How TikTok can help marketers reach younger consumers

The platform’s lighthearted, short-form content attracts Gen Z users, but just sharing ads from other channels won’t cut it. Here’s advice on embracing its special vibe and grabbing eyeballs.

Tiktok marketing

One of the fastest-growing social media platforms, TikTok has become the newest driver of cultural trends.

The platform is testing more advertising capabilities, with more brand managers establishing a presence and exploring new opportunities on it.

If you’re a marketer, you’re probably at least considering TikTok as a strategic move to reach the next generation of customers.

Still, just as marketers had a hard time optimizing the popularity of Snapchat, how do brands know whether TikTok is right for them?

First, what is TikTok?

it’s best known for its meme-like, short-form videos (between 15 seconds and a minute long) ranging from lip-syncing to creative content featuring dance, cosplay, comedy and more.

With over 30 million monthly active U.S. users, 69% of whom are 16–24 years old, the app’s users are highly engaged, spending an average of 46+ minutes per day on the platform, according to a recent pitch deck.

TikTok mimics other platforms’ interface and features, but its algorithm revolves less around the people you follow and more on content suggestions driven by artificial intelligence.

What’s in it for brands?

If you’re looking to target hyper-engaged Gen Z-ers and are willing to push the envelope to get to know your audience, TikTok could be the place to thoughtfully develop your brand presence.

Repurposing simple ads and/or sponsored endorsements doesn’t seem to cut it, but platform-tailored creativity—leaning into trends and showing off a brand’s lighter side—does.

How are brand managers investing in TikTok?

  • Challenge for change: With a high level of social awareness, Gen Z values cause-oriented companies. Leaning into the “good” of society, TikTok has become a place for users and brand managers to “inspire and encourage a new generation to have a positive impact on the planet and those around them,” often through challenges encouraging users to participate in a community- or brand-created trend, according to the TikTok website.
  • Drive community: The NFL launched a multiyear partnership to kick off its 2019 season, including a series of themed hashtag challenges to invite users to celebrate and experience NFL fandom in a new way. With star players like Tom Brady active on the app, a new generation of fans can connect around their favorite moments with their favorite players.
  • Shoppable experiences: The grocery store chain Kroger used a sponsored hashtag challenge, with placement on the Discover page, to introduce users to its own brand page, where they could shop for products using TikTok’s new e-commerce feature.
  • Authentic connection: Many media outlets like NBC and The Washington Post have built a presence not only to reach a new generation of readers on a platform where they’re already engaged, but also to showcase talent personalities through light, behind-the-scenes content.

Establishing an authentic relationship with this audience helps brand managers not only to keep viewers informed, but also to open discussion for larger, more meaningful stories through crowdsourcing user-generated content.

Still in its infancy, TikTok is proving its potential to reach a young, highly engaged demographic. Building an audience organically through a test-and-learn content approach, and leaning into platform-native behaviors such as challenges, would seem the best bet for brand managers testing the Tiktok waters.

A version of this post first appeared on MediaPost.

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