What you need to know about using TikTok as a small business owner

TikTok is huge among Gen Zers, with active user numbers outpacing both Facebook and YouTube. But how do you know if it’s right for your small business? Check out our tips on how to work it out and how to get started.


Do you even Tok, bro?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past year, we bet you’ve heard of TikTok. Perhaps you’ve even posted a video or two dancing along to ‘Supaloney’ by Benee or doing the flip switch challenge. 

If you think TikTok is just a video sharing app for lip synching Gen Zers, think again. The app recently hit one billion monthly active users in the five years since it was launched by ByteDance in 2016. That is a record pace for social media platform growth. By comparison, Facebook took nine years to hit one billion users, Instagram around eight years and seven for YouTube. 

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TikTok’s rise to popularity has also attracted the attention of freelancers, solopreneurs and small business owners who have flocked to the platform to take advantage of the massive user base, powerful algorithm and easy video production tools. According to TikTok, 74% of users said that the app inspired them to find out more about a product or brand and 67% said that TikTok inspired them to shop even when they weren’t planning to do so. 

If TikTok isn’t high on your priority list for social media marketing, there’s a chance it should be. Here’s what small businesses and online retailers should know about this growing platform and how to best reach your audience through it.

 

Two ways to know if TikTok is right for your business


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  1. Are TikToc users your target market?

    First things first. Is TikTok right for your business? Like most social media platforms, you can surely make it work but should you?

    Despite becoming more widely used now, no one is more active and engaged on TikTok than the Gen Z demographic. The majority of TikTok users are between the ages of 16 and 24, and although all ages love a good scroll, you may have better luck reaching older audiences on Facebook or Instagram. If you’re targeting Gen Y, X, or Baby Boomers, Instagram’s ‘Reels’ is just as good of a video editing and posting tool.

  2. Is the media style on-brand for your business?

    Secondly, TikTok’s explosion comes down to the fact that it is predominantly an app for entertainment – so leave the polished, curated stuff to Instagram. On TikTok, users spend most time on the ‘For You’ page, instead of a ‘feed’ or ‘timeline’. The ‘For You’ page is essentially an endless scroll of recommended content based on your previous activity (be it likes, comments, and shares) or what is trending locally and worldwide. The longer someone watches a video, the more likely it is that TikTok will recommend the video to others. Therefore, content has to have that ‘wow factor’ and the videos that work best are often novelty and comedic, educational, or super aspirational. Think: bizarre facts, life hacks, pranks, DIYs, or dance challenges. If your business is more cool, calm, and collected than loud and proud, TikTok may not be the right fit for you.

    TikTok should be used as a tool to build brand awareness and increase discovery. Although TikTok has recently launched in-app eCommerce feature TikTok Shopping, the app is not designed to be a shopping platform. So if your main objective is to generate direct sales, TikTok may not be the best basket to put all your eggs in.

 

Make TikToks not ads


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Advertising works a little differently on TikTok. For most businesses on the app, creating organic, high-quality content may be enough to reach their target audiences. 

However, should you have some advertising moolah to spend and you’re convinced TikTok is where it's at, TikTok offers four different types of advertising with one piece of advice: Make TikToks, not ads. These ads include:

  • Infeed Native Content: Similar to Instagram Story ads where videos appear on a user's feed in between organic content. 
  • Brand Takeovers: This is where brands can ‘take over’ TikTok and have their videos appear first thing when a user opens up the app
  • Branded Hashtag challenges: Brands here can sponsor hashtags and create challenges for TikTok users to participate in.
  • Branded Lenses: Brands can create visual effects and invite users to use them in their own videos.

 

Hack the hashtags


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Just like on Instagram and Twitter, using hashtags on TikTok are a way to create and find content by category and to attract users to your videos. The most popular hashtags for small business owners are:

  • #smallbusiness
  • #entrepreneur
  • #smallbusinesscheck
  • #sidehustle
  • #supportsmallbusiness
  • #smallbiz

 

Power of the partnership


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Partnerships are a powerful way to combine the best of both worlds to boost reach, connections, and content. TikTok’s Creator Marketplace is the official collaboration platform that connects brands with a pool of content creators, influencers, and storytellers. Many small businesses use third-party influencer management and community tools, so with this platform, TikTok is cutting out the middleman to bring partnerships in-house. This streamlines processes such as payments, tracking, and reporting and improves the whole ‘Was it worth it?’ evaluation. Creator videos are also twice as effective as non-native promotional content.

 

Go viral

Another advantage that TikTok has over other social media platforms is that you don’t need to accumulate followers for your content to be viewed. On TikTok, views come first and followers come after thanks to their very powerful and, at times, freakish, algorithm. 

You can hack the algorithm and get your videos onto more For You pages by keeping a finger on the pulse of the platform. By using the same trending backing track or music you can piggyback off viral videos and increase your chances of being picked up by the algorithm. 

The first few seconds of a video are also important. Get rid of the waffly introduction and cut straight to the chase. Bold text can hook your audiences in quickly so they know exactly what they’re in for.

Blog-Illustration-Go-viral

 

The clock is ticking

All in all, TikTok is a fun marketing tool that can feel more like play than work. The possibilities are endless on TikTok and it can be a nice break from the highly curated nature of Instagram or the limited creative potential of Twitter or Facebook. The time to ride the TikTok popularity wave is now. Good luck and who knows…you might just be the next big TikTok star.


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