Digital Marketing

TikTok: the Complete Guide to the Most Creative Social Media of our Time

If we asked a millennial which apps he would never give up, what would he answer? Taking Instagram and Facebook for granted, the least expected answer is TikTok.

However,  the data collected tell us that TikTok has reached one and a half billion downloads since its launch in September 2016. In 2018 alone, TikTok was downloaded 663 million times. Just to give you a term of comparison, Facebook has been installed 711 million times and Instagram “only” 444 million times.

Anyone who defines TikTok as the “thirteen-year-olds’ social” is absolutely wrong.

It is true that many of the active users on the platform belong to the so-called Generation Z, but it is surprising to discover how, contrary to what you think, TikTok is the tool that many companies have focused on and continue to focus on in their marketing strategies.

Before telling you how to use TikTok for marketing purposes and show your brand in an effective and original way, let’s see how this social network was born, how it works and the reason behind its success, which is particularly stunning considered that TikTok is only 5 years old and has already broken so many records.

TikTok: the innovative idea of focusing on visual and multimedia content arrives from China

Developed by the Chinese company ByteDance, TikTok is a social network based on the creation of videos that last up to sixty seconds from a backing track.

Also known as “Douyin” in China, TikTok is a social network launched in its first version in September 2016, under the name of “musical.ly”, and it was an app that allowed users to share karaoke videos and choreography.

However, success came after September 2017, when ByteDance decided to combine the TikTok and musical.ly platforms through an update in order to expand the user base, while keeping the name of TikTok.

From that time on, TikTok users, known as “musers” or “tik tokers”, began their journey to success and popularity.

Today the platform has a very rich music catalog, which users can use as a background for videos of all kinds: there are comic pieces, challenges between users (gamification), clips that aspire to become memes, dance, lip sync and so on…

All of TikTok’s functions allow users to create videos that often reach several thousand views within few hours.

Imagine creating, in less than 5 minutes, a video of your latest product and allowing it to be seen by a thousand potential customers in the 24 hours after its uploading… It means you would have created your best advertising campaign ever.

TikTok focuses on images, multimedia, visual creativity and the ability to amaze, entertain and excite. All in less than one minute.

Creating an account

Like any other app, TikTok must be downloaded from the digital store (Apple Store or Play Store) and installed on your smartphone. When you first access the app, just press the “My” button and then “Register” to create an account. The procedure is simple and very intuitive:

  1. First of all, you will have to choose the name of your account : the one you have in mind may already be present and associated with other profiles in TikTok databases, but this is not a problem for registration purposes.
  2. Then you will have to decide which Username or tag to use, which must necessarily be unique for the new profile, because the latter is going to be the name your followers identify you with.
  3. You will be prompted to provide an email and to verify its existence. Subsequently, you will be provided with an alphanumeric password to access your profile.

At this point your profile is ready and you just have to personalize it adding some features and performing some actions according to what could be beneficial to your brand, such as:

  1. A profile image, centered and adapted to the required dimensions.
  2. Alternatively, you can upload a video profile: add a new one or choose one of those you previously published on TikTok.
  3. A clear and immediate biography that does not exceed 80 characters.
  4. Associate personal accounts already active on other platforms such as Instagram and Youtube to the TikTok profile.
  5. Start following your friends, acquaintances, followers, VIPs and idols, just like you would on Instagram.

The profile is now ready, but the best is yet to come: start creating original and visually striking content with TikTok!

TikTok’s strength lies in its graphics

The TikTok Dashboard, exactly like those of the social networks we are used to, is made up of several screens that can be selected from the horizontal bar at the bottom:

  • The first icon at the bottom left is called Home: on the TikTok Home, videos made by the users you follow will be displayed first in chronological order. Then will be displayed the contents of users who are not part of your following, but which, according to the analysis of TikTok, could be of your liking and that therefore you are advised to start following.

The same goes for your profile, your TikToks will also be shown on the home of users who do not follow you: here is one of the secrets of TikTok revealed!

  • The second icon on the left is called Discover, and, as both the name and the lens-shaped icon suggest, it is used to discover new users to follow and to find friends and acquaintances with the “search” function by their usernames. Furthermore, this screen allows you to stay up to date on the latest contests, the most recent challenges and the most popular filters, as well as on viral TikToks that you absolutely cannot miss!

Participating in challenges, using trending hashtags, commenting and reacting successful posts increases visibility and popularity of your profile and therefore provides you with visits and followers.

  • The first icon on the right – Me – is the one that refers to your TikTok,. From here you can create new profiles, edit existing ones, keep an eye on followers, likes and views of published videos.
  • In the nearest section, called Inbox, you will receive notifications about new followers, likes received or new trending challenges that may interest you. The paper plane, similar to Instagram DMs, at the top right, is the TikTok chat, where you can exchange private messages with other users.
  • the central button, the black, blue and pink button (characterizing colors of the TikTok theme) with the “+” symbol is the button you will use to create new content, which you will then publish on your profile.

Creating multimedia content and making it viral

The magic word to have success on TikTok is only one: creativity.

TikTok is loved because it allows everyone, even the less experienced in video making and video editing, to bring out their talent and give broad space to imagination.

The types of content that can be published on this platform are several. Let’s go and see some of them:

  • Sequence of images

A very popular form of TikTok, used especially at the corporate level, is the sequence of images. Sliding multiple images one after the other allows you to show multiple products or the same product from multiple angles.

Let’s see how to create an image sequence using the tools that the app provides:

  1. Choose photos: photos can be selected from the box at the bottom right (upload) by choosing the multiple option or by choosing pre-set photo templates. The choice of photos must also take into account the background music.
  2. Choose the music: once you have selected the photos you go to the video editing screen, where you can select a song or a background sound from TikTok’s music libraries, which are constantly updated with the best and latest music trends.
  3. Choose effects and transitions: in the effects section you can add visual effects such as “zoom”, “pixilated”, “aged effect” and many others. There is a wide range of stickers as well as different image transition and screen splitting modes.
  4. Add text or gifs: in the last two sections you’ll find the option to add text with several different fonts and styles that you can position where you desire on your images. The same goes for gifs.
  5. Add filters to images: images can also be edited with filters that work on brightness and saturation.
  • Live video and lipsync

The most innovative tool that has made TikTok an app for all tastes is the creation of unedited videos by  professional video makers.

TikTok videos cannot be longer than one minute, which is why the application offers two recording modes: one lasts 15 seconds and the other lasts 60 seconds.

Video can be recorded manually by holding down the center button or by setting a timer so that you have full freedom of movement.

In addition, you can change the recording speed by slowing down or speeding up the video up to a maximum of 3 times the original speed.

You can apply filters and effects while you’re recording, as well as select the song.

One of the most popular kind of video on TikTok is lip-sync. It involves creating a sketch that has a song, a voice of some famous person or a quote from a movie as the background sound, while you are playing it, perfectly synchronized, so that it sounds like your natural voice.

Caption, hashtag, tag: everything as on Instagram

The last step before publication consists, as on Instagram, in inserting a caption.

On TikTok as well it is important that the caption is captivating, smooth and direct.

TikTok is certainly not the right place for monologues. Short descriptions pay off in a social network mainly based on visual impact and which includes a description of up to 140 characters.

However, in order to produce a viral post, it is important to use popular hashtags. As for Instagram, the rule is not to choose overly inflated hashtags but try to re-enter niche hashtags that allow the post to appear among the first results for that particular category.

If the video is made with other users, they can be tagged in the caption. But be careful: TikTok does not allow you to tag yourself, so it is always better to use a hashtag to quote yourself.

At the end of the screen, the sharing options are shown: you can share your contents as Instagram and Facebook posts, Instagram stories and via whatsapp. The video will, of course, also be saved in your smartphone gallery.

TikTok for companies: transforming viewers into customers

Here we are at the focal point of using TikTok. Up to now we have only talked about the fun and the uniqueness of this emerging social network, but what are the real benefits for users and why are more and more companies also using TikTok for commercial purposes?

Food brands (Chipotle and The Bailey Bakery), beauty brands (Fenty Beauty, Mark Anthony and Hero Cosmetics) or clothing brands (Nike, Guess and Ralph Lauren) have created their own space on the platform. Not to mention Google and Coca-Cola, who are trying to establish themselves thanks to an intelligent mix of hashtags, videos and influential people. This kind of interactions usually generate a wave of new videos from users.

An opportunity for brands, once again, comes from influencer marketing.

While waiting to create their own content, shared with an entirely dedicated channel, companies can take advantage of famous and popular people to reach the public.

A healthy mix of content (created by the brand and generated by the influencer) is the best way to inform, entertain and engage your audience.

Whichever way you decide to use TikTok for marketing, one thing must be clear: creativity is a must.

The biggest mistake you can make is to use this social network simply by adding it to the list of channels you are already subscribed to. Copying and pasting the same posts that you post elsewhere is a waste of time that won’t generate any outcome!

If you want to reach the level of expertise of Generation Z, you have to get ready to go further, dare, reinvent yourself post after post. Or better yet TikTok after TikTok.

Having just one minute of time per content has both positive and negative consequences. While the short length allows you to prevent the video from being skipped because it is too long, or sent forward quickly (as often happens on Facebook or YouTube), on the other hand, expressing yourself in just 60 seconds is a challenge that is far from being easy.

This is even more so in a social network where being authentic is a must.

Creativity and authenticity: these are the two fundamentals on which to base your marketing strategy on TikTok.

Certainly, this is not exactly the easiest thing to do, especially when you manage a company and don’t have the time to devote to such activities. TikTok is effective if used consistently and if the feed is always updated and filled with new and captivating contents.

This is why this activity can be outsourced to a digital marketing agency which is able to create trending videos following the latest news and taking on new exciting challenges.

To reach your future customers you can continue to knock-knock on their door hoping they will open, or use TikTok to break in.