What is TikTok and how can businesses use it?

Written by
Caitlin Lundgren
April 8, 2024
min read
TikTok logo on a smart phone held just above a computer keyboard on a desk

TikTok is a hugely popular social media platform that allows users to create short videos. typically set to music or other audio clips. It was started in 2014 in China under the name Musical.ly and was bought out by the owners of a similar service called Douyin in 2016 and rebranded under the new name TikTok. 

Since arriving in North America in 2018, it’s gained notoriety for its catchy challenges, dances, and comedic content, but users can also discover, follow, like, and comment on videos created by other users and businesses on the platform similar to more familiar channels like Facebook, Instagram and X.

TikTok has over a billion users worldwide, a large percentage of them being young Millennials and Gen Z, which is an often difficult market to reach for advertisers. This demographic also tends to be the one who set trends, and “go viral” offering a savvy business owner the opportunity to make a big impact and huge exposure with the right content.

Be warned however, that these young people grew up with the internet, and are very quick to sniff out “fake” content. Businesses using TikTok should be wary of being inauthentic, as it stands out like a sore thumb on the platform. Whatever organic content a business shares should be creative, and engaging, and either entertain or educate the viewer. 

Not everyone has the resources or the ability to create this type of high-value content, and it’s not uncommon for brands to partner or collaborate with influencers to increase their visibility and build credibility. These influencers have established followers and audiences that can be of great value to a business that may not have time or resources to build their following. 

If you have the time, the platform can be an amazing tool to increase a sense of community around your business and build your brand. Think creatively, and consider how or why a user might arrive at your content through their FYP . The For You Page - similar to Instagram's “explore” feature, is where most users spend their time discovering new content. Host contests or challenges, and take advantage of TikTok’s features like musical overlays and effects to stand out on the platform. If it’s good content, people will find it.

If you’re looking for more immediate results, TikTok also offers paid ads similar to other platforms. With options like in-feed ads that show up as a user scrolls through videos, branded hashtags, and branded effects or filters. It’s worth noting though, that while these are paid ads, you still want them to feel at home on the platform, and avoid being too “sales-y”

TikTok has been around for some time now, and the analytics it provides can be very insightful in guiding your next steps using the platform. Use the data to understand what type of content resonates with your viewers, and gets you the most reach from this massive social media channel. Its algorithm is faster than any other platform at learning a user's preferences, so changes you make to the content you create will show measurable results. 

Overall, TikTok can be a valuable platform for businesses looking to reach a younger audience, increase brand awareness, and engage with their followers in a creative, informative, and entertaining way.

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