The next Instagram? Five ways small businesses can use TikTok

Linktree co-founder Alex Zaccaria.

New social media platform TikTok is experiencing rapid growth and businesses around the world are starting to take note.

It’s not surprising when you see the stats: the TikTok app has been downloaded 1.5 billion times in 150 countries. One of the platform’s most defining aspects? Its overwhelming number of Gen Z users; 41% of some 800 million monthly users are aged between 16 and 24. 

Hyper-creative, short-form and shareable mobile video content is at the heart of TikTok. With lip-syncing and dancing set to music, you only need to spend a couple of minutes watching today’s trending TikTok videos to feel firsthand the shift away from highly-curated content. 

There are currently only a handful of well-established brands succeeding on the channel. From fast-moving consumer goods to luxury brands, these businesses are embracing the new content format, exploring a light-hearted and fun side of their brand. 

But TikTok isn’t just for big business. With low brand saturation in Australia, the platform is ripe for small businesses to get in early, and test and learn different creative approaches before the channel reaches inevitable saturation. 

Here are five ways small businesses can use TikTok to reach a younger audience and grow their brands. 

1. Show a different side to your business 

Leave your polished, aspirational content on Instagram and your thought leadership on LinkedIn. TikTok content is ultra-creative, raw and funny. ‘Creators’ (the name given to all TikTok users) don’t take themselves too seriously. 

The TikTok app provides a suite of video editing features — think transitions, slow and fast motion, text overlay and music — that enable even the most amateur user to create visually engaging content straight from their smartphone. 

With 6.6 million followers, the NBA is one of the most-followed channels on the platform. Its page, and those of individual teams like the @Hornets​ and @laclippers, have led the way on TikTok, highlighting a more humorous side to the sport. Video content often features stand-out slam dunks or game highlights, but also funny videos of excited fans, team mascot antics, and creative song and dance choreography by cheer squads. 

When approaching TikTok, consider the values of your brand and the diversity of your product offering to identify an opportunity to build brand affinity with today’s youth. It could be highlighting staff individuality, showcasing ‘behind-the-scenes’ footage, or bringing an ordinary aspect of your brand to life through music and motion. 

2. Test and learn what works in a low-risk environment 

It’s early days for brands using TikTok. Among those driving strong engagement on the channel are well-known big players like Chipotle, Guess, Apple Music, Netflix, and Coke. 

Within Australia, there are only a small handful of brands that have committed to a TikTok content marketing presence. One of those brands is the AFL, which launched its Aussie Rules​ page in September 2019 and currently has 23,000 followers. 

The AFL has used its page to dabble in different TikTok content formats; the brand had great success with its first post (a video of Gold Coast Suns player Will Powell singing TLC’s ‘Waterfall’) before going on to explore other content themes and formats. 

TikTok Aussie Rules

Source: TikTok

Defining your different content themes on TikTok is one of the first steps to launching your brand on the platform. These content pillars help diversify your content and showcase different brand assets, while allowing you to test and learn what works best. You might even find you have content on existing social channels that can be creatively translated for TikTok. 

Once set, consider video views, likes and comments as your key measures of success. Over time, the better performing content can be identified and further explored, and lower performing content can be minimised. With such low-brand saturation on TikTok today, brands have a rare opportunity to experiment with varied creative approaches, while users continue to define what will become best practice on the platform. 

3. Participate in what’s trending and gain organic reach 

The TikTok dashboard makes it easy to discover the most trending hashtags, challenges and creators. TikTok challenges are one of the most popular content trends on the platform and almost always involve a song. A challenge is a video format that users can iterate and personalise. 

Starting a viral hashtag or TikTok challenge on your own won’t be easy, but tapping into existing hashtags or challenges can help drive organic awareness of your content and page, and reach new audiences. It’s also a great way to explore how your brand may approach its content creation, tone of voice and style, without having to define your own native content. 

4. Make the most of your links 

In 2019, TikTok started testing ‘link in bio’ capabilities in the US with select users, prioritising TikTok influencers and active brands. These TikTok creators can add links in their bio, enabling more commercial options for brands to drive social commerce. 

While not all global TikTok users currently have the ability to add a ‘link in bio’ to their TikTok account, it hasn’t stopped them from driving followers to the platform from other social platforms. For example, of Linktree’s 3.6 million users, an ever-growing number are using their Linktree page, which houses all of their online content in a single link, to connect audiences from other social platforms to their growing TikTok presence. 

The roll-out of social commerce is one of the biggest digital trend predictions of 2020. As TikTok continues to grow, the roll out of its ‘link in bio’ feature will provide an opportunity for brands to monetise online sales across multiple social channels. 

5. Cross promote with other businesses 

Collaboration and user-generated content (UGC) make up the backbone of TikTok cultural currency and TikTok’s ‘duet’ feature makes content collaborations with other creators easy. Having other users participate in your challenge or replicate your video is one of the greatest wins for brands participating on the channel today. 

As a small business, there is an opportunity to find like-minded brands or other business within your community to co-create content and reach a wider, combined audience. 

If you’re a small business looking to reach a new, Gen Z audience, then TikTok could be an extremely valuable marketing tool, both now and in the future. The sheer size of its audience means that as it continues to evolve, it will only further establish itself as a leader and disrupter in the world of social media.

Small businesses that jump on board not only have the potential to reach an extensive audience but they just might have a bit of fun in doing so! 

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