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It’s no secret that TikTok has quickly become a front-runner among the platforms brands consider building a presence on. Once regarded as an entertainment app for dancing teens and lipsyncing videos, TikTok has evolved into a platform for authentic storytelling, discovery and cultural conversations — and as a result, a strategic channel for brands to add to the marketing mix. And for a good reason — users spend an average of 95 minutes on the app daily. The platform’s demographic is gradually expanding beyond Gen Z to include more age groups. And of course, the type of content that TikTok’s algorithm favors is inherently raw and organic, with built-in social proof and the ability to foster consumer trust.
Getting TikTok right, however, is not as easy as it seems. For one, the platform is getting more and more saturated by the day. With TikTok’s increase in popularity, many brands have flocked to the platform, making it harder to break through the noise and capture the desired audience’s attention. Additionally, success on TikTok means capturing the platform’s “unpolished” zeitgeist and pushing the boundaries of the brand’s “curated” identity to join the conversations as an equal participant — which for a lot of brands, can be a difficult step to take.
Here are six key strategies that can help you truly master the art of TikTok as a brand.
1. Entertain and educate first, sell second
While TikTok can be a powerful growth channel, its DNA differs from other social platforms and requires a less promotional approach. When it comes to growing on TikTok, content is key — and consumers evaluate brands based on their ability to deliver value first. As a brand, it’s critical to understand that users log onto the platform for entertainment and are easily antagonized by promotional content that interrupts this experience. This means that brands need to focus on content that builds a connection with the end user by providing immediate value — and drives brand recognition at the top of the funnel.
When creating content for TikTok, ask yourself: are you putting the consumer at the heart of this video? What is the immediate benefit the audience gains from your content (entertainment, education, or both)? Are you leading with a specific offering you want to sell, or are you tackling a concern that you can solve for the user?
2. Tap into creators to tell your brand story
Effective storytelling and a strong personality can make or break a brand’s TikTok strategy — and it’s important to engage the right talent to tell your brand’s story in the most impactful way. There are many ways to work with creators: you can hire an in-house, full-time creator who will “own” the continuous production of content; you can also build partnerships with creators in your vertical to tap into their communities and increase your brand’s social validation.
Whichever route you go down (or if you consider a combination of the two), you essentially collaborate with creative masterminds who will help you develop the creative direction of your brand through their unique narration skills, video editing style and approach.
3. Build a content strategy that uses your brand values as a foundation
Contrary to many misconceptions, success on TikTok is not about haphazard posting to see what sticks. Just like your content strategy across other content marketing channels (I hope!) follows a pillar strategy, your TikTok content should also build on a framework that ties directly back to your brand’s positioning, unique value proposition(s) and differentiators.
Ask yourself: what values do you stand for as a brand? What are the key issues you want to solve for the consumer? What are the specific offerings you have that solve these issues? Then consolidate your answers into 3-5 content categories to draw ideas from, and experiment with what resonates with your audience.
4. Create content with TikTok SEO in mind
Because the content on TikTok is socially validated and driven by authenticity, more users (particularly Gen Z) turn away from Google and towards TikTok to search for what they need. In fact, 40% of Gen Z already prefer TikTok and Instagram to Google due to the word-of-mouth nature of the results. Paired with the fact that TikTok is a discovery platform first rather than a social media app, it’s important to remember that your goal should be to improve your discoverability. TikTok SEO can help you create content more intentionally and rank higher for your audience’s search queries. As you build your content strategy, identify key terms and keywords that you’d want to rank for and what people are already searching for — and include those in your caption, hashtags, text overlays and even the script and closed captions.
5. Lean into trends, larger cultural discussions and moments
The key to cracking the code on TikTok as a brand is knowing how to plug into trends and cultural conversations on the platform — and to do so without being overly promotional. To this end, social listening is essential to building a solid TikTok presence. Whether it’s through music trends (like the “It’s Corn” Song), video editing trends (like transitions), or commentary on larger topics that circulate on the platform that you have a unique stance on, focus on connecting the dots between your brand’s area of expertise and the video format you pursue.
6. Leverage Spark Ads for more reach
TikTok’s Spark Ads format essentially “boosts” an organic piece of content, provides more reach for the videos you post and gets your brand in front of your desired audiences. Keep in mind that the organic creative will determine the success of your paid media efforts: it’s crucial to maintain an authentic, educational or entertaining approach to your short-form videos to avoid losing your audience’s attention with “ads that feel like ads.”