also encourage the people who follow you on other networks to visit and follow your TikTok account.

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