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4 Principles for Nailing Your Brand’s Presence on TikTok

Jordan Kelley, Content Director,

Let’s talk about TikTok. The platform has nearly doubled in number of users over the course of the pandemic to a whopping 100M monthly active users. Those just showing up to the party may have been worried about arriving too late, given President Trump’s issued order to ban the app in the US. But for now, Trump’s TikTok ban has been halted and TikTok remains the current king of popular social media.

Content and trends cycle through TikTok faster than any other social platform, and the advent of social distancing has only increased that tempo. It’s become essential for brands with a young audience to get on TikTok, but many try and fail by rushing onto the platform too quickly with an idea vetted in the boardroom that fails in the app.

At the Elevate Summer Session held by Brand Storytelling, brand, influencer, and platform experts broke down TikTok in brand-friendly language with an eye on helping brands enter the new platform and stick the landing when they do. An insightful discussion yielded several salient points that brands can take to heart when looking to launch their first or next TikTok campaign. Here are four tips to help your brand be its best self on TikTok:

Embrace TikTok as its own “Universe”

Although we’ve all heard of TikTok at this point, its still an app in its infancy, and certainly the youngest of the major tentpole social apps. But just because it’s of a type like Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, doesn’t mean the same brand strategies should apply. TikTok is of the social media family, but it adheres to its own pace and rules. Virality is huge and constant on TikTok. It is at the center of TikTok capital, as opposed to followers would be on Instagram or reach on Facebook. Because of the mass appeal and emphasis on championing the viral, the half-life of that content is shorter than it is on other platforms. The length of videos is fast, the content is fast, and therefore the the cycle of trends is also fast. This is definitely not the platform on which to invest too much time or money in an attempt to piggyback off of a popular TikTok trend; by the time your brand’s offering comes out, the platform and its audience will have moved on to the next hot dance or challenge. Take the time to get to know this world before jumping in with both feet by spending time on the platform - or be prepared to face critical opposition from the audience.

Prepare to put your brand in the hands of others

TikTok involves its own set of unwritten, constantly changing rules. A cardinal rule among them is that TikTok is not a place for recycled content. Between its vertical format and the look of so many user’s content having a “shot-on-iPhone” feel, well-produced content, especially not designed for vertical viewing, sticks out like a sore thumb. The most successful content on TikTok is driven by the creators who already live on the platform. All of our experts on the TikTok panel cited that in order to be successful as a brand on TikTok, you have to involve creators. If the goal is salience, meaningfulness, and distinctiveness, you won’t achieve it unless you meet the platform where it lives. This means spending energy and attention on finding a TikTok creator who is either already familiar with and a fan of your brand, or a creator whose values align with your brand’s, serving as the foundation for what should be approached as and treated like a partnership. Brands who can establish trust and then relinquish some control over content creation to their newly trusted creative partner will reap the most rewards on the platform. Be prepared to embrace silly, raw, single shot content in exchange for the traditional gloss of marketing content.

This is a FUN Platform - keep it that way!

Gen-Z were the earliest adopters of TikTok because it’s fun! Not only did they stay there at the outset of the Coronavirus Pandemic, but they brought anybody else living in their household along with them, reaching up and down to include all generations. TikTok has become one of those things inextricably linked with the experience of COVID-19, and that’s because in a time rife with bleak, unrelenting difficulty and despair, TikTok effectively has done nothing but spread joy and be joyful. Spreading joy is a pillar of TikTok’s internal ethos and can’t be ignored by the brands that want to occupy space there. It’s important to keep an eye on operating in this space in a way that serves your brand’s purpose while maintaining a playful, joyful status. This can be achieved through the implementation of fun campaigns like challenges or dances (both of which are huge on TikTok). Keep branded entertainment on TikTok fun and original and tailor it to the platform.

Dedicate energy specifically to TikTok

More than any other tip offered here, this last one is of the utmost importance; dedicating resources to TikTok rather than making it part of a social media pipeline is a must. TikTok doesn’t adhere to the life cycle of other social media. It requires the creative effort you might put into Facebook or Instagram combined with the turnaround time and half-life of Twitter. One way to approach dedicating energy specifically to TikTok is to take advantage of that short half-life of the platform by working from a position of trial-and-error when generating TikTok-specific content. Focus on spreading a joyful and positive message that gets native creators involved. A dedicated focus will yield the most effective results.

With TikTok, the most important thing is to dig in, learn, and listen. Each of these four tips shared, when implemented, will put you and your brand in a position to discover how to create the most impact on TikTok.


About Jordan Kelley

Jordan Kelley is a versatile creative intent on mapping new media trends and disseminating the most relevant information in the world of branded content.  He is a lover of stories and an avid consumer of visual media.


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