How to walk the walk with TikTok: tips for connecting and securing engagement on the video-driven so

This blog post was written on behalf of awesome video making platform maker Wochit, and published on April 16th, 2020.

While Gen Z’ers may be difficult to grasp by those who aren’t Gen Z, and while the value of 15-second videos for promoting brand awareness and loyalty may be just as difficult to grasp – the truth is, both are intriguing, and understanding each can be very valuable for businesses.

And, where can we get started on our journey to comprehension? TikTok, the place where Gen Z and 15-second videos intersect.

Sometimes called the social network for amateur music video makers, simply put – TikTok is a short-form video making and sharing app. Creators can easily create their wares and leverage a variety of tools such as filters, sound, and scores. And, viewers can scroll up and down to explore and view an endless slew of new videos.

Viewer engagement

Engaging with videos is a big part of the TikTok experience. This is done not only through liking, as with ‘old-timers’ Facebook and Instagram. Rather, engagement is often done by means that can’t be seen or done on other platforms. For example, users can create “duets,” in which users re-enact an existing popular video and place it (vertically) side-by-side in split screen videos for a whole new video of themselves in a “duet” with the original creator.

#Hashtags

Another prominent player in the TikTok ecosystem is the hashtag, which functions to organize users around what’s trending in TikTok (vs. the outside world).

These trends can include new dance moves or challenges, among others.

Numbers to blow your mind

And with all this seemingly simplistic framework – TikTok has taken the world by storm:

  • 800 million active users worldwide

  • Nearly 2 billion downloads

  • ~52 minutes spent by users on the app every day

  • 90% of users log in daily

With numbers as powerful as these, brands and publishers, and anyone with an audience, readership, viewership, customer, or client – would be well served to take note and to take the time to understand:

  • Why is TikTok the coolest social network on the block

  • What is the stuff of the most popular videos on TikTok

  • How can TikTok be used to drive brand awareness, customer loyalty, and revenues

The coolest social network on the block

We would think that maybe it’s the short form of TikTok videos that makes it easy for generations with shorter attention spans to connect and to want to come back to connect more and more.

We might also think that it’s about the exciting, spontaneous, and authentic contents that populate these videos.

It is. But that’s not what it’s all about.

The two uniquely powerful forces that come into play when it comes to TikTok’s popularity is:

  1. TikTok is empowering

  2. TikTok gets you

They got the power

TikTok provides users with an accessible tool that empowers them with self-expression in a way that is profoundly easy to create and distribute.

All they need is a phone and a bit of creativity to produce a video that has the potential to set fire to the social networksphere.

Among the features the app lets users control are:

  • Speed, both for slow motion and high-speed

  • AR filters, like the ones the folks at Snapchat have taught us to love so well

  • Auto-record countdown for the hands-free filming experience

  • Music overlays and/or sound effects

  • Stickers and text overlay

I get *you*

But, as noted, there’s something else about TikTok . . . it gets you.

“What’s both crucial and easy to miss about TikTok is how it has stepped over the midpoint between the familiar self-directed feed and an experience based first on algorithmic observation and inference.” (New York Times)

Right when you open the app the first words you see are “For You.” What drives the feed you scroll through is an algorithm that monitors the videos you have watched and engaged with. The algorithm is constantly learning what you choose to watch and will continue to feed you with an endless pipeline of only the kinds of videos that will interest you.

The more you like and engage, the better the algorithm gets to know you, and the more attuned to your likes will your TikTok video feed be.

And, in addition to it being about you, it’s also about the community of those just like you. If a first group of users likes a particular video, the algorithm will push this video to the feeds of others like you. This is how the über-virality of some TikTok videos is born.

The stuff of great TikTok videos

Knowing how to work your way around the basics is important. But, what’s more important for those targeting customers, clients, readers, etc., is to understand what is the stuff that makes for über-viral TikTok videos.

When looking at the most popular TikTok videos, we see that they all have some basic elements in common:

  • The right music, using popular music in the background.

  • Hashtags, using trending hashtags to help get found and to help the TikTok algorithm understand to which feeds this video should be sent.

  • Copying other users, which is perfectly acceptable on TikTok and in some cases even encouraged. Though this tactic must come with your own personal spin.

  • Duets, as mentioned, this is a popular type of video which can also help one extend their video’s reach.

  • Humnor, TikTok likes funny.

Not just for learning the latest dance moves

“Teens see TikTok as a home for pure, unfiltered entertainment. Brands, on the other hand, are watching it like a shiny new penny.” (searchengineland.com)

With the raw, empowering, and authentic appeal of TikTok, the app is presenting brands with an unprecedented opportunity to tap into the Gen Z consciousness and meet it at eye-level.

This generation impacts the buying patterns of their parents and comprises the next generation of consumers. The sway of Gen Z is both directly and indirectly powerful. Its economic influence is both present and just waiting to blossom.

Establishing a brand presence, nurturing loyalty, and building a customer base within this group is a job for the now, not for the later.

Done right, TikTok can be a great platform for brands, both through organic distribution through a TikTok account as well as through advertising.

Original content

Before venturing off to a TikTok creative brainstorm session, brands should first answer these two questions:

  • What is our goal? How can this platform meet our needs and is TikTok really relevant to our brand essence and promise?

  • Do we have the time and right resources? It’s important to make sure it’s done right. Alienating the TikTok audience due to a lack of authenticity and relevance is easy, and the repercussions are hard. A poorly performing TikTok account can do more harm than good.

Advertising on TikTok

There are four types of advertising options for brands.

  • Brand takeover: where a brand can use an image, GIF, or video to dominate a specific topic for one day.

  • In-feed native video: that shows up on the “For You” page.

  • Hashtag challenge: the brand can sponsor a hashtag to encourage user-generated content which is intended to engage users and attract influencers.

  • Branded lenses: (i.e. AR filters) allowing brands to create 2D or 3D lenses for users to try out.

It’s important to note that TikTok advertising is still in the experimental stage. Moreover, these campaigns don’t come cheap, requiring $10 per CPM (cost per thousand impressions), where:

  • Branded takeovers average $50,000 - $100,000

  • Hashtag challenges come in at $150,000 flat fee per six days and an additional $100,000 to $200,000 to promote the challenge.

Though, in-feed ads, which start at $50/day, do present a more cost-efficient option.

Getting it right

Regardless of which path you choose to take, there are some tips that are worth keeping in mind when creating videos for TikTok:

  • Create videos that walk the TikTok walk: these videos must look, feel, and sound as though a TikTok user had actually created them. A corporate tone of voice won’t do.

  • Use comedy to get your message across. Comedy is wildly successful on this platform.

  • Use music, videos with popular songs are the top watched videos on TikTok.`

  • Copycat, copy competitors and your audience, on TikTok – it’s really ok.

  • Pace, keep it light and fast.

  • Frequency, post regularly, stay relevant.

  • Optimize, analyze views and engagements and adjust/adapt contents as needed.