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TikTok continues its upward trajectory. In the U.S., Apptopia reports TikTok was the number-one downloaded app—with 94 million downloads in 2021, up 6% over 2020. It is currently the sixth most-used social platform in the world.

Of course, the view of TikTok is not all positive. Statista reports that in the U.S., 34% of adults hold unfavorable opinions of the app, compared to 37% who have favorable views. And true to the perception, TikTok is more popular with younger Americans: 59% of those ages 18-34 view TikTok favorably, compared to 40% of 25-44 year-olds and 31% of 45-64 year-olds. Check out this blog for more TikTok stats.

Why Small Businesses Should Pay Attention to TikTok

But perhaps the most crucial statistic for small business owners is that TikTok users spend—a lot. The State of Mobile 2022 report from Data.ai (formerly App Annie), “consumer spending on TikTok increased 77% in 2021. Overall, users spent $2.3 billion on the app, compared to $1.3 billion the year before.

The rise of TikTok is part of the increased importance of video content. So crucial that social media management tool Hootsuite recently announced it was teaming up with TikTok’s Marketing Partner Program, making it easier for businesses to scale their content on the social platform.

Maggie Lower, Hootsuite’s Chief Marketing Officer, says the partnership “has been much anticipated. We’ve seen video content grow into a powerful tool that successful [businesses] use to socialize with the world and have identified the pain points our customers face in creating this type of content.”

Despite all the positive stats, TikTok is underappreciated by many small business owners who don’t understand the platform and still consider it primarily a channel for teens. To learn how small businesses can take advantage of the platform, I talked to Hootsuite’s CMO, Maggie Lower.

Is TikTok “misunderstood”?

Maggie Lower: It’s not that the platform is misunderstood; instead, it’s a newer channel that users need to adapt to and put in the time to understand its evolution. The depth and breadth of TikTok’s influence have changed significantly since its inception. What started as a video platform used mainly for dance challenges has evolved into a network with significant social and cultural influence—opening a wealth of opportunities for individuals, creators, and businesses looking to connect with their audiences. 

An assumption I believe is common about TikTok is that it’s complex and too intimidating to succeed on. Businesses and individuals not comfortable with the platform think they’re not equipped to produce video content that will perform consistently. And the speed at which the trends change acts as a deterrent to getting on the platform in the first place—especially when paired with all the other social platforms users have to keep up with. The reality is that TikTok’s algorithm makes it easier for businesses to go viral or get discovered, regardless of their following or engagement, if they create TikToks, not ads. The goal is to entertain and connect, which builds brand recognition.

Do you think most businesses think it’s a site for teens?

Maggie Lower: While many still think of TikTok as a site for teens and dance challenges, others have quickly jumped into the hot trends on the platform, yielding great success. TikTok has grown to encompass every kind of content. Businesses and creators in any industry are guaranteed to find a community and attract consumers that align with their business goals. 

According to our Digital 2022 Report, most of the TikTok audience is Gen Z, with 42% of the audience aged 18 to 24. However, that still leaves over half of the platform’s audience to millennials, Gen X’ers, and baby boomers. Creative content inspires creative content. It would be a greatly missed opportunity for companies to disregard this new platform, which has grown tremendously and shifted the social landscape at lightning speed. 

Do businesses try too hard to go viral on the site?

Maggie Lower: One of the exciting things about TikTok is that the algorithm favors quality content. While everyone wants to make it onto the famous ‘For You Page,’’ going viral isn’t guaranteed—it boils down to authentic, engaging, likable, and creative content. 

New creators and surprising content can go viral on TikTok thanks to an algorithm that promotes discovery and fosters a universe of unique challenges and trends. Many brands are working with creators, but it’s essential to identify creators who are the right fit.

For years, influencers, many with massive followings, have dominated the social landscape. We’ve seen influencers selling brands on the idea of reaching large audiences through simple product placements or mentions in social posts. But, over the past few years, we’ve seen something new emerge. Some call it the creator economy, others the passion economy, but it’s a bit of a different approach.

I see creators as the next iteration of influencers. While influencers build a community around themselves, creators tap into online communities that are already established and create content specifically for them. In an influencer community, the influencer is the content. They are the product. They are the reason the fandom exists. In a creator community, the content is made to add value to the community. Creators are known for developing authentic and engaging content for their audiences and, above all, going the extra mile with their creativity.

If you take the right approach and work closely with creators adding value to the communities your audiences care about on TikTok, the results are priceless.

What are the first steps to creating an effective social strategy on TikTok?

Maggie Lower:

  1. Get familiar with TikTok 
    • Spend time watching TikTok videos. Explore the different trends and features of the app. Find out what challenges and songs are trending. 
    • Check out the top creators on TikTok and study how they collaborate with businesses. 
    • Don’t be afraid to get your feet wet. 
  2. Identify your target audience
    • Study the demographics and find out what communities or subgroups your audience is part of on the app. 
    • Then, research the communities and subgroups to find out what content resonates best with your target audience. 
  3. Align your goals with your business objectives 
    • Before embarking on the creative process, develop goals that align with your overall business objectives. Is it reaching a new audience your brand hasn’t tapped into yet? Or is it promoting a new product? 
  4. Research creators to find the right fit: Consider these rules when seeking the right creator for your [marketing efforts]
    • Relevance
      • The creator needs to have an audience that aligns with your target market. 
      • They need to share already content that is relevant to your industry. Otherwise, it isn’t a proper,  true fit. 
    • Reach
      • Determine the most appropriate reach based on the marketing campaign you’re running. 
      • Sometimes, a smaller reach is more appropriate, depending on your focus and goals. 
    • Resonance
      • Look for creators with high levels of engagement. If their content isn’t resonating with their audience, it’s likely your branded content won’t resonate either. 
  5. Get creative and collaborate: Be creative, have fun, and go with the flow. Above all, when you’re working on a creator-led campaign on TikTok, collaborate closely with the creator, and give them as much flexibility as possible while still protecting your brand. You’ll get the best value from their work by allowing them to showcase their skills.
  6. Track and measure your results: Tap into TikTok analytics to understand the campaign's value in terms of return on investment. From analyzing your results, you may uncover insights to inform future campaign strategies on the app. 

How does adding TikTok to their social channels for marketing help a small business?

Maggie Lower: TikTok has one billion monthly active users, making it the place to see and be seen, with ample opportunity for businesses to engage with audiences in a whole new way. Within the platform is an excellent sense of community, which is of utmost importance for small businesses looking to establish themselves and gain a loyal following. To drive meaningful engagement with audiences on TikTok, companies must challenge themselves, push the boundaries, and redefine what it means to be a part of a community.

As a place for people to create and express themselves in a unique and fun way, the TikTok algorithm's beauty is that engagement doesn’t matter how many followers you have—engagement favors quality content that resonates with people. This makes the platform a fair playing ground for all businesses. 

Limited ad budgets often challenge small businesses, so finding the right platforms to invest in based on your company’s objectives is critical. Interestingly, our 2022 Social Trends Survey found that 24% of marketers considered TikTok effective for reaching their business goals, compared to just 3% in the previous year—a 700% increase. Marketing through TikTok can help a business in many ways, including:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Building engaged communities
  • Selling products and services
  • Getting feedback from customers and audiences
  • Providing virtual customer service
  • Advertising products and services to target audiences

Do you need to craft a different type of message on TikTok than on other social networks?

Maggie Lower: TikTok is an entirely different social network with unique trends, features, and user behaviors. Creating content for TikTok requires a unique and tailored approach focusing on quick and snappy videos. As with all other social media accounts, each platform has a different demographic and algorithm, so a different approach is needed. However, you can still relay the same message—the only difference is the medium and type of content. 

TikTok is known for video content, short captions, and trending challenges. With increasingly shorter attention spans, it’s crucial users get their messages across quickly and double down on identifying their target audience so that the content reaches the right people. There are many opportunities, including trying trending sound effects, starting a dance challenge, and using quippy humor in your content. Here are some tips for creating content on the platform:

  • Find your subculture
  • Maximize the first moments of your video
  • Write a short, engaging caption
  • Create high-quality videos specifically for TikTok 
  • Post at the right time for your audience 
  • Engage with other TikTok users
  • Use the right hashtags 
  • Use trending sounds and music

Getting creative and experimenting with different types of content is key to finding the best way to relay your message to the right audience—the results are often quite surprising! 

Hootsuite has launched a culture guide and other tools to help businesses navigate the TikTok. And if you need more help integrating TikTok into your marketing plans, a SCORE mentor can help. You can find a mentor here

 

About the Author(s)

 Rieva  Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBusinessCurrents.com.

CEO, GrowBiz Media
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