TikTok tactics: The social media the world can’t stop watching

Author: Iva Filipovic

If we were to say years ago, that you’d be able to post a single video on a social media platform, and without any followers at first, gain 1 million views and 1000 followers, it’d probably earn us a good laugh. TikTok took social media by storm. It attracted ordinary people, gave them exposure, and let them enjoy extraordinary benefits. With 1.1 billion active users worldwide, it’s been the most downloaded app globally in 2020, and is continuing to gain attention from hugely diverse people wishing to be creators, but also brands who want to get their names known. Intrigued? Let us share what’s TikTok all about, and the ways in which it can benefit businesses.

Social media where YOU are the hero

Though success can be achieved on TikTok, it still requires a bit of research. That research can vastly differ depending on who you ask, but it’s still there. You could be a famous creator using toilet breaks to research trending sounds, dances and challenges or a big brand doing extensive excel sheets and carefully eliminating trends to jump on. Both have about the same chance for their content to go viral.

The basics are simple – good content grabs attention. It’s dynamic, not static, compared to most social platforms, and hence feels real. To add to the “realness”, it encourages authentic, spontaneous,and relatable content – completely different from overly fabricated Instagram feeds.

Instagram’s algorithm tends to promote a very narrow aesthetic to everyone, making creators replicate the same imagery, whereas TikTok encourages creators to “milk” their most relatable (most engaging) content until it’s not interesting anymore… after which they can hop on to finding the next new thing to go viral.

@sienabellamusic’s videos of her sliding on a wet driveway got her viral, so she proceeded to reap the benefits by making more sliding videos.

TikTok’s short format (15 to 60 seconds) and continuous scrolling makes it perfect for holding user attention. With an average session of 10.85 minutes, it blows competitor platforms out of the water.

In the meantime, it’s testing a longer 3-minute video format by offering it as a trial to a few creators.

Average session duration

What makes TikTok different from “traditional” social media?

Knowing how TikTok compares to “traditional” social media is the key to understanding how to create successful content for your profile.

Opening TikTok lands users on the “For You” page, displaying videos from creators all over the world and encouraging them to explore and scroll through content right from the first moment.

Since the content is short and entertaining, the users can find themselves scrolling for quite some time, during which they’re exposed to both verified and unverified creators, viral and random content, as well as old and new content. The user can, of course, swipe anytime to his “Following” feed, where he’ll only see videos from accounts he’s following. On “traditional” social media like Facebook and Instagram, users land on the feed with content from the accounts they already follow, meaning the instant exploration isn’t there.

This ties to the use of hashtags. On TikTok, they are used by the algorithm to understand what types of videos interest users, so it can display similar content on each “For You” feed in the future, regardless of who they follow. On Instagram and Facebook, hashtags are used as a discovery tool for content related to specific topics.  

TikTok emphasises individuality. Its algorithm doesn’t tell users what to like, it views them as teachers. Users have the power to tailor the “For You” feed to their liking, as the name suggests.

TikTok navigation

What’s in it for businesses?

Like other social media, there are a lot of advertising options for business profiles on TikTok. We’ll walk through those options now and see how they’re meant to grab attention. Note that the ad pricing reflects their average cost on the European market.

Brand takeover ad

When opening TikTok, the user can directly land on an ad video that lasts up to 15 seconds, right when opening the app. This is a brand takeover ad. It can include a CTA to the brand’s website, e-shop, app etc. With this type of ad, only one brand will be selected per industry and audience. It means that when you’re opening TikTok, if you see a Zalando ad, you will not see any other fashion brand ads when opening the app that day. It will only be Zalando.

For brand takeover ads, businesses should forecast a budget of 15 to 60K€ according to the country they are in. The ads costs can vary a lot between one country and another.

Zalando brand takeover ad appearing upon opening the TikTok app.

Top view ad

Brand takeover ads can be upgraded as Top view ads. It allows the ads to last up to 60 seconds instead of 15, and in addition to appearing when the user opens the app, the ad also appears in-feed as well. For this type of ad, a company should forecast a budget of 20 to 80K€ depending on the country.

In-feed ad

In-feed ads are seamlessly integrated into the feed. It is also possible to add a CTA, just like brand takeover ads. This is the most popular TikTok ad type for businesses and for good reason: it looks more organic and is so seamless that the user might not even notice this is an ad. For this type of ad, count between 10 and 35K€, depending on the country and the number of desired impressions.

This Splice ad is seamlessly integrated into TikTok’s continuous scroll explore feed.

Hashtag challenge

Hashtag challenges are trending activities, such as dancing, that users are sharing with other users. The user can see all the Hashtag challenges under “Discover” on the app. Hashtag challenges often inspire users to create their own TikTok videos. Brands can also create their own Hashtag challenges. They are an efficient way to create awareness in the TikTok community. A brand is expected to pay between 100 and 230K€ for a sponsored Hashtag challenge that’ll be running for 6 days.

#HandWashChallenge amassed Dettol 303 million impressions

Branded AR filters

Branded AR filters are created by the brand specifically for the TikTok app. Users are then free to use this filter for their own TikTok. This type of ads costs 20 to 70K€ for an exposure lasting up to 10 days.

Laneige Branded AR filter showcasing the effects of their Waterbank Essence

Once the ad type has been chosen and the type of content and message is clarified, businesses can browse https://creatormarketplace.tiktok.com/, where all TikTok’s top content creators are listed, and choose the one that matches best with what they want to portray during a particular campaign.

TikTok… and nothing else?

No! You don’t need to choose between TikTok and more traditional social channels; use both. TikTok offers fantastic cross-selling opportunities. Indeed, a promotional TikTok video that is shared as an Instagram Reel or a Facebook Story will just look like regular content, as opposed to sponsored content. This social media also offers another way to promote things by focusing less on promotion and more on content. When scrolling on TikTok, the ads blend into the landscape. Whether they are in-feed, presented as a challenge or as a branded AR filter, it never has to harm what TikTok bases itself on: content.

Why we can’t stop watching

As touched upon before, TikTok focuses on genuine content and real people, rather than aesthetics. There’s just something about the chaotic TikTok feeds that make them much more appealing. And the reason the content is so irresistibly scrollable is that it resembles ordinary life with all its emotions, flaws, fun and surprises. It’s the good and the bad — not just the perfect moments.

gallery image