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The Complete TikTok Marketing and Advertising Strategy Handbook

The Complete TikTok Marketing and Advertising Strategy Handbook-1

After exploding in popularity over the last few years, TikTok has taken the world by storm. With more than 1 billion monthly active users, TikTok gives brands an extraordinary opportunity to meet their audience where they already are. But TikTok marketing can look a little different from marketing on other social platforms, due to both its unique format and giant user base. That’s why we’ve compiled this Complete TikTok Marketing and Advertising Strategy Handbook: to give brands all the TikTok tools they’ll ever need in one convenient location.

Table of Contents

TikTok Basics: What is TikTok?

Whether you’re brand new to TikTok or are just looking to amp up your existing strategy, refreshing the basics is a great place to start. So, what is TikTok? Put simply, TikTok is a social networking app consisting of short-form video clips, designed first and foremost to be entertaining. As of July 2021, TikTok extended its max video length from one minute to three. 

TikTok is equipped with familiar social media features, like hashtags, and unique features, like custom audio tracks and Duets. One feature that really sets TikTok apart from other social media apps is that it’s geared toward discovery. Upon opening the app, users are taken directly to the For You Page (FYP) – an endless stream of scrollable video content where TikTokers can discover videos from creators they don’t follow. Which videos a user will see on the FYP is determined by the TikTok algorithm

This discovery-oriented platform levels the playing field for creators small and large – giving creators who don’t have a large following the potential to go viral. The app has 5 other main pages: the Discover page (where brands and creators can explore trending hashtags, effects and sounds), the Inbox (where users can keep track of notifications and messages), individual Profile pages (for, you guessed it, individual profile content), the Following page (where users can scroll through content from creators they follow), and the Record page (where TikTokers can record and post content). 

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Another thing TikTok is famous for? Trends. This is an app where hashtag challenges, sounds and effects can go viral quickly, allowing creators to remix and engage with each other’s content.

If your brand is new to TikTok and ready to set up a business account, you can follow this step-by-step tutorial to learn how: How to Set Up a TikTok Account for Your Brand

And before you start creating, be sure to check out these resources for tips and best practices:

TikTok Demographics: Who Is On TikTok?

It’s no secret that TikTok is primarily thought of as a “Gen Z” social network, and indeed, nearly half of its user base is between the ages of 16-24. However, the number of older TikTok users has been steadily growing, at one point in the app’s popularity increasing by 5.5 times over a single 18-month period. 

As of 2021, just over 40% of users are between the ages of 30-49, and 11% are over 50. So while kids, teens and young adults still run the app, it has attracted people of all age groups. This means it’s a valuable platform to be on even if the majority of your target audience falls outside of the Gen Z demo. 

Aside from demographics, another important thing to remember is that TikTok has a highly captive audience. TikTokers spend an average of 41 minutes on the app per day and, recently, the length of time U.S. users spend on TikTok surpassed their time spent on YouTube

The takeaway here? Even if your demographic isn’t on TikTok yet, its rapid growth and increasing popularity are reason enough to start building a presence for your brand. As more consumers download the app, you’ll be glad you did. 

Ready to dive deeper? Here are even more TikTok stats that prove it’s worth it. 

Best Practices for Content Creation and Boosting Followers on TikTok

Navigating a newer social platform can be tricky, but by paying attention to what types of content perform well, how TikTokers engage with each other on the app, and by understanding your target audience’s interests, you’ll be well on your way to creating content that resonates. As a whole, content that performs well on TikTok checks one of a few boxes; it either entertains, informs or is relatable. When in doubt, keep TikTok’s advice for businesses in mind: “Don’t make ads, make TikToks.”

Whether your brand’s TikTok goal is to increase brand awareness, grow your following or a combination of both, here are our top TikTok content creation tips:

  • Be authentic: Being a video-based app, TikTok doesn’t allow for much in the way of a curated feed. Compared to other social platforms, TikTok places little value on aesthetics. Behind-the-scenes content, especially goofier content, is better suited for TikTok. This kind of content also injects some personality into your brand image, building camaraderie with your followers and customers! On TikTok, authenticity is key.
  • Don’t be too promotional: We’ve run hundreds of TikTok campaigns, and in analyzing our data, we made a discovery. TikTok campaigns using promo codes tend to underperform; this is because neither the TikTok algorithm nor TikTok’s user base favor promotional content. Adding coupon codes into TikTok videos can instantly come across as promotional, so use them with discretion as they may affect how your content performs. 
  • Hop on trends: TikTok is an extremely trend-driven network, so jumping on the bandwagon while trends are at their peak is a great way to tap into new followers. When participating in TikTok trends, try to incorporate your brand or product in a unique way. But if it feels forced, don’t bother! Your content doesn’t always need to feature your products. Instead, show your team or customers participating in the trend — everyone needs a silly dance break once in a while! Though jumping on trends can get new eyes on your content, make sure your entire page isn’t full of trend-chasing videos or your brand values and message could get lost in the shuffle. 

UGC from Ole Henriksen's take it all off TikTok challenge

One trick to try: create your own trend and tie it into your branding. Challenge TikTok users to put your product to the test and film themselves doing it - like Ole Henriksen did with their #TakeItAllOff Challenge. With the right, fun elements and promotions, your brand’s challenge could become the next TikTok trend. 

  • Engage, engage, engage: Your job isn’t done after you hit “post” — if your followers are taking the time to comment on your TikToks, you should try to respond to at least some of them. Engaging via the Duet and/or Stitch features (even with accounts you don’t follow) is another way to show up on users’ radar, while simultaneously giving you a jumping-off point to make even more great content.
  • Post consistently: Creating a consistent posting schedule is always a necessity for social media marketing, and TikTok is no different. By getting your content out there and into the world, you’re giving yourself the greatest chance of appearing on someone’s For You page, and hopefully converting them into a follower. Work with your marketing team to find a balanced schedule that allows for frequent content, without sacrificing on quality. And if your brand can’t keep up with generating content consistently (we get it, it takes tons of resources!) don’t forget you can always post user-generated content featuring your brand! UGC can be even more effective than brand-generated content, since it shows other real consumers using and loving your products (and, bonus, it saves your social team boatloads of time).
  • Use Sound Carefully and Strategically:  Sound is the backbone of TikTok. The basis of many viral trends, audio tracks have the power to “stop the scroll” (according to TikTok itself), engage your audience and even encourage them to remix your audio in with their own TikToks. Sound is a crucial component of every TikTok you produce, but as a brand, you should be aware of what sounds you can and can’t use. Unless you’ve obtained all the required licenses from the rights holders of a specific track, you could face legal repercussions. To avoid this, stick with TikTok’s Commercial Music Library, a collection of copyright-free tracks specifically for commercial use. Or, better yet, create your own audio! Here’s everything you need to know about How to Create Your Own Custom Audio on TikTok

Need more advice on what to post on TikTok and how to grow your following? Give these blogs a read:

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How to Drive Sales With TikTok

Content creators on every social media platform have proven time and again that their content can be directly beneficial to sales. More often than not, this happens over time as the result of growing brand awareness, increased reach, and improved brand reputation and sentiment, but it can also happen as the result of a piece of viral content. 

TikTok in particular is known for scenarios just like this.  A recent example is that of Trinidad Sandoval, known as @trinidad1967 on the app, who posted a video using skincare brand Peter Thomas Roth’s Instant FirmX Eye Cream. Viewers were so blown away by her video demonstration that they bought the product in droves, selling it out of several retailers almost overnight.

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This story is a stellar example of “TikTok Made Me Buy It:” a phenomenon in which products go mega-viral on TikTok and a brand sees a huge boost in sales, usually completely out of the blue. While going viral is neither something brands can predict nor ensure, there are still ways to use TikTok to your advantage for online and in-store product awareness and sales. Try some of these tips on for size: 

  • Create hashtag challenges: Take advantage of the rapidly moving, trendsetting nature of TikTok by creating your own branded hashtag challenge for users to hop on. This could take pretty much any form you want: a before and after challenge (especially great for skincare), a campaign that challenges participants to create something using your products, a challenge that dares users to try your product for 7 days, etc. The sky’s the limit! Just make sure the challenge is fun (to fit in with TikTok’s entertainment-style content) and your product or brand is somehow featured.
  • Create in-store content: TikTok can do more than just bring consumers to your e-commerce site, it can drive them in-store too. One way to achieve this is to create TikTok content at the point of sale. Ice cream brand Little Moons saw their product fly off the shelves of Tesco when applying this approach. Their product went viral on TikTok, with TikTokers flooding into brick-and-mortar retail locations in search of the product. This is just one of many examples that prove TikTok can drive foot traffic when the right strategy is applied.
  • Go LIVE: TikTok LIVE gives brands and creators alike an opportunity to connect with their followers in new ways. For brands hoping to drive sales, livestreaming can be used to show an in-depth product demonstration, AMA (ask me anything), or how-to content. A beauty brand might showcase an elaborate makeup tutorial done entirely with their products, while a baked goods company might stream a batch of their cookies baking. It’s all about finding the right fit that provides value or entertainment to your viewers while still reminding them of your product!
  • Involve TikTok creators: Creator collaborations provide a wide array of benefits for brands looking to increase sales. For one, getting other consumers posting about your products can help your brand reach a new or larger audience (which helps boost brand awareness). In addition, 62% of consumers aged 18-34 trust influencers more than the brand themselves. Plus, by working with other TikTok users whose followers align with your target audience, you can attract more potential customers your way. Not sure which size creator to go with? Here’s how micro-influencers compare to celebrity influencers

The social media giant has also been testing a new social commerce feature called TikTok Shopping, which is, as of September 2021, in a pilot test with big brands, like Kylie Cosmetics. Once widely available, the update will allow brands to add a storefront to their profiles displaying their product catalog. It will also allow them to use product tags to add product links directly to their TikTok videos. There’s no word as to when these features will be rolled out to all brands yet, but social commerce as a whole is expanding rapidly, so it’s undoubtedly on the horizon. In the meantime, continue upping your TikTok selling strategy with these blogs:

Free TikTok Webinar - Watch Now

How to Find (and Work With) TikTok Creators

If you’re scratching your head wondering where to find TikTok creators and how to work them into your TikTok strategy, you’re in luck. There are a variety of ways to find creators to work with, including TikTok’s free, in-app solution, the Creator Marketplace. The marketplace is a dedicated space for brands and creators to connect for collaborations. Brands can browse creator profiles, using filters for easy sorting, and once you find some accounts that fit your niche, you can access detailed insights collected directly by TikTok. The Creator Marketplace doubles as a space to contact creators directly, which is great for keeping all your correspondence in one place.

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But the TikTok Creator Marketplace isn’t your only option. There are various influencer marketing platforms that compile information on creators, and some also give brands tools to streamline the campaign process, such as reporting features. 

As specifics — and prices — vary between platforms, it’s important to consider how much time, money and resources your team has available. Finding creators, contacting them, negotiating, shipping products and managing the campaign start to finish all take time. While influencer databases, and platforms like the Creator Marketplace, can reduce the time and resources consumed in some areas, you’ll be on your own in others — even the TikTok Creator Marketplace has no native tool for paying creators, so all transactions need to happen outside of the app. 

Brands can always take a completely DIY approach to finding and pitching creators on TikTok, but doing everything in-house can also be very time-intensive. You can compare the various influencer marketing campaign tools and services here.

For more resources and sample templates for your DIY creator outreach, check out these blogs:

TikTok Influencer - Generic

TikTok Advertising 101

As with most social channels, TikTok offers brands the opportunity to buy advertisements to boost their reach on the app. Ads can be run through TikTok for Business, an online platform that helps you set up your ad campaign, nail down your audience targeting, and get ad performance statistics in real time.

There are a few different types of TikTok ads available to brands as of September 2021. We’ll go over them briefly below, but this blog post dives deeper into each TikTok ad format. And when you’re ready to create an ad, you can also learn more about TikTok’s ad specifications here.

  • In-Feed Ads: These ads appear in between organic content, as the user is scrolling down their For You page. They look similar to a regular TikTok video, except brands can add a call-to-action link that takes users to a landing page when they click the button, the brand’s profile photo or the video caption.

    in-feed-ad
  • Spark Ads: This recently-unveiled, hybrid ad format allows brands to turn their own native video content, or a creator’s native video content into a paid ad. Spark ads look very similar to In-Feed Ads, but viewers can interact with them more like a regular TikTok: the call-to-action button or video caption will still transport viewers to a designated landing page, but the brand’s profile photo will instead take them to the brand’s TikTok page (which means they can result in more followers), and users can comment, share, and use the video’s audio as normal. This means they can be used to drive profile traffic or increase the likes of the promoted video.
  • TopView Ads: These also look and act like a regular TikTok video, but they appear first thing when a user opens the app. They can also include a call-to-action button on the bottom of the screen.
  • Brand Takeover Ads: Similar to TopView Ads, Brand Takeover Ads play upon opening the app on the user’s FYP. They can be created as videos, images and gifs and they can either link out to an external landing page, or to a hashtag challenge in the app. But they’re in limited supply – TikTok users are only shown one takeover ad per day. With limited placement options available, takeover ads can be pricey
  • Branded Hashtag Challenge Ads: Brands can sponsor hashtag challenges to appear at the top of the Discover page. These types of ads can spawn trends and result in user-generated content.
  • Branded Effects: These ads allow brands to create their own branded stickers, filters and special effects that users can then apply to their own videos. Like the hashtag challenge ads, these can easily result in user-generated content.

There are a few downsides to consider when debating whether to purchase TikTok ads. For example, while the ad experience is generally pretty seamless, a definite plus, TikTok ads can be pricier than ads on other social platforms. 

For more information about TikTok ads and the costs and benefits associated with them, check out these articles:

Real Examples of Brands Using TikTok Effectively

Looking for a few examples of brands using TikTok to create great content, drive sales or simply increase brand awareness? Here’s a few of our favorite campaigns:

1. E.L.F. Cosmetics: Eyes. Lips. Face. Campaign

E.L.F. Cosmetics famously harnessed the fast-moving nature of TikTok by creating their own custom audio, an upbeat song called “Eyes. Lips. Face.” The trend caught on quickly as users posted videos of their own makeup looks, especially those created with E.L.F. products, leading to tons of user-generated content for E.L.F., widespread brand awareness and even increased sales as a result. As of September 2021, over 1.4 million videos had been created using the official audio.

elf screenshot

E.L.F. Cosmetics actually got extra mileage out of this campaign in March 2020, when a slightly remixed version was released called “Eyes. Lips. Face. Safe.” The new song featured a few extra lyrics promoting social distancing and handwashing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and another 5,000 TikTok videos were made using the remixed audio. 

2. The Washington Post

The newspaper giant creates high-performing content on a regular basis, with their “Quarantine TikToks” — essentially, any content created by Washington Post Video Producer, Dave Jorgensen, from his own home — gaining significant attention. The account has done extremely well on TikTok, especially considering the network’s younger demographic combined with the paper’s dense, politics-heavy content bank. 

 

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The newspaper’s success comes from creating bite-sized, entertaining content connected to some newsworthy aspect. While the Washington Post began its account showing behind-the-scenes clips of reporters goofing around at work (a good way to snag that funny, relatable content), they soon were forced to transition to remote work. Now, Jorgensen finds creative ways to convey the daily news to a scrolling audience, often resulting in low-budget, humorous clips. The Washington Post has adapted to its audience where they are, and the account has grown exceptionally popular, even earning Jorgensen the endearing nickname of “The Washington Post TikTok Guy.”

3. Asos

Fashion and cosmetic brand Asos successfully combined two major social media marketing tools to increase their TikTok engagement. They hosted a giveaway by having followers guess which product was shown in an extreme close-up video, offering free products to a random user(s) who guessed correctly. This strategy boosted engagement by encouraging comments, and even more so because the comments were directly linked to free goodies. 

 

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The guessing game gave the clip some extra intrigue, separating it from your run-of-the-mill giveaway announcement post, and put more of the power in followers’ hands, as the giveaway relied on them using their brain to guess correctly and potentially win. In short, this giveaway tactic provided extra value to the user than a traditional giveaway, since it was also an entertaining puzzle.

For even more campaign ideas based on real brand examples, check out these blogs:

Ready to dive into a TikTok campaign of your own? Statusphere can help connect you with TikTok creators who are interested in your brand’s products and want to post about them for their followers. Click here to see how we do it and connect with a marketing expert.