TikTok – The Next Big Thing For Digital Marketing – But is it Right For YOUR Business?

Clare Bailey, MSc Digital Marketing Management student

TikTok has only been around for three years and, according to Sensortower, it has already amassed more than 1 BILLION downloads on the App Store and Google Play, making it the fastest growing social media platform to date.  

If you’ve ever been on TikTok you will know that it is downright funny, a bit cringy, very samey but, despite all this, you can’t stop scrolling!

So what makes TikTok so addictive and why are businesses already tapping into its success? Let’s find out.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social video app that allows users to share 15 or 30 second lip-sync, comedy & talent videos

The app was launched in 2017 by the Chinese developer Bytedance for markets outside of China after Douyin (the Chinese version of TikTok) was launched the previous year.  Although they use the same software, to comply with Chinese censorship restrictions, they use different networks.

If you think TikTok looks a lot like musical.ly then you are spot on. TikTok merged with musical.ly last year to generate a much larger video community gaining access to the American market which previously belonged to musical.ly.

Who is TikTok’s target audience?

According to the Globalwebindex, TikTok has a ‘younger’ audience, with 41% of users aged between 16 – 24. This is no surprise considering Bytedance specifically targeted the under-18s from the very beginning. 

What are the main features of TikTok?

Video & Music

The most obvious use is watching or uploading video content, but what gives TikTok the edge is the sheer number of music downloads you can add to your video. 

When using TikTok, think of Facebook and Instagram where you can apply filters gifs, likes, comments and shares. In addition, don’t forget hashtags – you can check out trending hashtags on the discover page.

Challenges & Duets

Apart from trending hashtags TikTok uses Challenges where you are encouraged to create videos around a popular songs and theme tagging a certain hashtag, like #shoechange. As you can search hashtags these can go viral fast!  

Duets allow video to be placed beside another video that is watched simultaneously – this can be either your own content or placed along those of someone else.

Virtual coins

You can purchase in-app coins to reward your favourite creators on TikTok, which can be exchanged for digital gifts. According to Mobile Marketer,  ‘tipping’ is not advertised by TikTok and their focus seems to be more on selling ads.


Although TikTok won’t reveal how it’s algorithms work, this is what they have said:

“TikTok will quickly adapt to your taste to offer the most relevant, interesting, fun, quirky, head-turning videos that you’ll never want to stop watching,” 

What does that mean for business?

We all know that video SHOULD be at the forefront of your social media strategy and TikTok clearly ticks that box.

Also, as with any social media site, uploading ad content couldn’t be more easy and it is no different for Tik Tok ads

You only have to scroll up to see that TikTok is now showing ads, which they started rolling out in January 2019. According to Ubermetrics, they are still being tested and TikTok haven’t officially launched them yet. 

Is it an effective Ad Platform?

DigiDay advised that TikTok is testing interest-based and pixel tracking to not only ensure it is an effective Ad platform, but also to prove it quickly.  But, because Ads are in their infancy, it is hard to predict if they are going to be effective or not.

TikTok is an extremely creative platform where users can produce highly entertaining videos, duets and challenges. It is very different from Facebook and Instagram so businesses hoping to repackage content from these platforms are not likely to do very well. To truly stand out on TikTok you must create relevant material that fits to the idea of story telling.

But how effective can Ads be?

#eyeslipsface is the most
viral campaign ever to run on TikTok attracting celebrities like Reece Witherspoon and Ellen to get on board unpaid!.

It amassed over 4 BILLION views and 3 MILLION user-generated videos, it spread organically onto only on TiKTok but also Instagram and Facebook. With media coverage in the likes of Vogue and Forbes.

So is TikTok right for your Business?

If you use TikTok in the right way, then you can introduce your business to a huge audience – but, is it right for you?  

If your target market is Gen Alfa or Gen Z then it definitely ticks the box. Having said that, don’t write it off if it’s not. Like any other social media platform, it will inevitably roll out to an older generation. The difference with TikTok is that it is full of fun, silly video content and your marketing strategy needs to reflect this, so you need to decide if that is right for your business.

Also, TikTok is still in its infancy so should you wait to leverage the platform until it hits mainstream?   Like with everything it all comes down to supply and demand and social media platforms are no different. While TikTok is relatively new it will be easier to attract organic reach for your business, but, as the platform gets more saturated it will inevitably go the same way as Facebook and Instagram.  As an early adopter you need to weigh up if it’s worth the risk!

So if you want a platform that isn’t already saturated then jump on the TikTok band waggon and get ahead of your competition.

As a final point, Douyin has a ‘face and object search’ to find people and sell products and, according to Garyvee, these features are expected to roll out to TikTok soon. 

Watch this space!

Contact details: LinkedIn

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