TikTok marketing

ICYMI: What TikTok is, what it isn’t and who it’s for

  • 10 Minutes
Trying to figure out if TikTok is right for your brand? Here's what you need to know before diving into the new world of snackable, shortform video.

It seems like TikTok has taken over the social media scene in the last few years. With over 732 million active monthly users, it’s quickly becoming one of the world’s most popular social media platforms. It seems to be constantly growing and is a key factor for success in several industries – be it fashion or music.

TikTok’s algorithm is cleverly designed to keep users on the app by serving them content that’s hyper-targeted to their tastes or preferences. Its wide usage has also resulted in a lot of creators and brands “blowing up” on TikTok, or going viral. TikTok expands the possibilities for people to discover your brand and can help you reach a wide amount of people who aren’t currently part of your audience.

Because of the viral factor, it can be tempting to start throwing content up on TikTok without thinking twice about it. But before you decide to shift your entire social strategy to TikTok, take the time to properly understand what TikTok is, what it isn’t, and who it’s for.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a video sharing app that allows users to create short-form video content. Currently, videos can be up to 60 seconds long (though some users now can create videos up to three minutes long). Users interact with videos from creators around the world by scrolling through their feed, also known as the TikTok “For You” Page, or “FYP.” People can “like”, comment on, or share videos with their networks.

Some people don’t know that TikTok actually started as Musical.ly – a popular 15-second short-form video streaming and sharing app that had over 100 million users. It allowed users to use music and audio soundbites to lip-sync to. In August 2018, the app was taken over by Chinese company ByteDance and all users were automatically moved to TikTok.

In the early days, TikTok strongly reflected its Musical.ly roots, as it was mostly viral dance videos. This is how several now-famous TikTok Creators like Charli D’Amelio got their start.

@ charli damelio TikTok showing her dancing

What TikTok content looks like

Put simply, TikTok videos are short videos that typically fall between 15 and 60 seconds. Some people compare it to the late Vine because of its video style and tendency to lean into humorous internet trends.

TikTok offers a wide selection of sounds and songs, along with many effects and filters. Like other social platforms, users can capitalize on trends to boost their visibility on peoples’ “For You” pages.

TikTok is a trend-heavy platform. As you scroll through your feed, you’ll likely see several different creators using the same sounds or filters, each with their own take on it. The easiest way to find out what’s trending is by going to the “search” section on TikTok, also known as the “Discover Page.” Here, you can see trending hashtags, sounds, and effects.

TikTok trends page

How TikTok can be used to market your brand

TikTok can be a great place for businesses to advertise and build communities around their brand. But just like any other social media platform, you have to have a plan. Before you make TikTok a part of your social media marketing strategy, know your brand’s niche and target audience. If you’re planning to use TikTok for marketing, ask yourself if TikTok’s demographics align with your business’s ideal customer.

Here’s a breakdown of TikTok’s main demographics:

  • 53% of TikTok users are male and 47% are female
  • Roughly 50% of TikTok’s global audience is under the age of 34
  • 41% of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24
  • 100 million monthly active users are from the US

So how do you find your target audience on TikTok? If you’ve already figured out your niche on other social media platforms, create TikTok content that aligns with that. If not, try combining two or three things that you think might interest your audience.

Get specific. For example, TikTok Creator Rod targets millennials who work from home. He creates entertaining content like Millennial trend recaps, lip-syncing videos to popular 2000s songs, and relatable work-from-home anxiety content. This has helped him build his personal brand to over 1.1 Million followers on TikTok.

@ rod on TikTok creating content that targets millenials

At this point in time, most brands are using TikTok to build brand awareness. There are several ways that brands can do this:

  • Creating content that’s entertaining or valuable to build your following on the platform.
  • Using TikTok hashtags to optimize your content and boost its discoverability and reach.
  • Finding creative ways for your brand to use User-Generated Content.
  • Using influencer marketing to create trust with your customers and establish your brand credibility.
  • TikTok Advertising – There are five different types of ads that you can use to get more eyes on your brand.

Want to learn more about TikTok marketing? Check out our full guide on how to create a winning TikTok marketing strategy.

What TikTok isn’t

TikTok isn’t just a quick, easy way to get eyes on your brand. Although some people believe that posting a high volume of content is a ‘strategy’, you have to have a good reason for being on the platform. That reason should align with your campaign goals and target audience.

Given the younger demographic, TikTok isn’t the best for direct selling — if this is your goal, you’d have better luck with platforms like Instagram or Facebook. Check out our guide to Instagram’s e-commerce features for more info.

Creating a TikTok strategy also doesn’t mean just hiring an influencer with millions of followers to create a video promoting your product or service. As mentioned above, your strategy should be customized to your niche or audience. Brands that employ this strategy often find themselves with either an amass of followers who aren’t their target customer, or worse – find that they get no results at all.

TikTok also isn’t YouTube – if you’re looking for somewhere for your long-form video content to live, this isn’t the place. TikTok users have short attention spans, so your content has to be brief and engaging within a limited time span. While multi-part videos or stories can be entertaining, they can also frustrate your audience if it takes them too long to find all the different parts.

Explicit/Sensitive Content and TikTok Shadowbans

This should go without saying, but it’s also not the place for explicit or sensitive content. TikTok’s content filters can easily pick up content that violates their community guidelines. This can result in your account or your videos being shadowbanned or just outright banned. Think of a shadowban as TikTok jail. It can look like a sudden drop in views, as your content no longer shows up on other users’ For You page. Businesses rely on social media to create a community. If you can’t reach your community due to a ban, it can be very disheartening.

Quick and easy success

TikTok also doesn’t equal overnight success for everyone. Just like anything in life, it requires effort, time and dedication. While you might experience the odd viral video thanks to TikTok’s algorithm, it’s not a guarantee every time. If you’re expecting to blow up overnight, adjust your expectations and take a more realistic look at the work involved.

Creating TikTok videos also takes time. To successfully grow your TikTok audience, we recommend posting 1 to 3 videos per day. While the short video style can trick users into thinking that they take almost no time to make, that isn’t always the case. Creators can spend hours researching trending sounds, filters, and effects and then editing those down into a 30-second video. The final product doesn’t always reflect the effort that goes on behind the scenes. If you’re planning to invest a large portion of your content strategy into the platform, make sure you’ve got the team to back it up and factor in editing time when planning out your weekly content calendar.

Who TikTok is for

Now the big question: who is TikTok actually for? Of course, we’d like to say that TikTok is for everyone. To some extent, the app is no stranger to older creators. For example, elderly creators can be very popular on the app:

@ dolly broadway, a senior TikTok content creator

Keep in mind TikTok is most popular among users under the age of 34 and is primarily used for entertainment. If your product or service is intended for an older, more professional audience, TikTok might not be the place for you.

When done right, funny and entertaining content can have a big impact on a business’s success. Take Ocean Spray, for example. After doggface208’s video of himself drinking Ocean Spray’s Cranberry Juice and skateboarding went viral with over 82.0 million views, Ocean Spray received over 15 Billion media impressions in less than a month.

@ 420 dog face 2 0 8 from his viral skateboarding video

Ocean Spray continued the viral video’s momentum by gifting Nathan a new truck decked out in Cranberry Red and filled to the brim with a lifetime supply of the drink. This further boosted their brand awareness and showed off their playful personality.

While the majority of current TikTok users are younger, the user base is slowly starting to age up. For example, women in the US aged 30 to 39, quickly becoming known as “MomTok”, now represent 13.8% of the app’s user base on Android devices. Women’s fashion brand Fabletics has taken advantage of this and had success with content that addresses women’s “personal, familiar, and even professional aspirations.”

@ fabletics yoga instructor with 4 lunch break stretches video @ fabletics with four women at the top of a mountain posing for a picture

So when it comes to the question of who TikTok is for, we’d say – it’s for any brand or creator who wants to put the effort into the platform. Here are some key considerations or takeaways:

  • Is your target customer or audience on TikTok? If so, show up for them on the platform with content that’s entertaining and valuable for them.
  • Do you have a strategy for TikTok in place? For optimal results, decide which marketing features you’ll use and what types of content you’ll create for your audience.
  • Is your content appropriate for TikTok? To avoid having your account shadowbanned, make sure you’re creating content that follows all guidelines.
  • Do you have the time and resources to dedicate to creating content consistently? You’ll have the best chance of growth if you post at least 1 to 3 videos a day. Factor in the time it will take to brainstorm ideas, create the videos and edit them when planning your content.

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Summary

With over two billion downloads globally, there’s a good chance that your demographic is on TikTok, or will be in years to come. As more users jump onto the app, the “rules of the game” will change and evolve. To stay up-to-date, subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest social media news right to your inbox.

Photo of Kyra GoodmanKyra Goodman

Kyra is a Junior Marketing Manager and "Spicy Meme Master" at Sked Social who loves to create content. Born and raised in Hawaii, her favorite things are traveling, yoga, beaching, coffee and baseball. Connect with her on twitter at @kyra_n_goodman.

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