New data from TikTok confirms just how much the customer journey is changing. Here's what the numbers mean and how brands can reach buyers on TikTok.
Advertising on TikTok: Pros & Cons You Should Know
What are the pros and cons of advertising on TikTok? As the platform booms, brands want to know if TikTok ads are worth the investment.
Is now the time to start advertising on TikTok? If you’re on the fence, you’re not alone.
From sponsored posts and influencer campaigns, TikTok ads give brands a ton of creative freedom. Still, investing in social ads on a new network is always daunting.
Below we break down the pros and cons of TikTok advertising to help you decide!
Skip to Section👇
Pros of Advertising on TikTok
To kick things off, let’s look at the big-picture positives of running TikTok ads.
When Done Right, TikTok Ads Don’t Feel Like Ads at All
TikTok’s own mantra of “Make TikToks, not ads” is core to running ads on the platform.
In other words, branded videos should resemble organic content (hint: “real” videos).
Thankfully, the many types of TikTok ads give brands endless opportunities to produce ads that feel like native posts.
For example, sponsored posts and hashtag challenges are perfect for incorporating everyday creators. Doing so injects a much-needed sense of authenticity into your TikTok advertising strategy.
The platform empowers brands to create the least “salesy” ads possible.
The good news? Creative freedom doesn’t mean sacrificing business performance.
Research from TikTok themselves notes that creators boost ad engagement in a big way. This includes longer watch times, more conversions and greater brand recall.
TikTok Ads Are Served Seamlessly With Organic Content
How sponsored posts are served is one of the biggest advantages of TikTok advertising.
Rather than interrupt users, most TikTok ads are presented alongside posts on the “Following” or “For You” Pages. Ads can seamlessly pop up in your audience’s feed as they’re scrolling through content.
Translation? There’s no glaring difference between a TikTok ad and an organic post. This yet again points to the value of TikTok advertising campaigns that resemble creator content.
Video selfies. “Storytime” videos. How-tos and tutorials.
All of the above are fair game for effective TikTok ads.
Branded content should resemble the genuine, trendy videos you see on the platform daily. Many advertisers actually note a performance boost by moving away from "polished" ad creatives.
TikTok Advertising Instantly Expands Your Brand’s Reach
Brands often struggle with organic social reach and engagement — TikTok is no exception. On the flip side, recent data says that small creator accounts earn the most engagement on the platform.
Getting your brand directly in front of tens of thousands of relevant TikTokers is easier than you might think. This is especially true if you run ads by or featuring creators.
Why? Because established creators know exactly how to show off products in action.
This results in viral, high-engagement ads that promote your product in a meaningful way.
TikTok advertising tactics like branded hashtag challenge ads are another example of how you can leverage a creator’s established audience. This also goes hand in hand with creating the seamless, organic TikTok experience we mentioned earlier.
After all, the TikTok algorithm tends to favor posts with consistent engagement. By running ads that earn interactions from users, you can boost your exposure through established creator content.
Cons of Advertising on TikTok
Of course, paid social campaigns are far from foolproof. Below are the potential downsides of paid TIkTok campaigns.
TikTok Ads are Easy to Ignore (If They Aren’t Relevant)
It’s no secret that people go out of their way to avoid ads (74% of consumers, to be specific).
But TikTok advertising actually presents a unique disadvantage versus other types of paid ads.
That is, ads on TikTok are really easy to gloss over. They aren’t in-your-face.
The scroll-heavy nature of the platform makes its ad presentation both a blessing and a curse. If someone doesn’t immediately recognize your content or sees the “Sponsored” tag on your post, swiping away is second nature.
The effectiveness of TikTok advertising is totally dependent on creatives. Anything you can do to grab serial scrollers and stop them in their tracks is a plus. This again explains the popularity and effectiveness of creator-based TikTok campaigns.
Paid TikTok Ads Aren’t Getting Any Cheaper
From pricing to privacy issues, Meta’s ad network has plagued marketers for years.
So, is TikTok the cost-effective advertising alternative people have been begging for?
Depends on who you ask.
Pricing is a barrier to entry for any social ad platform. Likewise, one of the big disadvantages of advertising on TikTok is rising costs.
Sure, TikTok ads are typically less expensive than sponsored content on Facebook or Instagram.
Of course, factors such as your audience and industry will ultimately determine how much you’re paying for a TikTok campaign. As the platform booms in popularity and its ad network proves itself, paid posts aren’t going to get any cheaper.
For reference, TikTok ads require a daily budget of $50 USD (and $20 per ad group).
If your goal is conversions, consider also that TikTok recommends an upfront investment to determine how to best serve your ads. The platform refers to this process as the “learning phase.” Ads need to reach at least 50 conversions before they “pass” the test.
Does this break the bank versus other social ads? Not at all. Even so, this price tag still represents a barrier to entry for smaller, up-and-coming brands that want to test the waters.
Advertising on TikTok Requires a Significant Time Commitment
Running social ads is anything but a passive process.
TikTok requires advertisers to be very hands-on in producing and updating ad creatives. This echos recent advice by Meta that speaks to how creatives make or break social ads.
Even after you vet your ads internally and pass TikTok’s learning phase, optimizing your campaign is far from over. You still need to cycle out, test and optimize your creatives. That means producing fresh content, writing new captions and managing even more resources.
And so you can see how TikTok advertising can eat into your schedule if you aren’t careful.
Also, content that performs well on TikTok is apples and oranges versus other platforms (minus Instagram Reels). Rarely can you double-dip your ad creatives from Facebook or Instagram and expect them to perform.
This is exactly why brands are partnering with creators to develop ad content for them. Doing so is not only a time-saver but also means less legwork when it comes to producing new creatives yourself.
The Future of Paid Social Ads is Fuzzy
Fact: 68% of people are concerned about the level of data gathered by businesses. Brands can’t afford to ignore consumers’ desire for transparency and privacy.
Consider Apple’s ongoing privacy updates that require iOS users to grant permission to track their activity. Oh, and don’t forget Google’s recent pledge to remove third-party trackers from Android and the future of paid social gets fuzzy.
These changes are forcing marketers to rethink activity tracking and campaign reporting.
This doesn’t mean that TikTok advertising is going the way of the dinosaur. Still, growing privacy concerns and limited data tracking are both key reasons why brands are moving away from traditional ads and investing more in creator-based campaigns.
How to Decide If You Should Be Advertising on TikTok
Here’s the deal: Investing in any ad platform is a commitment.
And it’s a commitment that you need to justify given the time and legwork involved.
There’s no shortage of TikTok advertising success stories out there. Building awareness and driving product sales are totally possible for brands big and small.
We’ve seen firsthand how brands and creators go viral and drive sales via short-form video.
Want to do the same? Here are the key questions to consider as you weigh the pros and cons of TikTok advertising:
- Do you have a “visual” product? From fashion and fitness to food beauty, TikTok is dominated by CPG brands. These industries are prime for TikTok ads because these products are easy to showcase in videos. For example, makeup can seamlessly be presented as organic content via tutorials, how-tos and reviews. It’s no coincidence that CPG brands on TikTok boast massive communities of creators and influencers.
- Is your target audience there? TikTok is the network of choice for Gen Z and younger consumers at large. If your target audience has spending power on the platform, testing the waters of advertising on TikTok might be worth it. This is especially true if you've succeeded with social ads elsewhere.
- Do you have the resources and budget? This is the big one. The minimum $50 daily budget provides an opportunity to test the platform but may be difficult for smaller brands to scale. Also, remember what we said earlier about needing to constantly cycle out creatives? This is a significant investment by itself.
- Do you have defined goals on the platform? From brand awareness to sign-ups and sales, it’s crucial to tie your TikTok ad campaigns to actual business outcomes.
Also, you should understand the basics of promoting your brand on TikTok before diving into paid campaigns. If you can establish an engaged presence organically, running ads could be your next step on the platform.
How to Advertise on TikTok Without Traditional Ads
Food for thought: 67% of TikTokers say the platform inspires them to shop (even when they weren't looking to). This signals a huge window of opportunity for brands to reel in shoppers without running an actual ad campaign.
To wrap things up, let’s look at TikTok adverting strategies that don’t require you to run ads.
Promote Your Products on TikTok Organically
There are plenty of effective TikTok campaign ideas for brands on tighter budgets. This includes:
- Videos featuring employees or team members showcasing your products
- Announcements, teasers and hype videos (see below)
- How-tos and product-centric educational videos (think: makeup tutorials)
- “Did You Know?”-style content (think: life hacks featuring your product)
- Memes, skits and challenges that feature your product
- Republishing videos from creators and customers who’ve tagged you
Curate Customer Content That Shows Off Your Products in Action
As noted earlier, TikTok content from everyday creators is what tends to pop off. Your own customers are likewise the best and most creative when it comes to highlighting your products.
If you want to get more user-generated content to republish, start by:
- Promoting a dedicated TikTok hashtag where customers can tag their videos (see below)
- Regularly reposting user-generated content yourself (to encourage more of it)
- Consistently respond to comments and create Q&A-style content based on them
For example, Pull&Bear features a community hashtag in their TikTok bio and encourages people to share their latest purchases.
Thing is, encouraging and sourcing customer content is tough when you’re not totally established on TikTok.
And hey, that actually leads us to our last point!
Partner with Proven TikTok Creators to Promote Your Products
Remember: not all advertising on TikTok has to happen through their ad platform.
And like we said earlier, creators go hand in hand with higher ad engagement.
More interactions. Longer watch times. Greater awareness.
There’s a reason why the best brands on TikTok put creators front-and-center. That’s because creator-based campaigns provide a meaningful way to present your products to new customers.
Since creators know their followers inside and out, they know which types of content make people tick. Creators are also up-to-date on the latest trends and tactics that drive engagement. Those high engagement rates translate into more eyes on your products.
We’ve seen how creators make it happen firsthand. For example, check out this TikTok from a Statusphere creator that drove 365,000+ views and 32,000+ “Likes” for Ole Henriksen.
This represents the next-level creative content brands can earn from experienced TikTokers.
Thinking About Advertising on TikTok? Make Sure Creators Are Part of Your Strategy
If you’re eager to grow your TikTok presence, paid campaigns may seem like the way to go.
Pros and cons of TikTok advertising aside, just note that traditional ad campaigns aren’t the be-all, end-all of expanding your reach. Again, TikTok creators can represent a more engaging (and affordable!) alternative to paid ads.
This is especially true if you work with a full-service platform like Statusphere. We handle everything from vetting influencers and getting your product in their hands to tracking your campaign’s success.
Want to get TikTok content creators posting about your products ASAP? Contact our consumer-to-consumer marketing experts to see how we can create a custom campaign that meets your brand’s specific marketing goals.
This article was first published in October 2020. It was last updated June 20, 2022.