Opinion

Q&A: How Brands Stand to Win on TikTok

We speak to David Neuman, director of social media and sales strategy at RhythmOne about what TikTok can learn from Facebook and how brands can succeed on the platform.

With TikTok quickly gaining traction, we chat to David Neuman, director of social media and sales strategy at RhythmOne about how advertisers can succeed on the platform, what they can expect when engaging on the platform, and what TikTok can learn from Facebook to avoid the same pitfalls.

Facebook has had many public stumbles when it comes to advertising. What can TikTok learn to avoid the same pitfalls?

David Neuman: One of Facebook’s big mistakes was that they focused far too much on monetisation to the point where the algorithms weren’t showing content that mattered most to users. Instead, organic reach essentially became non-existent for personal and business pages with ads flooding users’ feeds.

Advertisers on TikTok will need to engage the community in a fun way — balancing promoting their brand or product while not appearing too advertorial to TikTok’s user base. The app should be very careful about how it implements ads so that their users can keep engaging with who they want.

Changing the user experience is also very dangerous for social. A lot of users have migrated away from Facebook because of this so TikTok must be sure not to break the core functionality of its offering. While updating the user interface is a necessity, you can’t change what makes it exciting and engaging for users. Instead, adding in changes gradually and slowly is the way to go.

Facebook vs. TikTok — which one should advertisers choose and why?

TikTok network is not for everybody — if you don’t cater to Gen Z then you shouldn’t focus here. Before heading to TikTok, evaluate who you are as a brand. The app is fun and light-hearted, so you want your brand values to fit that. B2B brands, for example, are probably not a good match. 

In order to succeed on TikTok, you also need to be able to create a regular stream of video content — keeping in mind that quality over quantity is always key. One video per day is a good threshold, so you can test it without oversaturating it. However, it’s better to post great videos every other day rather than try to get to a once-per-day posting cadence with just “okay” content.

TikTok is a global hit, but will it have the staying power of a company like Facebook?

TikTok is starting to get there. One thing that’s difficult for social networks to do is to engage their social audiences while also catering to advertisers. 

If TikTok can incorporate features and effectively weave in relevant advertisements without irritating users, then they stand to win in the fight for staying power. Facebook has stayed in competition with the likes of Instagram and Snapchat by incorporating Stories into the platform. However, TikTok is a different story. Facebook released Lasso — a short video app nearly identical to TikTok — in order to compete but has not been able to measure up to TikTok’s massive amount of downloads. 

TikTok’s ability to avoid being copied is what sets it apart, allowing the app to become a serious competitor for Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat alike. The fact that it has surpassed Instagram in monthly downloads also shows the staying power of the network.

How can TikTok woo and keep influencers invested and engaged?

TikTok is a lot like Vine was — it’s about engaging the community in a fun way. Brands can work with influencers to push out what they’re doing by leveraging the true lifeblood of TikTok: hashtags. 

TikTok is made up of real people. Think back to the top Vine stars: comedy, fun and stop-motion videos are the ones that will succeed on TikTok. People go to TikTok for fun, to smile and to ultimately be entertained (quickly).  

In order to maintain this environment while weaving in ads, brands should be cautious to let influencers create their own content to promote their product or idea. In fact, 70% of all influencers feel that their honesty, openness and humor are necessary to keep their audience engaged. Giving influencers some creative freedom for ads on TikTok allows them to be invested and engaged in brand deals.

Why do brands need to leverage TikTok today in order to succeed tomorrow?

Instagram is still number one in audience size and usage but TikTok is growing tremendously. Surpassing Facebook and Instagram with the most worldwide downloads in Q4 2018, TikTok continues to grow with over 500 million monthly users in 155 countries. When something is growing this rapidly, advertisers and brands must take note and incorporate it into their strategies. 

Sometimes you have to sign up and build your presence when it may not deliver immediate value in order to beat other brands to the punch. Brands that get a head start, grow their user base, and learn what works and what doesn’t from a content standpoint will set themselves up for success over later adopters.

What should brands that are engaging on TikTok expect in terms of results, engagement, etc.?

When you’re approaching anything with Gen Z, you’ll need to be aware that they are more prone to trolling and leaving negative comments so be watchful of the inappropriate comments as you definitely can’t expect things to be PG from a comment perspective.

You can drive direct response with other platforms through ads, lift studies or pixeling, but TikTok doesn’t offer these options yet. It’s not even possible to link out yet. So if your goal is to directly drive website traffic perhaps your dollars should not move toward this app. It’s more about brand awareness, new product pushes, and other upper-funnel metrics — but most importantly, TikTok thrives on building and maintaining a community of followers. 

According to a case study published on Mobile Marketer, TikTok videos were seven times more cost-effective than Instagram Stories and showed a 12% engagement rate, compared to 4.5% for Instagram. 

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