TikTok has exploded onto the scene and become one of the most downloaded apps in the world today. The platform began as a modestly successful video-sharing app – named Douyin in its native country of China and TikTok to the rest of the world. However, in 2018 it bought out the more popular social app, Musical.ly, and migrated all its non-Chinese users to a new combined TikTok platform. The company still operates Douyin as a separate app in China.

It should come as a surprise to no one that marketers are beginning to see the potential of the platform. This is a TikTok marketing guide centered around how to advertise on the platform, and 5 strategies to maximize ROI.

how to advertise on tiktok

But first, let’s dive into what exactly TikTok is, who uses it, and why it’s taking the world by storm.

What is TikTok?

TikTok allows users were originally able to create videos up to 15-seconds long, though they later added the ability to create and share up to 60-second videos. When it was still known as Musical.ly, users on the platform focused most of their content on lip-synching to music videos. The most talented and technically proficient creators uploaded videos of their original content, and these are the users who became the first influencers on the platform.

Both TikTok and Musical.ly targeted the same audience – teens, tweens and young adults. The platform’s growth in popularity has also catalyzed more variety in the types of content people share on the app. It’s no longer just lip-synching videos. Up and coming comedians performing their stand-up, pranksters pulling one over on their friends or parents, talented dancers, fashionistas and everything in between have found their place on TikTok. And there is no sign of them slowing down anytime soon.

Who Uses TikTok?

As mentioned above, Musical.ly actively targeted Gen-Z users. And it’s new iteration, TikTok, is no different. It’s a platform that has massive international appeal, with large numbers of users across the globe everywhere from the U.S, India, and of course, China. Douyin itself has reported having over 400 million monthly users as of January of this year. Meanwhile, TikTok currently boasts an estimated 800 million monthly active users around the globe.

TikTok is estimated to have about 60 million monthly active users in the United States alone. 60% of those users are female, 40% are male. 60% are between the ages of 16-24, with another 26% between the ages 25-44. About 80% of this audience is between the ages of 16-34. This data was directly sourced from TikTok itself.

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Now that we know a little bit about who it is that is using TikTok, let’s discuss how to create an ad on the platform.

How to Create a Direct Ad

The beauty of direct ads on TikTok is that they allow you to promote your brand and customize the format to a certain degree. However, this is still a process in its infancy and one that is only available to a select group of advertisers. Getting ahead of the curve could give you a leg up the competition, so here are the 3 steps you need to follow in order to advertise on TikTok.

Back in February 2019, in-feed video ads like these began appearing in users’ feeds.
Back in February 2019, in-feed video ads like these began appearing in users’ feeds.

1. Create an Ads Account

Because the system is still in beta, you must submit an online form to be eligible to create an Ads account. After the form submission, you’ll be contacted by a TikTok employee to finalize the setup process for your Ads account.

2. Create a Campaign

After you have completed the submission process and successfully created your ads account, you can now post your campaign. TikTok allows you to select the goal of your campaign, your budget, your desired ad placement, and the demographic you wish to target. For brands with less developed buyer personas, you can also leave it to the algorithm to determine your ad placement and where your ad is likely to perform best.

3. Choose the Type of Ad You Want to Run

There are three different types of ads: brand takeover, sponsored hashtags, and in-feed ads. Brand takeover ads appear on the users’ screen as soon as they open the app, though these ads have limits as only one advertiser per day can run their ad on the platform.

Sponsored hashtags allow you to promote creative content with a specific hashtag. Oftentimes, these ads are created in the form of a challenge, one of the most popular content formats on TikTok.

Many consider in-feed ads as the most organic of the ad types, largely because they appear as part of the video queue of the user or at the end of a video they are watching. These ads are considered to be less disruptive than other ad types like brand takeovers.

5 Strategies To Maximize ROI

There are many ways to advertise on TikTok, but let’s discuss 5 specific strategies for advertising on the platform, and the best ways to maximize ROI.

1. Employ Traditional Influencer Marketing

If your brand’s product or service suits an influencer’s audience, a TikTok influencer campaign can be extremely successful. The key to achieving influencer marketing success is setting tangible, attainable goals and targeting a specific segment of the sales funnel. TikTok creators need their content to remain organic and authentic to their audience in order for influencer marketing to be successful.

In most cases, it’s best to leave it to the influencers when it comes to creating content – they have their finger on the pulse of what their followers like and the type of content they engage with. Often times, brands simply need to encourage influencers to make content that depicts them using the brand’s product or service. Of course, brands must keep in mind that this tactic is only effective when the influencer is the type of person who would typically use the product, making the pairing feel authentic and organic.

Celebrities like Shawn Mendes, Kendall Jenner, and Travis Scott were activated for an influencer campaign by iconic fashion brand Calvin Klein.
Celebrities like Shawn Mendes, Kendall Jenner, and Travis Scott were activated for an influencer campaign by iconic fashion brand Calvin Klein.

2. Activate a Strategic Brand Takeover

Brand takeover ads appear instantly when a user opens the app, which brings your brand message front and center on the platform. This type of activation allows you to drive users to either an internal or external destination – but as referenced in the section above, the use of this format is limited to one advertiser per day. One of the first examples we saw of this ad format on TikTok was food delivery service Grubhub during TikTok’s testing phase to run a mobile app install ad.

3. Create a Viral Hashtag Challenge

Hashtag challenges have proven to be hugely appealing to TikTok users, which makes this ad format particularly appealing for brands. This approach encourages user-generated content (UGC) by asking users on the platform to participate in a challenge, which as we mentioned are immensely popular on TikTok. Hashtag challenges leverage the users’ affinity to create and share content on the platform while simultaneously creating huge potential for virality.

Hashtag challenges

4. Consider Branded AR Lenses

TikTok has over 800 million monthly active users around the world and counting. Given the explosive nature of its growth, the potential of running ad campaigns for businesses is intriguing for nearly every vertical. Much like the AR lenses offered by competitors like Instagram and Snapchat, TikTok’s branded lenses will bring face filters, 3D objects, and much more to users.

As has been proven by the success of the feature on Snapchat, AR lenses offer the ability to provide an incredibly deep level of user engagement, and given the demographic of the majority of the app’s user base, this could end up being a very popular option for companies looking to boost their brand messaging. The engaging nature of the promotion itself is a great way to generate excitement and enthusiasm around your product or service on social media.

branded lenses Tik Tok ad format

5. Get Creative With In-Feed Ads

In-feed ads are TikTok’s native ads that are placed either at the bottom of organically posted videos or in the main feed as part of the video queue, depending on the type of product you are promoting. These ads are typically centered around a strong CTA because they redirect to your website or app. So get creative with your in-feed ad! Brands should look to capitalize on the user demographic as it pertains to its buyer persona. An influencer activation also provides an opportunity for some synergistic approaches with this format. On average, in-feed ads on TikTok cost around $10 per CPM, making them a more affordable option than brand takeovers for organizations with more limited budgets.

in-feed ad format overview on TikTok

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