The Ultimate Guide to TikTok Marketing
Wondering if TikTok marketing could work for your brand?
And if you’re thinking TikTok is just for teens — think again! Users of all ages are joining the TikTok phenomenon, with celebrities, influencers, publishers, and household brands now in the mix.
Discover everything you need to know about the app, our top tips for creating viral videos, and how the algorithm works in this ultimate guide to TikTok marketing:
Table of Contents
- What is TikTok?
- Why is TikTok a Valuable Platform for Brands?
- What Content Performs Well on TikTok?
- How Does the TikTok Algorithm Work?
- How Do TikTok Ads Work for Brands
- How to Create a TikTok: A Step-by-step Guide
- How to Cross-promote a TikTok
- Understanding TikTok Pro Analytics
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a video-sharing social network that first found mass appeal with GenZ users and is best known as the home of viral dance trends, challenges, and lip-sync videos.
For millennials and above, TikTok may feel like a revival of Vine: the 6-second looping video sharing platform that ground to a halt in 2017.
In fact, many of TikTok’s most famous content creators, like Zach King who has 42M followers on TikTok, started their careers on Vine.
@zachkingLearned a new skill ##keepingbusy ##quarantine ##magic♬ original sound – zachking
But unlike Vine, TikTok has experienced phenomenal growth since its launch in 2016, and with over 800 million active users, it is fast becoming one of the most popular social network sites.
So how did TikTok get started?
ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company) first launched TikTok under the name of Douyin in China, before launching the TikTok app in international markets in 2017. Both Douyin and TikTok use the same software today, but maintain separate networks to comply with China’s censorship laws.
In late 2017, ByteDance purchased Music.ly, a social media platform that allowed users to create and share short lip-sync videos to popular songs — giving TikTok a whole new suite of tools, and a golden ticket straight to the US teen market.
Fast forward to 2020 and TikTok has sky-rocketed not only amongst teens, but with users of all ages. Celebrities, publishers, and brands are now all wading in on the hype and using TikTok’s easy-to-use video editing tools to create entertaining videos that gain overnight viral success.
@willsmithAlso, fries.♬ original sound – realtsfd
In January 2020, TikTok was the most downloaded app in the world according to data from SensorTower.
And although TikTok still very much has its roots in dance trends and lip-sync challenges (with popular TikTok Sounds regularly making it into the top of the download charts), we’re seeing tons of new innovative and creative trends emerging every single day on the platform.
Looking to level-up your TikTok skills? Join Later’s 10-day Challenge! Each day we’ll show you a new TikTok skill or hack that you can use on your own TikTok feed:
Why is TikTok a Valuable Platform for Brands?
As we’ve already covered, TikTok is experiencing a period of exponential growth right now — which means there’s a huge audience ready to be tapped into by creative and fast-thinking brands.
Brands who’ve successfully pivoted to TikTok early have reaped huge brand awareness rewards, often with very little investment.
Publishers like The Washington Post have amassed followings of 400K+ in under a year, positioning themselves as a creative powerhouse and potentially shifting their reach to a new, more global, and younger demographic in the process.
@washingtonpostWe got some great footage of George Kittle though @49ers ##somethingamazing♬ original sound – landon.rowles
TikTok also has a fairly level playing field when it comes to achieving viral status on the app. Unlike Instagram or YouTube, even accounts with zero followers can get millions of views on a new video. Content really is king on TikTok.
For example, Later’s Head of Content Marketing Taylor Loren has over 3M views on her TikTok candle tutorial video. At the time of posting, she had less than 50 followers on the app, and has since grown to 20K followers in just 4 months.
@taylortoksthe secret hack to having your ##candles melt flat every time! ##lifehack ##foryou♬ original sound – taylortoks
And alongside the huge potential for brand awareness and reach, TikTok could soon be making it much easier to drive traffic from the platform by introducing a link in bio.
Only select users can currently add a link to their TikTok bio, but chances are this will be rolled out more widely in the coming months. And for the time being, all users can add links to their Instagram and YouTube profiles from their TikTok profile.
And if you’re still not convinced on TikTok, another huge advantage is how quickly the platform is evolving to suit the needs of brands and advertisers.
TikTok ads are already a proven marketing strategy for many brands. For example, Guess used TikTok to promote their Fall’18 Denim Fit collection, encouraging the TikTok community to transform their style by wearing Guess denim to the soundtrack of Bebe Rexh’s “I’m a Mess.”
The #InMyDenim ad campaign included a brand takeover on the app welcome screen, as well as 4 influencer partnership videos to demo the concept and reach more users.
During the 6-day campaign period, #InMyDenim realized over 5.5K user-generated videos, 10.5M video views, 14.3% engagement rate, and over 12K additional followers for Guess’ account on TikTok.
Looking for some TikTok inspiration? Check out 18 Creative Brands on TikTok to Take Inspiration From!
What Content Performs Well on TikTok
Unlike other social networks, TikTok has a huge trend culture.
So although original, creative video concepts can work well, the best performing TikToks are often ones that are easy to replicate by the masses, or are a spin-off of an existing trend.
Take for example the #toosieslide trend. There are over 2.2M TikTok videos to Drake’s Toosie Slide song already, including mega-celebrities like Justin Bieber and Jason Derulo, attracting over 4.3B views and counting.
@justinbieberToosie slide♬ Toosie Slide – Drake
TikTok’s biggest dance trends are now an integral part of popular culture — and for music artists, securing a viral trend on the platform can be enough to send their track downloads soaring.
But TikTok trends aren’t just limited to dance routines. There are viral trends for almost everything: animals, lip syncs, fashion and beauty transitions, fitness workouts and tips, comedy moments, camera hacks, pranks, and challenges.
Often, the most basic and fun concepts are the most successful on TikTok. Cats jumping over walls of toilet rolls, lip sync impersonations, and people throwing miscellaneous objects into a cup are all simple but hugely popular trends.
@gymsharkQuaran-tea with the ##badboys ☕️ tag your squad and try this ##gymsharkwfh ##gymshark ##gshq ##badboy ##isolationgames♬ Bad Boy – Yung Bae, bbno$ & Billy Marchiafava
If you’re not sure where to start on TikTok, check out TikTok’s Discovery Page for inspiration. Here you’ll find all the Trending hashtags based on your geographical location, as well as a breakdown of popular videos by category.
At Later, we’ve found that putting our own unique and relevant spin on an existing trend works best. Videos that use trending sounds and hashtags are more likely to be discovered in the TikTok app, and have a better chance for success.
For example, our TikTok showcasing 5 apps to create amazing Instagram content used the trending sound: Lose Control, as well as 5 high-traffic hashtags. This quick 15-second video now has over 370K views and 47K likes.
@later.comSome of our favorite Instagram editing apps! ✨📲 ##thatswhatilike ##instagram ##edit ##fyp ##picsart♬ Lose Control – Meduza
Whatever your brand’s USP, there’s a creative opportunity waiting for you on TikTok. And if your first TikTok video isn’t an overnight success, don’t get disheartened. Even the biggest TikTok accounts experience peaks and troughs — so it’s important to keep trying until you find the right fit for your brand and audience.
How Does the TikTok Algorithm Work?
Before we dive into the TikTok algorithm and how it works, we should note that TikTok is notorious for keeping their For You page algorithm a secret.
Unlike Instagram — who’ve openly discussed how their feed ranking works — the inner-workings of the TikTok algorithm are very much unverified by TikTok themselves.
But based on our first-hand experiences of using the TikTok app, we have been able to glean some valuable insights into how the TikTok algorithm determines what makes it into a user’s For You page.
Here are our 5 key learnings about the TikTok algorithm:
TikTok Algorithm Learning #1: Exposure is Based on the Performance of Each Video
Your videos on TikTok can still get millions of views, even if you have hardly any followers.
That’s because the TikTok algorithm takes into account the interactions on each individual video, rather than your profile as a whole.
When your video is published, it’s served to a small number of TikTok users in between popular videos on their For You page. This is why when you’re scrolling through your For You page, you’ll often see a video that has very few likes.
If your video is received well by the users who initially receive it on their For You page, the chances are it will get bumped up to a larger pool of users, and then to even more, and so on.
So even if you only have a handful of followers on TikTok, your video could still skyrocket to success!
TikTok Algorithm Learning #2: The TikTok Algorithm Takes into Account Multiple Indicators
So what indicators does the TikTok algorithm take into account as it decides which videos get pushed into more For You pages?
Rewatches, video completions, shares, comments, and likes all seem to be strong indicators to the TikTok algorithm.
So chances are, if your TikTok video is genuinely entertaining or informative, it will likely do well and get served to the masses.
TikTok Algorithm Learning #3: Initial Exposure is Based on Geo-location
With employees in 6 different countries, we’ve noticed at Later that when a TikTok video first goes live, it’s usually shown to other users in the same geo-location to start off with.
Later’s Social Media Coordinator, Lindsay Ashcraft, explains: “Location is definitely a key factor in what videos get recommended to users on their For You pages.”
“Because of this, there’s a lot of potential for smaller businesses to benefit from being on TikTok to really increase local brand awareness.”
And if a TikTok video gets a great initial reaction in your geo-location, it’s likely that it will then be rolled out into For Your pages internationally.
Within just a few hours, you could start to see new comments from TikTok users across the world!
TikTok Algorithm Learning #4: Using Trending Hashtags and Sounds Helps
Hashtags and Sounds (i.e. the music you use in your TikTok video) are two of the best ways to boost the discoverability of your content.
For example, TikTok videos that have trending hashtags in the caption will be pulled into relevant Discovery pages, and could even get boosted to more For You pages.
There’s no concrete guidance on which hashtags have the most impact, but #fyp, #foryou, and #foryoupage are thought to increase your chances of appearing in more For You feeds.
In addition to these high-traffic hashtags, it’s always a good idea to include hashtags that are niche to your content. This will help the TikTok algorithm understand what your content is about, and who might be interested in it.
Similarly, using trending Sounds can really help boost your content’s visibility.
TikTok users can select a sound to view all the associated videos, and trending Sounds are more likely to be prioritized in the Tiktok app.
TikTok Algorithm Learning #5: Videos Can Suddenly Go Viral, Even Older Ones
One of the most interesting things we’ve noticed about the TikTok algorithm is that videos can have a much longer shelf life than on other platforms, like Instagram.
The TikTok algorithm is constantly monitoring the performance of all your videos — even the older ones.
So if one of your videos suddenly gets an uplift in engagement (say, for example, the Sound or hashtags you’ve used suddenly spike in popularity) it could still go viral, even if it’s been sat on your channel for 2 weeks with hardly any likes.
Videos appear to be boosted by the TikTok algorithm in waves, as your video is served to new batches of users via their For You page.
Looking to learn more about how the TikTok algorithm works? Discover the 7 Most Important Factors for the TikTok Algorithm in our recent blog post now!
How Do TikTok Ads Work for Brands
When it comes to advertising opportunities on TikTok, there are plenty of options for brands and businesses to explore:
- In-Feed Ads
- Brand Takeover
- Branded Hashtag Challenge
TikTok’s In-Feed Ads have a clear “Sponsored” label when they appear in the For You page, as well as a new clickable pop-up call-to-action, such as “download now,” “learn more,” or “shop now.”
Given how much influence TikTok has over music downloads, it comes as no surprise that musicians and artists are using TikTok ads to increase their reach and promote their latest releases.
However, brands are also getting involved in the action — with many seeing significant returns on their investment.
Influencer Marketing on TikTok
In addition to direct ads, many brands are using TikTok’s superstar influencers to support their brand campaigns — and reaching millions of users in the process.
@cosetteHow to style patterned shorts 🌟with Levi’s. You can shop the shorts I designed on Levi.com! ##ad♬ Brooo – CHUNNYT
Some brands are already going all out with their TikTok influencer marketing strategy.
@fentybeautyWe can’t wait for y’all to see we what we have in store for the ##FENTYBEAUTYHOUSE!! What looks do you want to see from @neko_channn? 😍♬ original sound – fentybeauty
TikTok has been fast to identify influencer marketing as a key part of their e-commerce offering for brands. TikTok recently launched a TikTok Creator Marketplace: an “official platform for brand and creator collaborations,” and videos from creator partners can easily be promoted as in-feed ads for an extra visibility boost.
TikTok’s Creator Marketplace allows brands to find content creator partners based on real performance data. In addition to this, TikTok is also facilitating introductions and helping to manage campaigns, much like an influencer marketing agency.
Influencer marketing on TikTok may not be as tried and tested as on other platforms like Instagram, but with an almost uncapped reach, data insights, and rapidly evolving conversion tools, it’s definitely one to watch!
How to Create a TikTok: A Step-by-step Guide
TikTok is packed with cool video editing features and effects that make it one of the most versatile and easy-to-use editors out there.
No matter what your level of experience, you can create fun and captivating videos on TikTok thanks to the app’s intuitive layout and user-friendly tools.
Step #1: Download TikTok and Get Familiar with the Tools
Once you’ve downloaded the app and created your account, it’s time to start shooting! You can either start from scratch or upload video from your camera roll.
To get started, tap the Create Video icon to shoot a video.
Next, choose from a variety of different effects and recording tools located on the right and bottom of the screen.
There are several TikTok video editing tools to choose from, including:
Choose which camera you want to use to shoot your TikTok video content, front-facing (i.e. selfie camera) or rear-facing.
Using the speed tool, you can slow down or speed up your recording. You can use this on specific parts of your recording, and adjust throughout each segment.
The beauty tool is an AR filter that can hide blemishes and smooth out your skin. This will give you an “airbrushed” look.
TikTokers rave about the filters on the platform, and for good reason. They seriously give VSCO a run for their money, and can be applied before or after recording. To apply filters, select the Filters button and swipe left to preview. You can also make your selection from the bottom menu.
@naomigenesG6, beauty filter & sun??! ##fyp ##foryou ##g6♬ My Heart Went Oops – Tiagz
TikTok has even categorized filters to help you choose what’s best for whatever you’re shooting, including Portrait, Landscape, Food, and Vibe.
TIP: According to TikTok cool girl @sarahhgrego, B6, S11, G3, and G6 are her go-to filters. To quote Sarah, “thank me later,” but these filters are a one-click way to level-up your footage.
This allows you to set an auto-record countdown if you want to film hands-free, and you can also set how much of your video you want to record at once.
Tap the flash icon to turn on your phone’s flashlight, and tap it again to turn it off. Note: This is only available for the front facing camera.
At the top of your screen, you’ll notice a music note labeled “Add a Sound.” Tap the button to choose the music overlay or sound effect that you want to record with.
From the Sounds menu, you can search for a sound or use the curated Discovery tab to find a trending sound. You can also shoot content to any sound used in an existing TikTok video by tapping the sound label and selecting “Use this sound.”
Select the Effects icon at the bottom left of your screen to open TikTok’s Effects tab. There are hundreds of effects to choose from, with categories including: Trending, New, Special Effects, Interactive, Workout, Beauty, Face, Artistic, and Animal.
TIP: You can add an effect before or after you shoot a video however, some may only be available before you start shooting.
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to start rolling! Here’s how you can use the TikTok video editor to create high-quality video content in a breeze:
Step #2: Record Your TikTok Video
Once you’ve selected your recording effects, it’s time to start rolling.
If you want to record hands-free, you’ll want to use the countdown option to record your video. This lets you record a section of video content without holding down the record button.
Select the video duration and tap Start Countdown. Once the countdown is turned on, the app will count down 3 or 10 seconds then start recording.
You can either set a stop point for your recording in advance, or tap the record button to stop shooting manually.
You can also shoot your video by holding down the Record button. TikTok’s standout video editing feature is that the app allows you to record in “segments” (much like Vine’s video editor).
This means, by holding down the record button and releasing, you can pick up where you left off and continue recording.
If you aren’t happy with your segment, just press Back to the right of the Record button. You will see a prompt that asks if you’re sure you’d like to delete the last segment. If you’d like to continue, just hit Confirm.
Here’s how Instagram influencer (and major trendsetter) Tezza shoots her story in “segments” to create eye-catching content for her channel:
@tezzaI’ve got a lot of personalities 🙈 ##fashion ##ootd ##fyp inspo: @sterlingmonett 💕♬ Supalonely (feat. Gus Dapperton) – BENEE
Step #3: Edit Your TikTok Video
Once you’ve finished recording all your segments, hit the checkmark to switch to TikTok’s video editor.
Here you will see Filters, Adjust clips, Voice effects, Voiceover, Trim, and Volume controls on the right hand side of your screen:
Select Adjust clips to rearrange the order of your footage or trim parts or each clip. If your video is just one continuous clip, select Trim to shorten it.
Use Voice effects to apply a voice filter to your video audio, such as Chipmunk, Baritone, Shake, and Electronic.
Note: Voice effects are applied to your recording and original audio.
Add a custom voiceover to your TikTok video by selecting Voiceover. Tap the record button to record audio for your video. Uncheck Keep original sound if you would like your voiceover to be the only audio on your TikTok video.
Tap the Volume button to adjust the volume of your original sound and added sound. This can be helpful if parts of your audio are difficult to hear.
In the bottom menu, you can add Sounds, Effects, Text, and Stickers. Once you’re happy with your video, click Next.
Note: Make sure you’ve recorded all your footage before you move onto the edit stage. Going back into TikTok’s recording editor will erase any edits you’ve applied to your content.
Step #4: Publish Your TikTok Video
Finally, it’s time to publish your TikTok video.
But before you can share your creation with the world, it’s a good idea to write a caption for your video and include a handful of hashtags that will increase your discoverability.
The ideal caption for TikTok should be short and be complementary to the content you’re sharing. TikTok is a mobile-first video platform, so keeping copy short and quippy tends to bring better results. Encouraging comments and watch throughs can be a big win for the TikTok algorithm too.
Set who can view your TikTok (Public, Friends, or Private), select your comment and duet settings, and hit Post to share your new TikTok video.
TIP: Remember to enable your TikTok video for duets! This allows other TikTok users to film themselves reacting to your TikTok video in a split screen — which can be a great way to increase your reach and gain virality!
Not sure when to post on TikTok? Discover the Best Time to Post on TikTok in 2020 in our recent blog post!
How to Cross-promote TikTok Content
Once your TikTok video is out in the wild, it’s a good idea to cross-promote it on your other social channels, like Instagram.
Not only is this great for driving awareness of your TikTok account, growing your TikTok following, and helping to boost your video performance, but it can also be a great content opportunity. Plus, it’s seriously easy to save a TikTok video straight to your camera roll, so you can share it almost anywhere.
To save your TikTok video to your camera roll, just open a published video and tap Share. Next, click Save to Album.
TikTok videos are 15 seconds long by default, which makes them a great fit for sharing on Instagram Stories. Just remember to pair them with a clear call-to-action, like “Swipe up to follow us on TikTok.”
TikTok videos can also work well as Instagram feed posts, but keep in mind that Instagram’s feed post dimensions are 4:5, rather than 16:9 like TikTok.
Ready to level-up your Instagram Stories strategy? Plan and schedule your Instagram Stories in advance with Later!
Understanding TikTok Pro Analytics
TikTok’s analytics are only available on Pro accounts, which means that if you’re serious about growing on TikTok, it’s a good time to make the upgrade.
Switching to a Pro account will unlock your profile’s key metrics, and it’s totally free to do.
How to Set Up a TikTok Pro Account
- Go to “Manage my account” by tapping the three dots in the top right corner of your profile page
- Select “Switch to Pro account,”
- Choose your business industry
- Your TikTok account will reload a Pro Account with a new analytics section!
In your new profile analytics, you’ll find 3 tabs: Overview, Content, and Followers.
TikTok Pro Analytics: Overview
For a quick stock check of your TikTok analytics, head to your Overview page.
Here, you’ll discover your Video Views, Followers count, and Profile Views over the last 7 or 28 days.
By monitoring your performance trends over the course of 7 and 28 days, you’ll be able to identify areas of growth and decline. Dig into these performance trends to inform your future content strategy.
For example, if you see a spike in videos on a particular date, investigate if one of your videos did particularly well, or if you did any cross-promotion activations, and take note of anything you can replicate in the future.
TikTok Pro Analytics: Content
TikTok’s Content Analytics are great for getting a better understanding of how your videos are performing over time.
You can see how many videos you’ve published in the last 7 days, as well as which of your videos have trended the most from your account during this time period.
Pay special attention to your trending videos. If all of your top performing videos share a similar theme, format, or hashtag, the chances are you’ve identified a sweet spot for your brand.
TikTok Pro Analytics: Followers
If you want to gain a better understanding of your audience on TikTok, the Followers analytics tab is a great place to start.
The Followers tab shows how many followers you have, your 7-day growth rate, the gender breakdown of your following, top territories, follower activity, and the videos your followers watched the most in the last 7 days.
Understanding the breakdown of your followers can help you to understand whether you’re actually reaching the target audience for your brand. For example, if you’re a menswear brand based in New York, you’d want to have a majority male audience with the US as your top territory.
And if your TikTok demographics don’t match up, it’s probably a good idea to rethink your content strategy.
This tab also provides insightful details about your followers’ activity on TikTok.
Understanding when your followers are most active is one of the best ways to discover your best time to post, which can be a great way to guarantee more interactions straight out of the gate.
Note: TikTok data is recorded in UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).
While keeping track of the videos your followers have watched the most can be a good source of inspiration. Look out for popular themes, sounds, or hashtags you can use in your upcoming content strategy.
And that’s our ultimate guide to TikTok marketing!
By now you should have a good overview of what TikTok is and the benefits it can bring to your business.
But if you’re looking for even more tips, check out our free TikTok workshop below!
Ready to take your TikTok strategy up a notch? Watch our free 30-minute video on how to use TikTok to grow your brand!
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