After four years in the market, it is safe to say that TikTok has grown into much more than a platform for dance challenges. But should your brand add TikTok to its marketing portfolio? Like all good marketing, that depends. 

Let’s start with some data

TikTok passed one billion users in 2021, and has an estimated 138 million users in the U.S. That still ranks it as the fourth most popular social media channel behind Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, but that’s a lot of consumers. And it’s not just for Gen Z. The percentage of users ages 35 to 54 grew by 10% in 2021, now making up more than one-third of total TikTok users.

Not only do people download the app, they use the heck out of it. In fact, TikTok is ranked by far the most engaging of all social media apps. Nine out of 10 people open TikTok on their phones more than once a day, and Android users spend more than 19 hours on the app every month. That’s the same amount of time the average person spends on Facebook.

Know the data and prioritize your strategy

The data is compelling. Yet, reaching a lot of people isn’t enough reason to add TikTok to your marketing strategy. You need to make sure that you will reach the right people there.

Anytime you add a platform to your marketing mix, it is important to revisit your business goals and audience segments. 

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • What action do you want them to take?
  • Will this marketing channel increase the likelihood for that action?
  • Can you meet expectations if there is an increase in that action?

If you are looking to connect directly with shoppers, TikTok could be an essential part of your advertising strategy. Not only are consumers increasingly discovering new products and services, they are spending as a result. 

But the platform isn’t just for retailers, any more than it is just for teenagers. Teachers, chefs, pediatricians, engineers, and even Bill Nye the Science Guy have accounts. TikTok reports the financial services industry presence alone grew 255% in 2021.

TikTok is also good for raising awareness of good causes. And, for all you animal lovers, the San Diego Zoo is one of the top 10 most popular brands on the platform, beating out Nike, Starbucks, and Disney theme parks. 

It’s all about that face

One thing all these accounts have in common is a good spokesperson who can translate your brand through engaging stories—in every video. I’ve heard TikTok described as a communal FaceTime video. People don’t FaceTime with information. They connect with faces.

One of my first interactions with TikTok was with @JoeSpinsTheGlobe who took me and about 115 million others along during his tour as part of the winterover crew at the South Pole Station. I didn’t even know I was interested in the South Pole until I discovered Joe’s page. It was as if my sixth grade geology class had come to life in the form of a good-looking scientist in -50 degree temperatures. 

(FYI, Joe has since moved on to a job in emergency medicine. It’s still interesting, just not as icy.)

Your spokesperson doesn’t have to be a person either. One of the NFL’s most popular mascots is huge on TikTok. Regardless of who you choose, the face of your brand must have enough character to stop people from scrolling. 

It needs to be consistently real

Don’t get me wrong. The best TikToks are well produced, in the same way reality TV is produced. But the content has to flow like a conversation in order to make a real connection. Sometimes it means taking viewers behind the scenes to see how things really work. Or sharing when things don’t go according to plan. 

The key is to create consistent content that has a cohesive narrative. Every video should convey what is at the core of your brand.

Grab your Ring light and get out there

Not so fast. Hopefully you already have an editorial calendar for your other social media efforts. (If not, here is a blog post from our archives you might want to read.) Before you begin creating TikTok-specific content, make sure you’re being consistent with how and when you’re sharing your brand elsewhere. 

Plan out your video schedule on a quarterly basis. It is less time intensive and less costly to record and edit multiple videos at the same time. While planning is key, don’t forget to monitor the latest trends—and jump on them with a quick video if it makes sense for your brand. And one other thing: don’t forget to set aside time to rehearse—a lot at first.

Once you are ready to record, the first step on the platform is setting up a business account. Your business account gives you access to basic analytics to see what content resonates with audiences. You also can see if your account is attracting the people you most want to learn about your business. TikTok offers some tools to help you move into paid posting, such as FollowMe, designed for small businesses last year.

Still hesitant? Consider this.

It took Facebook three years before they let businesses create their own pages and post content, engage with their followers, and run social ads. It didn’t take very long after that for businesses to see the value in connecting with people on social media.

Today, having a well-maintained presence on Facebook is as important as having a website. Love it or hate it, Facebook isn’t going away. But its younger users may be. Facebook lost users for the first time in 18 years in Q4 2021, something even Meta CEO Mark Zuckerburg attributed to “fast-growing rivals like TikTok.” 

Growing fast may be an understatement. TikTok even passed Google last year as the most visited web domain in the world. (Facebook came in third.)