• Marketing

The TikTok guide for brands

by Franny Harold, Content Specialist, Brand Marketing | Feb 10, 2022

TikTok marketing: The power of the trendiest channel

From the “bing bongs” to the “little rockstars” (or, more accurately, “pope rockstars”), we’ve heard it all. No, these aren’t strange compliments that people have left in our DMs, but TikTok trends that have gone beyond viral.

As a brand participating in the world of social media, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the next shiny platform. Take Clubhouse, for instance. Clubhouse rose to popularity in February 2021 with 9.6 million downloads due to its exclusive invitations and audio-based platform, but quickly collapsed in April 2021 with only 900,000 downloads. As people became vaccinated against COVID-19, in-person meetups became prominent once again — leaving audio-only platforms like Clubhouse in the digital dust.

Brands can’t (and shouldn’t) just join every new platform; that wouldn’t be a smart use of social media resources. But joining some new platforms can be a major boost to social media metrics. So how can a brand possibly decide which new social media platforms to join? The proof is in the pudding — and the pudding is data. Lots of data.

TikTok has been able to foster and sustain authentic communities and engagements throughout the entire pandemic. It was the most downloaded app in the world in early 2020 with 315 million downloads, and has since passed 1 billion monthly users. That kind of reach alone makes TikTok marketing extremely valuable, and brands have taken notice. 


Nearly two-thirds of US influencer marketers plan either to continue or to start using the video sharing app in 2022. TikTok’s influence on marketers is so strong that in 2021, it surpassed even Youtube in terms of the number of marketers who use it — and it’s rapidly gaining on Meta.

@goose_stu #golittlerockstar #kitten #kittentok #cute #fyp #catsoftiktok ♬ Pope Is a Rockstar - Sales

TikTok for business: Starting a strategy on a growing platform

Planning a TikTok marketing strategy can be daunting at first. The trouble here is that TikTok marketing isn’t like marketing on other social media channels; businesses have to buy into existing trends and make their content not only relevant but casual and entertaining. But TikTok is here to stay, so marketers need to find ways to tailor their content to the platform.

That’s why we decided to roll up our sleeves and dive head first into launching our very own TikTok-for-business brand account, @khorosdigital.

Through many trials and many, many errors, we’ve learned what it takes to enter the TikTok space as a brand. We’ll walk you through examples, considerations, how to keep up with trends, and top insights we’ve learned over the past six months.

We promise not to get too many TikTok trending songs stuck in your head along the way (but the Misery Business & Grillz mashup is worth a listen).

Why your brand should join TikTok

To many brands considering joining TikTok for business, the platform often seems like a mysterious land ruled by Gen Zers. While Gen Z is certainly leading the way (60% of TikTok users are Zoomers), they’re not the only key demographic engaging on the channel. According to Comscore, 20-29 year olds (29.5%), 30-39 year olds (16.4%), and 40-49 year olds (13.9%) have all become active TikTok users.

TikTok demographics


It’s also estimated that TikTok has about 80 million monthly active users in the United States, with 60% identifying as female and 40% identifying as male.


The bottom line about TikTok for business: regardless of your brand, there’s an audience on TikTok ready to learn more about your product or service. It’s only a matter of how authentically you can reach them.

Submit a demo request today.

TikTok as a social media marketing platform

TikTok recently shared that 35% of users say they spend less time watching TV and other video content since they started using TikTok. Let’s read that again. TikTok is driving users who would otherwise be engaging with video content on other social media platforms to its platform instead! Folks are also much less distracted while using TikTok compared to other platforms, with 46% of users saying their time is more focused while using the app.

The platform’s easy-to-scroll interface certainly plays a part in why people might find themselves saying, “How did I just spend three hours watching duets of dogs barking?” But this doesn’t stop users from coming back; they return to TikTok because they genuinely enjoy the content. It provides a level of entertainment and happiness that they may not find on other social media platforms.

Perhaps the most amazing part of TikTok — and the reason why we love it so much for customer interactions — is the authenticity of connections that people form via the app. When people connect on TikTok, they connect in meaningful ways. For example, people often explore more challenging topics in videos, such as grief and mental health, in order to show people they are not alone and to encourage people to share similar stories.

@zudadragon This past week, I had to arrange the funeral. Farewell Father, until next time. Someone show some love through this time of grief. I love you.#foryou ♬ original sound - 🐲 ZUDA DRAGON 🐲


When users browse their For You Page, they are extremely focused and engaged. 94% of TikTokers take some kind of action or engagement. Comparatively, only 62.4% of people say they are more likely to interact with a brand on Instagram rather than on other social media channels.

Using TikTok as part of your comprehensive social media marketing strategy

So, TikTok is clearly a top social media marketing platform in which businesses can invest and see significant returns. Now, let’s talk about some TikTok for business strategies that can take your campaign to the next level.

Brand-generated content and hashtag challenges

A popular content creation method is a hashtag challenge. Hashtag challenges involve creating and naming a challenge and sharing it on TikTok; users then create their own versions of the video and tag it with the same hashtag. This allows other users to easily find the original video, thus increasing the amount of engagement the challenge gets and strengthening brand awareness strategies.

TikTok’s advertising capabilities allow fully branded hashtag campaigns. For example, Ruffles recently partnered with the NBA and created the #RufflesOwnYourRidges challenge in order to win a chance to attend the 2022 NBA All-Star game. The challenge encourages users to capture their “Ridges” — which the campaign describes as whatever makes you, YOU. Videos using the hashtag were viewed 2.5 billion times — an enormous number for any social media campaign. The barrier to entry for this campaign was low and opened the door for a lot of creativity that celebrated individuality.

@afropunk We partnered w/ @ruffles for YOU to show off your individuality. Learn more at OwnYourRidges.com #rufflesownyourridges @Kiera Please ♬ original sound - AFROPUNK


Brands can participate in an unbranded hashtag challenge for organic content as well. According to TikTok for Business, the median engagement rate generated by branded hashtag challenges is 17.5%.

Creator marketing

TikTok is also a great platform to incorporate influencer marketing into your social media strategy — or as they’d refer to it, creator marketing. On TikTok, a creator is more than just an influencer. A creator inspires, innovates, and creates. An influencer is simply there to push a product because they are being paid. There’s limited creativity and passion. On TikTok, it’s all about the creators.

Many brands, including YSL Beauty, have used TikTok creators to engage with a larger audience. They launched a campaign last year, #daretogonu, which encouraged beauty creators to share how they get ready with the Nu Bare Look Tint foundation. The hashtag garnered 35.4 million views. It celebrated all kinds of beauty. Even creators who aren’t considered “beauty creators” got involved — including popular TikTok comedian and singer, Fia James.

@tyshonlawrence My skin story with Nu Bare Look Tint by @YSL Beauty . What's yours? #bareitproudly #daretogonu ♬ original sound - tyshon


Keep in mind that brands don’t necessarily have to collaborate with TikTok’s most popular creators in order to have a successful campaign. These collaborations should make the most sense for both the brand and creator alike while maintaining the brand’s voice. Brands can find the right type of creator and start conversations through TikTok’s Creator Marketplace.

Brands who are winning on TikTok

Still need some more convincing? We hear ya. We decided to dive into three incredible brands who have successfully found their voice and community on TikTok.

Duolingo

The TikTok account for Duolingo, a language learning app, found major success in the fall of 2021 when a new social media manager took over. The manager, Zaria Parvez, says that her primary strategy is to entertain. TikTok is, after all, a place where people go for interesting, irreverent fun. As she puts it:

“A big part of Duolingo is that we make language learning fun, and I think that quality specifically was such an awesome opportunity to link to TikTok because TikTok is meant for entertainment … brands that try selling things don't really tend to resonate.”

Another piece of Duolingo’s TikTok success is how well they fit into TikTok culture in particular and social media culture as a whole. The team references popular TikTok trends and audio in their posts, and the initial success of the account came from capitalizing on a popular meme in which Duo, the brand’s mascot — a bright green owl — playfully menaces app users who skip their lessons. This fall, before their TikTok account went viral, Duolingo had about 50 thousand followers, and now they boast 2.4 million followers and growing.

The following video exemplifies Duolingo’s TikTok success. It references TikTok culture (on TikTok, “cap” is synonymous with “liar”), it’s playful, it’s funny, and it also reminds users to engage with the app: 

@duolingo Listen…you’re only playin’ yourself 🧢 #cap #run #bescared #comedy #duolingo ♬ original sound - Ladainian Howard


In just a few months, the video earned 1.8 million views and over 65 thousand comments.

Importantly, the Duolingo TikTok team also has a message beyond entertainment that’s in line with progressive culture, something important to Gen Z, which makes up the majority of platform users. When Duolingo speaks up for its values on the platform, it does so with its signature TikTok flair: Duolingo not only defended their LGBTQ content, they did it with popular TikTok audio of Cardi B thanking her haters: 

@duolingo Reply to @agazeblank ♬ original sound - incomeyard


Takeaway for brands: When creating their TikTok marketing strategy, brands can model the way that Duolingo leans into their company culture with their TikTok posts without explicit brand promotion. Another Duolingo success that other brands can follow is incorporating TikTok culture and style into their posts while also resonating with Gen Z by sharing purpose-driven brand values.

Ryanair

Ryanair is a budget Irish airline that’s sometimes criticized for its “bumpy landings” and doesn’t operate in the US, but still counts many US fans among its 1.5M TikTok followers. Though Ryanair has a limited operating range, it’s currently one of the most popular airline brands on TikTok, and one look at their content demonstrates why.

Many of their videos feature a Ryanair plane with the social media manager’s eyes and mouth superimposed onto the aircraft:

@ryanair Bestie how else will I make bank i’m sorry🤧 #ryanair #airline #traveleurope #cabincrew ♬ umm.. yeah - andrew


The video above, which has almost half a million views, exemplifies Ryanair’s TikTok style of gently mocking their passengers (and themselves), and it also incorporates current TikTok trends by using the language “bestie,” and “make bank.” Other Ryanair posts use TikTok trends and sounds to poke fun at their rivals, TikTok followers (especially those calling for Ryanair service in the US), and even its own service. Ryanair’s head of social media said recently that he believes the brand’s TikTok success stems from “losing the corporate tone of voice.”

Takeaway for brands: TikTok — and social media in general — is not the place for a polished press release. While brands have known this for a long time, it can be easy to get caught up in a corporate voice, especially when addressing criticism, but that won’t resonate with TikTok users. Leading with the goal of entertainment and, like Ryanair, winking at controversy or criticism, is a better path to success on the platform.

Chipotle

Chiptole was one of the earliest brand TikTok adopters and now boasts over 1.7M followers. Since one of their first viral TikTok videos — the #GuacDance challenge in 2019, which generated 500 million impressions from 250k fan-submitted videos — Chipotle has kept the hits coming with hashtag challenges that TikTok users can’t help but join.

Gen Z and millennials comprise nearly half of Chipotle’s customer base, but while millennials are relatively open to ads, Gen Z — the primary users of TikTok — is generally not. This makes a hashtag challenge an excellent strategy for Chipotle, because it can create a ton of engagement and can reach vast numbers of users without explicit ads.

Brands can create their own hashtag challenges by sponsoring a hashtag and inviting users to share videos of themselves attempting a feat or responding to a question.

Chipotle’s hashtag challenge #ChipotleSponsorMe offered users the chance to win free burritos for a year. The challenge asked users to post videos about why Chipotle should sponsor them and earned 2.3 billion views.

@moneysigneric @daviddobrik @chipotle #ChipotleSponsorMe #contest #fyp ♬ original sound - $ERIC


Takeaway for brands: Hashtag challenges engage TikTok users and can earn brands awareness and engagement on the platform, on social media in general, and even offline. Another benefit is that while hashtag challenges begin with brand sponsorship, they often take on a life of their own, which can mean free advertising.

TikTok brand considerations

While we highly encourage that any brands with a social media presence try out TikTok and explore everything the platform has to offer, there are a few questions that brands should consider before diving in.

via GIPHY

1) What audience are you trying to reach?

Is your target audience an existing community on TikTok? For example, are you a pharmaceutical company trying to reach physicians or a clothing brand selling streetwear? While the clothing brand may have an easier team reaching their right audience, it doesn’t mean the pharmaceutical company won’t — it may just take longer and require a creative approach.

Before launching your TikTok brand account, it’s best to have a deep understanding of your other social audiences and how they might already be engaging with content on TikTok. In the case of a pharma company, it would be beneficial to create easy-to-digest videos that explain more complex topics to attract a new audience and increase brand awareness. By contrast, a clothing brand may be able to activate on a trending dance challenge that showcases their seasonal releases in order to reach their target audience.

2) What would you like to say on TikTok?

More importantly — how are you trying to say it? TikTok has proven time and time again that it champions authentic content above all else. While a polished brand voice might inform your brand marketing strategy on other platforms, a less buttoned-up and more humorous brand voice will take your videos far on TikTok. Sometimes you have to put your social media manager’s face on an airplane to get views. Hey, it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.

Are you willing to take creative risks and stray from your traditional brand voice while still maintaining its essence? If you have the freedom and bandwidth to do exactly that, then creating a TikTok brand account is right for you.

via GIPHY


3) Can you post consistently?

First and foremost, TikTok is a social media app for creators; the algorithm rewards accounts that publish frequently. TikTok recommends aiming to post 1-4 times per day to test how different types of content are received. While this isn’t feasible for most brands, posting once a week is a good rule of thumb. This is something we’re aiming to follow this year as well — fingers crossed!

Posting videos consistently also allows you to stay in-the-loop of any recent trends garnering high view counts. However, the lifespan of TikTok trends isn’t very long — some may only be popular for a week. Agility is absolutely crucial; as a brand, your team needs to be ready to quickly activate on trends before they die down. Is this something your team has the bandwidth to commit to right now? If not, it’s best to wait until time becomes more readily available or additional team members can support.

How to set up your TikTok brand account

We’ve walked you through the data, top brand examples, TikTok insights and best practices, and the time has finally come — you’re ready to create a TikTok brand account!

1) Set up your business account

Of course, you’ll want to download the TikTok app and choose a method to sign up. Then, to set up a free business account you’ll click “...” on the top right of the “Me” page, then click “Manage account” and select "Switch to Business Account." Be sure to choose the category that best fits your brand to receive relevant content and solutions.

2) Edit your account information

You’ll have options to upload your brand logo as the profile picture, a short bio, and your full brand name. Similarly to Instagram, you’ll also want to include a linkin.bio or linktree in the website section as linking out to URLs within TikTok videos isn’t a feature just yet (but we have faith).

If your brand name just so happens to already be taken (remember: billions of users), include something that your audience will recognize in your username. We opted for @khorosdigital, for example.

Khoros TikTok

3) Promote your TikTok account

Promote your new TikTok account on your other social media channels to garner excitement from your established audience and to help migrate followers. You’ll want to reach 100 followers as soon as possible. Once you reach 100, you get access to helpful TikTok insights and analytics, such as engagement metrics, which of your videos are trending, and certain audience demographics like gender, top territories, and follower activity.

4) Get familiar with TikTok business tools

TikTok tools


Business accounts get access to a suite of helpful creator tools, like the Creator Portal and Business Content Guide, which both house educational resources. There’s also a hub for any promotions you might be running and a tab to manage your message settings. Very nifty.


TikTok Creator Portal

5) Organize your TikTok account

Lastly, some best practices to keep in mind after you’ve got a few videos under your belt include pinning videos and creating playlists. Pinned videos are similar to pinned tweets. They’ll appear first in your video grid and help direct new followers to any important updates you’d like to share. You do not have to select three videos to pin, but it does look the best visually.




Although Creator Playlists aren’t available to everyone on TikTok just yet, they are a helpful feature that allows you to group similar TikToks together above your pinned videos. For example, you could label one playlist “Products” and add videos that feature the same products or services. So, keep your eyes peeled as Creator Playlists become rolled out to more users.


What we’ve learned after creating our own TikTok brand account

Try and try again. Then try some more, but with feeling. Then again. That’s what we’ve learned: to not take ourselves too seriously, to have fun, and to not be afraid of getting in front of the camera. No — we haven’t gone significantly viral…YET! But as a new B2B brand on the platform, we’ve learned a few TikTok insights and tips that we’d like to share with you.

1) Hashtags: use ‘em

Be strategic about which hashtags you use in your social captions, and use them — but sparingly. A too-long caption could make the copy run into your video, making it nearly impossible to read and potentially covering important on-screen text. Yes, we did learn this directly from experience. Oops!



A good rule of thumb is to keep your captions and hashtags down to one, short sentence and position your on-screen text in the center or to the top of your video. This will keep any important CTAs or context easily readable.

Pro tip: Before publishing, you can always preview how your video will look with the caption and on-screen text by clicking “Select Cover” — this will bring you to your preview screen. 



In terms of which hashtags to use, it should be a mixture of your own branded hashtags and popular hashtags relevant to your industry. For example, in the Discover tab, we searched the broader terms “marketing” and “social media” since these apply to our business. This led to discovering the trending hashtag #marketingtok which has received 10 million views to date — we now use this hashtag in applicable videos to help boost our reach. Aim to search for industry-related hashtags once a week, as these can change often.

3) You don’t always have to promote something

Brand awareness — ever heard of it? Like we’ve mentioned before, TikTok content should never feel overly polished. TikTok users don’t want to feel like they’re in the middle of a sales pitch. Sometimes a popular trend is worth executing even if you can’t tie it back to any of your marketing campaigns or strategies. Driving clicks and downloads shouldn’t be your only goal on this platform. You’re here to connect with new followers, too.

Our third top-performing post was an original idea from one of our Social Media Coordinators (and TikTok extraordinaire), Alexis Whitted. The idea stemmed from her real-life experience of often getting lost in TikTok while researching trends for work. Genius. Not only did this drive high views, but it also led to meaningful engagements. A viewer even commented that they applied for a social media coordinator position at our company! 

@khorosdigital Social media managers: who relates? #socialmediamanager #digitalmarketing ♬ Cartoon-style piano solo jazz(853970) - motofuji

5) Create TikToks for upcoming events

Although this might seem counterintuitive, event promotion seems to be an exception to the “no sales pitches” rule. Our annual big event for digital leaders, Khoros Engage, happened last year in September, and we decided to experiment with promoting the event on TikTok.

Our top-performing post to date featured a trending sound and an unboxing of Engage swag (who doesn’t love an unboxing). In the caption, we simply reminded folks to register for the event at the link in our bio. Pretty smart, huh?

When it comes to marketing your events or webinars on TikTok, try taking creative approaches rather than the traditional “Here’s 3 reasons to attend xyz…” video. Can you encourage audience participation? Can you kick off a hashtag challenge or make a spin off an existing trend? This might take more heavy-lifting in the short term, but we believe in your creativity!

@khorosdigital #KhorosEngage ♬ original sound - Brett Beckwith, Pn1

Take our TikTok challenge

In our Understanding TikTok for Brands webinar, our Strategic Services team covers everything brands must know in order to launch their TikTok strategies. They developed this checklist as a challenge to inspire brands to create their first TikToks.


  1. Sign-up and tok the tok. Take in trends and build up your platform sophistication before jumping in to activate.

  2. Search your brand category terms to identify the passions and creators driving the conversation.

  3. Plan for long-term partnerships with creators. It’s not a one-and-done deal on TikTok.

  4. Start small with risk-taking. Little moments can lead to big rewards. Get comfortable with jumping in and being nimble.

  5. Hold off tapping the heart until you’ve built up your own content feed to be proud of.

  6. Be true to your brand. Don’t be the “pick-me” brand when you haven’t built a strong community on the platform. 


TikTok for Brands Webinar

6) Keep TikTok video lengths on the shorter side

Although TikTok recently introduced a 10 minute maximum length for videos, it’s important to remember that the platform was initially launched as a space for short-form content. So far, we haven’t exceeded a minute in length for any of our TikToks, and we’d recommend the same guidelines for any brands just getting started on the platform.

TikToks can be as short as one second in length, but the most popular options are 15 seconds and 60 seconds (there is also a 3 minute length option as well). However, we’ve found that if you need to take longer than one minute to get your brand messaging across to your TikTok audience, that video probably shouldn’t be a TikTok and would be better served on other platforms.

Unless you already have a well-established brand presence on TikTok, short and sweet truly is the way to go.

Discover tab

The Discover tab is your best friend. Conveniently located to the right of the home tab (aka your For You Page), the Discover tab allows you to easily scroll through top trending hashtags and sounds, as well as top videos created with those same trends and total view counts. 



Click into the right arrow of each hashtag or sound to view how creators activated on the corresponding trends. Exploring these videos is the best way to understand what call to action is tied to each trend and whether or not it would be a good fit for your brand. Most trending hashtags include a short description explaining what the campaign promotes, which helps your brand further decide how to activate. It’s best to check in on the Discover tab at least twice a week.


It should be noted that brands cannot use certain sounds due to copyrights, and that’s okay! A reason for these restrictions is to help preserve the beloved authenticity that the TikTok community is known for. There is still a plethora of sounds and music that TikTok has licensed for commercial use, including royalty free music and user-generated sounds. This might seem limiting, but you’d be surprised. In actuality, it prompts brands to think outside the box, which often leads to more creative and rewarding content.


Be a TikTok user!

If you don’t have a personal TikTok account yet, then you might have the strongest self-restraint in the world. TikTok was created so that users could consume snackable videos — so take a bite!

Follow aspirational accounts, brand accounts from similar industries, and your competitors’ accounts — we won’t tell. The more often you watch the For You Page, the better you’ll get at analyzing and deciphering which types of TikToks perform well and which ones don’t. You’re also more likely to come across new trends as they arise (and probably discover a new subculture or niche). We’re not saying that your screen time needs to jump to 10 hours a day — app limits are strongly encouraged, people — but it’s best to be a small part of this highly engaged community.

Finally, when it comes to deciding whether or not to activate on a trend, remember that the person who knows your brand voice the best is you. One should never try too hard to make a trend work for their brand. If you’re having to really stretch the parameters so that it fits your brand guidelines, create your own custom sound and premise instead! Follow your gut and take that risk. TikTok is *the* social media marketing platform that rewards creative risks. And if you ever need more expert advice and recommendations, the Khoros Strategic Services team is always here to help. Request a demo today!

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