Using TikTok for Business: A Young, Cool Guy Schools Me
Age is nothing but a number. It only matters how young you feel. The platitudes go on, but as people get older, it’s generally accepted that they lose touch with what’s cool to younger generations.
Technically, I’m a millennial. Being born at the cusp, however, means I’m in a super special subset referred to as “elder millennials” or even “geriatric millennials” (thanks, internet). As such, I am slowly losing sight of what’s cool—including social media trends—despite trying to stay informed.
TikTok is one of those things that I’ve known about for years but never got into. To me, it is all silly dances and young people being young. What relevance could it possibly have to the business world?
I recently spoke to a friend on the other end of the millennial range to help me understand. Patrick Maercklein, a marketing specialist at Employment Enterprises, is young and cool. His explanation of Tiktok and its potential for business use was enlightening, and now I’m passing those tips on to other geriatrics like me!
What Even is TikTok?
With 689 million active users worldwide, it would shock me if you’ve never heard TikTok mentioned. If you watch Instagram reels, you’ve likely even seen repurposed content from TikTok. While I’ve been out of the loop, I’ve at least been near it.
TikTok was created in China in 2016 and was originally called Douyin. The company then acquired a lip-sync app called Musical.ly in 2017 and started gaining traction in the United States. TikTok took off in popularity due to trendy dances that users copied and shared. Over time, and with rapid adoption, content has evolved to—as Patrick says—”anything and everything.” (If you want to go down a rabbit hole, there’s a longer history by Big 3 Media that covers the app in depth.)
“In simple terms it’s a video platform that is the inverse of Instagram.” Patrick explains. “Instead of your feed being filled with people you follow, TikTok is the opposite. Your go-to feed is other people’s videos and then the algorithm mixes in content from people you’re following.”
I already have Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts that I interact with every day. So I asked Patrick, why should I get TikTok? “Because it’s less of a social media platform with your connections and more entertainment,” he replies. In essence, it’s tailored to you but it’s not curated content by your friends.
How Do You Create a TikTok Video?
To create a TikTok, you can either upload video from your camera roll (on a smartphone) or shoot video within the app. “TikTok has a very basic video editor with lots of available effects as well as a library of sounds (music, sound clips, etc.), says Patrick. The app tells you what sounds are trending so you can capitalize on the music of the moment. You can also save sounds for later when you’re viewing a video and like what you hear. (Pro Tip: Using the right sounds has a lot to do with how well your posts perform. If you’re using a trending sound, the algorithm is more likely to put your video in front of people.)
What Type of Content Is a Good Fit for TikTok?
Patrick emphasizes the ability of TikTok to show the personality of the brand. “Behind the scenes videos perform really well because they show the faces behind the brand,” he says. In short, TikTok is a platform that is grounded in reality. There’s no need for perfect lighting and color schemes.
He also shares that TikTok is super engaging and has a wide variety of engagement tools built in. “Typical Google searches are saturated and people are recycling the same types of content. On TikTok, you can respond to a comment with a new video and engage directly with the audience.”
How Does Content Get Shared?
Patrick says, “The TikTok algorithm is unreal because it knows exactly what types of content you want. I’d argue that hashtags on TikTok are more valuable than hashtags anywhere else.” The platform shows you content not only just from hashtags you follow, but also from trending hashtags. This way, users can go viral by jumping on a hashtag bandwagon of sorts.
“Because of the way TikTok is formatted and a random person is thrown on your discover page, it is so, so easy to to blow up. You can grow TikTok faster than any other platform,” Patrick explains. He believes that this ability to go viral is a big reason why businesses are tapping into it. “At my internship, I had a video that had 500,000 views! It was as simple a topic as “top 5 highest paying jobs.”
You can’t share someone else’s content to your feed the way you can on Facebook. You can, however, send videos to a group chat with friends or email or text a video to others through your address book.
What Is Your Ultimate Advice for Businesses Looking to Use TikTok?
“My main recommendation for businesses is that you have to be sure your target audience is active on the platform.” Patrick notes that the TikTok audience is nationwide and you can’t target local audiences specifically. “I also think you have to have the right audience demographics. It’s very much geared toward younger generations so be sure that’s the audience you want before you invest time in developing the channel for your business.”
Patrick also has doubts about sponsoring content on the platform. “You can pay to sponsor content on TikTok, but I don’t know if it’s worth it. Leveraging hashtags and popular sounds gives you the opportunity to reach your audience without paying. I grew my employer’s TikTok to over 1,000 followers within a few months.” He also says that posting consistently and trying new things are the keys to getting people to catch on and follow your brand. “It takes a lot more work than you would think.”
What do you all think? Was this as helpful to you as it was for me? Thanks so much, Patrick!