TikTok, the social media platform that once was referred to as the “dancing app,” is now a household name. TikTok launched in 2017 and is now considered one of the most popular social media platforms as well as one of the trendiest. With the heightened popularity of TikTok compared to other social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, many businesses are turning to TikTok as an advertising channel. 

Business leaders still have questions about TikTok’s place in their marketing mix: Is TikTok right for my business and audience? Doesn’t it just appeal to a younger demographic? That may have been the case back in the app’s first few years, but according to a recent Insider Intelligence Report, adult users of TikTok now spend more time on TikTok than adult Facebook users spend on Facebook. Also according to Insider Intelligence Report’s forecast, TikTok will have more Gen Z users than Snapchat this year. Although overall users are growing, it still may be a while before TikTok directly competes with Facebook and Instagram. But that doesn’t mean advertisers should wait to launch campaigns on the app. 

There has been a large surge in social media usage since the start of the pandemic in 2020 with TikTok users growing 87.1% in that year alone. By 2021 the platform’s users grew an additional 18.3%. TikTok was the world’s most downloaded app in 2020 and the only app not owned by Facebook to make the global Top 5 downloads. TikTok content now spreads beyond the platform with videos being shared on other platforms including Facebook and Instagram and even on morning television shows. It’s more than just teenagers creating content; it’s moms and their children making dinner together, college kids pulling pranks on their parents, grandparents doing “fit” (outfit) checks and, yes, there is still plenty of dancing content. 

In July of this year TikTok launched Spark Ads that were created so advertisers can choose organic and already popular content to promote their product or brand. This is an authentic way for companies to partner with creators to increase engagement and sales. Instead of it being a generic sponsored advertisement for a product the creator can use their platform and original content to organically promote a product while still using CTA’s that go right to the product’s website.  

Companies can also utilize the “duet” features with Spark Ads to continue building relationships with creators. The duet feature is when TikTok users can take another creator’s video and use it as part of their video and create a response to it. Urban Decay Cosmetics, a large makeup brand with 132.8K followers utilized this feature recently with logo creator Emily Zugay who is verified on Twitter with 1.8M followers and is known for taking popular brand’s logos and giving them a funny “makeover.” She recently decided to tackle Urban Decay’s logo along with a few others and received over 11.9M views. Urban Decay was so pleased with the results with this video that they used the duet feature to showcase her new logo while changing their profile picture to her new creation. They even sent her a PR package where her logo was on all of their products, and the duet with the company received 3.1M likes. 

But TikTok is not stopping there with their platform updates, in Q3 of this year they have experimented with five-minute video lengths, adding it as an option for creators to use along with keeping their traditional 15 seconds, 60 seconds and three-minute long videos. This new feature could increase user engagement, which can increase the competition between TikTok and YouTube. TikTok has also started a new Live Video feature similar to other platforms as well as testing out Story features. But what do all of these updates mean for marketers? TikTok is making all of these updates not only to increase the platform’s overall users but so ALL marketers can eventually use TikTok for campaigns the same way they do on other platforms especially Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. TikTok is attempting to make the new features not only attractive to businesses but also creators and influencers with large followings on the app. TikTok is known for being more creator-focused with implementing things such as the Creator Fund, when allows TikTok to pay creators based on the performance of their videos. 

So the big question is: Should you, as a marketer, use TikTok as an advertising medium? Looking at just the demographic and usage data alone there is no doubt that this social media platform is growing, and growing rapidly. As TikTok grows in popularity they are creating and testing new ways for brands to use their platform as an advertising means such as the app partnering with different ecommerce platforms like Shopify. This would allow users to shop directly within the app itself versus just buying products through external links. Although this is currently still in its test phase with only the UK and U.S. merchants currently using this feature, it should be fully launched before the holiday season. We have also seen that TikTok is able to drive off app purchases using trends such as #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt and #AmazonFinds. 

The trends suggest advertising on TikTok will continue to be an important channel in the future, and for many brands it will become almost impossible to avoid. TikTok videos, whether sponsored or not, focus on creativity and give the appearance of authenticity to viewers. Whether you’re launching a large budget campaign, or partnering with an influencer/creator whose follower demographic and organic content matches well with your brand, there are always opportunities for success.  

Originally published by the Rochester Business Journal