Right now, TikTok is quickly becoming a household name for most marketing managers, but what’s the real deal with this fast-growing mobile app? How can brands use it in their marketing? And perhaps most importantly, is it here to stay? This blogpost gives the low-down on the most common questions, and hands you a map and a compass to the TikTok-jungle.

What is TikTok?

TikTok, or Douyin as it is called in its native Chinese market, is a video-sharing app where users can create and distribute short videos (15 seconds – 3 minutes) of music, dance, lip-sync, filters, and comical contributions. Many people recognise the app under the name Musica.ly, the name of the original app bought by Bytedance, TikTok’s owner, when the two mobile apps merged. Today, TikTok is the fastest growing social media platform in the world, and it has more than 1 billion monthly active users in 155 countries. In August 2021, TikTok announced it’s rolling out in-app shopping possibilities, starting with merchants in the US and UK.

Who Uses TikTok Today?

Most active users of TikTok are between 16 and 24 years old and belong to Generation Z – people that have grown up with the Internet and take digital communication for granted. These people are generally quick to latch on to new trends in social media – which fits TikTok, as most of the activities within the app concern achieving viral content spread. The app also has an age limit of 13 years old, but this is of course hard to verify. Data from Ape App shows that in contrast to Instagram, where most users are female (65% vs. 35%), more than half of TikTok’s users are men (56% vs. 44%). Geographically speaking, India, the US and Turkey have the most TikTok users – unless you count China, where the Douyin version is used.

How Do Brands Use TikTok Today?

Not all brands advertise on TikTok today, even though a few have gained a lot of spotlight. Studies show that only 4% of marketing managers use TikTok as a part of their media strategy – compared to 89% for Facebook. The most prominent reason is likely that the user base is relatively young (and thus not within the target groups), and that there still isn’t a well-established advertising model in the same way that exists on YouTube or Facebook. Nevertheless, several global brands have tried marketing on the platform. Some examples are Nike, Coca-Cola, and Walmart, which all initiated so-called “hashtag challenges” – sponsored challenges using a certain hashtag. When users utilise the hashtag in their clips, the underlying message is propagated. Because TikTok, as mentioned before, is a perfect medium to start viral trends, this method can be a rewarding way for brands to create attention. This is also one of the most common ways for brands to advertise on the platform today – but more methods are emerging. For example, TikTok recently launched a feature called In-app Commerce, which makes it possible for brands to sell products directly inside the video clips, without the user having to exit the app.

Using the Hashtag Challenge Plus feature, it is also possible to connect products to specific hashtags – a way of combination of the two advertising methods. Another increasingly popular format is in-video ads: short ads that play in between video clips. As with much other advertising, this type of ad can be experienced as intrusive, and may be ignored by the user with a simple swipe.

What does TikTok’s Future Look Like?

Even though TikTok perhaps isn’t yet the most obvious channel for everyone, it is a great idea to keep an eye on this emerging platform. Things change in a hurry, and to keep up with the digital media landscape today, it’s important to continuously evaluate what channels and strategies to use to remain relevant to intended target audiences. In the short run, TikTok is of course mostly of interest for brands aimed at a somewhat younger target audience, since those people easily can be reached right there.
If you have a young target group (below 20 years of age) we would also suggest checking out the platform as a user just to get to know your audience better – have a browse and see what trends engages your potential customers right now! Many trends move cross-platforms and can be good to have knowledge of, e.g. the viral baked feta pasta recipe (especially so if you’re a food brand).

There’s a lot to say about TikTok, but we hope we’ve been able to provide you with a good overview. It’s going to be incredibly exciting to see how the platform evolves during the years ahead, and particularly to see if it will attract more people among older audiences.

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