TikTok: What Is It, and Should You Be Using It In Your Marketing Strategy?

+ Some interesting examples of marketing on TikTok

When it comes to social media platforms, the first few that come to mind are probably Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. But there’s a fast-growing social media platform that all social media marketers need to be aware of: TikTok. Today, we’ll walk you through the platform, how it works, and how you can create your own TikTok marketing strategy.

What Is TikTok?

TikTok is a very popular short-form video creation platform. However, it didn’t exactly gain popularity over night.

TikTok was first launched in 2012 by the Chinese tech corporation ByteDance. It was used for lipsyncing videos, comedy skits, dances, challenges, and more.

In 2014, another short-form video app known as Muscial.ly was launched by Chinese entrepreneurs Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang. Its format was practically identical to short-form video platform TikTok, creating a sort of competition between the two.

In 2017, ByteDance purchased Muscial.ly for around $1 billion. In August of 2018, Musical.ly was completely absorbed into TikTok.

After the merger, TikTok was able to start targeting the U.S. teen market previously held by Musical.ly. From then on, TikTok continued to rise in popularity.

In September of 2018, it surpassed Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube in monthly installs from the Apple App Store. By the end of 2018, it had been downloaded more than 1 billion times. As of May 2020, TikTok has over 800 million active users worldwide.

How Does TikTok Work?

TikTok’s user interface is fairly simple. When the app is opened, the user is presented with two “tabs”, the For You tab, and the Following tab.

tiktok home screen- for you page tab

The For You tab (or the For You Page, as it’s more commonly referred to), is where users can find videos that TikTok’s algorithm thinks they will like. The For You Page is filled with videos based on a user’s previous likes, follows, and interests. If a user sees something they don’t like on their For You Page, they can simply let TikTok know that they’re not interested.

TikTok not interested button

The Following tab is where TikTok compiles the videos of all the creators that a user follows. For example, if a user only follows two creators, the Following tab will only show videos from those two creators.

TikTok home screen- following tab

Now, this doesn’t mean that you won’t see a video from the creators that you follow on the For You Page. The Following tab just helps cut out videos from creators that you don’t follow, because they can become lost with the sheer amount of content on the For You Page.

Creating A TikTok

To create a new TikTok, a user will click on the plus button in the bottom center of the screen.

tiktok create button

Once in create mode, users can get to work making a TikTok.

TikTok create screen

A user can create a TikTok with prerecorded clips or photos using the upload button on the bottom right. They can also create a brand new video right from the app using the record button in the bottom center.

Originally, TikToks were short-form, typically 15 seconds or less. However, users now have the ability to create TikToks up to 60 seconds long.

If a user decides to keep the audio from their prerecorded video or the video that they recorded in-app, that audio then becomes an “original sound.” Creators can keep the original sound for the video, or use a song, audio clip, or original sound from another TikTok creator. To access songs and sounds from other creators, users simply have to click on the “sounds” section at the top of the create mode screen. Users can also overlap an original sound with an already existing song or audio clip.

TikTok users can also enjoy a huge variety of effects and filters. From green screen backgrounds and silly voices to face stretchers and potato filters (yes, potato filters), TikTok allows for even more creativity with their effect options. To browse the effects, a user just has to click on the effects button on the bottom left of the screen.

Lastly, TikTok also allows users to create duets and react videos. In duet and react videos, the screen is typically split between the original video creator and the user who is duetting it. Duets and reacts are often used for dance trends, scene recreations, and transformation videos.

tiktok duet mode

A recent update in 2020 has allowed creators to react to specific comments. Comment reacts or replies are often used to answer questions from viewers or give updates from previous videos.

tiktok comment react video

Of course, there’s much more that goes into creating a TikTok, but we’re not here to give you a step by step creation tutorial. We’re here to help you with your TikTok marketing strategy- so let’s get into it.

Creating a TikTok Marketing Strategy

TikTok has two main forms of marketing: ads and sponsored content, or video creation.

Do you want to be making videos and hopping on trends or challenges? Or do you simply want to use the platform to advertise? Both advertising and content strategies can work for your brand, but it’s important to be mindful of your brand’s personality.

So, with that in mind, let’s talk more about how you can market your brand on TikTok.

Marketing with TikTok Ads

For a while after its inception, TikTok was a completely ad-free platform. However, as with other platforms, once it gained more popularity, marketers started to take notice, and, in January of 2019, TikTok started allowing ads.

Now, there are a few ways that you can use ads as a part of your TikTok marketing strategy. Let’s take a look at how some popular brands are advertising on TikTok.

Victoria’s Secret Pink

In this ad from Victoria’s Secret PINK, a TikTok creator is presenting the ad on their behalf.

victoria's secret PINK tiktok ad

This PINK ad is being used to spread awareness about their Pride Month dance challenge, and even includes a branded hashtag. Towards the bottom of the screen, you can see some text that says “Join this Hashtag.” By clicking on the button, a user will be taken to videos under that hashtag, and they can follow that specific hashtag to see more as they are posted.

This type of TikTok ad is perfect for a wide variety of brands, because it doesn’t feel sneaky, like some influencer advertisements might, and yet it’s not a clear-cut or overselling ad. Because it comes from a TikTok creator, one who may look like other users or have a large following, it has the potential to really resonate with TikTok users. Plus, it allows users to engage in a fun new dance challenge instead of just purchasing a product.

While it can be costly to work with influencers, there are still plenty of small TikTok creators your brand could reach out to, or you could try making this same type of ad with a company employee. In any case, putting a face on your advertisement can help people make more of a connection with your brand.


Apple decided to use TikTok for a simple, straightforward ad.

Apple tiktok ad

As a more serious, sleek company, Apple chose to go with an ad that really reflects their brand. Their ad for the new Macbook Air shows off the product and its features, adding in some bright stickers for a bit of eye-catching fun.

Apple’s caption is cut and dry, telling users the name of the product, the price, and a little bit about the new features. The button towards the bottom of the screen has a simple call to action: Shop Now. Apple isn’t trying to be sneaky about their ad (to be fair, a company of their size really doesn’t need to be), and they aren’t going over the top either. While this isn’t necessarily “authentic” TikTok content, it is authentic to their brand, and that’s what really counts.

If you have a large brand or a more serious brand personality, straightforward advertising could be perfect for you.


Chipotle decided to advertise on TikTok with a sponsored post from a popular creator.


southern mom gets the boys @chipotle one more time. She can’t catch a break ##ad

♬ original sound – brittany_broski

In this ad, popular TikTok creator Brittany Broski uses characters from a previous sketch she created for a Chipotle-sponsored ad, as well as some funny TikTok filters.

Chipotle is typically known as a fun, loud brand, so it only makes sense that their advertising strategy follows suit. Brittany is well-known for her high-level comedy sketches, as well as her large following, making her the perfect fit for a Chipotle ad.

As we mentioned above, working with influencers can be costly, especially if you’re looking to work with someone as popular as Brittany. However, you can always do some research, find someone with a smaller following, and reach out to them about the possibility of working together on sponsored posts. You also need to be sure you have a clear plan for the ad, because someone like Brittany may have the ability to write or create their own version of an ad, but others may need you to help them.

Marketing with TikTok Content

If you don’t want to use advertisements or sponsored posts in your TikTok marketing strategy, you can create an account for you brand and it use it to make marketing content.

Much like any other platform, TikTok can be used to showcase products, announce new arrivals, sales, or limited editions, and just show off your brand’s personality. You can even draw attention to your brand by learning the newest TikTok or trying out a challenge hashtag! And there are so many ways to get creative with it.

Let’s look at some examples from other brands that are on TikTok.

Washington Post

When you think of newspapers, you might think of stuffy, outdated forms of communication. But the Washington Post is changing that with their awesome original TikTok content.


Taking Monday off to spend more time with my TV ##SkillBuilding ##SelfImprovement

♬ original sound – monique.poa

The Washington Post uses a mix of original content, like the video above, and educational segments or short breakdowns of their articles. This is a great form of social media marketing, because their sketches draw in teenagers and young adults, and their short-form article videos can leave viewers wanting more, ultimately leading to more traffic on their website or new subscribers to their paper.


Crocs has had a bit of an interesting journey, even before TikTok. After becoming a meme of sorts, Crocs has come back better than ever, and with a cult following. And now, they’re creating content on TikTok.


Spice ‘em up ##Jibbitz

♬ original sound – crocs

Crocs’ TikTok account is full of collaboration videos and creative video announcements. The video above is a lookbook of sorts, showing users how they can style their different pairs of Crocs. Other videos show their partnerships with candy brand Peeps, TikTok famous dogs, and even country singer Luke Combs. They even showcase user-generated content, like this video of healthcare workers enjoying their Crocs and trying out a new TikTok dance trend.

While Crocs was already popular with teenagers and young adults, they used TikTok to really showcase who they are. Their colors are bright and fun, their content is silly and uplifting, and they use a great mix of content.


High fashion brand Gucci is another great example of amazing TikTok marketing content.


Follow the Gucci moves???

♬ original sound – gucci

Gucci showcases their products with fun videos like the one above, but still maintains its original brand personality with the video and editing style. More recently, they’ve begun to feature content from other creators and influencers, but these videos are still very much in style. The mix of content styles is great for social media marketing, as it shows the attractiveness of their products, as well as their attainability. This helps amplify their brand and reach new audiences they may not be reaching on other platforms or in fashion publications.

Creating Your Own TikTok Marketing Strategy

When creating a strategy for marketing yourself on TikTok, you need to consider how you want to present your content.

For example, if your brand is “young” and already has some following with teenagers and young adults, creating funny videos and sketches or participating in a trend may be perfect for you. However, if you’re a more “serious” brand, for example, a tech company or news outlet, it may be best if you take advantage of TikTok’s advertising space, rather than trying to learn the newest trending dance.

Of course, we’re not saying that a more serious brand can’t participate in a new dance craze or change up their personality specifically for TikTok, we’re simply pointing out that you need to be sure that the type of content you put out seems genuine and actually resonates with TikTok users.

Not sure where to start with your TikTok marketing strategy? We can help! Take a look at our social media marketing services, or get in touch with us. We’d be happy to create a custom plan that’s perfect for your brand.

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