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Is the clock TikToking for B2B?

If there’s one thing thriving in lockdown it’s TikTok, which has now truly cemented itself as a household name. The app received its most downloads ever in Q1 2020 - spurred on by TV campaigns, global press recognition (did you join the Stepchickens cult yet?) and sheer ‘stay at home’ boredom?!

So, what is it? How relevant is it for brands? And is there a place for it in B2B? In this article we’ve covered:

TikTok in a nutshell

Turning back the clock on TikTok

Who uses TikTok?

How does it work?

Making a video

How do TikTok ads work?

How can brands benefit from TikTok?

Is there a space for B2B on TikTok?

Pretty extensive eh! Enjoy! 😁

In a nutshell

Its description on the Apple App Store is ‘THE destination for mobile videos.’ As this might suggest, the app is a hub for viewing, creating, and sharing videos of pretty much any kind, although they themselves couch it as ‘short-form videos that are exciting, spontaneous and genuine.’

Much like other social media platforms, there is a huge variety of users with a huge variety of interests. Of course, there are forms of content that prove more popular than others – but there really is something for everyone. Videos tend to last 15 seconds to one minute and can be accompanied by high-meme-potential music clips. There are also numerous filters and effects to apply.

Turning back the clock on TikTok

TikTok began life as in 2016, owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that has become known as ‘the world’s most valuable startup’ – worth roughly $75bn. was a social media platform that was based around sharing short music-related videos before rebranding to TikTok in 2018 when the app made its global debut (it’s known as Douyin in China). Its popularity grew, becoming the 6th largest social network with 800 million active monthly users in 2019 and, so far in 2020, TikTok is topping the charts for app downloads.

Who uses TikTok?

The younger generation generally use the app (40% of users are Gen Z), but there is still a varied age range of users, especially with a sudden spike in downloads as more and more people were forced to stay at home with COVID-19.

But where are these users? The majority of users are in China, 500 million to be specific. Another large proportion of monthly users are in India (in 2019, 44% of all downloads were from India), and the US also has a large userbase.

Whilst the UK numbers are a lot smaller in comparison, it is continuing to grow in popularity. By December 2019, there were around 7 million users in the UK, but since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, this number is thought to more than tripled to approximately 24 million people.

TikTok doesn’t release official statistics on its users but research suggests that in the UK it is predominantly used by a younger generation, with most users being under 25. You’ll certainly notice this if you spend some time on the app. Although this isn’t a primary target audience for many B2B brands, this does create an opportunity to introduce potential customers to brands at a younger age. In addition to this, a surge in users during COVID-19 has meant that there are now more users of all ages increasingly installing the app, potentially making the TikTok more favorable to B2b marketers.


How does it work?

As soon as the app is opened the user is directed to the ‘Home / For You’ feed and videos play automatically in full screen. This page acts a bit like Facebook’s Newsfeed, where content is served up as the user scrolls. You can also choose to view only accounts you are following.

Like other social media platforms, this page is generated by an algorithm which is programmed to adapt and tailor each user’s feed to show content of interest – to them as a specific user, as well as popular trending content. The more active a user is, the more relevant the content shown will be.

Making a video

Making a video is relatively straightforward, and there are a whole host of creative filters, effects and stickers to really make work stand out. TikTok allows users to choose from an extensive array of music and sound clips (after all, it began life as a lip-syncing app), as well as allowing the creation of custom sounds.

There are a variety of ways you can create a video. There is the option to film everything outside of the app before uploading and editing, or to film in TikTok itself and then edit it, or to pick the song/sound first to film with it playing as an audible que, before finalising the effects.


How do ads work?

One of the reasons that analysts say TikTok is doing so well, is because it has a less commercial feel when compared to other ‘ad-heavy’ platforms. However, advertising and influencer partnerships are still very prominent. Advertising on TikTok is a lot more costly than Facebook ads with an average cost-per-click of around £7.50 (compared to £0.84 on Facebook), so the app is certainly favoured by bigger brands.

There are four kinds of ad formats:

  • Brand Takeovers – image/gif/video that is shown when the app is opened
  • In-feed native videos: video ads that appear in the ‘For You Page’ (like on YouTube)
  • Hashtag challenges: sponsored hashtags that encourage user-generated content and influencer engagement
  • Branded lenses: 2D or 3D lenses for users to try when creating videos.

In our experience, we’ve found that the brand takeovers and in-feed ads are very easy to skip – unlike YouTube, you don’t have to wait 5 seconds. ‘Hashtag challenges’ and lenses are a good way for brands to engage users.

Paid advertising is a relatively new introduction. This means  brands are still learning what results they can achieve and if the app is truly worthwhile for campaigns. TikTok does not require a great deal of personal information from users, so from an advertiser’s perspective, this makes it hard to specifically target the right people, aginmaking it more applicable for larger consumer brands who don’t necessarily have such a niche.

Influencers, on the other hand, have more opportunities – the platform is perfect for the world of influencer marketing. Algorithms show popular and fresh content, encouraging and favouring authentic ideas. According to The Guardian, the most popular influencers can earn up to around $200,000 per post for brand collaborations.

Whilst some influencers are reeling in the big bucks, the reality is (as with other social channels) there are influencers of all sizes, each with a variety of different types of followers. There is most certainly something for everyone.

Naturally, influencer collaborations are great for exposure and product placement. TikTok is currently testing ‘shoppable’ videos where stickers with links to product pages make the user-journey easier.


How can brands benefit from TikTok?

Brands that have success on TikTok tend to be creative and often break away from their normal forms of social engagement. TikTok encourages fresh and authentic content, so by its own nature, the app has created a space where there is truly something for everyone, allowing for a multitude of brand opportunities.

Many consumer brands have taken notice and have started to explore how they can make an impact. The Washington Post is a great example. You would expect the Washington Post to share news and insightful content, and this is true, to a limited extent. The newspaper has embraced the weird and wonderful side of TikTok, and their account is a space for funny and engaging videos that are often satirical in nature. According to Dave Jorgensen who runs the account and stars in many videos, the plan has been to show that the Washington Post understands the platform before starting to integrate more news-related content.

Activewear giant Gymshark, has also had some success on the app. Rather than posting productspecific shots, the brand uses TikTok to share workout inspiration and tips, as well as getting involved on trends and sharing funny content.  Whilst everyone featured in their videos is wearing Gymshark clothing, the videos never really feel like ads. This is generally reflective of many successful brands on TikTok – content is less product-orientated and tends to be interesting and entertaining.

A key thing to think about, is that TikTok is a new platform, with the app only celebrating its first anniversary in the UK in Q4 of 2019. Being new, there aren’t yet any norms or industry standards nor anyextensive best practice guides for success. TikTok can therefore, be regarded as an opportunity to beat competitors to create or invent a growing trend and increase awareness with a younger demographic.


Is there a space for B2B on TikTok?

In short, this is questionable right now – especially when you consider that many B2B marketers are only just starting to get to grips with more established platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

A large proportion of users are Gen-Z and Millennials and for most of our current Clients, these are not the main target audiences for campaigns right now. However, many need to consider influencing the younger audiences for employer branding and recruitment campaigns so there are certainly opportunities for many to venture into TikToK.

Brands considering TikTok need to be realistic about the amount of thinking, investment and management time it takes to create good quality content for each specific platform. For TikToK it certainly isn’t appropriate to just re-purpose your Facebook or Instagram videos. TikTok needs its own exclusive content and anything else will look lazy and could negatively impact the brand. Creating your own channel and stream is likely to be a step too far for many. However, tapping into certain influencers and supporting their activity, hashtag challenges and lenses, is an area we are currently exploring for certain Clients.

Want to dig a bit deeper into TikTok or tap into our multi-award-winning B2B social media team? If so, give Rachel a shout and we can set up a call. 01285 626000. 

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