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Short, Sweet and Super Social: How to Advertise on TikTok Effectively

August 10, 2020
Jeff Burns
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TikTok as a marketing channel may have been out of the question for you 2 years ago. Now that the social media app is seeing exponential growth in usage, you might be thinking of adding it to your digital marketing mix

Let’s take an in-depth look at how to advertise on TikTok and make the most of the app for expanding your business.

Why Advertise on TikTok?

Advertising on TikTok makes a lot of sense because it’s a powerful social video sharing platform and it’s seeing increased adoption among a U.S. audience. (Indeed, Microsoft is looking to buy TikTok’s U.S. business.) If the app’s user demographic aligns with your target audience, you could be missing out on a lot if you don’t learn how to advertise on TikTok.

Here are the reasons why you should be advertising on TikTok:

It Has Massive Reach

TikTok is becoming increasingly popular by the day. According to a SensorTower analysis, the app had seen 1.5 billion downloads by the end of 2019. It then saw an additional 500 million downloads within 5 months, hitting the 2-billion mark in April 2020.

Although all these downloads don’t automatically translate to active usage, they still tell a lot about the app’s popularity. Plus, the app sees about 800 million monthly active users worldwide according to We Are Social. This massive reach makes TikTok a powerful advertising channel you can’t afford to ignore.

U.S. Users Love It

At the time of the SensorTower analysis, India and China topped the list of countries that saw the most installs. The U.S. came in third, picking up 165 million installs in total. This popular adoption among an American user base makes it an excellent social media platform for U.S-based advertisers and marketers to reach their target audience.

TikTok Users Are Spending More

SensorTower, a provider of market intelligence and analytics services, found user spending on the app is increasing by the day. Around the same time TikTok reached 1.5 billion downloads, it had generated $175 million in revenue.

By the time it reached 2 billion downloads, the lifetime user spending had also increased by more than 2.5 times to $456.7 million. The U.S., in particular, ranked No. 2 in user spending, contributing to 19% of the app’s revenue or $86.5 million.

It Sees High Levels of Engagement

One of the biggest reasons to advertise on TikTok is the high levels of engagement. Influencer Marketing Hub analyzed more than 100,000 influencer profiles across leading social media platforms – Instagram, TikTok and Twitter. This analysis found that TikTok had the highest follower engagement, typically ranging between 5.3% and 9.38%.

While Instagram didn’t fall too far behind with 1.1%-7.2% engagement rates, there was a huge drop in engagement as the follower count increased. The same didn’t apply to TikTok even though engagement rates slightly dropped as the follower count increased. This proves the platform’s potential in attracting a highly engaged audience.

It Caters to a Younger Audience

For brands whose target audience are teenagers and/or young adults, TikTok could be the perfect advertising channel. The app sees the most use among Gen Z and young Millennials, with a majority of its user base between the ages of 10 and 29, according to Statista.

Types of TikTok Ads

Understanding the ad formats available on TikTok will help you gain further clarity on whether the platform is right for your business. It’ll also give you a better sense of how to plan your TikTok marketing strategy and develop your ads.

TikTok offers 5 advertising options for brands that want to market on the platform:

1. In-Feed Ads

As the name suggests, these are ads that show up in a user’s native news feed in the “For You” section and take up the entire screen. Think of them as the ads you get as you go through your Instagram Stories.

Users will have the option to skip or scroll past the ad, so it’s crucial that you catch their attention within the first few seconds. The goal is to come up with an ad creative that makes people want to stop scrolling and engage with the ad.

One of the main highlights of in-feed ads is that users can engage with it just like any other video on their “For You” page. That means they can like, share and comment on the video. Not only does this help you understand how they’re responding to your ad, but you also gain more visibility through shares.

In-feed ads show up in a user’s native news feed in the “For You” section and take up the entire screen.

Plus, you can even add a suitable call-to-action button, encouraging people to download, shop now or learn more. You can use this option to seamlessly redirect them to a relevant landing page, product page or download page, thus turning those views into conversions.

2. Brand Takeovers

This type of ad takes over the entire screen the moment a user opens TikTok. You can then send users to your landing page or hashtag challenge after they view the ad. This allows you to get your messaging directly in front of your audience, making it perfect for driving brand awareness on a larger scale.

As effective as brand takeovers may be, they can run quite expensive. According to Digiday, brand takeover ads will set you back about $50,000 a day. Plus, TikTok only allows one brand per category per day, ensuring that users only see one brand takeover ad each day. This makes the landscape highly competitive. On the plus side, they can guarantee 5 million impressions.

With all this considered, brand takeover ads may be more ideal for well-established brands with a huge budget. For instance, Mercedes-Benz launched the #MBStarChallenge and used 2 brand takeover ads and 4 in-feed ads to promote it. This attracted more than 180 million video views and helped the brand gain more than 30,000 new followers on TikTok.

Brand takeovers are just that: This type of ad takes over the entire screen the moment a user opens TikTok.

3. Branded Hashtag Challenges

Branded hashtag challenges are exactly as the name suggests: You come up with a hashtag challenge and get people to participate. With this type of ad, users click on the sponsored hashtag, which then takes them to the “challenge page” containing rules and instructions for participation.

This makes it the perfect TikTok marketing strategy to encourage user involvement, which leads to better engagement and visibility. So it could help you drive general brand awareness or build a buzz about a new product or upcoming event. You could further maximize the impact of this branded hashtag challenge with the help of brand takeover ads or influencer sponsorships.

That’s exactly what Guess did with its #InMyDenim challenge. On the first day, the brand promoted the challenge with a brand takeover ad. Then it released 4 influencer videos to demonstrate how people can participate.

Branded hashtag challenges are exactly as the name suggests: You come up with a hashtag challenge and get people to participate.

During its 6-day campaign, Guess managed to collect more than 5,500 user-generated videos. The #InMyDenim hashtag had 10.5 million video views and garnered an engagement rate of 14.3%. Guess even managed to gain 12,000 new followers on TikTok.

4. Branded Effects

Branded effects are a fun and powerful way to advertise on TikTok. This allows brands to develop custom stickers, filters and lenses that people can use in their photos and videos. Users can add fun effects to make their content look great while helping the brand gain better visibility.

TikTok further broadened its branded effects offering with gamification. It recently released gamified branded effects, which allows you to come up with effects that people can control using motions such as posture and facial expressions. For instance, some branded effects could ask users to match the pose they see on the screen and others might ask users to catch things using their nose.

5. TopView Ads

This type of ad shows up as the first video on your “For You” page. Because this allows you to capture your target audience’s attention before they view any other type of content, it becomes easier to hook them in. Although it still allows better visibility than regular in-feed ads, it doesn’t bombard users with ads as soon as they open the app as is the case with brand takeovers.

For eBay, TopView ads played a crucial role in promoting the online auction operator’s #StrongAsOne campaign. The ad featured a highly emotive video to promote small businesses in the U.K. and showed up as a TopView ad. This helped eBay garner 16.9 million video views and 17.8 million impressions along with a 17.3% click-through rate.

For eBay, TopView ads played a crucial role in promoting the online auction operator’s #StrongAsOne campaign.

TikTok Advertising Best Practices

If you’re just learning how to get started on TikTok, follow these 5 TikTok advertising best practices. This will help you take an organized approach and put your marketing dollars to good use.

1. Start With a Clear Goal

As with any other type of campaign, TikTok advertising needs a clear goal so you know what you’re working towards. Whether it’s to drive general brand awareness, generate more sales or promote your new product, make sure you clearly define your goal for that specific ad campaign.

Having a clear goal will help you understand what success looks like and narrow down on the metrics that make the most sense to you. For example, if your goal is to raise general brand awareness, you need to use metrics like impressions and views to measure success.

2. Choose Your Target Audience

For successful TikTok ads targeting, make sure you define the type of audience you want to reach through this campaign. This will help you narrow down on the most relevant audience to display your ad to, ensuring that you don’t waste your ad budget on irrelevant clicks or impressions.

3. Decide on the Right Type of Ad

Not every type of TikTok ad will deliver the same result. While some may be better at generating a buzz about an upcoming product, others may be more suitable to build general brand awareness. That’s why you should take the time to narrow down on the best type(s) of TikTok ads to help you achieve your goal.

In some cases, you might even need to combine 2 or 3 different ad formats to generate an even bigger impact. For example, brand takeovers and “TopView” ads are great for putting your brand front and center. They could be highly effective for raising general brand awareness and could even help you promote your hashtag challenge. On the other hand, hashtag challenges could help you drive high levels of engagement.

4. Consider Involving Influencers

As with other social media platforms, influencers are dominating the TikTok landscape. Top influencers on the platform have millions of followers, which makes them highly visible and well-known within the TikTok community. Featuring a familiar and influential face in your TikTok marketing strategy could be a great way to deliver an even bigger impact.

For instance, you could kickstart your branded hashtag challenge with the help of influencers so that it sees more participation. That’s exactly what Converse did to promote the #ConverseAllStar challenge. The brand roped in influential TikTok creators such as James Lewis (@jamesllewis) and Sur Face (@surfaceldn) to kickstart the campaign.

The challenge generated more than 24 million video views in total along with 29.7 million impressions. Converse saw a 75% lift in brand recall and generated a 9.22% engagement rate through this campaign.

You could kickstart your branded hashtag challenge with the help of influencers so that it sees more participation. That’s exactly what Converse did.

5. Develop a Powerful Ad Creative

With TikTok users being able to quickly skip or scroll past ads, it’s crucial that you take extra care when developing your ad creative. It should be able to instantly capture their attention and make them pause their scrolling to watch the whole thing. Aim to engage within the first 2-3 seconds using powerful imagery, eye-catching colors, appealing messages and so on.

You could even try testing different variations of your ad to see what works best to engage your target audience. Then apply your insights when developing creative for future TikTok ads.

Winning With TikTok Advertising

The TikTok advertising landscape is a stark difference from what you might be used to, especially when it comes to ad formats. When applied strategically, however, advertising on the platform could deliver impressive results for your brand. 

If this all seems too daunting, sit back and let Kantaloupe plan and create a highly effective TikTok advertising campaign for you.


Jeff Burns

Jeff's passionate about building communities for his clients in all channels — be it social, video, email, SMS or live chat. What inspires Jeff are results, and he's eager to play a role in your brand's success story. Outside the office, he's focused on self-improvement. He enjoys learning new skills and traveling in an effort to shape a more well-rounded Jeff.

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