By Ross Brewer, Amélie Company Copywriter
By now we’ve all heard of it, and through trial and error, we all know how to spell it. As of 2023, TikTok is the 6th most used social media platform worldwide with 1 billion active monthly users. Remarkably, 1 billion is also the number of videos consumed daily across the application. Its organic reach is very attractive, but in an ocean this large, how does a brand or marketer make a splash noticeable enough to stop a scrolling thumb?
In this article, let’s run through some of the things to keep in mind when you’re producing an in-feed organic post in the TikTok space.
Know Who You’re Talking To – Audience is Everything on TikTok
Like any social media campaign, it’s important to discern who your target audience is right off the bat. Identify a demographic, but don’t stop there. TikTok is addictive to its users because of its algorithm. The ‘For You Page’ or ‘FYP’ is curated. If the app is aware of scrollers’ interests, the advertiser should be too. Psychographics need to be considered on the TikTok platform in order to achieve effective engagement. Get to know your audience through research, find out what they like, what they don’t like, and adjust your messaging accordingly. If you don’t have access to third-party research, there are resources within the app to identify your target audience and their interests.
TikTok Trends Come and Go – Be Smart and Be Picky
TikTok trends might feel hard to pass up. Everyone’s doing that dance move, or flipping water bottles on the kitchen counter. Lots of brands will chime in with their own spin on a popular act. It’s an easy way to present your brand as fun and in-the-know. But easy doesn’t always mean effective. Because TikTok has a fast-moving trend cycle, marketers should practice caution when concepting around a hip notion. If a trend seems stale, it’s best to stay away from it. The last thing you want is to give your campaign an early expiration date.
But let’s say the fruit is hanging really low. Meaning, everyone is flipping water bottles and your bottled water brand is ready to make a TikTok. Because of the strong connection between the message and the trend, this is very much a safe play. A contrived or weak connection can be dangerous, and no brand is exempt from being called out. This was exemplified by J.P Morgan’s attempt to fit in on twitter. Keep your connections strong on Tik Tok and all other social media.
Don’t Look Like an Ad – Production Value Matters
Ads are easy to detect, and they’re also easy to skip. TikTok is like an unlimited slot machine for the viewer. If they don’t win the jackpot with an engaging video, they play again. In order to stop a scroll, an asset needs to pass the viewer’s test: “Is this an ad? And is it worth watching?” On TikTok, viewers are very quick to detect inauthentic content. Successful ads are relatable, authentic, and feel common to the environment. This means that production value plays a big part in a spot’s effectiveness. And unlike Hollywood, fancy isn’t desired here. An ad with a visibly high production value will likely get skipped before something with a more balanced, user-produced feel. Some ways to achieve this balance are to use natural lighting, real subjects, and simple editing.
This dynamic was a factor in the production stage of a traffic safety campaign. To get teen drivers off their phones, TikTok was an ironic but attractive place to get their attention. However, our message needed to be delivered in a way that would resonate with young drivers and entertain them enough to avoid the skip. Instead of stretching our budget for a multi-camera, high-definition driving scene, we utilized the same tools as the common creator on TikTok: a tripod and an iPhone. Additionally, by using the platform’s face effects as a primary comedic value, our result was a message that felt relatable and familiar to its neighboring content.
Fitting into the FYP – Study the Landscape
If you’re a page behind in the TikTok dictionary, don’t worry about it. The ‘FYP’ is the ‘For You Page’ and it’s different for everybody. TikTok’s algorithm constantly aggregates a user’s liked videos, followed accounts, interactions, and search terms to serve the user relevant content pertaining to their interests. A brand can use this function to ensure better engagement by researching content that’s attached to your audience’s hashtags or search terms. For example, a brand selling pickleball gear should scan the landscape of pickleball content to know what’s gaining traction in that particular social world.
This method of preliminary research helped pave the way for our IMatter campaign to optimize its entry into the TikTok space. Because our topic of youth mental health was on the serious side of the tonal spectrum, we needed to strike a balance between engaging and vulnerable. To find this balance, we examined the content that our high school demographic engaged in and found that “Day in the Life” formatted videos were common and familiar. We paired our honest and vulnerable messaging with the imagery of daily experience videos to present something new on a familiar surface.
TikTok is a place for entertainment. When your brand is joining in on the massive usership, make sure it joins in on the fun. TikTok ad spends offer a great opportunity to push the creative envelope when it comes to concepting. It’s important to keep it light and amusing to avoid killing the buzz.
A brand delivering a serious message could still explore avenues to entertain. If your message is too serious for a comedic angle, there are other avenues to engage the viewer.
Our solution to change driving behavior in teens was far from intense. We used the face effects to anthropomorphize a teen character’s cell phone. With a pitched-up voice, our driver’s cell phone demanded to be put away before our driver hit the road. This short video encoded a serious message without expending entertainment value.
Other Way, Grandma – The 9:16 TikTok Standard
This could have gone without saying, but its importance demands mentioning. Ads on TikTok should be in a 9:16 aspect ratio. This is a must. TikTok’s vertical display is considerably the platform’s staple. Its success is apparent as other preceding entertainment applications, such as YouTube and Instagram, installed their own vertical scrolling elements in recent years. So as a friendly reminder, shoot it vertically, your editor will thank you.
-Identify your audience, and dive beyond their demographic traits.
-Practice caution when participating in trends.
-Balance production value to avoid coming off too corporate.
-Bring entertainment as TikTok is an entertainment platform.
When you’ve identified your audience, researched their world, and balanced entertainment with your brand’s objectives, you’re ready to watch your organic reach grow. While these tips provide a great general practice for putting your brand through the TikTok gauntlet, be aware that success on the app isn’t always a result of science. Virality is elusive and its chosen ones don’t always make sense.
Additionally, keep in mind that TikTok, like all social media platforms, is mercurial and never stagnant in its ways. Any tips that apply today may be false tomorrow. The best way to stay up to date is merely to use the app and watch closely. Although, it’s understandable why one might want to stay on the sidelines, as attention spans are susceptible to TikTok’s ever-scrolling abyss. Pay attention, but spend it wisely.