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How to use TikTok for business

Here's how to use and form a solid strategy for TikTok as a business.

Sophie Thompson
24th June 2021

Even if you don’t use TikTok, one of your friends certainly does, because in just four years (with most of its popularity growing over the past two years), TikTok has over 689 million active users. That’s bigger than SnapChat, Twitter and Pinterest, who have all been around far longer and it's the fastest-growing of social media platforms. But it’s not just reserved for Gen-Z - it's the leading destination for short form!

However, it is a tough platform to crack! With no clear definition of TikTok’s algorithm, content relies purely on a spider’s web-based engagement structure, which pushes videos to more user’s feeds, when more people engage with it. The higher the engagement rate, the more people will see your video content.

Creating compelling TikTok-friendly micro-content that aligns with your brand’s tone of voice, doesn't sell too hard, but still makes it clear that you have something to sell, is challenging! But with multiple products selling out as a result of viral promotional or user-generated content videos (from reusable straws to yoga leggings), when done right, TikTok provides an incredible avenue for brand awareness and elevation, and is now even forming part of basic social media marketing strategies everywhere.

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Here are a few ways to use TikTok as a business

1. User-generated content

TikTok is based on UGC, so use this to your advantage – it’s free advertising! This is particularly good if you have a physical product to push. For example, Nike has received over 929 million views on its hashtag #Nike, which shows users wearing their clothes. Nike then reuses this content on its own page to push the products it showcases. Remember, people buy from people!

Many brands have also seen success from creating their own TikTok challenges as part of larger marketing campaigns, like Chipotle’s #ChipotleLidFlip which saw huge influencers such as David Dobrik joining in. The campaign achieved 104 million views, 111,000 video submissions and 59,000+ participants. All of that visibility for a campaign that didn't cost the brand a penny to execute.

2. Advertise

While it’s still a relatively new platform, now is the best time to advertise on TikTok if you have the budget. Adverts tend to increase in volume as platforms grow and become more established, heightened the competition you'll face. The platform hosts a variety of ad types, meaning you can get creative without having to do the hard sell:

Native ads: These are 9-15 second video clips that pop up between standard TikTok videos as a user scrolls through their 'For You' page.

Brand takeovers: These are the more prominent ads that land on a user’s feed as soon as they open the app, and usually link to a brand’s external website. Only one brand per day can take this spot, so it’s a huge gateway for ramping up views. But also comes with a huge price tag.

Lenses: One of the best things about TikTok is the many filters you can use to edit your videos. As a brand, you can also pay to create a branded effect that will automatically be included in the top 10 trending list for 10 days. So if you sell coffee, you can create a filter that virtually puts your cup in everyone's hand!

Branded hashtags: Hashtag challenges are TikTok’s bread and butter. So it is really worth attempting to come up with your own challenge, or dance routine that you can sponsor. It’s great for engagement as it encourages millions of users to participate, spreading your brand further and wider. For example, Aussie’s #JustAddGlitter challenge ramped up over 21.5 million views!

3. Find your sweet spot

The TikTok community is about entertainment, so finding an aspect of your brand that you can use to your advantage (e.g. a funny co-worker, the most common things you hear in your job, or even the office dog) will be essential to your success.

The easiest thing to do is jump on existing trends and hashtag challenges, but put your own spin on it! Be sure to use the right hashtags and try adding effects to ramp up views while showing off your creative side.

If you’re in need of some more inspiration, check out our 42 ideas to level up your content.

Here are some great examples of brands doing it right…

Marks & Spencer

Percy the Pig is a fan-favorite mascot of the supermarket chain, Marks & Spencer. While groceries may not be entertaining, the company would create content around how much everyone loves Percy and now use him as the main character of their TikTok account.

Percy can regularly be found on the M&S account getting up to mischief, participating in viral challenges, and even trying out new products from the store, gaining 1.6 million likes! An added benefit to having one key theme across an account is its ability to build loyalty and enhance brand recognition – people know what they’re coming for, and it’s Percy!

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E.l.f. Cosmetics

E.l.f.’s “Eyes, Lips, Face” TikTok campaign is a marketer’s dream go-to example when it comes to brand partnerships done right. The US-based makeup brand created their own viral TikTok song that hit over 1 billion views in just six days. In fact, the song became so popular that it was put on Spotify and a music video was released for it!

Today, it has encouraged over 5 million users to create videos, and celebrities such as Lizzo and Reese Witherspoon have even shown their support organically. Influencer marketing at its finest!

Since the campaign, E.l.f. has also gone from the sixth to second-highest rated beauty brand for teens, according to investment bank Piper Sandler's latest "Taking Stock with Teens”. Despite not being a sell-heavy or branded campaign, everyone now associates that challenge with the brand and they’ve built a new cult following. After all, E.l.f. does actually stand for eyes, lips, face!

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San Diego Zoo

Learning really can be fun - with the right content! Everyone loves animals and San Diego zoo has capitalized on this by sharing behind-the-scenes content to educates viewers with fun facts. If an endangered species acting cute on the internet can’t encourage you to take a trip to San Diego, nothing can!

The zoo even partnered with TikTok for the #LearnOnTikTok initiative. During the educational partnership, San Diego Zoo published 60 videos in 3 months and earned $75,000 in revenue! That’s in addition to the 134 million people they reached on the platform in 2020, and even got nominated for Shorty Award for their efforts.


Our top tips for using TikTok as a business

  • Stay authentic to your brand, but play on entertaining and light-hearted aspects of what you do. Play on your creative side!

  • Use relevant hashtags and jump on viral challenges where possible to keep your audience highly engaged

  • There’s always a way to link a hashtag challenge to what you do. You can even use a ContentCal Contributions form to collect ideas for videos from your wider team.

  • Interact with other users, whether TikTok influencers or small accounts. Reply to your comments and leave responses on your competitor’s videos. People love brand-to-brand interaction and seeing the human side to the voice behind the account.

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