TikTok: what it is, how it works and why you should consider it in your marketing strategy

Javi Del Campo's picture
Javi Del Campo
· 18/06/2020

More than 3.8 billion people use social networks worldwide. With this data it is easy to assume that social networks should enter any marketing strategy by default and one of the most growing-and fastest - is TikTok.

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat had already  been surpassed by TikTok's number of downloads in October 2018. It did so after becoming what it is now, a social network of the Chinese technology company Bytedance.

What is TikTok

In 2014 Musical.ly, a social network based on sharing small video clips, was positioned as the most used by the youngest newtwork in Europe and the United States. On the other hand Bytedance created Douyin, a kind of Asian Instagram that got popular really fast was known as TikTok outside of China.

Bytedance bought Musical.ly in November 2017 for $ 1 billion and a year later, it decided to merge it with Douyin in a single social network that would unite the audiences of the two and ended up being called TikTok. Now the app has a total of 800 million monthly active users according to the latest Hootsuite social media report and has already positioned itself as the second most downloaded app in the world, right  behind Whatsapp.


Although at first it seemed like a social network designed for adolescents (young people between 12 and 18 years old formed before the main user base), its target is large and growing: over 43% of the members of TikTok outside of China are between 16 and 24 years, and in countries such as China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the percentage of users between 25 and 34 years of age is actually higher than the one between 16 and 24 years, according to data from GlobalWebIndex.

If we wanted to summarize what TikTok is we could say that it is a growing social network that bases its content on small music videos, humor and even educational clips that go viral and where challenges (challenges to do something specific like choreography, playbacks or skill games, for example) have found their best niche.

How TikTok works

TikTok is very simple. Like Instagram, each user has a profile from which they can follow the users they want and send and receive messages from other users. The profile can include direct links to other social networks such as Instagram or YouTube and has a tab to view similar profiles, just like Instagram. Fun fact, the profile picture may not be a photo, it can also be a video.

The app has a home page that shows you the recent content of the users you follow, as well as a tab that suggests new content. It also has a page to explore different hashtags, trends of the moment or to search for users or brands.


The videos, between 15 and 60 seconds that are viewed in full screen, can be commented, shared or liked (the icons appear on the right side of the video) and you can even watch videos that share the same music with just one click.

As for the content you can create, it includes an option in which you can upload multiple photos in video format, since all the content of TikTok is in this video format. Videos can include music, filters, effects, sounds, have different speeds and can be recorded in several shots, something you can not do for example in Instagram stories. In addition, it has built-in a fantastic video editor where you can add after recording new filters, sound effects, texts, stickers, modify the volume, make transitions, repeat clips or include songs.

Why you should consider it in your marketing strategy

If we think that it is a social network of videos, something that according to Hootsuite is one of the most demanded content, it is clear that it is a field to explore.

TikTok users spend an average of 52 minutes a day in the app and 68% prefer to see content, so we are talking about a social network dedicated to Entertainment. It is full of challenges that go viral and is able to turn into a trend from songs or sounds to recipes such as Dalgona coffee, for example.

Getting into that dynamic and bringing content that goes viral (not only about videos but also sounds), creating content aimed at young people or taking advantage of a new and fresh social network are some of the reasons why TikTok can also be a great marketing tool for a brand. Its impact is greater than it may seem.

According to data provided by GlobalWebIndex, TikTok members not only know the brands and are willing to buy the ones they see advertised, but are a target that can be strongly influenced by The Voice of the community around them. In other words, it is not only effective advertising as such, but that is done through the tiktokers, the influencers of this social network.

The management of the ads that you can put in TikTok is done in the style of other social networks, has an advertising manager called TikTok Ads, in which you will have to register as a company. It also has an analytics that measures the impact of your videos so tracking is very simple, whether you create a hashtag or a sound or want to see the reach of your content.

Success stories in TikTok

Organic content works especially well in TikTok if the community reacts quickly and positively. It achieves a greater reach than Facebook posts, for example, and can be an ideal opportunity to reach Generation Z, currently one of the most active in TikTok. There are already many brands that have their own TikTok account and that contribute content to this social network in a successful way.

Flighthouse for example, is an entertainment company that has 24.8 million followers in TikTok and has become one of the brands with the most followers worldwide. Another example is that of Red Bull, which has a 4.3 million followers in which we can see from motocross videos to challenges related to sport through incredible surfing videos, among other sports.

Netflix is another brand that has taken advantage of TikTok to create content advertising their series and movies and causing movement in their community. A clear example is the profile of Netflix in Spain that has created the sound called "chiki pum chiki pum" of La Casa de Papel with which more than 5,000 videos have been made.

Examples of bad habits in TikTok

Although there are brands that already have profiles in TikTok they do not always get the most out of it. For example, KitKat has more than 106K followers, but has only posted a commercial video that did not even take advantage of the platform format as it was recorded horizontally.

Another example of bad practice is that of Apple that has a profile on the social network, is verified and even has 67k followers but not a single video in its feed. It hasn't even filled out the bio on the profile.

Due to the upward trend shown by their latest data and the fact that their growth has been much faster than that of other social networks, we can say that we are just beginning to talk about TikTok.

"Real People. Real Videos", says the app itself, so it is best to use natural and very human content, more than in other social networks. It's fresh, fun and different, so including it as part of your company's marketing strategy can be a great idea, especially if you do it under the supervision of social media experts.




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