Would you rely on a 15-second video to generate leads and create value to your brands? That is probably true to TikTok, a new social media sensation among the youngsters in China.
You may not have even heard of TikTok, but this relatively new social media platform is reshaping the digital world.
Its meteoric rise to international stardom has already captivated the interests of global businesses.
The early birds get the worm. Marketers worldwide are seriously exploring ways to get their feet in the door earlier to secure VIP access in a less-crowded brand space at a discounted price.
Reshaping Social Media Landscape
Then what is TikTok?
TikTok, also known as Douyin within China, is a hugely popular app for creating and sharing short videos powered by artificial intelligence (AI).
If you think Twitter is a revolutionary version of blogging, TikTok, then, is a revolutionary version of YouTube. In fact, both Twitter and TikTok are featured by more fragmented content than their precursors.
Launched in September 2016 by Beijing-based tech company ByteDance, the app is a rising star in the global social media landscape. Today, this app is considered one of the most valuable start-ups in the world.
Filters, animated stickers and sound effects: millennials and Gen Z have all sorts of tools at their disposal to produce the 15-second videos on this platform. Dancing, performing, lip-synch contests and hashtag challenges have become the platform’s vernacular. With the support of AI, TikTok is able to churn out endless interactive content to cater to users’ individual tastes.
The tailored and addictive entertainment contents make TikTok stand out from other social media platforms among the youth.
It is said that about 41 percent of TikTok’s users are between 16 and 24 years old. The users spend around 60 minutes a day using the app on average, which adds up to about 200 videos per day.
Lured by the huge potential of an emerging international online market, TikTok is seeing a number of key WeChat and Instagram influencers moving over.
According to the latest statistics available, the short-video platform had more than half a billion monthly active users across 150 countries and regions by June 2018. It was the No. 4 most downloaded app for all of 2018. Today, it remains in top places in App Store’s Top Charts along with YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat.
TikTok is not the first Chinese social media platform to go international. WeChat and other Chinese social media platforms have tried to advance in global markets, but end up used predominately by international Chinese citizens.
However, TikTok is very much likely to be the first to succeed with non-Chinese users globally.
A New Weapon in Marketers’ Arsenal
To marketers, TikTok is more than a social network for musical selfies and entertaining videos, it brings a new traffic empire in China.
According to Jiguang data, 43% of TikTok users live in first-and second-tier cities in China. Another appeal of this App to advertisers is its predominantly female audience.
These combined traits of Tiktok attract many brands, which are eager to reach out to young and affluent users, particularly females, in China. Up until now, many international companies such as Airbnb, IKEA, Adidas Neo, and Pizza Hut have joined TikTok.
Presently, the most commonly used marketing strategy for brands on the platform is through ‘influencer marketing’. TikTok boasts a cadre of superstars, many of whom are cultivated by the company itself.
One example of how TikTok marketing works is the hashtag challenge launched by Michael Kors in 2017. This American fashion company is one of the first luxury brands to partner with TikTok. By introducing TikTok’s in house fashion influencers, the brand managed to have a collective follower base of 4 million. The TikTok KOLs promoted a “City catwalk” hashtag challenge by sharing videos of them doing a catwalk carrying Michael Kors products and invited viewers to participate.
It is said that the campaign clips made a whopping amount of 200 million impressions, with over 30,000 users posting their own catwalk videos with Michael Kors products.
The Sweet and Sour Recipe of TikTok Marketing
Social selling is a noteworthy phenomenon in China. Viewers on social media platforms can transform into impulsive buyers.
Today, if a social media specialist is just familiarized with WeChat or Weibo marketing strategy, he or she is definitely OUT. Though in its infancy as a marketing tool, TikTok’s massive popularity among young users can be capitalized.
To any seasoned advertiser or marketer, TikTok is a new goldmine to test their adventurous spirit, forward-thinking abilities, and customer-centered approach.
But there is the sweet and sour recipe of TikTok marketing.
The Sweet: a Niche Market And a Friendly Price
The beauty of TikTok is that the “in house” KOLs are just at the beginning of their influencer career. That means KOL partnerships on this short video platform are more cost-friendly for smaller businesses because the promotions can come in many forms. Cooperating with several micro-influencers and longtail content creators with a focus on a niche group of viewers doesn’t require deep pockets.
According to Parklu’s KOL budget calculator, spending 100 thousand yuan (or AU$ 20,000) on a WeChat campaign will generate 105,000 impressions on WeChat, 4,400,000 on Weibo and 600,000 on TikTok. A TikTok campaign ends up costing somewhere in-between WeChat and Weibo campaigns.
Moreover, compared to WeChat and Weibo, TikTok’s short-video structure and format allow more room for playful creativity to condense a brand’s personality and essence.
It is therefore considered easier for small-and-medium-sized businesses to push brand content and trigger sales on TikTok.
The Sour: The Controversies Around TikTok
Like many other social media platforms, TikTok has its dark sides. It is not rare to find distasteful, aggressive, bullying and sexist content. The platform is also blamed for widespread narcissism, hedonism, and addiction.
The controversies around TikTok post challenges to marketers: playful and down-to-earth contents is appealing to a huge crowd of viewers but some potential buyers might think they are vulgar and tasteless.
Adding the complexity of TikTok marketing is that social media is like a wildfire, where there are negative thoughts and spices. Businesses need to carefully choose their strategies to interact with viewer-turned customers and manage risks of image damage.
TikTok’s rise comes at a time when social media networks face the industry-wide challenge of privacy protection and are increasingly under governments’ scrutiny, the platform has found itself in scandals.
According to People’s Daily, China’s Cyberspace Affairs Commission is testing a “youth model” feature for parents to keep an eye on what children watch and for how long. The mode will be adopted in June this year.
In the UK, BBC Trending collected hundreds of sexual comments posted on videos uploaded by teenagers and children.
Earlier this year, the App was fined $5.7 million (AU$7.9 million) in the US over privacy and child accounts.
Moreover, countries like Indonesia and Bangladesh had banned TikTok, and India is considering joining them.
However, TikTok’s phenomenal popularity has not been damaged as it continues to be a super social media app.
It is attractive and addictive for users since it fosters and rewards participatory culture. Joining in, mashing their own identities into a broader cultural moment, shows that they are relevant.
In the end, a viral video and a base of followers can bring both fame and fortune when anybody can be a newsmaker, actor or actress and short movie director.
Edited by Lei Zhang