TikTok for a brand: who should use it and how to start?

7 min read
29 March 2021

Significant differences of TikTok from other social media

Informality and interactivity

On TikTok, users look for active and personal communication with the author of the channel. Content should be presented informally and, preferably, as your personal opinion. Be ready to make short video-answers for the comments. Even if you create educational content, it should be light-hearted.

Creativity is appreciated

Standard selling content simply doesn’t get to the ‘For You Page’. The key to success is an interesting idea and its creative implementation. Moreover, the change of algorithms makes you constantly look for new formats.

Audience segmentation

On TikTok, user preferences directly influence the ‘For You Page’. After a while, people started differentiating between mainstream TikTok with dances, humorous sketches, and challenges called “Straight”, and niche TikTok, which is more versatile and is called “Alt”. Algorithms will infer the topic of your video. So, to hit a certain audience, you need to follow their visual and musical tastes and add suitable hashtags.

Who does TikTok suit?

The following factors will help you understand if TikTok is suitable for your brand.

Your brand is not too formal

The hallmark of TikTok is casual interaction with video authors. There is no formality, even the content on serious topics sells better when presented informally. If you don’t mind familiarity and the tone of voice of your company is not too official, this platform is for you.

Some companies couldn’t adapt but other brands with a solid reputation started experimenting with formats, leading to new sub-trends appearing on TikTok. For example, on the channel by Washington Post you won’t find a typical news presentation; instead, Dave Jorgenson, the host, creates comedy sketches and viral videos that get millions of views.

Your products or services can be easily demonstrated on a video

The product doesn’t have to be entertaining. TikTok channel can show almost any goods or services and working process details. Small and medium-sized businesses working with retail customers look more organically on TikTok. But it should not stop you if your business is different. If you demonstrate your offer on a video, you will have more customers as a result; if your content is about an unrelated topic, you can improve traffic and brand recognition.

You are ready to be constantly creative

TikTok is a dynamic platform. To get to the ‘For You Page’, you should not only be constantly active but also stand out. You can hold users’ attention by creating new formats. Algorithms don’t recommend homogeneous content (including the same background, clothes, and postures).

What content format to choose

Because of the peculiarities of the ‘For You Page’, there are established formats as follows:

  1. Trendy and viral content with brand elements. The format is similar to the promotion of a standard channel on TikTok. Brand elements are integrated as advertising from a blogger or as a link in the profile. The content of the channel is mainly dancing, challenges, comedy sketches, and current trends. It is a widely used scheme that is potentially the most successful when it comes to increasing the overall number of followers, but it doesn’t make your target audience grow. The format is suitable for online sales and everyday services. The followers are attracted by trendy content, not by your offer, so it is recommended for the services used by a wide audience.

Crocs, in turn, focus on trendy dance vides:

  1. A project diary. A popular idea for start-ups is to share information about their business model, business launch, and development. However, you should be careful with this business format: there are many conmen and fake businessmen. Not to be mistaken with them, only show your real experience and don’t overuse clickbait. “Miraculous” success stories get many views, but little trust.

  1. Expert content. Expert and educational content is a growing niche on TikTok. For example, in the retail sector, there are the following options of expert content: advice on how to choose items, product comparison, lifehacks, bargain purchase. On TikTok, people value communication and personal opinion of the author, rather than the proof of the author’s expertise.

  1. Product demonstration. Unlike Instagram, on TikTok demonstration only works with certain “miraculous” products. The format is not suitable for everyday use, but it often gets to the ‘For You Page’.

Or the other way round: videos go viral when an ordinary product is shown with unsuitable music and surroundings. It produces a wow-effect.

  1. Behind the scenes. It is one of the most advantageous formats. If you can show different stages of production or providing a service, make sure to do so. The audience on TikTok likes unusual professions and changing environments. Even simple interaction with clients and interesting details of the work process easily find a receptive audience.

For example, Starbucks shows the process of serving the clients and the opportunity for a deaf person to make an order.

  1. Meditation videos. These videos show object interaction in detail. It can be a manufacturing process with a focus on qualitative detailed shooting and mechanical handling of an item accompanied by relaxation music. Or it can be ASMR or a sound-focused video. With the help of a video, you can increase brand recognition if you non-intrusively add your trademark now and then in the video.

  1. Interaction with other users’ content using your brand style. Duos and reactions to other users’ videos can be a good idea because they get on recommendation feed even more often than the original. There are two main options here. A reaction to a video devoted to a similar topic might help you exchange an audience with other channels, and a reaction to a video on a different topic using your branded style can attract new audiences.

Here is an example of Puma answering questions.

  1. Live Streams. In addition to the ‘For You Page’, there is another recommendation page on TikTok – ‘Top LIVEs’. The main difference is that the streams in this feed are not customed according to users’ interests but shown according to the location of their SIM card. The Live streams that attract a lot of attention get to the general recommendation feed. Long streams of a manufacturing process or from salesrooms are commonly used to promote channel videos. To do so, a phone is fixed on a tripod and left as a surveillance camera.

How to start a TikTok channel

  1. Become a user. To start with, it is better to gain some user experience. TikTok is very different from other social media platforms and it changes rapidly. To find out the recent trends and the overall context, you should spend some time doing it. Look for content similar to yours and something that your audience can relate to, find out about possible formats. Your direct competitors may already be on TikTok. If they are, try learning from their experience and mistakes. Looking into adjacent niches with similar audiences might also help you find more information about potential customers’ tastes.

  2. Choose the format. Most brands combine several formats at the first stage. When one of them gets on the ‘For You Page’, other brands start focusing on it. Formats shouldn’t contradict each other. For instance, placing challenges and expert content on the same channel is not the best combination.

  3. Prepare equipment and find good locations. Most formats require Only a smartphone with a good camera, but a tripod and professional light can make your work easier. To get to the recommendation feed, you should edit the video in the app. Bear in mind that algorithms can reduce your reach if you make videos in the same location. To be recognizable, choose a couple of constant locations and add random ones from time to time.

  4. Prepare content in advance. You will need regular posting, especially at the beginning, at least one video a day, preferably at the best time to post on TikTok. That is why you should prepare content in advance. The more versatile it is, the better. It doesn’t make much sense to prepare the same formats because it may not work.

  5. Think of the brand image. On TikTok, any brand channel is viewed as a personal brand. The charisma of a person who runs the channel is very important. A team of several people is also a good idea, but the style of each person should be easily recognized. It is especially relevant for niche content that requires a personalized and unusual approach. Try to strike a balance between clichés and individuality.

  6. Experiment. Start filming and testing different presentation formats. It is impossible to predict what video will go viral, quite often it can be an old video. The channel should have the main topic, but the right format can be only chosen by trial and error.