TikTok Tips for Small Businesses


TikTok Tips for Small Businesses

January 4, 2021 | Education

Video sharing app, TikTok, launched in the US in 2018, but really took hold last year when we had no idea how much we’d crave the joy of bedroom dances, funny lip-synchs, pranks, and dog videos. According to analytics firm, App Annie, TikTok was the most downloaded app of 2020, surpassing Facebook, WhatsApp, and Zoom combined App Store and Google Play downloads. 

Looking at this seemingly overnight explosion in popularity, you might ask yourself how and if you should create content for the app and whether it could be a success for your business. We take a look at how people are making it work, and whether it’s worth investing your resources.

Who’s on TikTok?

Early last year, TikTok had a reputation among marketers as being an app exclusively for young people with a high minimum ad spend.

As of June 2020, users in their teens accounted for 32.5 per cent of TikTok’s active user accounts in the United States and users aged 20 to 29 years were the second-largest user group, accounting for 29.5 per cent. 

But it’s user base is growing and diversifying, and at around 80 million users in the US, a piece of the pie at a smaller demographic can still have an impact. And its users are active, they spend around 500 minutes on the app per month on average.

To find out whether or not you have an audience on TikTok, spend time on the app, like and engage with videos in your niche and search for relevant hashtags, you’ll see if there’s valuable discussion taking place.

Can I create TikTok ads for my business?

The company has moved from an agency model to a self-serve creator studio, similar to advertising on other platforms (before this update, prices started from $26,000 for 3.6 million impressions, according to Digiday).

In the middle of the year, TikTok announced a bounce-back program for small businesses, with a range of affordable advertising tools, products and guidance to help target customers and get discovered by its millions of users.

Brands have four different ad types to choose from:

  1. Brand takeover
    This ad is not skippable, will appear in users’ feed before any other content, and can tap through to your brand landing page within the app. They’re a premium because they’re exclusive to their categories, so only one brand can appear per day in that slot.
  2. Native video ads
    This video appears in between other content in the TikTok feed and can be skipped. Ads have to be between 9 and 15 seconds in length so need to pack a punch quickly.
  3. Hashtag challenges
    You can create a TikTok challenge for users’ discover pages, and drive users to create their own content based on your premise. This is very difficult to get right as users are shrewd and don’t want to create content that blatantly advertises your brand without adding a lot of value and fun to their account. Perhaps combine this ad with some influencer marketing. People aren’t often searching aimlessly for content to create, but building on something they’ve seen someone else do.
  4. Branded lenses
    You can design a fun filter people can use in their content that promotes your brand. They can go live for up to 10 days at a time. This is another ad type where you’ll have to add a lot of value for people to engage and add your brand to their videos.

Is it still easy to ‘go viral’ organically?

You might be inspired by the total transformation of @420doggface208’s life after he combined skateboarding, cranberry juice, and the classic jam, “Dreams”, by Fleetwood Mac in his now-legendary viral video.

It’ll start getting progressively more difficult to reach those types of highs organically as brands and content creators start to seriously compete for watch time.

According to hypebot, this is how the algorithm works:

  • “When a video is uploaded, TikTok shows it to a small number of TikTok users in between popular videos. This way, the user doesn’t get bored.
  • The algorithm then measures how much of your video is actually watched, as well as how many Likes, comments, shares, and downloads it receives. It seems that the ratio is 1 like for every 10 views in order to trigger the algorithm to show the video to more people.
  • The algorithm is triggered by the velocity of the engagement it receives. In other words, if it suddenly receives 20% more Likes in a single day, then the video will be pushed out to more people as a result. Users have reported that their video views seem to come in waves as a result.”

What makes good content?

Young people have a finely tuned corporate bullsh*t detector. They don’t want brands to start new trends or to try and sell them a lifestyle. They want authenticity, fun, and a peek at the type of people who run the brands in their ecosystems. 

Don’t post and ghost as @megangersch would say. Like any other social media platform, meaningful engagement is a two-way street. Immerse yourself in the app, leave thoughtful comments, and follow back people who are part of your industry.

Don’t let a quiet recording thwart your efforts to connect with people—use headphones with a built-in microphone for clear audio.  

Use the text overlay feature to address your audience straight away so they know to stick around (e.g. ‘The easiest recipes for new vegans in 2021’ ‘Three cocktails to master if you want to become a bartender’)

Don’t worry about making your content perfect. We came to love TikTok while people were posting from their kitchens and the joy of the app is that you can create interesting effects without high production value. As ever, 90% and out the door is better than the 100% you’re still working on. 

How else could I use the app?

Repost your content to Instagram Reels. A direct competitor to TikTok, Instagram is rewarding users who use the new feature by showing their content to a larger audience. 

There’s a dedicated small business community on TikTok who share their processes and practices to connect transparently with their audience, but also to find photographers to work with, new suppliers, or to pick up tips from other founders.

There is certainly an audience for content like; ‘a day in the life of a jewelry designer’, ‘how I helped my client triple her sales in one month’, ‘here are my favorite social media campaigns of 2020’, ‘meet my team’, ‘here’s how I inject fun into packaging orders’, ‘here’s what I wish I knew when I started’, ‘here are the top three mistakes I ever made’, or ‘this is how I came to my logo and branding’. 

@megangerschWhat are some of your business / marketing goals for 2021? 🌟#smallbiztipz#2021goals#businessgoals#smallbizowner#smallbizmarketing#businesswomancheck♬ Teach Me How To Dougie – Classics Reborn

@brieeandersonReply to @benjozzie track the VALUE of each marketing message. #smallbusinessmarketingtips♬ We’re Not Just Friends – Parks, Squares and Alleys


Is it worth working with influencers?

Last summer, DSW launched its #TooManyShoes hashtag challenge on TikTok, enlisting the help of five influencers. The campaign launched on July 25 and by July 28 it had amassed 1.3 billion views.

If you have money for a brand awareness campaign and your audience lines up with TikTok’s user base, influencer marketing on TikTok is certainly worth exploring. If sales volume is your goal, it can be a little murkier. These types of campaigns don’t often have a causal data thread from well-liked video to sales.

Top TikTok talent can be expensive. Some work with agents or have been hand-picked for the app’s creator marketplace. However, if you can put in the hours, you can easily find micro-influencers by searching hashtags relevant to your industry. Look out for people with consistent views, a good engagement ratio to follower count, quality comments, and a trustworthy voice.

Any content you commission from an influencer needs to feel authentic to them. It can be tempting to want tight creative control, but if you find the right person, you need to trust that they know their audience.


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