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Making Sense of TikTok Part 1: A guide for brands.

Social & Mobile • Written by Daria Willis, Client Director

Firstly, what is TikTok?

You may have heard a lot about TikTok in industry and news media, but if you haven’t actually downloaded the app and seen the platform for yourself, you could be forgiven for not fully understanding what the hype is about. The TikTok team describe the platform as: “the world’s leading destination for short-form mobile videos, available for iOS and Android. Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy.”

So first and foremost, TikTok is an entertainment platform for self-expression. While we’ll dive into how brands can integrate with TikTok later, it’s important we start with understanding what the platform is to its users.

What makes TikTok different to Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat?

That’s a very good question, especially as the other platforms continue to evolve and introduce new features that can sometimes feel similar.

From my point of view, TikTok can be differentiated in the following ways:

  • It’s a creation tool AND a platform
    Within TikTok itself, users have a suite of video editing tools that exceed what’s currently offered by Instagram, Facebook & Snapchat, which allow you to be extremely creative with no real skills. And, you can post it in the same place you’ve created it – meaning it’s an all in one expression platform.
  • The audience
    The TikTok audience is skewed a lot younger compared to the other platforms. Gen Z & Millennials make up most of the users (and there are 800M of them worldwide every day).

  • It’s sound-led
    A song can remind you of TikTok, and TikTok can introduce you to a song – soundtracks, voice overs and sound effects are foundational to TikTok content. In fact, TikTok has actually launched the careers of budding new artists.

  • The algorithm
    TikTok’s machine learning is so advanced it’s made headlines. It learns from audience signals, tracking what type of content you watch and engage with and feeding you more of that. While you can still follow your friends and seek out specific profiles, you’ll find that on TikTok you probably see more content from people you don’t know than those you do.

Like the Gen Z users it was made for, TikTok moves fast and so do the trends that appear on the platform. At the time of writing, the main ‘trends’ or ‘frames’ that I’ve identified as being adopted by the masses are:

  • Challenges
    Challenges made up by users catch on quickly, and then disappear as soon as they’ve started. Examples of these include the kiss your best friend challenge, the ‘savage challenge’ (learning dances) or even ‘level up challenge’ seeing how high your animals can jump!
  • Duets
    These are side-by-side style videos created when a user shares an existing TikTok alongside their own new content – creating a remix, reaction or unique take on the original. Duets are a clever way to encourage engagement, and by adding new audio and video, creators can introduce harmonies, record funny reactions or even start ‘duet chains’ like this full comedic musical.

  • Music/Voiceover Memes
    A new take on meme culture, TikTok users create amusing content about personal or social situations using existing quotes or songs. Plenty of these bring new meaning to the audio they’re using, and start entirely new trends themselves!

  • Video diary entries
    Many users, especially those with big followings tend to make quick vlogs about elements of their lives.

  • Education
    TikTok is also full of videos from experts in a variety of fields, teaching viewers how to do everything from applying the perfect red lip and manifesting wealth to stretching their hip flexors and using psychological tricks to win an argument.

So, should my brand advertise on TikTok?

TikTok is a platform that moves quickly, and there’s no shallow end that you can dip your toe in. Understandably, this can be quite intimidating as a marketer. So to make it easy, we’ve highlighted why TikTok might be a good fit:

Reasons TikTok could be perfect for your brand:

  • You simply want to reach a younger audience
    78% of US users are 16-34. It’s no secret that this demo has high disposable income, and are active online shoppers. So if your product is of interest to this audience, it can be swiped from a TikTok ad and added to cart in a blink of an eye, your brand might find ad formats like TopView & InFeed ads beneficial.

  • Your brand has an authentic way to engage in the TikTok trends and features
    For instance, challenges are a great TikTok phenomenon to take part in if there’s one relevant to your brand. Nivea did this really well with their ‘splash’ challenge – a way of contemporising a classic beauty shot in a way that was fun and relevant for a younger demo on Snapchat. But, as the saying goes, if it doesn’t fit, don’t force it.

  • Music is a passion point of your customers
    As mentioned, music is a key component for TikTok. If you’re a brand that leans on killer soundtracks for your most memorable campaigns, you could use TikTok to bring new meaning to those songs through the POV challenge. HighSnobiety gets creative with their videos and leans into TikTok’s sound and music features.

  • Your product or brand lends itself to creating utility content
    Instructional videos? Product tips and tricks? TikTok is the place for discovering things to do, and how to do them. Your product or service can play a starring role in this. Kaja Beauty has consistently done this very well.

For more insights, check out Part 2 of this series, which dives into best practices for ads on TikTok. If you’re interested in getting started with TikTok, we can help. Get in touch to arrange a time to chat with your local Genero team.


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