The wildly popular social media platform TikTok sees more than a billion monthly users worldwide, with the average user opening the app eight times a day. That mix of reach and engagement makes the app an ideal marketing tool—in fact, 24% of marketers found TikTok to be valuable for their goals in 2022, a dramatic 700% increase from the year prior. It’s not hard to see why. TikTok ads reportedly reach 884.9 million people—that’s 17.9% of all internet users above the age of 18—and those users are responding with their money. TikTokkers spent $2.3 billion on the app in 2021; in 2022, a survey saw 67% of users saying TikTok inspires them to shop.
Whether you’re a creator or building a brand, here’s why TikTok may be your next best bet in the advertising game.
If you’re new to social media marketing, fear not: TikTok offers some guidance. The TikTok Creator Portal provides tips on various aspects of advertising on the app. Delving deeper into content strategy, the portal suggests formats based on your objectives, spacing of captions, and appropriate video length and creative effects.
The secret behind monetizing ads isn’t the selling, but the manner of storytelling. Rather than traditional advertising, your message is delivered through tutorials, vlogs, and everything in between—a story told with a beginning, middle, and end.
Once you have a handle on the basics, you’ll need to create a Business Account, which is different from a Personal Account.
This can be done in four steps:
- Go to Settings and Privacy.
- Click on Manage account.
- Under Account Control, tap Switch to Business Account.
- Then, Choose a Category: Options include Arts & Crafts, Gaming, Electronics, Media & Entertainment, and Other; the possibilities of TikTok expand from here.
A primary difference between TikTok and other platforms is the marketer’s level of control. After signing up for the Ads Manager, the goal is to craft a TikTok marketing strategy that will monetize your efforts. A simple marketing strategy with Ads Manager breaks down into three parts:
- Campaigns: This is where you set overall objectives, like increasing app downloads or driving more traffic to your website. At this stage, you also have three budget options: You can either set your ads to stop running when they hit your Daily Budget or a total Lifetime Budget—or you can choose to have no limit.
- Ad Groups: Here, you choose where your ads will appear. These details include your target audience, exact budget, the start and end times for your ads, and your optimization goals (conversion, click, or reach).
- Ads: In the final stage, you create the ad itself. You can name the ad, select a format, enter details, upload media and assets (display name, text, captions, call-to-action buttons), and add a tracking option.
To advertise on TikTok—whether it’s to build a fan base, sell products, or increase brand awareness—marketers generally keep the video length between nine and 15 seconds. Here are five ad formats the platform offers:
- In-Feed: Self-made and aimed at a target audience through hashtags, these 9–15-second ads auto-play on users’ For You page. They can include images, carousels, and Spark ads, a native format which boosts existing content.
- Brand Takeover: These take up the entire screen on autoplay as soon as a user opens the app. Brand Takeovers include a direct link to a website or product and can be utilized once per day.
- TopView: These ads offer the same services as branded takeover ads, but appear for five seconds after the user opens the app. They are also the longest ad option, running up to 60 seconds in length.
- Branded Effect: These consist of custom AR filters, 3D stickers, and virtual reality games specific to the brand.
- Branded Hashtag: Geared toward businesses and content creators with ownership of a specific hashtag, the goal of these ads is to encourage TikTok users to make related content using their hashtag as a “challenge.” For example, if a makeup shop called Lipstick Guru wanted to promote their brand, the challenge would be called the #LipstickGuruChallenge.
The price of marketing on TikTok depends on the type of ad your brand utilizes. In general, TikTok ads start at $10 per 1,000 views (CPM), with a minimum of $500 spent on the campaign. The most expensive option is a Branded Hashtag; it reportedly costs an average of $150,000 to get your challenge into the app’s Discovery banner.
"If you’re a brand on TikTok you need to understand why people use the app in the first place,” says Jordan Evans, founder and CEO of Motion, a TikTok marketing agency. “TikTok’s user base wants to be entertained, educated, or inspired so you need to ensure that your content does one or multiple of these things.”
Some of the most famous TikTok stars earned a fortune by going viral with attractive, original content, often following the app’s latest trends. TikTok’s content includes everything from hair care videos and quick lectures to makeup routines and commentary on world events. On the funnier side, many videos are memes set to music, dancing, and lip-syncing to clips (“sounds”). But what makes a creator or brand’s TikTok shine?
First, you’ll need to find the right tools. TikTok’s in-app editing software lets you adjust key video elements like playback speed, length, and volume, but there is also plenty of free editing software that can help you take your short-form content to the next level, such as:
The number one thing to keep in mind is that you’re competing with the more than 1 billion videos that users view every day. Rudy Turinay, a consultant for TikTok and the CEO of the marketing and advertising company Agence Victoria says you should engage a user from the first frame. “It should showcase an immediate purpose,” he says. “First, movement. Second, text or caption. Third, strong delivery of an emotion. The initial delivery gives viewers a reason to keep watching.”
Remember that every video is competing for people’s attention. “This is why the viewer needs to understand immediately that there’s going to be a purpose to their video and [that they] will likely have a reward at the end for watching the whole thing,” Turinay says. “The reward can be a joke, a plot twist, a reveal, or any sort of cheerful ending.”
Evans points to the feed of Irish airline Ryanair (and its 1.8 million followers) as an example of a TikTok marketing success story. “Their social media team has developed an authentic personality which counteracts the traditional corporate strategy by jumping on trends and centering their content around humor whilst also keeping it relevant to their service,” he says. “Sales isn’t their focus on each post, community building is. This is the reason for their success—understanding the platform and their audience.”
Another pro tip? Keep TikTok’s key demographics in mind if it makes sense for what you’re promoting. Over 60% of users are under the age of 30, and 75% are under 40. Across the world, 57% of TikTok’s audience is female; in the United States, that number rises to 61%.
An influencer is a creator who has built an audience around a specific niche or type of content. Numerous doors open for a TikTokker once they become one—collaborating with brands, creating sponsored posts, hosting events, and being part of the TikTok Creator Program. Getting to know these creators, asking their rates, and presenting them with your business plan can begin the journey toward an influencer-brand partnership.
The payoff is that the influencer’s audience becomes your audience—and that means a viewership with built-in trust and enthusiasm. An Adweek study found that an impressive 49% of TikTok users purchased a product simply because they saw their favorite content creator use or review it on the app. The influencer in question doesn’t even need to have a massive following—sometimes, nano- and micro-influencers can be the key to your brand becoming a new audience’s go-to product.
Evans notes that one of the most successful forms of brand and influencer partnership is whitelisting, where a brand runs ads through an influencer’s account.
“[Whitelisting delivers] higher performance because viewers don’t recognize them as ads; they seem way more personable, like a recommendation from a friend, he says. “This leads to an increased watch time, which allows us to inform the viewer about the product or services USPs and include a call to action to click through to our clients’ website and, ultimately, make a sale.”
TikTok shared in its business blog that partnering with creators and inviting co-creation produces the best storytelling—and more deeply connects with users: “Inviting them into your brand’s narrative by encouraging them to Stitch, Duet, comment, etc. with you and your creators makes the relationship more meaningful.”