The Thing About TikTok

Group of people at a table look at different social media icons.

Increasing engagement and improving outreach is a constant quest for organizations. For a lot of businesses, that can mean trying something new online – which means we need to talk about TikTok.

When the world went into lockdown in the spring of 2020, the short-form video platform saw an unprecedented explosion in downloads of users as everyone was looking for something to pass the time at home. Fast forward two years (and a near ban) later and TikTok has matured into a serious heavy hitter in the social media ecosystem.

Which brings us to the question: do you need to learn how to do trendy dances to grow your business in 2022? Probably not. But depending on your brand, TikTok might be worth the investment.

Should your brand be on TikTok? It depends.

Truly, the answer here is maybe. TikTok—like all other social media platforms—can be a great way to connect with your customers and target audiences. But like any other platform, your success on the app depends on several key questions:

  1. Is your audience there?
  2. Do you have the time and resources to dedicate to building your brand?
  3. Are you willing to learn the platform and community norms to be successful?

Let’s take a quick look at each of these questions.

1. Is your audience on TikTok?

By the end of 2021, TikTok reportedly has 1 billion monthly active users worldwide, with up to 100 million monthly users in the US alone. Of those users, by far the single largest group on the platform is Gen Z, with 47.4% of active US users between age 10 – 29. And users of all ages report spending significant time on the app daily. “Globally, the average time spent on TikTok per day is 52 minutes, with 90% of users accessing it on a daily basis” (Backlino).

So, if your target audience is under 30 and you’re not using TikTok, you absolutely need to consider making the platform a key part of your 2022 strategy. But for businesses looking to reach an older audience or more specific professional groups, TikTok may not be the best use of your time. Which brings us to our next question.

2. Do you have the time and resources to spend on TikTok?

Like any other social media platform, success on TikTok comes down to what you’re willing to put into it. The app’s built-in video recording and editing capabilities mean there’s a lower barrier to entry than a lot of video-based content options. However, like all other platforms, TikTok has its own unique quirks, culture, and norms. Success on the platform depends on your ability to churn out a lot of content and engage heavily with other videos, users, and popular creators within your niche.

In other words, you can’t plan to make one video a week, post it, and walk away on TikTok. Brands that have found success to date on TikTok have both a heavy posting and engagement strategy. And, of course, they stay out of their resident TikTok expert’s way.

3. Are you willing to learn the TikTok culture?

In the past, branded social media has largely been restricted to staying within the brand’s designated lane and messaging. To succeed on TikTok, brands generally have to take more of a risk.

In the case of one of the more recent successes—language learning app Duolingo—letting their TikTok account run wild wasn’t just a one-off attempt at fame but rather the entire strategy. Their “unhinged” approach was a gamble that most companies would be hesitant to try, but in this case it paid of wildly.

Similarly, when The Washington Post dedicated significant resources in 2018 – when TikTok was still a very new “fad” – it was seen as an insane gamble on a platform that may or may not last through the year. Fast forward to 2021, the newspaper now has three full-time staff members focused on TikTok content creation.

Does this mean that to succeed on TikTok you need to hire a full-time creator? Not necessarily. But you do need to be able to set time aside to immerse yourself in the app’s community, norms, and trends if you want to have a shot at success. Which can often mean hiring someone already deeply ingrained in the platform’s daily workings.

Bottom Line

Yes, TikTok is a force to be reckoned with. And yes, there are a lot of people using the app. But like any other social media platform, it’s not the right fit for every single brand. Social media is never a quick and easy solution to all your marketing needs; it only works when well-integrated with other activities.  Like any other platform, success on TikTok depends on doing the work ahead of time to identify your audience and figure out where and how they want to engage with you.

Not sure where to start with that part? We can help!

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