How Brand Advertisers Are Using TikTok

brands advertisng on TikTok

Ah, social media. What would the world be like without it?


The fear of missing out is one of the main reasons so many people flock to social media. They want to know what they’re friends are doing, where they’re at and what’s going on everywhere and anywhere at anytime.

They want to share cat videos and post meme after meme after meme.

Twitter has taken the online space by storm, and Facebook still reigns supreme – for old folks, apparently.

Instagram and Snapchat have the younger generation’s attention and give them the freedom to share funny videos, photos and messages. The world doesn’t need another social media app.

Or does it?

If you’re an oldie still on Facebook or a millennial who hasn’t ventured out of your Instagram hole, you might not have heard about TikTok. The number of users is growing by the millions each year. In fact, more than 1 billion people use it every month.

So what is TikTok?

If you are a Twitter user you probably remember Vine…TikTok it somewhat similar to that. If you don’t know what Vine is either, where have you been for the past decade?

Vine was a social media app that let people post short videos, which were referred to as Vines. Many Vines were funny; others were cringe-worthy. They lasted about 7 seconds and were shared across the internet. Vine eventually shut down and now the old “vines’ live on YouTube as compilation videos.

But that’s enough about Vine…

TikTok, simply put, is a lip-syncing, video-sharing app that teens and other young adults use to make their friends laugh.

Users can lip-sync to various music or perform comedy sketches up to 15 seconds in length. They can choose from a variety of sound bites, songs and effects from the app or upload their own sounds. They can even lip-sync to other users’ videos.

TikTok has its roots in, one of the first lip-syncing apps. Both apps competed in the same space until ByteDance, a Beijing tech company, acquired and migrated the accounts and features to TikTok. ByteDance was already running an enormously successful version of TikTok for Chinese users called Douyin. Buying to accelerate their international aspirations made perfect sense.

TikTok is Growing in Popularity

If TikTok is just another, why’s it so popular?

Well, was very popular at the time and gave users a lot of creative freedom. When ByteDance bought it for $1 billion, the developers took the features and combined them with the already numerous features of TikTok.

TikTok provides even more features and fun for the user and has amassed a following that exceeds by the millions. Infact, in Q1 2019 TikTok was the third most downloaded app in the world. TikTok was downloaded more than Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat by a healthy margin.

app downloads q1 2019
Source: SensorTower

It’s more than a lip-syncing app. It’s more than a way to put your face out there. It’s a phenomenon that has grabbed teens and adults both young and old, giving them a platform that Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat combined can’t offer.

So what makes TikTok so popular?

On the surface, the app lets you lip-sync to a song or to someone else’s video. You can even collaborate with yourself on a previously recorded video. Seen someone’s video and want to lip-sync or to interact with it in some way? You can do it.

Behind the scenes is what makes TikTok truly successful. It’s the artificial intelligence that understands what you want to see and then gives it to you in an endless list.

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People love to binge, and TikTok is the ultimate app for binge-watching.

You’re greeted with video after video to swipe through vertically on the screen. If you watch a particular video, the algorithm goes to work and feeds you more and more similar content. It makes you want to keep watching videos and perhaps, if you dare, record yourself and take part in the action.

Oh, and don’t forget about the challenges.

TikTok has many different challenges to get people hyped and ready to lip-sync. They’re all pretty silly, such as lip-syncing to a scene from a movie or to a song while transforming your entire personality.

You’ll see these types of videos and others pop up on your screen, inviting you to tap and play each one until you look up and notice that it’s 3 a.m. and you haven’t blinked for five hours.

Doesn’t Facebook have something like this?

Ah, Facebook. It hates to see another app steal its thunder.

Facebook quietly launched a competitor to TikTok in 2018 called Lasso. It also lets people create short videos in which they’re dancing, providing commentary and lip-syncing.

It just hasn’t caught on with the target audience in the way that TikTok has. Why not?

Lasso has many of the same features and is pretty identical to ByteDance’s app. So why has it flopped?

Though 70,000+ downloads doesn’t seem like a flop, it is when the company behind the app is Facebook. When you compare those downloads to the 500 million global users on TikTok, it’s easy to see the winner.

TikTok is popular with teens, and according to the numbers, teens just aren’t using Facebook. So if they don’t use Facebook, why would the company from Silicon Valley develop a new social media app for them? And why would teens suddenly decide to use it?

Maybe Facebook is targeting a slightly older demographic.

So Who Really Uses TikTok?

Statistics don’t lie. Most TikTok users are in their teens or younger, followed by young adults in their 20s. People older than 30 also use TikTok, but they still cling to Facebook and other social media platforms.

TikTok is an international app with a global user base. Douyin, which is the same app but only for the Chinese market, shows slightly different stats. Around 40 percent of Douyin users are ages 20 to 30.

Both apps give people the freedom to create short video skits, to lip-sync to songs, to produce cringe content and to show off their cooking skills with short instructional videos.

But TikTok and Douyin can do so much more than that. They’re also good for marketing your brand to a massive number of people.

TikTok for Brands: Good for Marketing?

tiktok native ad unit
Example of a TikTok advertisement.

Yes, there are ads on TikTok. TikTok has launched their own TikTok ads platform, including biddable ads according to Adweek. Their goal is to offer a self service ad platform which allows for tight demographic targeting using native ad units specific to the platform. This kind of platform is akin to those offered by Facebook and Twitter and will be a welcome addition to the advertising landscape for any brand interested in a youthful demographic. At the time of writing it isn’t completely open to all, but it is expected to become more open by the end of 2019.

Of course, in addition to an advertiser platform, TikTok also has something else of great value to brands…


TikTok influencers are a channel to get your brand or products seen by millions of people. Some of the top creators on TikTok have thousands and millions of fans, some of which make videos about putting on makeup, cooking new dishes or showing how to create a stylish outfit.

What if you connected with top influencers and paid them to promote your products on camera? People would see their favorite creators using new products and talking positively about them.

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Influencers do what their name suggests – they influence others to try what they’re doing, wearing, or promoting. In fact, people seem to trust influencers more than what the companies say about their own products.

If you want to start a marketing campaign on TikTok, try to approach it from one or both of these angles:

  • Make your own original videos. Create hashtag challenges for people to engage in, such as having them wear your designer clothing while lip-syncing or showing people how to create a smoky eye effect with your new eye shadow products.
  • Pay a top influencer to use your products in their videos. They can record makeup videos for your brand, drink your vitamin water when they’re out and about or mention your services when they perform skits.

TikTok Marketing Strategies: Market Your Brand

Some companies have already used TikTok to spread the word about their brands, and more companies are jumping on board every day.

Check out a few of these marketing strategies that others have tried and succeeded at. It will give you a good idea on how to approach TikTok marketing for your own products and services.

Guess Hashtag Challenge

guess hashtag challenge tiktok
The Guess Jeans Hashtag Challenge on TikTok

Guess is an iconic clothing company, creating designer dresses, shoes, denim and accessories for men, women and children. The company started the Guess #InMyDenim challenge in 2018, sparking people to post videos with the hashtag while wearing Guess brand clothing.

This marketing campaign wasn’t just successful because it was the first promoted challenge by TikTok. It worked because it made the viewers want to be part of something big.

You could do something similar with your brand.

Referral Rewards

Know how to get people excited about your products and services?

Gift cards.

TikTok themselves used this strategy to drive downloads of the app itself. They let users earn points for gift cards to spend at various stores like Walmart and Starbucks in return for users referring their friends to download the app.

This strategy works because people like earning points for doing stuff. Give them a fun challenge to earn some points, and reward them with a gift card worth $5 or $10 toward your products.

Celebrity Endorsements

People love celebrities for one reason or another. Brands love them even more, paying different celebrities to speak on behalf of a company’s products or services. You can see celebrity endorsements everywhere, from ads on TV to billboards on the highway.

Paying a celebrity to endorse your brand has its pros and cons. On one hand, celebrities have major influence. On the other hand, they charge a lot of money.

McDonald’s Big Mac Campaign

mcdonalds tiktok campaign
McDonald’s Malaysia ran this campaign in October 2018

McDonald’s is no stranger to advertising. McDonald’s in Malaysia took to the app in 2018 with the #BigMacTikTok campaign, giving users a chance to win big bucks by showing off their dance moves to the Big Mac chant and sharing it with others.

Again, this campaign was successful because it engaged the user and came with a chance to win something.

Calvin Klein My Calvin’s Campaign

calvin klein tiktok campaign
Calvin Klein on TikTok

The #MyCalvins campaign brought the brand to TikTok with the intent to engage younger viewers and to spread the brand through hashtag challenges and user-created videos.

The campaign is successful not only because CK has an established presence in the fashion world, but it also engages the audience to create content and to share it with others.

Make Your Mark on TikTok

You don’t have to be a major brand to see success on TikTok. Through influencer marketing, original content and hashtag challenges, you can engage your audience and spread your brand to millions, and perhaps billions, of people using a single app on your smartphone.

Charlie has been building WordPress themes, reviewing web hosts and utilizing social media since their respective inceptions.

One thought on “How Brand Advertisers Are Using TikTok

  1. techysport says:

    I’ve never once tried TikTok. I guess am missing a lot.

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