I’m not a TikTok star. My teammates aren’t TikTok stars. But even without 20M followers, we’ve unlocked some really useful tips on how to navigate this bizarre platform for our clients. For brands in particular, TikTok can be a daunting place—because of its speed, and its innumerable communities, where users have zero tolerance for inauthentic “brand speak.” Below, we look at a few of the ways brands can—and should—approach the TikTok-sphere in order to break through. While some of these may seem like common sense, putting them to practice is the real challenge. Fwiw, we’ve found the payoff to be great.
1. Read the Room
Your brand is entering a new space and the first thing you’ll want to do is read the room. Take a backseat and observe the social conversation happening around you and others in the market. Notice what your consumers are talking about, the type of effects and formats they’re using to convey their message, and note any recurring trends you see. The easiest way to do this is to check all hashtag keywords relating to your brand. Social listening is really the foundation for TikTok success, as it will uncover your niche communities, the influencers that reign over them, and will more than likely shed some light on what your consumers find important about your product.
2. Find your Niche
TikTok is like the wild west of strange internet interests. You can literally find a community for anything. There’s #FarmerTiktok, #SpookyTiktok, #Fashion, #AltTiktok, #Impressions, #ExtremeSports, #DanceChallenge (of course), the list truly never ends. Your brand is likely already circulating around a number of these micro communities, and once you find out who they are and what they care about, you can start mapping out your content buckets to appropriately target and aggregate.
3. Be Real Time (Lean with it Tok with it)
Probably the most valuable advice I can impart is to lean into organic trends. If you’re seeing a trending social conversation or cultural moment happening around your brand, don’t ignore it. Lean into user generated content by either reposting or adopting these trends organically—it shows you’re listening and actively responding and growing your community based on the needs of your followers. This approach also encourages fans to create more amazing content around your product and, I don’t know who needs to hear this but, you want that.
4. Consult The Pros
In every niche community you will find experts. These people have dedicated their handles to the craft and built their empires as leading authorities in their field. They are your coveted influencers, and working with them in authentic ways to produce content will firmly align your brand within your desired communities. There should be a large amount of research conducted while selecting your influencer partnerships: if you just go with a big name that people in your desired communities don’t respect, the big bad brand will be exposed. An easy way to stay authentic is to tap influencers that are already super fans—their audience already expects them to be talking about your brand, and aligning with them builds a truthful and trusting dialogue between you and their followers.
5. Engage the Audience
One of the simplest ways to grow your community is to just be proactively responsive. TikTok is a beautiful place where one comment on a viral post can reach likes in the hundreds of thousands. The straight up easiest way to engage with your audience is by leaving a comment on videos relating to your brand. This responsive approach brings visibility to your profile and shows that your brand is an active participant in this living ecosystem of users that live for the brands that actually respond.
Gone are the days of highly-produced photoshoots—leave that stuff for Instagram. TikTok users respond best to fresh thinking and off-kilter content. What they don’t like is when a brand tries to latch onto an overdone trend that oozes inauthenticity. The brands that break the mold on TikTok have done so by being unexpected. On TikTok, users are getting millions of likes from their bedrooms, and all you really need is an authentic concept that resonates with your niche groups to tell your :60 second story. So don’t be afraid to get weird and stay true to your audience because in this space, less really is more.