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TikTok is the reigning and possibly longest-running star of social media.
In 2021, TikTok achieved a record-breaking 656 million downloads (leaving the second-place platform, Instagram, in the dust by 100 million) and remained the only social media app besides Facebook to surpass three billion downloads.
But TikTok’s dominance is more than statistical and makes even bigger waves regarding sheer influence.
If you’ve noticed your Instagram and Facebook feeds change recently to prioritize video and show you more viral content from outside your network, you can blame it on TikTok. Although all corners of the social media landscape are affected by it, Meta properties seem particularly shaken by just how fast the TikTok takeover happened. Instagram specifically.
Content trends have been shifting away from the written word for a while now. Five years ago, we had a massive podcast boom, which has since slowed down due to the illusion of marketplace saturation. Now, it’s all about bite-size videos.
Related: How Brands Are Capitalizing TikTok to Win New Audiences
TikTok and clones like Instagram Reels are taking off. At the same time, apps like Twitter are relatively stagnant because scrolling endlessly through videos is a more gratifying experience than the same content retweeted multiple times or updates from family and lingering high school acquaintances you never speak to.
TikTok is the best of both worlds regarding social media content. It shows effort and creativity but doesn’t require a high level of polish to be successful. The less professional your TikToks are, the more authentic they appear. This is why it’s difficult for brands, especially long-established ones, to wrap their minds around TikTok functions. Let’s face it: overwork and overthinking run rampant in most creative departments, and though they often produce stellar material, authenticity can go missing.
Related: Here’s Why Not Being on TikTok Is a Huge Mistake
So, let’s do some brainstorming. The 15 to 25-year-old crowd currently rules TikTok, but if one kid with a phone camera and a dream can do it, your well-staffed marketing team can too. It’s just a matter of understanding the terrain and replicating what works.
The Four Rules Of TikTok Success
Rule #1 – Don’t make ads
If someone came to your birthday party and started handing out their business cards, you’d be annoyed — and that’s putting it mildly. TikTok is not the place for influencer or Billo ads, with one exception we’ll discuss later.
No one is on the platform for advertisements, and it’s just inappropriate and miscalculated to pump out purely promotional content for video channels. Embrace the content marketer inside you and start thinking about how you can add value to people’s day.
Rule #2 – Make ads…but run them as ads.
When I said “don’t make ads,” I meant don’t make ads and upload them to your TikTok account. Like every other platform, TikTok has a business side that will allow brands to run ads. This is where you can run your ad campaign in an inoffensive way. However, I would not suggest simply running ads on TikTok and ignoring the content side of the platform — that is the meat of the app and what users are coming to see.
Rule #3 – Not creative? Not necessarily a problem.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to take your employees hostage and force them to dance to the latest trending song to go viral. If you don’t have the creative means to produce your viable TikTok content, then find someone who does. There is no shortage of creators who are looking to partner with brands.
But let me repeat: creators. Not influencers. The difference is that a content creator can give your brand a storyline and provide some direction (and much-needed humor) towards what is trending. An influencer can look cute and hold your product in front of the camera. This is great if you’re looking for purely promotional content for Facebook ads but not what you want on TikTok.
Rule #4 – Keep your ears open.
Social listening is an undervalued and even more underutilized tool. I suppose I shouldn’t tell you the secret to my success, but I feel generous today. Invest in social listening tools like Awario or BuzzSumo to ensure you never miss a beat regarding what’s popping off online.
TikTok lives on trends, but the unfortunate truth is that these trends have a lifecycle of about a week, if you’re lucky. Social listening tools are suitable for pinpointing what’s bubbling beneath the surface so that you’re ready to capture it once it emerges.
TikTok takes strategy, creativity and time. Major brands have all these resources at their disposal but seem a little hopeless when mastering them for a bulletproof TikTok approach.
If I could boil my advice down to a simple sentence, it would be this: remember that you’re a marketer, the midpoint between a content creator and a salesperson. Use both parts of that identity to make content that hits the target.