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How to use TikTok for Business: Is this the end of Instagram Stories?

The short answer is NO! And I'll tell you why. When I attended Social Media Week in London, in October 2019, there was a session regarding TikTok (a lot of sessions actually). And, I remember the following (it was during a session of Tribe) - I really don't remember who said that 🙈:

"Instagram is more like a catalog. TikTok is more of a personality"

Social media users may use both platforms, but for entirely different reasons. However, TikTok seems to be more addictive... According to official TikTok statistics, 90% of users use the app multiple times per day. The average user spends 52 minutes per day on TikTok and opens the app 4-5 times in a day... Internet users spend an average of 144 minutes per day on social networking in 2019, according to Statista. So, if users invest 36% of their social media time on TikTok, only 64% is available to be spent on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, and all the other social media networks! WOW 😮

Why? One reason could be that users don’t have to search for videos on TikTok, like YouTube, where they have to search. Trending videos on TikTok, automatically show up as soon as you open the app, and then the algorithm does its job. Another reason could be that the videos are concise. Some even as short as 15 or 30 seconds. You simply can't stop! Moreover, the content is very fresh, and it never actually becomes monotonous. It tempts people to spend more time in it and this is by definition, addictive. On TikTok, everyone wants to showcase their talents and their personality. It's not just a catalog with photos from your meal and your day trip. You need to have a "skill" to get into TikTok and for the algorithm to keep you on top.

So, what is TikTok?

Good question. Really.

TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. ByteDance is valued now at US$75 billion, making it the most valuable startup in the world.

Quite interesting is that TikTok is not available in China; they have a version called Douyin that complies with the nation’s censorship restrictions. But let's take it from the start. The Chinese company first launched Douyin in September 2016. Douyin was not only developed in 200 days but also took less than a year to reach 100 million users and 1 billion videos viewed daily. Keep in mind that this all happened a year before TikTok was launched.

Then, they branded Douyin as TikTok when they entered the international market in September 2017, but they still keep the original name in their home country, as we said. By the end of January 2018, it was already the number one free app in Thailand and several other markets. What is worth mentioning is that in November 2017, ByteDance invested $1 billion in acquiring, a popular app among US teens. This marks the start of TikTok’s success story. It was a checkmate acquiring It was the only significant competitor at that time. The number of TikTok downloads now exceeds 1.8 billion in only 3 years after it was launched! Much better than YouTube and Snapchat that took them more time to have billions of users. During the first quarter of 2019, TikTok became the third most downloaded app in the world and the only app in the top 5 list not owned by Facebook. Mark must be really frustrated now 🤣. I can't wait to read the statistics of the downloads during the worldwide lockdown. I bet they will have exponentially increased!

How does TikTok work?

The reason I first compared it with Instagram stories is that in TikTok, you can share a short-form mobile video, which is very similar to Instagram's content-type: vertical videos. I will assume that you are a beginner at TikTok, so I will cover the basics. Even me -- a millennial marketer -- I had trouble figuring out how TikTok works at first. But after a short time, I manage to understand it. And you will too. My goal for this paragraph is not only to know how it works so as to use it, but also to understand how a user and a prospective customer will be able to interact with your brand's TikTok account.

After you download the app, signup (you don’t have to register for an account on TikTok but registering for an account allows you to follow other users and create videos), and open it on your mobile phone, a video will start playing right away without you even selecting a video! The videos that play automatically are "featured videos", labeled “for you,” which the app has chosen to highlight. The tab next to "for you" feed, is the “following” where you can see videos from accounts you follow. It's more like Twitter's feed, but the video is the primary content here.

TikTok for you fy page - Growthtale Blog
TikTok "for you" & "following" page feed

If you find a video you enjoy, you can tap the heart ❤️ to like it or the speech bubble 💬 to comment.

TikTok engagement options (Like, Comment, Share) - Growthtale
TikTok engagement options (Like, Comment, Share)

To share the video, you can press the forward sign (underneath the comment symbol) to see your sharing options.

TikTok's sharing options Growthtale
TikTok's sharing options

Now, if you want to see more of the account's videos you can swipe left to visit their profile.

Swipe to visit account's profile TikTok Growthtale
Swipe to visit account's profile

Now, if you tap on the second tab "Discover", or magnifying glass 🔍, you are entering the app's search area. You have 2 options here, you can either search out accounts, videos, sounds, and hashtags, or you can look right below the search bar to see videos by trending topic.

TikTok's search area Growthtale
TikTok's search area

So, if users now find an account that may want to follow, they can follow it by pressing the icon that includes its profile picture and a plus sign (above the heart button on their video). If they know the account they want to follow they can simply search for it. Another way is to use TikTok's barcode. I will explain more later.

How to follow a TikTok account Growthtale
How to follow a TikTok account

The application also offers the feature of messaging. Like every social media platform, it encourages interaction and two-way communication. In this area, the user also sees its notifications. So as a brand you will be able to see who liked your video, or commented or sent a message to you.

TikTok inbox Growthtale
TikTok inbox

The plus symbol (in the center) is from where you create or share content. I will explain later, be patient. I don't wont to overwhelm you from the beginning. We will dive into TikTok's creator tools and interactive filters later. I just want you to remember that the upper limit for recording within the app is 60'', but 15'' is considered as the magic number. So, you are probably here to find ways to add TikTok to your marketing strategy. Right? Now that you are more familiar with TikTok's environment we can continue...

Is TikTok for businesses?

The short answer is YES! Users are more active than ever now, and not many apps can boast 90% of their users accessing them on a daily basis 😮. Especially now, during coronavirus lockdown, there were 65 million worldwide downloads in March, according to analytics site SensorTower. In addition to the existing 800 million reported in January by DataReportal (though TikTok itself does not publish such data). And as the world is encouraged to #stayhome to stop the spread of coronavirus, adults are finally joining TikTok, while only teens were using this platform. And this was our (the marketers) main concern whether to use TikTok to our social media marketing mix or not. Even, celebrities have joined the app too, from Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith, Mariah Carey to 82-year-old Jane Fonda.

Even the (World Health Organization) WHO joined TikTok with the #safehandschallenge to prevent the spread of coronavirus!

According to TikTok, 41% of the users are between the ages of 16-24. With almost 50% of TikTok's global audience being under the age of 34, a lot of brands don't even consider this platform to be as another communication tool. However, 26% are between the ages of 25-44 and in less than 18 months, the number of US adult TikTok users grew 5.5 times. The adult audience has increased exponentially! When it comes to the average number of videos watched on TikTok, there were more than 1 million videos viewed every single day within a year. Moreover, TikTok has the highest follower engagement rates with Cloutmeter finding an average 52.1% engagement rate. As with most social media, these engagement rates are highly dependent on the size of the account's following, but this number is already promising.

What we can learn from all that is that adults are finally catching on TikTok and if your audience is on TikTok your business has to be too. Moreover, it is a media where the audience actually engages with the platform's content! So, what are you waiting for?

How businesses can integrate TikTok in their marketing strategies?

We are going to analyze ten (10) practical tips and share some ideas on how to exploit TikTok for your business, whether this is a bakery or an e-commerce shop.

1. Understand how content sharing on TikTok works

I could say that TikTok has one of the most powerful editing tools right now. TikTok encourages users to create native videos within the app but also allows pre-edited videos to be uploaded too. And it also gives you the option to create a slideshow if you want, with images from your library. Users can then add effects, music, filters, and text to their content. TikTok videos can also be downloaded and reused for other platforms. Video duration should be between 5 and 16 seconds but it also can be up to 60 seconds as we mentioned before.

So, once you press the "+" icon to start making your own video, this brings up the editing and recording interface.

Video editing and recording interface of TikTok growthtale
Video editing and recording interface of TikTok

As you can see, even if you are a small business with limited resources, you can use these integrated tools to enrich your video. You can control the speed and add different filters. You can also add special effects to the videos.

TikTok Effects Section growthtale
TikTok Effects Section

You can select one of the most trendings right now, or the new ones, or most interactives, and many more special effects. These will boost your video if used properly.

TikTok Sounds Section
TikTok Sounds Section

I think, that the most powerful feature is that you can find and use sounds from a huge sound library. You can search for something specific or select something from the suggested lists.

There are so many categories, that if you own a fashion store, for example, you can select a sound for your video from the Playlist and more specifically from the category Fashion & 💅! You can also add voice effects, stickers, edit your video frames, and adjust clips. Now you can understand why I said at the beginning that TikTok has one of the most powerful editing tools right now. I think Instagram stories need to catch up on TikTok.

Describing a TikTok Video - Before Publishing growthtale
Describing a TikTok Video - Before Publishing

Then all you do is add a caption. Those are limited to 140 characters of plain text, emojis, #hashtags, and tags where you can add other profiles. WOW, that's a short caption actually. You need to be very careful about the text and the hashtags you are going to use. At this point, I need to clarify that a lot of #hashtags are used for challenges. We will explain more later. But it is also important for this platform too to use them. If you do not use hashtags in the caption then it will only reach your followers but if you include hashtags and use it, it will easily reach all the users of the TikTok. So, hashtag research should be done separately for TikTok.

Before publishing the video, you can also select who can see the video (public, friends, private). For a business, I definitely don't recommend "private" publishing, but the "public" is the best option. If you want though to reward those who follow you back (friends) you can select publishing a video made only for them under this publishing status. For example, you can share with them a hashtag challenge contest and you may want to give a voucher to one of your followers.

It is also very important to enable stitch, duet, and react where we are going to analyze further below. Finally, you have the option to share the video directly to WhatsApp, Instagram Feed, Instagram Stories, or Facebook.

2. Create a profile and promote it (barcode & cross-platform sharing)

Now that we have understood how to create content, let's focus on the profile structure and its promotion. What you can add in a TikTok bio is a profile image, a username, a bio, and a link to Instagram and YouTube. And that's all. I personally love this simplicity.

Editing TikTok profile growthtale
Editing TikTok profile

Like the video captions we discussed, the bios on TikTok are also limited to 140 characters of plain text and emojis. The 140 characters can include a link to your website or blog or anywhere you want users to go; however, the link isn't clickable for now! So, make sure if you have an Instagram profile and/or a YouTube channel, to link them in the profile. Now, for a business, I would suggest using as a profile image your business logo and at the bio section your Instagram bio with some adjustments. The username should stay the same as any other social media account for consistency! Since you won't share the same content on both Instagram and TikTok you should change the bio and let the followers know what this account is about. If you own a hair salon, for example, you could use TikTok to share awesome hair transformations, use your logo as a profile image, and write a short bio like "Hair Transformations in 15''. Challenge accepted 💪". Everyone will understand as soon as they land in the profile what sort of content you share.

And like any other social media platform, TikTok has a verified status once an account reaches a certain level of popularity on the platform.

example of a tiktok account on tiktok growthtale

And, don't neglect to promote your TikTok channel to your other social media platforms. Let your existing social media followers know that you have a brand new, fun, and binge-watch profile on TikTok! But, don't overdo it, and share all your TikTok videos to your Insta Stories (as we see already). You want to give a reason to visit your profile in TikTok and follow from there. Moreover, you can use TikTok's barcode to print it in your business cards or add it to your physical store, event space, etc. It is an interactive way to promote your profile. If you (1) click on the three dots, up and right on your profile page, you will see your Privacy and Safety setting. By clicking (2) Manage My Account >> (3) My TikCode you will see the scannable code which you can save.

Example of a TikCode
Example of a TikCode

3. Create and share AWESOME content!

What businesses should NOT do on TikTok is to share the same videos they post on Instagram. TikTok has another philosophy and you need to respect it. It a platform that you can showcase your products or services in a fun way. Your goal should be that the users will want to share your video, or reproduce your challenge, or use your audio clips!

Check out some examples below.

Chipotle has been so creative with its videos. They also have one of the best TikTok bios I have read, which is short and funny - “Less Tok, More Guac”.

NBA, one of my favorites accounts that couldn't resist joining TikTok. One of the most viral videos included collaborations with TikTok influencers and some dance challenges.

Gymshark, an account with millions of followers that has managed to share content consistently with workout routines in a fun and creative way!

All videos above have something in common. The fun element. And all of them were probably created within the app. They definitely are using sounds from the application, and they are not trying to sell something if you notice. This is the "secret sauce" actually. TikTok is a great tool to showcase also the people behind the company. It is a great opportunity to be more transparent and show behind the scenes content. Something that social media users love!

4. Collaborate with NEW influencers

And when I say new, I mean it. TikTok has its own ecosystem of influencers, some of whom have followings of millions of fans like Charli D'Amelio with 47.7 million subscribers, and many others. Just find their profile on Instagram and you will understand! The difference in the number of followers is huge!

TikTok has its own TikTok Creator Marketplace which is a platform including thousands of TikTok creators and brands can search creators whose audiences best fit the target market. According to the Telegraph, TikTok influencers with 2.5 million followers or more charge around $600-1000 per post compared to $100-$200 for every 10,000-20,000 followers on Instagram! Just do the math... So on TikTok, you can collaborate with them as you used to do on other platforms, but in a more cost-effective way.

5. Participate in hashtag challenges

Or create your own!

As we said, hashtags on TikTok are mostly about challenges. Find your niche hashtag and create a video for your business related to this hashtag challenge. Go to the search area and search for your industry, check out the trending hashtags, and create your video! For example, a shoe company should definitely join #ShoeChallenge.

And if you don't want to follow the trend there is always the option to create your own hashtag challenge, so that users will replicate it and as a result, you will have increased brand awareness. GUESS, was one of the first brands which launched their own hashtag challenge #InMyDenim that drove many followers, over 42 million views, and other users joining the #InMyDenim hashtag challenge with their own videos like the one below.

6. Create your branded AR lenses, filters, and stickers

Another way to expose your brand is to create your audio clip or your branded filters for TikTok users to insert into their video content. TikTok offers the ability to create and use 2D, 3D, and Augmented Reality (AR) on the platform. With branded lenses, users will be able to interact with your brand and play with it by using their filters. By incorporating the user, branded lens into a hashtag challenge, it can create a stronger bond for the promotion of your product or services.

7. Make a duet with your buyer persona

Remember when I referred to enabling the duet feature before publishing a video? Now, if you want your followers to make a duet with your brand you need to enable it. A TikTok duet is a video that gets placed beside another so that those can be watched simultaneously in the app.

How to duet a video on TikTok
How to duet a video on TikTok

Music Label "The Other Songs" were looking to drive more attention to their upcoming single ‘Love Again’ by RuthAnne. So they added the audio to TikTok's library and used the duet feature to encourage users to interact with their content. It was all-around sharing insecurities with the hashtag #PromoteLove. Thanks to the duet feature, there were 871 user videos created from the influencer videos. This resulted in 6X more video views from not only the original video but with the duets too.

8. Imitate other popular videos

Keep up on trends!

It's not bad on TikTok to follow the trend and do what others are doing. You don’t have to struggle to come up with new and unique content ideas for TikTok. The platform is based around community engagement and hashtags, so all you have to do is find existing content and make it your own. It's actually what this platform is about. What I want to suggest you though is to add something about your brand into the imitation. You need to be authentic in some way and differentiate. By revealing your brand’s "personality", your target audience will feel connected to you and relate to you, which builds long-term trust with your brand.

Or in case you want to create a challenge, for example, It’s important to keep imitation in mind. If you make the challenge too difficult for people to replicate, your target audience is less likely to participate in the challenge.

9. Keep an eye on your analytics

The minute your create your brand account you must enable analytics. This is free to do for now, but you need to activate TikTok Pro Account. To change the account to Pro, you need to go to the profile page, open the Privacy and Settings tab, choose “Manage My Account”, tap “Switch to Pro Account” and follow the steps from there. A TikTok pro account enables you to have analytics insights in the last 7 and 28 days. With TikTok Pro, you can see video views, follower growth, and which are your trending videos. You can also have insights into your followers, like gender and top countries. And we all know that analytics is important to make informed business decisions.

10. There is always an advertising option...

Like any other social media network, TikTok offers an advertising option. Advertising campaigns start at $50/day now with no long-term commitment, so it's not for everyone, considering you may need quite a big budget. TikTok ads can send users to your website, an app page in the app store, or promote your hashtag challenge on the platform. In general, there are four types of ads:

  • Infeed Native Content: This type of ad is similar to Snapchat or Instagram story ads and supports multiple features like website clicks or app downloads. These video ads play between user content and can be between 9 and 15 seconds long and include buttons. However, users can skip or scroll past these ads. So it has to be engaging.

  • Brand Takeovers: These ads appear in the user’s feed before they see any other user content. This lets brands take over TikTok for the day. They can create images, GIFs, and videos with embedded links to landing pages or hashtag challenges. Brand takeover ads cost anywhere between $20,000 – $200,000 (Digiday, 2019).

  • Hashtag Challenges: Instead of trying to make a hashtag challenge go viral on your own, you can use promoted hashtags to get more engagement. Hashtag Challenges cost brands $100,000+ (Adweek, 2019).

  • Branded Lenses: Branded lenses are like the Snapchat 2D and 3D lenses for faces and photos. Users can select the lenses when choosing a filter for their video and those lenses can be live for 10 days. The lenses are automatically included in the top 10 trending list and it comes in 2D and 3D. TikTok is currently working on an AR version.


TikTok is for any type of business as long as your audience is on TikTok. It is a great application to reach Gen Z. So, if it's not your audience now, it will be in a few years... It's a great opportunity to create brand awareness among your next-gen customers. So, are you joining?


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