Posted 04.10.2023 by Josh Krakauer
It’s TikTok’s world, and we’re all living in it.
Throw away the playbook of the past. Today, you can’t plan a modern social media strategy without considering TikTok — the viral video slot machine with an exponentially growing user base.
B2C brands were early, with brands like Duolingo and Chipotle earning their crowns as TikTok royalty with (unhinged) original content. As the platform has matured, it’s become a coveted growth opportunity for B2B marketers like you too.
As a social media agency with a B2B focus, we’ve helped brands establish their POV on the platform and launch influencer, owned, and paid TikTok content for the first time.
Regardless of where you’re at in your TikTok for B2B journey, read on.
Let’s get the good stuff out of the way.
Confluence – Atlassian’s collaborative workspace product Confluence is on a mission to make teams work better. Once a product best known by the IT department, their TikTok is all about connecting with a broader community of remote workers with roles across the enterprise. Their content leans into timely trends, but also taps into a variety of creators and influencers to weave Confluence into content about collaboration and career growth.
tl;dv – Startup life, am I right? AI meeting recorder software tl;dv has built a successful TikTok presence off of entertaining skits they know will make their startup/tech-oriented audience say, “that is so true.” Their content perfectly positions them as allies with the product and CX/UX community — which is not an accident. To keep quality consistently high, all videos are produced by two dedicated, in-house creators.
Shopify – Shopify shows 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, sketches and memes, and of course industry news and insights. They made a bold bet securing a Mr. Beast partnership, which supplied some of their most watched videos of the year, but otherwise invest in a roster of in-house creators to make the majority of posts.
Zapier – It’s no surprise that an API and automation company with a rich community of partners and power users would thrive on TikTok. Their short-form content digs into the endless possibilities of the platform by sharing a) existing workflows made easier with Zapier, and b) new workflows made possible with Zapier. Even smarter, their top-performing TikToks have started doubling as demand generation ads on platforms like Instagram.
Canva – Content that’s more educational or entertaining than promotional does best on all social media channels, but is particularly key on TikTok. Canva keeps their distinctive color assets front and center in their text and thumbnails, but shifts away from the graphic-heavy feed you’re used to on other platforms. On TikTok, Canva makes content that appeals to their community of product users, and communities of professionals (who could use Canva to get their work done better).
Linktree – TikTok rolling out the ability to add a link to user profiles was 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 a no brainer. Linktree launched their presence with a campaign to hire a TikTok creator to manage their TikTok (meta much?), and has taken off by branching away from product talk and instead focusing on broader tips for creators and marketers.
Zendesk – As of April 2023, the established customer service software brand boasts an impressive stat count on TikTok: 1.16% average engagement rate, 1.4K average likes, and 185K average views (note: Spark Ads count towards these totals). What makes them stand out? Zendesk isn’t afraid to hop on trends and trending audio, partner with influencers/creators (like this original Jax song), and show a day in the life of their users and global offices.
Biteable – Biteable’s TikTok is bragworthy for several reasons, but one standout: the longevity of their publishing frequency. A near daily cadence of meme-referencing, personality-rich content from in-house Social Media Manager Haily Moulton has resulted in an engaged follower base, 5+ million collective likes, and 100+ million organic views. The strategy? With a video-based product and a wide set of use cases and category buyers, the play is to use light, fun, and relevant TikTok #9to5 content to lift brand awareness. No hard sells, just good vibes. And with so many shots on goal, it’s no surprise the strategy has paid off with videos frequently reaching north of 1+ million views.
Apex Motion Control – Apex Motion Control designs food service robots, and they won over TikTok with a variety of smart marketing moves. AMC goes beyond the classic (but boring) tutorials you’d expect. Their videos personify their products, play off trending formats, lean into pop culture, and overall make a technical product more exciting. It’s delightfully weird and incredibly engaging. While there’s a variety of content types, their in-house social media creator appears consistently in videos, and has for several years. By April 2023, they had amassed 4+ million likes on their videos, and acquired 82.7k followers.
VILPE – A Finnish manufacturing company that provides building and roofing solutions to improve air quality for homes. It’s not the type of brand you’d expect to find its fit on TikTok, and yet as of April 2023 more than 106,000 people follow them on the platform. Vilpe features product education in compelling formats, but the vast majority follow them for their office culture. By shining a light on the personalities behind the brand, they have managed to get tens of thousands of strangers invested in their mission.
Creating a cult following of company characters has translated into HR and PR success. Here’s an example: Vilpe uses its TikTok page to raise money for charity.
SILVI Materials – A family-owned concrete business, what’s not to love? Silvi is a shining example of playing to your strengths and using your assets. Boasting 12k+ followers, Silvi has found success through a combination of pleasing sights and sounds, on-site and behind-the-scenes video, a “main character” creator who doesn’t take themselves too seriously, and — let’s face it — big trucks. The combination of education, cool video, and people in uniform is working for them. (h/t to Jason Bradwell for getting Silvi and VILPE on our radar.)
SupplyHouse.com – According to their bio “Championing the trades” may be their mission, but selling equipment for maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) jobs is their business, and TikTok seems to be helping. SupplyHouse content focuses on ‘tools of the trades’, customer generated videos, equipment spotlights and education, and product-focused spark ads. This clever product video was engineered perfectly for interaction and scored nearly 200 comments.
Whether you’re marketing to a B2C shopper or a B2B buyer, all customers want the same things from their social media experience: entertainment that keeps them busy, inspiration that helps them dream, or useful content that helps them learn.
Your B2B buyers have real human emotions after all, and recent studies show that their purchasing decisions aren’t as logically driven as we might have believed.
Deciding whether or not you should invest in TikTok has less to do with the platform and more to do with your brand.
Here are 8 ways to tell if TikTok will be the right fit for your brand’s B2B social media strategy:
Creating B2B content for TikTok won’t look like your production workflow for other channels, so you need to make sure you and your team have the creative bandwidth (and budget) for trial and error.
TikTok content is entertaining, clever, and personal. Speaking of which…
TikTok is not the place for feeds of faceless, brand commercials. The case against B2B brands joining the platform used to be that users want TikTok to stay a creative, authentic channel for human-to-human interaction — and the fear was that marketers would ruin that.
The most successful brands on the platform are those whose content feels far from a sales pitch.
To accomplish this, you’ll need to consider how to pull in your people — whether that’s subject matter expert employees, dynamic founders, interesting customers, or convincing influencers.
TikTok is a platform powered by Creators. Who are yours?
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. A plan for TikTok without a plan for TikTok moderation is a plan to fail. Your community management game needs to be on point.
TikTok is (in general) a platform that young people love, and that’s a massive opportunity for B2B brands with a wide category of buyers, bottom-up product journeys, or that attract early adopters.
Those same young people own and run businesses, use and buy software, and spend a lot of time (being influenced) on social media. Success and career advancement are relatively important to Gen Z, and 41% of Gen Z are in the early majority of innovation adopter types (Statista).
User-generated content (UGC) is a powerful weapon for your organic strategy and paid social ads, and you’ll find a vast well of it on TikTok. If you search TikTok for your category or brand, you may be surprised at what you find.
UGC comes across as more authentic than highly-produced, brand-created content, and it’s uniquely suited to the interactive and responsive style of videos that are most popular on TikTok.
TikTok is an incubator for some of the best ideas on the internet. Viral TikTok videos make great templates for high-performing content on other platforms. You’ve probably already seen TikTok-inspired videos in LinkedIn feeds, Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, or your Twitter timeline.
Measuring ROI effectively for social media is always complicated, but because TikTok is an entertainment and awareness channel, you’ll be mostly concerned with top-of-funnel metrics. Even with an expected ramp up period to work our kinks and find your voice, the frustrating reality of TikTok is a continuous cycle of “one hit wonder” videos — with massive engagement and reach — followed by periods of average view counts. Don’t worry, that’s normal!
If you want to see what successful TikTok marketing looks like, look for inspiration from the brands that are crushing it.
Here are our top six tips for how to copy their methods for your own B2B TikTok strategy:
TikTok is a personal platform — the FYP is engineered to serve you content you’re going to love. There’s a very good chance that content you find will be from a personal account, not a brand logo (or person in a logo costume — sorry Duo). For some early-stage B2B companies, that means their entry to TikTok might first come from a personal brand — like that of their founder.
As a more established brand, it still pays to invest in a dedicated creator — or roster of creators — to act as the on-camera talent. Brands with leaders that have prominent, charming personalities have been succeeding with this person-first approach on other social media platforms as part of their executive social media strategies for years.
Whenever possible, it’s wise to create content that involves your audience. We mentioned before that UGC is a smart format for making brands on TikTok come off less, well, branded. Encourage users to create content in response to yours. Challenge them to complete a task and share their results. Or if you have an active community of product users on the platform, put out a call for content — and reward them with recognition and (if appropriate) cash as it spreads. SaaS company tl;dv offers an ambassador program with a pay-per-performance model for content, for example.
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, don’t be afraid to shake things up for your TikTok presence.
Providing well-researched and insightful commentary on trending industry topics is 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 adapt the format and pacing to TikTok.
“Show, don’t tell” the product demo is a trickier art form when limited to the confines of a TikTok video. If you can nail the shorter, more casual format while telling a compelling story about how your product makes customers’ lives easier, it’s worth it for both the potential of virality and repurposing for other platforms. Afterall, the ideal video length for most platforms is between the 30 and 60 second mark.
That organic content your audience loved? That influencer post you made? With small tweaks (or sometimes none), those posts will crush as paid advertising, too. As users grow accustomed to the style of TikToks — the native captions, sounds, and formulas — the more they recognize them in the wild, and pay attention! Use this to your advantage.
Whether it’s an industry event, HQ tour, man on the street interview, or customer visit, carving out time and resources to shoot content IRL pays off.
Right now, TikTok is in a period of meteoric growth, and modern marketing on the platform is in its infancy. While platforms like LinkedIn are still the gold standard for B2B social media strategy, and threats of bans loom in the United States, we only expect adoption to grow, so the best time to start experimenting is now.
At the very least, download TikTok to get inspiration and learn more from the source.
Is TikTok working for your B2B brand? Let us know which examples we should add! 😎
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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.
If you care about TikTok for one reason, it’s the scale. In 2023, TikTok shared:
In 2022, TikTok was the most downloaded mobile app worldwide.
So, who are all these people downloading and using TikTok?
At the start, mostly young people. TikTok has been extremely popular among Gen Z users, but the average user age is slowly shifting upward. According to Data Reportal’s reporting in 2023, 28.7% of TikTok’s (ad eligible) audience is 35 and up.
And because TikTok tends to retain users better than competing platforms, you can expect an audience eager to watch your content and engage with your brand down the line.
Many social media platforms launch and fizzle, but TikTok has found staying power. So, what’s their secret?
Part of what draws users to TikTok is that it leverages what was once so attractive about platforms like YouTube and Vine: the potential for anyone to go viral.
Another ingredient to TikTok’s growing fame is cross-platform promotion. The most successful TikTok videos inevitably end up reshared on Twitter and Instagram. Not only does this accelerate the rise of viral TikTok creators, but it also helps TikTok trends migrate onto other platforms and drives new users to the app.
Open to B2C examples? Here’s a few more favorites.
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.
Chipotle – On TikTok, the less like an ad your ad feels, the better. Chipotle creates their own videos which lean on trending topics and meme culture – and partners with the biggest influencers for a content strategy that is a tailor made for their fans. We could really go for some guac right now, though.
steak-umm – Well-known for their wise, self-aware Twitter persona of 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.