This past Sunday, the Wall Street Journal announced that the U.S. operations of the short-form video platform, TikTok, would be sold to Oracle Corporation. Oracle won the bidding war over Microsoft for this high-profile deal to allow TikTok to continue to operate in the United States. The Trump Administration had repeatedly threatened to close TikTok down over the summer, finally implementing a 45 day deadline in August that required TikTok’s U.S. operations to be sold by September 20th. The deal will now have to be reviewed by the Trump Administration, but it is known that Oracle is a rare ally of the Trump administration in Silicon Valley so there is a good chance for approval.
While we wait to see how this shakes out, I want to answer two important questions regarding TikTok.
- How did TikTok get to be so successful?
- Should your brand be on TikTok?
TikTok growth has been unprecedented – growing faster than either Facebook or Instagram. Since 2016, TikTok has grown to 800 million global users, with about 90 million in the United States. TikTok currently ranks 7th for social media platforms globally behind Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Instagram – and has more users than Snapchat, Pinterest and Twitter. Interestingly, the platform that TikTok most resembles is the defunct platform Vine, which limited users to 6 second videos. Twitter acquired Vine soon after it was founded in 2012 and saw it grow to 200 million active users. Surprisingly, in October of 2016, Twitter announced that it would be shutting Vine down.
TikTok’s success can be attributed to these features.
- Audience Interface: A user can just swipe up to see the next video which makes it more like Snapchat and Tinder rather than Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin.
- Creator Tools: Creators already have access to pre-loaded songs and videos – making it easier to use and faster to create videos.
- Content Limits: Videos are limited to 1 minute long and many are only 15 second or less which keeps the volume of videos watched and the engagement level high.
- Social Media Ecosystem: TikTok leverages their audiences’ other social media accounts as videos are being shared readily on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Instagram Stories has vertical integration just like TikTok, making it an excellent share vehicle. Many TikTok creators ask their audience to follow them other platforms especially Instagram but some of these requests were due to the fear this summer that TikTok would be shut down.
- New Shiny Object: TikTok was the new kid on the block a couple years ago and parents were not yet on TikTok, so kids flocked to a platform free from parental spying. About 41 percent of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24, with a sizeable percentage under 16 too.
- Duet and remix features: Creators can duet – create a split screen with the original content or remix the original audio with a new video which allows creators to provide additional layer of self-expression for the content.
- Powerful Algorithm: The platform uses AI to analyze user activity and who they are following to deliver a highly relevant and very addicting stream of videos.
Should Your Brand Be On TikTok?
Will many brands add TikTok to their marketing arsenal?
There is a growing groundswell of companies who have been successfully using TikTok to reach out to their audiences. Many of these companies are B2C but there is good potential for B2B marketers as well.
Here are few points to consider whether your company should get an account and to ensure success on TikTok.
- Is Your Audience There?: While TikTok skews younger than other platforms, there are people of all ages and interests.
- Can You Be Authentic?: Can your company create content that is honest and real? TikTok users don’t want to see generic, faceless, branded content focused on selling products and services. TikTok users want to see real humans, talking to the camera, creating entertaining, informational or personal content.
- Do You Have The Resources?: Does your marketing team have the resources to create unique content with real humans, talking to the camera, that is entertaining, informational or personal?
- Don’t Just Jump In: Before you start creating videos, get your marketing team on TikTok. Have them start watching and engaging with the videos. After a week or two, have them share what they have learn and how your brand should proceed.
- Follow The Leaders: Follow other companies and personalities are doing on TikTok for guidance, e.g. Washington Post, Spikeball, Gary Vaynerchuk, HP and ESPN.
- Hashtag Challenges: Creating a hashtag challenge is an easy way to generate user-generated content and can be leveraged across your company’s other social media platforms. Chipolte’s #ChipotleLidFlip challenge received over 104 million views and 111,000 video submissions, with over 59,000 participants contributing to the campaign.
- Have Fun: Just a reminder to get in the mindset.
Big news, we have just created our own TikTok channel! We are currently watching and learning before posting. Follow if you would like to see what we will create and we will follow back. Good luck with your company TikTok channel if your decide to jump in and please share your experiences.