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Don't make ads, make TikToks! If you must be on TikTok, here's how to do it properly!

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher August 1, 2022
If you're a marketer at a brand that feels it needs to be on TikTok, stop for a second or two and ask yourself some preparatory questions...

Image of someone using TikTok on their smartphone

Is TikTok a social channel you need to be on? If you're in B2C and trying to reach a younger demographic, you probably should have a presence. If your target consumer is a bit older, there is still an audience; you just need to figure out the right strategy to reach them.

To better understand how and why B2C companies advertise on TikTok, I spoke with Link Walls, VP of Marketing for Channel Advisor, a multi-channel e-commerce platform. Walls pitches his company's goal as being to ensure the content a brand creates is represented the best way possible on Google, Amazon, social channels like TikTok, and more.

According to Walls, there’s a lot of choice here, with over 340 different channels a brand might want to be on, and that number is constantly growing. Now obviously, no brand publishes to over 300 channels; some channels are location-specific, category, or industry-specific.

Walls' role focuses on working with larger B2C customers on their digital strategy, helping them craft the best channel strategy for their products:

And in any advertising strategy, it's a balance between what are we are willing to pay and the visibility we want, which is everywhere, with the profitability reality that we need to have. Which is okay; what makes sense and not being everywhere is right for every brand. So how do we think about putting together a marketing plan that is appropriate?

Why TikTok now?

So, why do brands and retailers need to be on TikTok? Simple reality - if you want to reach your customers, you have to be where they are and TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social channels right now.

According to research via Bloomberg, TikTok was the most downloaded app in 2021, with now over one billion users. It also earned $4 billion in revenue primarily from advertising in 2021 and is expected to reach revenues of $12 billion this year. So maybe it's not at the level of Facebook or Google, but it's certainly making waves, and brands - and B2C brands and retailers in particular can't ignore it, says Walls:

I think when we look at social channels, and it goes back to Facebook and Instagram and others, consumers are spending so much time there. And as a result, that's where their time and attention is. That's where they're learning about new ideas. They're learning about new trends. They're learning about new products. And so having a presence there and getting in front of them is important because, again, that's where they are.

TikTok shares some of its own research to help brands understand the argument to advertize on its site:

  • 67% of TikTok users said the platform inspired them to shop even when they had no plans to.
  • 74% of TikTok users said the platform made them want to learn more about a product or brand online.

For those brands that may be concerned about their ad content showing up next to some inappropriate or odd content, TikTok provides an inventory filter that gives brands more control over where their content appears.

There are a few different ad formats for TikTok, the primary one being the in-feed ad. The primary ad shows up in a user's feed between videos (similar to an ad in Instagram stories). There's also a brand hashtag challenge where a brand creates a hashtag and runs ads against it, even partnering with influencers on the platform to help further the virality of the hashtag.

Then there's the brand takeover. Walls explained that large brands have single-day events (like a new movie release) that take over the entire application. CPG brands also do this to help build brand awareness. These takeover ads show up as soon as you open the TikTok app, taking up the entire view, or there's a newer one called TopView ads that shows as the first post in the feed.

Making TikToks

Advertising on TikTok is different from advertising on any other social platform, warns Walls.

To just say, ‘Oh, well, I've got these creative assets, I'm just going to slap them into a TikTok ad’  doesn't do nearly as well as something that captures kind of the ethos of TikTok. TikTok is designed to be really fun and playful and all of these things. And so, I think the hard part for a lot of brands is how do you sort of capture that and how do you be creative in your approach?

His advice for brands who want to get started the right way is simple:

It starts with asking the question, ‘Why do you want to be there?’. Because it's important to make sure that it's a good fit and it makes sense in the context of where else should they be spending advertising dollars. So once we establish that, then it really gets to, ‘How do we think about creative, how do we think about what's unique about their brand? What's the unique reason why somebody should be interested in what they have to sell?’.

Then you have to think about the campaigns you want to run. What is your budget, and who is your target customer? How do you find them? Of course, these activities are similar to what you would do for any digital channel you want to advertize. Walls says:

For the most part, today, and this may change over time, but for the most part today, TikTok is really about discovery. So, it's really about building that brand awareness, building more of what we would consider a kind of upper funnel strategy in an advertising campaign, as opposed to something like Google where I'm going there because I'm specifically looking for a red sweater men's size L.

Walls also recommends experimenting, even if it's in a small way. He said sometimes companies spend too much time determining if a channel is right for them and what they will do with it when they should just get there and experiment:

Find out what works and find out what doesn't work. I think that's the biggest thing because it's pretty obvious TikTok is here to stay, and consumers are spending a lot of time there. And again, if you need to reach consumers to sell whatever product you sell, then you know that that should probably be part of your marketing mix to some degree. That might be very little for certain kinds of brands or retailers, and it may be very, very important for others.

My take

TikTok is a definite must for B2C companies who want to reach a younger audience. I'll even acknowledge there's an opportunity to reach older consumers. But they must build the right strategy, which requires careful thinking.

There's a lot of talk about B2B needing to get on TikTok. While most of its users are GenZ, there are users of all ages, and it might be wise for a B2B brand to get into the game. Vidyard's Sales Feed is on it with an audience of over 48,000 followers, so you know there's an audience there.

I'll return to the topic of TikTok for B2B in an upcoming piece, including some examples of companies leading the pack and seeing solid results.


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