With over 2.6 billion downloads worldwide and over 3.7 million active users in the UK [source], TikTok presents huge business opportunities.
TikTok has even been labelled the "new Instagram". There's a joke amongst younger millennials and gen z that Instagram is the now considered to be old like Facebook and Facebook is the new MySpace. This consensus also comes from user frustrations associated with Instagram such as the removal of the chronological feed, poor organic reach specifically for small accounts and the toxic influencer culture.
TikTok, however, has been praised by businesses and creators for the more authentic content shared on the platform as well as better organic reach. However, there is still hesitation from businesses (small and large) to fully embrace this platform.
So why are many businesses stalling? There are several reasons, but here’s a few:
For years, brands have been able to hide behind picture-perfect content that shows a polished version of themselves. On TikTok, they are now challenged to express an authentic, unfiltered version of their brand without the heavy product placements. This takes them outside of their comfort zone and many corporate brands are out of touch in creating content that millennials and gen z actually consume on a daily basis.
Companies don’t see an immediate return on investment so they’d rather play safe and stick to what they know. Businesses simply may not want to invest time, money and resources into growing on a new platform.
Brands think TikTok is a gimmicky kids app used to show off silly dances and skits. However, this is the biggest misconception about TikTok. The variety of content shared on this platform is immense from educational videos on real estate to makeup tutorials. Having studied this platform since the summer of 2020, it’s continuously evolving to stay relevant to its diverse community of users.
Today, a variety of affluent brands are marketing via TikTok to reach their target audience such as John Lewis, Burberry and the BBC. Even Instagram is advertising their own app via TikTok, their biggest rival. This evidently shows they believe TikTok is a powerful app and here’s why you should be using it too:
1. Less emphasis on professional or aesthetically-pleasing content
To grow on TikTok, you don’t need to invest a lot of budget and resources for a photoshoot to create stunning Instagram-style content. TikTok offers cost-effective ways to showcase your brand and its offerings. It simply requires you to be authentic and consistently share content that entertains, educates and inspires. This platform thrives on this style of content.
Perfectionism is not a necessity. The type of video content that performs best is when it’s taken from a phone camera in an informal setting without appearing scripted or staged.
There are videos that exist with business owners promoting their brand in their bedroom to employees sharing funny skits at the company they work in.
Here are some examples (figures are from November 3, 2021):
With over 1.5 millions views, this fun and upbeat video by John Lewis shows a person jumping in different outfits in, what looks like, her home. There's no backdrop or filters, and this video can easily be done with clever editing.
This TikTok creator who is a Costa Coffee employee creates this funny yet relatable video with over 1.0 million views, and she's only got 2,609 followers!
Here's something more basic. This small business with almost 9,000 followers shared this simple video which received over 140K likes and nearly 2 million views. You would never see these kinds of results on Instagram!
2. Organic reach is prioritised on TikTok
On Instagram, you need to have some kind of “influencer status” in order for the algorithm to decide whether it’s going to promote your content organically to the feed or explore page. Organic reach is suppressed on Instagram to encourage users to pay for exposure via ads. If you’re a business with a small following or small budget, this is frustrating.
TikTok is less biased and presents more organic reach opportunities for smaller accounts as you have seen in the examples above. Small business accounts with a couple thousand followers have gone viral with as many as 1 million views! These views bring brand awareness which could lead to sales.
Additionally, a majority of TikTok users prefer organic content. Although you can use the paid ads feature to promote your business on TikTok, users are very sensitive to ads and pristine content – they skip them almost immediately. This means massive opportunities to showcase your brand without the need of a huge marketing budget.
3. Less emphasis on influencers
Instagram is notorious for heavy product placements and brand/influencer collaborations. You often see influencers posing with the products or heavily praising a product when in fact they don’t use or buy it in real life.
As I mentioned in point 2, consumers on TikTok are sensitive to sales-y content. Typical influencer content that we see on Instagram isn’t effective on TikTok especially if the influencer isn’t relatable. Of course, there are exceptions and influencer marketing does exist on the app. However, it’s random, off-the-cuff videos of everyday people that consistently come out on top, and they don’t always have a huge following. It’s these random videos that consumers enjoy watching the most.
If part of your strategy is to work with influencers or run paid campaigns on TikTok, you will need to structure the videos so that it looks like a normal TikTok video and NOT an ad.
4. TikTok can be used in ANY industry
No matter what your niche is or what you’re selling, there is definitely an audience for it on TikTok. Whether you share financial advice, run a restaurant or sell handmade accessories, there is a diverse enough community for your business to connect with.
As this platform is still growing, it continuously provides businesses the opportunities to connect with new audiences.
5. Less reliance on Facebook
Remember when Facebook had a global outage in October 2021? Billions of users were unable to access Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp for 6 HOURS. Businesses all over the world that heavily rely on these platforms lost their ability to communicate with customers. Ads stopped working and businesses couldn’t post content that were vital to their campaigns, resulting in a huge loss of sales.
Where did consumers go when this happened? TikTok, of course. During the outage, TikTok saw a surge of activity and businesses without an established TikTok presence lost the opportunity to take advantage of the increased activity to drive sales.
Businesses are slowly seeing that putting all their eggs all in one basket (i.e. relying solely on Facebook) is no longer an effective strategy. The Facebook outage proved that brands should be more open to diversifying their social media portfolio and investing resources into non-Facebook owned platforms.
What should you do next?
Am I saying that you should ditch Instagram and Facebook? Not all at, they still have their value but it’s clear TikTok is increasing in popularity. When fully embraced, it will provide your business better reach, engagement and conversions.
My advice is to use TikTok as an “outreach” platform and Instagram as a “nurturing” platform. Use TikTok to hook new audiences with fun videos and draw them in to join your community on Instagram.
So today, set up a TikTok account and start to follow brands and creators in your niche. Pay close attention to the ‘For You’ page (also known as the FYP) and observe the type of content that receives high views and engagement then start creating your own unique content based on the data.
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