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TikTok For Businesses: Is It Seriously Worth Your While?

Digital Marketing

Madison Mesquita Digital Marketing Intern

TikTok is the new trendy social media platform. Many small businesses have gone to TikTok to gain followings due to its popularity. It has become extremely popular, with 2 billion downloads on the Apple Store and Google Play. I use TikTok at least three times a day and that’s just me. As many Gen Z’s become “TikTok famous” with millions of followers, everyone wants to download the app to potentially get the same fame. But, is it really that easy? You just download the app, post something and boom you are famous overnight? Absolutely not. 

This is a huge misconception with TikTok that businesses need to know. The potential for virality is alluring, but there is a slim chance your businesses will gain millions of followers easily with the amount of content on the app. Is TikTok for your business really worth it? Let’s get into it.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media platform that has become extremely popular over the past year. It is a downloadable app where you can post videos of yourself doing a talent, dancing, singing, talking about life, and basically anything. The videos can be up to a minute long each and you can follow those accounts in which you like. You can edit the videos before you post with a really powerful video editor right in the app. It is a great way to express yourself through videos. 

Many individuals get it just for fun at the start. It is a great way to kill time as you are always entertained on the app because you can discover new accounts from the “For You Page” or the “Discover” page. And more so than other platforms, TikTok is made for you to stumble across videos from users you don’t follow. 

The TikTok Algorithm is Incredibly Powerful

When I first started on TikTok, I noticed when I interacted with content, similar types of videos would appear more often. It was like me and TikTok were beginning a friendship. It was getting to know me and my likes and would not show me anything I didn’t. 

TikTok shared how their algorithm actually works saying, “The system recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors – starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in, too – to form your personalized For You feed.”

In fact, the algorithm gets to know users so well that there are often discussions on the app about what “part” of TikTok you are on. For example, food TikTok is my favourite. My FYP serves up a bunch of different recipes and meals that look unreal by home chefs and celebrity chefs too.

The Average TikTok Demographic

42% of all active users are aged 18-24 with 27% being 13-17. The demographic leans younger. 13 to 24 year olds are typically not going on the app to learn about business and company life, nor are they there to shop and make purchases. They are most likely going on to see funny videos of dogs or see one of the hot influencers dancing. So, businesses will have to create lively content for many demographics on TikTok. 

If you are strictly focusing on creating organic content, it is important to know that your business won’t be able to target every audience. It is also extremely difficult to target organic content to specific demographics. Even by doing proper hashtag research, the hashtags are so competitive and used to simply gain exposure. I could use #dog on a post of myself just because many others are using that hashtag. They will not target the proper area. The algorithms at the end of the day will control where your content goes, not you.

The Lifecycle of a TikTok Trend or Sound

TikTok sounds are extremely popular. Many will feature popular songs in the background to dances or as background music. There are also popular voice recordings that many people will use. These popular voice recordings will be used by the original content creator, and can be used over by others who will mouth or lip sync the words. You have the option to click on the sounds, whether it be a song or voice recording, and see all other videos that have used it. Using popular sounds is a way to get noticed since it is almost like using a popular hashtag. It is important to take note of TikTok sounds if you decide to create an account. 

With the quickly changing trends, TikTok trends can be hard to keep up with. You need to be on it everyday, following a bunch of influencers and always checking in. Trends on TikTok can go away after a few weeks or even days. If you don’t jump all over them at the beginning, you’ll miss your shot. You need to be acting fast and making sure you are constantly on top of all content on TikTok. This is one thing for businesses to be aware of before diving into TikTok. 

There have been TikTok dances that went viral and then died after a week. One was to the song “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion. Everyone on the app was doing this dance. Famous influencers, accounts just starting out, and even I was doing the dance with my friends. But, once other trends came out, this oh so popular dance just faded away. A company has to be very agile if they want to succeed on TikTok, as these trends come and go quickly with small windows to get noticed. 

Time-Consuming and Constant Effort is Needed 

Yes I know, basically everything in life needs time and effort in order to be successful. But is investing time and effort into the “app of the moment” worth it? Maybe not for your particular business. As Facebook has lost popularity as many younger generations do not use the platform, it’s becoming clear that some platforms don’t stay popular forever.

You need to make sure you have an eye for design and video creation, while staying on top of constantly changing trends. It is extremely time-consuming especially when you are just starting out on the platform. 

You need to be creating short clips that will catch the eyes of anyone within the first 3 seconds. Those first 3 seconds of video will determine if the user watching keeps scrolling or watched you. If they like the video, they may click your page and give you a follow. That is why the first impression is so important and has a small time frame. I personally go on TikTok and will see different accounts everyday and scroll past the majority. Usually the content just doesn’t intrigue me. This could be a problem for businesses looking to get on TikTok.

Millions of users on TikTok go on the app for a good laugh, to find new products, or learn trendy dances. There’s no doubt that you can be so creative on the app. But, you could upload 10 videos and 9 could get no views and 1 could end up getting thousands. It is almost like gambling since you never know what will be a hit and what will be a miss. This is where creative content comes in because you have to intrigue so many individuals. Using TikTok will not guarantee you an audience.

Competition is Ridiculously High 

There are 689 million active users worldwide on TikTok. Many of which want to become famous and gain a large following. It is ridiculously hard to gain a following on TikTok. You have to be aware of every trend, know what people want to see, and keep up with changing demographics. For a business that is looking to start a TikTok page, there is so much research and planning that needs to be done prior to it. There is a very low chance you will post a video and wake up famous. Trust me I thought that and was let down. 

There is always a possibility to gain a large audience. But, when competition is as high as it is, it is so challenging. It may be a different story if the app was strictly for marketers for example. It would be worth the time and effort since that is your main competition. But, it isn’t worth competing with young adults with millions of followers that post a 10 second dancing video that gets millions of likes and views. That is unreasonable competition. It is important to explore new ways of reaching other audiences, however, TikTok is not a good starting point. 

Other Options

While it may be hard to gain that ideal following on TikTok, there are other options. 

You can grow a following on TikTok through strategic paid advertisements that would appear on targeted users’ feeds. Just like with many other social networks, if you pay to play, you can find some success with awareness and additional exposure but it can get costly to manage. It is important to thoroughly think about a strategy that would help your company grow.

Another way to increase your following would be to partner up with someone with an existing following and who may know how the platform works already. Working with influencers and microinfluencers could be a good strategy as well but also comes at a cost. You may have to send out a lot of free products and also pay for content creation.

While both TikTok advertisements and partnerships cost money, organically bringing in users is much harder. There are no guarantees on social media so if opportunities arise to increase your following, take them! It would probably be worth investing into some paid strategies if your mind is set on gaining a following and attraction on TikTok. But, my recommendation would be to not invest all your time and money into it. It is smart to start off small and if there is good improvement, then go further.

TikTok, although it is very popular at the moment, is not the best option for all businesses. It requires lots of planning and the content needs to be done very well and uniquely. Start walking before you start running. Do not jump right into the competitiveness of TikTok because chances are it will be hard to go anywhere. 

If you are interested in gaining a following on another platform, check out this blog on “How Instagram Hashtag Research Can Strengthen Your Following.

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