Your kids are using it, your dogs have profiles on it, but you just don’t understand what TikTok is. If that sounds like you, I’ll tell you that you’re not alone.
TikTok started out as an app that kids loved and adults loved to hate. But are brands now making money from it?
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a Chinese social network that focuses on sharing short video clips to other users through a feed. You may know TikTok by its original name, Musical.ly. It launched under that name in 2014, but was then bought by ByteDance and relaunched as TikTok in 2016. This relaunch moved the app from a lip syncing app, to a broad social media platform now used by millions.
The social media platform allows its users to easily take videos, add voice overs and filters, and publish all within a few minutes. TikTok videos can last anywhere from a few seconds, to upwards of a minute long, but 15 seconds is defined as the magic number.
Since the launch of TikTok, there have been discussions as to whether it can be used successfully for marketing purposes. After researching a few top brands on TikTok (and possibly getting distracted by cat videos), I discovered how these 5 brands are using TikTok and have given insight into why they may be succeeding (or not succeeding).
The NBA have over 10.3 million followers on TikTok. They were early adopters of the app and have used it to their advantage ever since. When scrolling through their videos, you can see a mix of highlights from basketball games, to humorous videos of mascots, team members and fans dancing and completing challenges.
10.3 million seems like a lot, but the NBA haven’t created their following just by chance. They have at least seven full-time employees dedicated to creating content for TikTok. That’s more than many companies I have worked with have for all their social media accounts.
The trick that the NBA have used with their TikTok strategy is to remove the serious side of stats and games, and instead focus on the more personal side of the game. It allows the audience to see the players behind the scenes, making the athletes more relatable to you or me. When you watch their videos, you see the players personalities, and feel like you know them on a personal basis.
Of course, every time someone watches one of their videos, it is promoting the NBA, whether it be by watching a highlight of a game, or by hearing a players voice, it’ll great memories in the viewers head which in turn should transform into ticket sales and other forms of income.
Nickelodeon has found a way to not only target its current, younger audience, but it has also managed to stay in touch with it’s older, adult audiences too. With over 6.7 million followers, I must say they’re doing something right.
Nickelodeon regularly post funny clips of their new shows, as well as nostalgic clips of older shows that keep those older followers happy. This is a great way to bring in followers, as it encourages sharing through other forms of social media, particularly with the nostalgic videos.
The third angle that Nickelodeon use to bring in followers is posting a behind the scenes look at its actors and offices. If you’re a regular follower of their account, you’ll see actors and employees completing well-known TikTok challenges and playing pranks.
Nickelodeon’s goal is to increase their audience. Whether it be the audience of new TV shows and films, or old, it doesn’t matter. Their money comes from views, purchases, and merchandise. When people watch the clips from any of their shows, they are more likely to choose that show next time they switch on the TV.
Red Bull (@redbull)
Red Bull have used TikTok in a slightly different way than many other brands on the app. Instead of posting regular original content, they rely on user generated content (UGC) to create their posts. Using the hashtag #GivesYouWings, Red Bull re-posts videos of people doing crazy/dangerous stunts. This works perfectly alongside their other marketing campaigns worldwide.
If you look really closely at the videos on their page, most of them have the Red Bull branding on them, either through product placement of the drink, or branded skateboards/clothing. This is what encourages sales of the drink and brings income for Red Bull.
UGC is often an overlooked form of marketing due to inconsistencies in content, but with 3.9 million followers, it must be working for them.
As a retail company, most people would imagine that Gymshark’s social media tactics would focus more on selling. However, with TikTok, some brands have quickly realised that it’s about engagement and giving a voice to the brand, not pushing sales on customers.
Gymshark has a highly respectable 1.7 million followers on TikTok. Now, that’s not the highest, but for a retail brand, it’s pretty good. They attract their followers in a similar way that Red Bull does – re-posting content. And much like Red Bull, nearly all of the videos on their profile feature their products in some way, usually by the person wearing the Gymshark brand.
You’ll often find home workouts and challenges on their feed, which really encourages engagement. Home workouts are are particularly good feature for fitness companies, as viewers tend to save these videos for later, reminding them of the brand.
Apple Music (@applemusic)
Somehow I can never write a list of brands without mentioning Apple. This time, it’s not Apple’s physical products that are being discussed, it’s their software, Apple Music.
Normally I wouldn’t include any brand with less than a million followers on a list like this, but with 194,000 followers on TikTok, Apple music does things very differently to the above brands.
Apple Music uses TikTok to directly advertise their streaming service. They use music videos and interviews/promotional videos from artists to encourage their viewers to listen through the app.
Now, I know I just said that Apple Music have over 194,000 followers on the platform (which looks great on paper), but for one of the top 10 companies in the world, you’d think that following would be higher. This could be that they have approached TikTok in the wrong way.
Users on TikTok don’t want to be advertised to, they want to be entertained. Showing promotional videos for songs and music videos may not be the way forward. Apple could look at promoting in so many other ways on the platform, such as through user videos from the latest iPhones, or letting their audience have a behind the scene look of Apple HQ.
But I’ll let you be the judge of that.