Posted 06.04.2021 by Meghan Crawford
It’s difficult to talk about social media in 2021 without mentioning TikTok. Even though the app’s been around for a few years, it still feels like it blew up out of nowhere. That’s partly because TikTok’s user base has been growing exponentially, muscling into new markets and demographics.
B2C brands are already jumping on board and creating great viral content on TikTok and it’s beginning to look more and more like a potential tool for B2B marketers as well.
If you’ve heard of TikTok but aren’t quite sure what it is or how it can be used by B2B brands, read on.
TikTok is a social media platform for short-form video content, somewhat reminiscent of the now-defunct Vine. Originally launched in 2016 for the Chinese market, TikTok was released to global users in 2018 when parent company ByteDance merged it with the lip-syncing app Musical.ly.
With the rebrand of Musical.ly came a shift in the type of content being created on the app. Although lip-syncing is still common on TikTok, users also explore other themes in their videos, like dancing, comedy, art, and social challenges.
TikTok is one of the fastest growing social media platforms right now.
By the end of 2020, TikTok had reached over 2 billion downloads globally, outpacing Facebook and Instagram in downloads. And that momentum hasn’t slowed down. It was the single most downloaded non-gaming app worldwide at the end of Q1 2021, with nearly 60 million downloads in March.
Undeniably a popular app.
So, who are all these people downloading and using TikTok?
Well, mostly young people.
TikTok has been extremely popular among Gen Z users, but the average user age is slowly shifting upward. As of June 2020, 64% of active U.S. users on the app were between the ages of 10 and 29. But according to this March 2021 report, that age group now accounts for just 47% of active U.S. users, with the 30 to 49 age group accounting for 42%.
That’s out of an estimated 100 million active monthly TikTok users in the U.S.
And because TikTok tends to retain users better than competing platforms, you can still expect an audience eager to watch your content and engage with your brand down the line.
Many social media platforms launch and find only minimal success, but TikTok has found staying power when so many others simply fizzle out. So, what’s their secret?
Part of why draws users to TikTok is that it leverages what was once so attractive about platforms like YouTube and Vine: the potential to go viral.
John Holdridge of Fullscreen told Forbes, “We’ve all gotten so caught up in maximizing reach by growing a massive fan base through subscribers or followers, so it’s refreshing to have a platform with an algorithm that rewards content above all else.” He continued to add that the focus on quality content lets users be themselves while creating a space for brands to connect with and inspire them through entertaining, authentic content.
Another ingredient to TikTok’s growing fame is cross-platform promotion. Users find and share popular videos on Twitter and Instagram. Not only does this accelerate the rise of viral TikTok creators, it also helps TikTok trends migrate onto other platforms and drives new users to the app.
Now that you’ve had a crash course in what TikTok is and how to use it, let’s talk about its possibilities as a marketing tool.
Based on the demographics, TikTok might not seem like the most intuitive choice for B2B marketing, despite its growing popularity with B2C brands looking to reach their audiences in new ways.
But B2C and B2B buyers both want the fundamentally same thing out of brand interactions on social: entertaining, inspiring, or helpful content that improves their lives. After all, like B2C buyers, B2B buyers are real, live humans, and recent studies show that their purchasing decisions aren’t as logically driven as we might have believed.
That’s not to say that TikTok is the new LinkedIn. For many brands, it probably won’t be a good match but maybe not for the reasons you’d think. Deciding whether or not you should try TikTok has less to do with the platform and more to do with your brand.
Here are 8 ways to tell if TikTok could be a fit for your brand’s B2B social media strategy:
Creating B2B content for TikTok is mostly uncharted territory, so you need to make sure you and your team have the creative bandwidth (and budget) to do something new that requires trial and error.
TikTok content is entertaining, clever, and personal. Speaking of which…
TikTok is not the place for faceless, branded content focused on products and services. The biggest backlash against B2B brands joining the platform has been that users want TikTok to stay a creative, authentic channel for human-to-human interaction. The most successful B2C brands on the platform are those whose content doesn’t feel like a sales-pitch; the same will be true for B2B. TikTok users want to see real humans, creating entertaining, informational, and personal content.
For instance, Adrian is an entrepreneur, but his content is as much about life lessons as it is business.
@adrianbrambilaI owe my father and mother everything ##mexican ##mytiktokstory ##fyp♬ Bella ciao – HUGEL Remix Extended – El Profesor
To stand out on a site that is overflowing with innovative, fresh ideas, you’ll need to be pretty creative. As a marketer, you already understand high-risk = high-reward. On TikTok, the risks might just look… weirder.
@washingtonpost𝙋𝙧𝙚𝙩𝙩𝙮 𝙘𝙤𝙤𝙡 𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙘𝙠 ##lifehack ##latteart♬ Seve – Tez Cadey
Seriously. If a comment section full of “ok, boomer” sounds daunting, this might not be the app for you. Your community management game needs to be solid.
Wait, targeting younger audiences with B2B content? If it sounds counter-intuitive, hear us out.
Gen Z is currently the largest living generation in the U.S., making up nearly 28% of the total population. While many Zoomers are literal teenagers or even younger, as of 2021 the oldest members of the generation are 24. They’re not little kids; these are college graduates and young professionals we’re talking about.
So, TikTok is (in general) a platform that young people love, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Young people own and run businesses, use and buy software, and yeah, they’re on TikTok. A lot.
While user-generated content (UGC) is always handy for buffing up your content calendar or repurposing for paid social ads, it’s especially good fodder for TikTok. Not only does UGC typically come across as more authentic than highly-produced, brand-created content, it’s also uniquely suited to the interactive and responsive style of videos that are most popular on TikTok.
@chipotleThis cat is a whole mood ##petsoftiktok ##foryou ##chipotle @nathanthecatlady♬ original sound – chipotle
TikTok is an incubator for some of the best ideas on the internet right now. Viral TikTok videos make great templates for high-performing content on other platforms. You’ve probably already seen TikTok-style videos in your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feeds. And if you think that TikTok style content doesn’t make sense for B2B brands, think again. Here’s a TikTok inspired video of ours that went viral. 👇
Measuring ROI effectively for social media is always complicated, but because TikTok is primarily an entertainment and awareness channel, you’ll be mostly concerned with top-of-funnel metrics. Don’t expect TikTok to generate leads, sales, and conversions without building an audience first.
If you want to see what successful TikTok marketing looks like, look for inspiration from accounts (B2B and B2C) that are crushing it.
Here are our top five tips for how to use their methods in your B2B strategy on TikTok:
TikTok is inherently a very personal platform, built for one-on-one human interaction. For some B2B companies, asserting brand presence through a personal account, like that of their CEO or Marketing Leader, could be a better move. Brands with popular or charismatic leadership have been doing this on other social media platforms as part of their executive social media strategies with success for years.
Brands that get it:
Morgan & Morgan – Morgan & Morgan’s awareness marketing is next level, so of course they’re crushing it on TikTok, one of the most powerful awareness channels out there right now. How? By incorporating their found and CEO John Morgan into skits and comedic videos. It works so well because he’s showing off the fun personality behind an already well-known face (you’ve likely seen John on multiple billboards) and not taking himself too seriously.
@forthepeopleNew to TikTok, John Morgan driving us out the gate. #lawyer #fy #ForThePeople #medicalmarijuna #fyp♬ original sound – Morgan & Morgan
Gary Vaynerchuck – Yes, Gary Vee is on TikTok. VaynerMedia (his company) is not. And it doesn’t need to be. Gary Vee’s successful TikTok presence is partly because he’s Gary Vee. But he’s also strategic with the kind of content he posts. While there are plenty of useful, informative videos, his TikTok account isn’t just a crash course in entrepreneurship. He also posts a lot of personal content, uses trending hashtags and sounds, and has fun with it.
@garyveeCEO of Bananas 🍌 ##fyp ##garyvee♬ ceo of underrated audios – jadenhasnoclout
You want to create content that involves the users, instead of engaging them passively. We mentioned before that UGC is a great tactic for making brands on TikTok seem less, well, branded. If you don’t have any UGC already, make some. Encourage users to create content in response to yours that shows them using your brand or participating in the challenge.
Brands that get it:
Gymshark – With tens of thousands of new followers every month, Gymshark is clearly doing something right. The secret? No product posts, period. Instead, they leverage their large base of brand ambassadors to crank out fitness challenges, memes, and inspirational content to build and engage with their audience.
@gymsharkIt was a snaccident 😂 @lisafiitt #gymshark #gymtok #snack #accident♬ original sound – Gymshark
Chipotle – On TikTok, the less like an ad your ad feels, the better. Chipotle creates their own videos – which lean on trending tags and meme culture – and partners with trending influencers for a content strategy that doesn’t feel like it’s trying to sell you anything; it’s just fun to watch. We could really go for some guac right now, though.
@chipotleCome back for chips part 2 ##foryou ##guac ##chipotle♬ Pump – Valentino Khan
While the core of who your company is as a brand stays constant across platforms, your brand voice might change from channel to channel. Short of reinventing your brand entirely, find a creative, innovative way to shake things up for your TikTok presence.
Brands that get it:
Linktree – TikTok rolling out the ability to add a link to user profiles is a huge opportunity for “link in bio” tools, like Linktree. Since their ideal users are already on the app, having a strong TikTok presence is key. Linktree has been on TikTok since early 2020, but they’re not getting viral reach — yet. Their solution? Hiring a native TikTok expert to fill the gap, and where better to find that person than on the app itself? Unsurprisingly, the videos advertising the opening have the most views on their page.
@linktr.eeYeah, we really need help from a professional. 🤔 #careers #careertiktok #job #jobs♬ original sound – Linktree
Steak-umm – Well-known for their wise, self-aware Twitter persona of recent viral fame, Steak-umm on TikTok is an entirely different creature. There isn’t a lot of room for a description or caption (100 character limit for ads, 150 character limit for organic posts) on TikTok videos, so shift the way you think about “voice.” Your brand presence on TikTok isn’t a written voice but a person that embodies your brand – or in the case of Steak-umm, the literal personification of your brand.
@steakummcan’t believe she did this to me 😢😢😢 ##prank ##suspense ##gotem ##quarantine♬ original sound – slamuri
Providing well-researched and insightful commentary on trending industry topics and news is a tried a staple of any thought leadership initiative on social media. It’s also a good niche for B2B brands using platforms like TikTok as awareness channels, if they can match the tone and style of popular TikTok content.
Brands that get it:
Shopify – Shopify is showing up in a big way on TikTok, and not just because they’re the official e-commerce partner for the platform (although that definitely helps). Their content is geared toward entrepreneurs and small businesses, with a mix of helpful tips, funny sketches and memes, and of course industry news and insights. Their videos that do the best are the most relevant to users on the app, both in terms of content and made-for-TikTok formatting and editing. Take for example this video — part of a new series called “The TikTok Effect” — that does a deep dive into how a viral TikTok trend made real-world economic impacts, paired with a trending sound.
@shopifyThe TikTok Effect: Baked Feta Pasta #bakedfetapasta #fetapasta #fetacheese #cheese #tiktokeffect #foryou #didyouknow #dyk #funfact♬ original sound – Shopify
“Show, don’t tell” is a trickier art form when limited to the 60-second confines of a TikTok video (3 minutes, if you’re one of the accounts with that new feature). If you can nail the shorter, more casual format, though, it’s worth it for both the possibility of going viral on TikTok itself and the repurpose value for other platforms — the ideal video length for most platforms is between the 30 and 60 second mark.
Brands that get it:
Canva – Content that’s more educational or entertaining than promotional does best on all social media channels, but is particularly key on TikTok. Take for instance this Canva video: it fits perfectly into aesthetic inspiration and organization hack niche on TikTok while also doing a really effective job of demoing their product.
@canvaMessy desktop? More like magical 🤩 ##desktopchallenge ##desktop ##cleanup ##organizationhacks ##canva ##canvahack ##designhack ##fyp ##fypシ♬ original sound – Canva
Apex Motion Control – Apex Motion Control, a company that designs food service robots, takes the promo as entertainment approach one step further. Many of their videos featuring their robots are edited to play off current trends, pop culture references, or memes. It’s delightfully weird and incredibly engaging.
@apexmotioncouldn’t figure out how to edit devil horns and lipstick onto a machine unfortunately :/ #fyp #meme #traystacker #arigato♬ not my audio the sound is from shingunkun – 𝐣𝐚𝐲
Right now, TikTok is in a period of enormous growth, and marketing on the platform is still in its infancy. But as more and more brands use the platform for communicating with their audiences, you can expect to see more tools that are useful for businesses, like being able to track data, stats, and metrics.
Looking at the way TikTok performed in 2020, we can only expect these trends to continue, so now is a great time to get on board. If you have the available bandwidth on your marketing team to give it a try and meet the criteria we mentioned above, go for it! While platforms like LinkedIn are still the gold standard for B2B social media, it never hurts to experiment if you have the resources available to you.
At the very least, check TikTok out to get some inspiration and learn more about marketing trends.
Have you tried out TikTok for your B2B brand? Let us know if you have any tips or examples we should add! 😎
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