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What the heck is TikTok?

Just when you were getting the hang of Instagram stories, along comes your teenage kid talking about something called TikTok. So just what the heck is TikTok, anyway? And as a small business, should you be considering it as part of your digital marketing strategy?

TikTok is like a combination of the two social media apps, Dubsmash and Vine. Originally called Musical.ly, Tiktok is an app where users can share videos of themselves dancing or lip-syncing to songs or audio clips. Unlike social media channels like Facebook or Instagram, TikTok has an unweighted algorithm that shares videos in chronological order based on when they were shared. It also offers the ability to add hashtags to a post without bans or slowing down the videos. 

Source: TikTok.com

Currently, TikTok is available in 154 countries and has about 500 million active users. But how are brands using TikTok? According to Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner, “Most marketers haven’t moved to TikTok in massive packs yet so it’s still a little isolated and more like the Wild West.” Most brands weren’t on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram when these social platforms first launched so that’s not necessarily an indicator of whether or not they are right for brand marketing.

66% of TikTok users are younger than 30 and it’s particularly popular among those in their teens and early 20s. Similar to all other social media platforms, there is a wide range of ages in the early adopters, even if the current majority does skew younger. 

TikTok Basics

The Video Feed: The app displays two video feeds. On the right is the Following feed, which features videos from users you follow. The left side is For You, which is content that’s curated for you as you watch and engage with videos and users on the app. When you first sign up, the videos that appear in this feed will be random since you don’t have a viewing/engagement history to base it on.

TikTok Feed

Video Formats: Since the platform is mobile only, all videos display as vertical and take up the entire screen of your phone. The videos can either be 15 seconds or 60 seconds, and they appear on a loop to the viewer until they swipe to the next video.

Hyperlinks: Like Instagram, you cannot include hyperlinks in the video captions. Unlike Instagram, you cannot include a hyperlink in your bio either. You can type links in the captions and your bio so users can see your website URL, but just know that they won’t be able to click on it and go to your website.

Captions and Hashtags: You can include a caption on each video you share and those captions can include hashtags, which help you make your content easier to find if you are using popular hashtags in the caption. TikTok has a 140-character limit in the video caption.

Analytics: If you have a regular account, you can only see how many people have watched each video and how many have reacted to them. You can also see who has viewed your profile. However, you can sign up for the recently launched Pro account, which will provide some basic, high-level analytics for your profile and your posts.

Content: Avoid overproduced, sales-focused videos. This is especially true for accounts that represent an individual person. But even if you are a brand or business, the focus of the platform isn’t about selling to customers. Like most social media, it’s about sharing fun, engaging content. You can find a way to tie that to your store and increase brand awareness but it’s not a place for stores to highlight price and item.

The fact that the current age demographic skews younger, the analytics are limited, and the current content trends don’t lend themselves to brands gives me reason to tell any of our members to hold off on adding TikTok to your digital marketing strategy. If it’s something you’re really interested in, definitely consider setting up a dummy account (as opposed to an official branded account with your store name) so you can use it to research the platform and how other users are interacting with it. 

Why do I work at AWG? “I like working for a company that supports local, often times family-owned, businesses in everything they do in order to help them succeed and stay competitive. It’s great to interact with the stores on a daily basis and learn about their story and the communities they serve.” -Melanie