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The TikTok FAQ for Brands: Understand the Assignment

TikTok in hand

As StoryStream announces its integration with TikTok, we take a look at the way brands are already making the most of the platform’s potential – and answer some of the most frequently asked questions from brands about TikTok along the way. 

TikTok is the fastest-growing social media platform in the world, boasting a monthly average user number comparable to Instagram (officially, that’s over one billion monthly average users).

For brands, TikTok presents a massive opportunity: access to an audience of content-savvy creators and consumers who spend an average of 52 minutes in the app. And while received wisdom would seem to hold that TikTok is the exclusive reserve of Gen-Zs and younger millennials … the sheer volume of users on the platform tells a different story: 53% of users in the USA are aged 30 and above (Statista).

StoryStream and TikTok

StoryStream recently announced the integration of TikTok content into our platform – giving brands the ability to curate TikTok content as part of their digital engagement strategy and bring both brand and influencer-created content into galleries and storyboards (and even make that TikTok content shoppable!).

Creating a TikTok strategy for your brand can make for a daunting brief – the quirks of the platform’s content (short form vertical videos that need to get to the point, like, now), the seemingly secret language of its users (TikTok has its own vocabulary e.g. to succeed, you’ll need to understand the assignment), and machinations of its algorithm (if you’ve yet to open the app to take a look around, beware: it’s a seriously captivating experience) can make for an alien, even overwhelming experience.

But fear not. There’s already so much we can learn from those brands that have gone before.

In this article, we’ll look at the brands already making the most of the opportunity presented by TikTok. Using real-world examples, we apply a lens comprised of three principles important to us here at StoryStream; principles that in themselves make for an effective starting point for any brand creating a TikTok strategy of their own: authenticity, engagement, and fun.

@porsche ✨Manifest with us.✨ @Tim Dessaint #Dreamtok #CarTok #fyp ♬ son original – Reuel Williams

Authentic: the importance of keeping it real 

The quickest way to arrive at a definition of what makes great branded TikTok content is by starting with what it definitely shouldn’t be: overly promotional, brand-centric, impersonal content. Nothing’s a bigger tune-out for TikTok’s discerning audience than brand content that screams “brand content.”

Good TikTok content:

  • Contributes to a conversation – it knows what’s trending and finds a unique POV within it. Timeliness is a key ingredient to success on TikTok, and the content that travels fastest is that which adds something to a story, trend, or meme.
  • Gets to the point fast – a TikTok can be anywhere from 1 to 180 seconds long, but unless you’re posting something that’s guaranteed to capture the interest of your audience (think: an exclusive, highly anticipated product launch) it’s best to keep it brief. Brands we’ve monitored get the most success from videos that are between 5 and 15 seconds in length.
  • Understands that personality is key. TikTok is a dynamic, diverse place – and a place where personality really resonates. For brands, this can mean a couple of things: 1) that your TikTok channel should have a real identity (and, by default, feature real people), and 2) that high-end production values aren’t just non-essential, they could actually be antithetical to success. Authenticity is key.

So, good branded TikTok content can end up looking and feeling very different from the content you’re posting on other channels. For an example of that, we can look at Cult Beauty.

In contrast to their Instagram channel – which is itself an elegantly curated mix of beautifully produced campaign content, “new in” announcements, and product previews – Cult Beauty’s TikTok has a decidedly more irreverent tone. The upshot: while both channels are undeniably expressions of the Cult Beauty brand, their TikTok feels a little different. And that’s OK (slash often genuinely funny).

@cultbeauty No but seriously… 🤔🧽 #skincare ♬ reading rainbow ft lil jon – Cursed Mashups

For more examples of authenticity translating well in branded content, check out: Body Shop UK (nails the authenticity angle through smart, trend-jacking content), and Mercedes AMG F1 (exclusive behind-the-scenes footage presented in a fresh, exciting and TikTok-friendly style).

Engaging: the nuts and bolts of getting noticed 

When it comes to frequency of posting, TikTok’s recommendation to brands is similar to that of other social networks: brands should aim to post every couple of days (i.e. 3-5 times per week) to keep their channel fresh, keep content in contention from an algorithm perspective, but not run the risk of overwhelming a user’s feed.

(If “reach” is your core KPI then you may want to consider using TikTok ads. It’s a good way to grow your following while you establish your brand’s channel, and won’t run the risk of bombarding your current following in the process.)

Hashtags are an important part of a brand’s TikTok strategy: they’ll help you to extend your reach beyond your following, and signal to the algorithm that it should consider serving your content on users’ feeds (there’s no guarantee here that a hashtag will boost the visibility of content, of course – the closest we can offer to a “silver bullet” for success is still “producing awesome content that resonates, regularly”).

According to TikTok, sticking to 2-3 (well-chosen) hashtags helps your posts perform best.

For an example of a brand that’s nailed the cadence of its content calendar and is using hashtags in a thoughtful manner, we can take a look at Grow Gorgeous’ TikTok profile.

@growgorgeoushaircare Behind the scenes of our April fools photoshoot with Fluffy✨ The newest member to the Grow Gorgeous team 💕#dayinthelife #dogsofttiktok #pomeranian ♬ Pieces (Solo Piano Version) – Danilo Stankovic

Grow Gorgeous posts every couple of days, typically hitting three posts per week. Their content, all presented with a disarmingly personal touch, is a thoughtful mix of tips, tricks and product previews. And although it’s less likely to catch the eye, the haircare brand’s approach to hashtags is equally worthy of mention: Grow Gorgeous switches it up depending on the nature of the post, really leaning into the idea of hashtags as helpful, shorthand descriptions of the content. Here are four recent hashtag examples:

  • #HairTutorial (20.3 billion views on content)
  • #HairTok (18.6 billion views on content)
  • #HairGrowthTips (800 million views on content)
  • And their own #gg4weekchallenge (580k views on content)

(Quick tip: you can search any #hashtag on TikTok to see how many views content carrying that hashtag has accrued – a quick way to gauge how popular, and how stiff the competition is likely to be.)

An honourable mention also to My Protein, whose content runs the gamut from meal prep ideas, memes, and hyper-timely “day in the life” content that’ll be only too relatable to anyone who’s ever set foot in the gym. A regular posting cadence and well-chosen hashtags are delivering excellent engagement numbers for MyProtein – plenty of food for thought!

Fun: the final frontier  

Creating a new social channel strategy from scratch isn’t an easy task – not least when the channel you’re talking about already comes with its own rules, lexicon, and quirks. But if there’s something that separates a great social media strategy from a merely good one, it’s giving your brand permission to be bold, brave, and to have some fun.

It’s useful here to cast your mind back a couple of yearst to TikTok’s entry into the cultural mainstream: dance challenges, memes, tests of skill (the water bottle flip challenge, for example). What these things have in common: they’re participatory, fun experiences that work as their own mini-CTAs. TikTok is a platform that prioritises that kind of content above all else – and brands considering their approach to the platform would do well to remember it.

A recent content series from Sainsbury’s is a brilliant example. The #GroceryGames give us a fun glimpse into life at Sainsbury’s … and use the challenge format to celebrate the team spirit of Sainsbury’s talented group of supermarket superheroes.

@sainsburys On your tills, get set, SCAN! 💨 Well done to all our colleagues taking part 🏆#GroceryGames #Sainsburys ♬ Horse racing pre-race fanfare(995940) – Kyosuke Sakuta

TikTok, TikTok everywhere

A crucial factor in TikTok’s rise to popularity was the sharability of its content. Users on platforms like Instagram and Reddit will tell you that, at some point in 2020, their feeds were inundated with content carrying the TikTok logo in the top left of the video. That’s because TikTok content is content that is designed to travel, to pop up in places you might not expect simply by virtue of that content’s inherent virality.

As StoryStream announce the integration of TikTok content (along with Instagram Reels) into the platform, we see a huge opportunity for brands to take advantage of that factor themselves. Through StoryStream, you can now bring brand-owned and influencer-created content into your galleries. There, you can make the content shoppable, connecting content to commerce in a couple of clicks.

TikTok might be jostling for top spot with Google in terms of monthly average visitors, but the fact is that it’s still early days for brands adapting to the platform. Here we’ve looked at one way to think through the challenge of setting a TikTok strategy for your brand – planning your content through the combined lens of authenticity, engagement, and fun.

To learn more about the integration, and how StoryStream can help you supercharge your on-domain social selling strategy, get in touch here.

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash