If you’re building a social media strategy in 2022, it’d be hard not to consider using TikTok. With over one billion monthly active users and more than 173 million first-time installs across app stores in the last quarter of 2021 alone, it’s just as powerful as any other “big” platform.
In the world of TikTok, genuine content reigns supreme. More than on other social media platforms, users favor raw and engaging videos over highly edited, curated posts—the type brands typically produce for platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
This stylistic difference is what gives TikTok creators a connection with their audience that’s hard to match elsewhere. It also makes TikTok an incredibly noisy platform, but a potential goldmine for creators who can strike the perfect balance between authenticity and marketing.
What is TikTok?
Originally called Musical.ly, and owned by ByteDance, TikTok is a short-video-based social media platform. It’s where brands, creators, and influencers can express their individuality and drive brand awareness. As a result, it’s a popular platform for influencer marketing and brand social media marketing alike.
While TikTok shares many similarities with popular platforms like Twitter and Instagram, it shouldn’t be confused with your average social media network. Unlike other platforms, TikTok uses a unique discovery algorithm that gives every video an equal chance to go viral, regardless of how popular the content creator is. This allows for the rapid scaling of a social media presence, fast growth, and virtually unlimited marketing experimentation.
TikTok uses an algorithm to determine what’s served up in someone’s feed. Its discovery algorithm works in a mysterious way that’s meant to give every video a standing chance at going viral.
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What is TikTok marketing?
TikTok marketing is the process of promoting products and services to consumers on TikTok. Common TikTok marketing strategies include the creation of trend-driven organic content, using popular hashtags, and incorporating TikTok influencers into promotional campaigns.
Why use TikTok to market products?
The biggest difference between TikTok and other social media platforms, notably Facebook and Instagram, is that the homepages of the latter two largely consist of people you already know and channels you already follow. TikTok reverses this, prioritizing videos from creators you’ve never seen before.
TikTok’s user interface is designed to keep people in the app for as long as possible, more so than channels like Facebook and Twitter. With TikTok, you can also add a “Link in bio,” which makes the platform ripe for marketing and selling.
If you’re trying to reach a younger demographic, TikTok is an especially useful tool—62% of its audience falls into the 10- to 29-year-old age group. Based on these demographics, you can tailor your videos to match the content Gen Z enjoys consuming and capitalize on your understanding of the algorithm to manufacture virality.
Here are just a few of the benefits of using TikTok for your marketing.
Every video has a chance for virality
Facebook (now called Meta) has faced a lot of criticism over the past few years for the way its algorithm works across its platforms. Since then, it has promised to focus feeds on friends and family. This means it prioritizes people and content you already know.
TikTok reverses this and prioritizes videos from creators you’ve never seen before. As mentioned earlier, this discovery engine means every video has a chance to go viral, no matter how many followers you have.
People are buying what they see
Whether you use TikTok ads or brand takeovers, or post regular videos about your product, you have a good chance of someone seeing and buying it. According to research from Adweek, nearly half of TikTokers make purchases from brands they see in the app.
Product-based social media trends from TikTok have even generated a now well-known phrase and hashtag: “TikTok made me buy it.” It’s also become a popular marketing channel for retailers during the holidays, with 49% of respondents citing its growing importance.
TikTok influencer marketing is huge
The global influencer marketing space has more than doubled since 2019 to $13.8 billion in 2021, according to Statista. More brands are seeing the value in working with creators to promote products and services.
Creators on TikTok can amass millions of followers. And the best part? Niches work well on the platform. So much so that when a niche gathers steam on the app, it becomes known as its own TikTok space, such as Goth TikTok, Gay TikTok, and NYC TikTok.
As with influencer marketing on any other platform, the key is finding the right influencer for your brand. But with these established niches, you can easily find influencers in your space.
CEOs are also turning into creators to support their brand marketing efforts. Nadya Okamoto, founder of August, has grown her personal account alongside the brand account, stating that making herself the influencer has been a better strategy for August. Nadya mostly uses her account to answer frequently asked questions about her products and test different content.
The separate of brand and creator has become important for awareness. Business accounts don’t get as many trending audios to use, which can make a brand go viral.
TikTok works well with Instagram
If you’ve already built a presence on Instagram, here’s the good news: TikTok has native features that link up to Instagram. First, there’s the Instagram link button on your profile page (which is separate from the external link option). This means people can easily check out your Instagram account from your TikTok.
Second, there’s automatic sharing to Instagram. This means that when you post a video on TikTok you can opt to automatically share it to your Instagram Stories and/or Instagram feed.
I think the beauty of TikTok is that it cross-pollinates to Instagram and YouTube. So as we’ve grown on TikTok from August, we’ve also grown to 175,000 followers on Instagram
How to set up a TikTok business account
A TikTok business account is a great way to learn about trends and become a TikTok Pro. The platform offers a commercial music library for business creators, with over 500,00 songs, performance and audience data, and a web business suite.
Setting up a TikTok business account is easy. Start by downloading the TikTok app from the Apple App Store or Google Play store. Then register for a TikTok account and follow these steps:
- Head to your profile page.
- Tap the hamburger icon in the top right corner, then select Settings and privacy.
- Under Account, tap Manage account.
- Tap Switch to Business Account under Account control.
- Choose a category that best describes your account, such as Clothing & Accessories, Electronics, Pets, etc.
- Then complete your profile.
How to create a TikTok business strategy
To create your TikTok marketing campaign, take the following steps to ensure your efforts are focused and will bring you closer to your business and marketing goals.
Define your audience
We know TikTok is a popular platform for Gen Z consumers, but those aren’t the only people who use it—and Gen Z by itself is far too broad to qualify as a “defined audience.”
You don't have to fill out every trait, but describe what you can to paint a picture of the people most likely to convert into customers. This will be your target audience.
Location: Where do your ideal customers physically live? Even knowing just the country can help. But if you’re a local business or only want to serve a specific area then you should isolate those places.
Age: What is the age range of your customer? Keep this as broad as possible, unless you know for sure your target customer is at a certain point in their life.
Gender: What gender do they identify as? This might be unimportant or essential, depending on your brand.
Interests: What are their interests/hobbies/passions? These help with potential content ideas and audience targeting (e.g., cooking, hip-hop dance, yoga).
Career/industry: What industry do they work in and what job titles have they held? Again, this might not be as relevant, depending on your brand.
Income level: What is the income range of this buyer persona? Are they price-sensitive or are they willing to spend more money on premium products?
Relationship status: Are they single, actively dating, or married? This may be relevant if you’re in the wedding industry, for example.
Favorite sites/apps: What type of websites do they keep bookmarked? Do they browse Instagram or Pinterest daily? Are there specific apps they couldn’t live without?
Motivation to buy: What reasons would this person have for buying your product? Do they want to sport a status symbol or make time to work out despite a busy schedule?
Buying concerns: Why might they choose not to buy your product? Are they worried about the quality?
Other info: Anything else that isn’t covered but would be worth mentioning, such as education, stage in life (parents with newborn kids), events they attend, etc.
Understand the landscape
On TikTok, you have two competitors: your business competition (who you’ve likely already identified) and your content competition. TikTok, like other social media platforms, is filled with people and brands alike, so you’re not only competing with other businesses but also other creators.
Take a look at your business competitors and see if they have a TikTok presence. If they do, look at the types of things they post and which posts have significant levels of engagement. This can clue you into what their audience likes, which is probably somewhat similar to what your audience will like. Just remember to create your own unique content—no stealing ideas here!
Then spend time looking at TikTok content itself to see what is already produced in your space. Search hashtags, join groups, look at trending posts, and look for topics relevant to your brand. Notice any overlaps from these posts with your business competition.
What we really understood from TikTok is that the algorithm and the way the platform works is completely different from Instagram where you have to be super mindful of how many times a day you’re posting.
Figure out your promotion strategy
In addition to investing time and energy into creating your branded TikTok profile and videos, you can supercharge your TikTok marketing with influencers and paid advertising.
Influencer marketing puts your brand and products in front of someone else’s audience, serving as social proof. And influencer marketing is huge on TikTok, especially as it’s a creator-focused platform, like Snapchat.
Shopify merchant Peace Out Skincare partnered with an influencer to promote its acne line. The brand gifted its products to TikTok influencers, two of whom collaborated on a video.
The video earned 12 million views, 2.4 million likes, 60,000 shares, and $15,000 in product sales in a single day. The video trended for months after its original posting, fueling a steady stream of sales past that initial surge.
To work with influencers in your own TikTok marketing strategy, scout influencers on the platform to see who resonates with your industry and audience. Reach out through messages directly on the platform and send free products in exchange for a video of their experience and honest feedback. This is great for marketing and also product teams.
As far as paid advertising goes, TikTok Ads Manager grants you access to a set of tools that can help you increase visibility of your ads to a defined audience. Shopify merchant Omolola Jewellery uses a combination of organic and paid TikTok posts to reach new audiences. This has been especially helpful in supporting its business during the pandemic, when customers can’t visit Omolola’s physical store.
Become a Pro user to get more data
In digital marketing, it can be easy to get caught up in the exciting aspects of creating and executing content ideas. But there’s more to TikTok marketing than simply coming up with popular content. Building a brand is one thing, but building a brand that adds revenue to the bottom line is another.
It starts with knowing what metrics to measure and why. Fortunately, Pro TikTok accounts (which are free to create) offer content creators detailed analytics about their followers, traffic, and engagement. You can view data for things like:
- Seven- and 28-day lookbacks at follower count
- Video views, playback time, likes, comments, and shares
- Traffic source
- Profile views
- Audience demographics like gender, location, age, etc.
- Other content your audience likes (videos and sounds)
- Your trending videos
You can also look at global data points like hashtag views and use the Discover tab to see what’s trending.
So how does this all relate to your bottom line? TikTok marketing is largely a brand awareness play—it’s a channel you can use to put your brand in front of a younger audience and continue to create content to keep them engaged and keep you top of mind.
You can use TikTok to build relationships with these young consumers that hopefully will reap benefits down the line as a true customer-brand relationship forms.
TikTok users want to be entertained or informed, not sold to.
You’ll also want to let your followers know where else you’re active on the web so they can follow along the journey. Having your loyal TikTok fans explore the other channels you run is an awesome way to grow your personal or business brand. Be sure to do the same on other channels too by sending people to your TikTok.
Read more: How to Make and Sell Merch on TikTok
TikTok marketing tips
With your strategy set, it’s time to put your plan into action. Keep these TikTok marketing best practices and tips in mind when creating and posting your content.
1. Be authentic
With so much noise on TikTok, it’s important to be authentic and stand out with your content. You don’t want to post videos that sound like sales pitches—that’s not why users are on TikTok. TikTok users want to be entertained or informed, not sold to.
Before starting your TikTok marketing efforts, spend time on the app yourself. Once the algorithm learns what you like, it’ll feed you quality content you might find inspirational, which can boost creativity for your own videos.
TikTok was designed to feel like a community of individuals posting relevant and authentic content. 4K videos, fancy edits, and “cinematic” or “corporate” TikTok videos may alienate users.
Since most content is shot, edited, and uploaded on smartphones, it’s normal for your page to feel a little less on brand than the rest of your social media channels. Brands like Chipotle and Wendy’s are excellent at swapping their otherwise finely tuned corporate messaging for a genuine connection with many of their followers.
2. Get the gear
Having experimented with several methods of creating video content, I’ve found that videos should be filmed directly from the TikTok app on an iPhone. You’ve got access to a bunch of beauty filters and lighting options in-app, which can make up for sub-par lighting or a fancy background.
Some videos I’ve created have been built in Adobe Premiere and exported into TikTok. While some of these videos have done well, the time required to create content wasn’t worth the results. Depending on your cluster, this may not be the case.
Sound is something that shouldn’t be compromised on, however. While your standard iPhone mic may do just fine, quality audio goes a long way in maximizing potential replays and shares.
My personal setup includes a Blue Yeti microphone plugged into the Lightning jack of my iPhone, using a USB-to-Lightning adapter. I’ve also seen other Lightning microphones sold online that may be a more portable option.
3. Go live
One way to build a human connection with your audience is by taking advantage of TikTok’s LIVE feature, which lets creators connect directly with followers through a livestream. Going live is one of the best ways to stand out on TikTok.
The app will push a notification to your followers that you’ve started livestreaming, and your stream is pinned to the top of their For You pages. With millions of creators currently on the platform, this real estate is priceless. TikTok heavily promotes the going-live feature, and it’s surprisingly easy to do.
It’s totally normal to be overwhelmed or even a little shy when it comes to live streaming. “What if I misspeak?” “What if I’m not sure how to answer a question?” These are common fears we all share, but often they disappear as soon as you hit the Go Live button.
To calm your nerves, jot down a few talking points for common questions and update your list after every TikTok LIVE. Do your best to answer all appropriate questions during a LIVE and be sure to thank followers who “gift” you stickers/emojis, as there’s a small monetary value associated with them. Consider it a little more aesthetically pleasing than users donating a nickel to you for creating cool content.
Scheduling is also super important. While spur-of-the-moment livestreams are awesome, sticking to a livestream schedule will help build a community around your stream. Some excellent formats include Q&A sessions, behind-the-scenes videos, informal hangout streams, “work with me” sessions, tutorials, and interviews with special guests.
Some creators’ weekly live sessions work well to establish a deeper connection with their followers while also appeasing the TikTok algorithm.
PRO TIP 💡: If you’re creating a livestream schedule, be sure to account for your followers’ time zones and pick a time where most people aren’t at school or work. This is a great way to boost viewership when you’re first starting to grow your community.
4. Keep it simple
You can’t pack an entire novel into a tweet, and you can’t fit an entire movie into a TikTok. To keep content digestible, your videos should be short and sweet.
Stick to 15-second videos sharing high-level information, and pepper in 60-second deep dives to explain details further. If a topic is super important, you’re welcome to break it down into multiple 15-second videos to keep viewership and replay ability high.
Think of each piece of content as a unique story you’re sharing with your audience. Too little content and they might be unsatisfied; too much content and you may lose interest.
With the average video on my For You page hovering between seven and 10 seconds, a 60-second upload will feel like a movie—something many users don’t have the attention span for.
Skipping introductions in place of calls to action at the end of a video is a great way to remind users who is behind the content and encourages them to click on your profile to learn more.
Videos over 30 seconds will feature a little white bar at the bottom of the interface to show viewers how much video is left. If your video comes in just shy of the 30-second mark, consider adding a couple of seconds to gain access to that feature so users have an idea when your video will end, which can hold their attention longer.
5. Connect in the comments
TikTok’s discovery algorithm is amazing at getting your video in front of potential followers, but that’s only half the battle. Once the algorithm grabs someone’s interest, it’s your job to reel them in.
TikTok comments are an amazing place for conversation, communication, and explanation. As often as you can, hop into the comments and communicate with your viewers.
Your responses will be accompanied by a Creator badge alongside your username, making audience interaction super easy to spot for potential followers (and you’d be amazed how many users are thrilled to see a Liked by Creator notification pop up on their screen). You can also like comments you want to acknowledge but that don’t warrant a written response.
As your posts gain traction and replying to comments takes up too much time, address them at scale. Create a document to break down frequent comments and which types you can reasonably respond to. Then respond to recurring comments in a longer video, a livestream, or a video response.
TikTok also includes generous filtering functionality to make your life easier, automatically removing comments that use certain keywords or phrases.
TikTok tracks the ratio of comments to views on each video you release, and given the sophistication of its algorithm, it’s safe to assume it’s tracking how many comments are left ignored versus interacted with.
If you have a verified account, a simple like or comment response will be virtually impossible for users to ignore. Liking a comment can often lead to a new follower. Do this a couple of hundred times and you’ve converted a steady stream of warm leads into followers.
Comments are an important part of the TikTok experience, and there’s no excuse not to interact with every single comment until your channel has grown to the point where that isn’t possible. Few brands do this, and you’ll stand apart.
PRO TIP💡: It’s OK, and even encouraged, to remove inappropriate comments. You can do this by holding + and then opting to delete.
6. Master the trends
Before posting content, take a look through TikTok’s Discover page and see if you can produce content that jibes with the day’s TikTok trends or hashtag challenges. Doing so will cater to TikTok’s algorithm and can boost your follower numbers.
While we don’t suggest using these hashtags if your video is totally off topic, it can be a great way to understand what’s trending on the platform and give you an idea of how to better shape your content strategy.
Trending hashtags change on a daily basis and are a prime example of what keeps content on TikTok fresh and fun. While creating draft posts is completely acceptable, having a finger on what’s trending is an excellent way to display relevancy and appear more human to your followers.
If you notice a particular sound pop up on your For You page a few times, get creative and see if you can use it in one of your own videos. You can always add it to your favorite sounds for future use as you continue to brainstorm.
Unlike social networks that rely on users searching hashtags and keywords to find content to consume, TikTok feeds videos users will like directly to the For You page through the use of “clusters.”
A cluster (in this context) is a group of people that share similar video interests to what you upload. Perhaps they’ve commented similar things on similar videos, enjoy the same sounds, or have interacted with the app in a similar way.
You can use hashtags to get your videos out to certain clusters, but not as a way to garner views. You’ll notice certain hashtags have seemingly unbelievable numbers of views, which can skew the truth as to how popular they are.
On the Explore page, TikTok once featured the Entrepreneur hashtag. This led to millions of users creating videos with “#entrepreneur” in the bio, hoping to capitalize on a few extra video views, even if their content had nothing to do with entrepreneurship.
This practice dilutes the hashtag’s relevant videos, which in turn decreases the hashtag’s popularity. Create video content based on trending hashtags for more views, but only if the topic itself is relevant to your content and your cluster.
TikTok success story: Partly Sunny Projects 🌞
Meet Sonja Detrinidad, the 50-something founder who quit her job to sell plants online—and went viral. Learn her strategy for winning at TikTok for business.
7. Accessibility and legibility
There’s a reason you see successful TikTokkers bake in titles at the start of their videos. If you’re scrolling through their profile, it’s an easy way to get a preview of what’s to come. You can use colored titles to help categorize your videos in an effort to help direct viewers to content they might be interested in and boost viewership.
Keep in mind that TikTok’s user interface is overlaid on the bottom and right sides of your screen, so make sure those titles fall in the middle. Since each type of phone uses a different aspect ratio, keeping important content away from the edges can help ensure everyone can see them.
To cater to all TikTokkers, use closed captions on your videos wherever possible. This ensures your videos are accessible to all audiences, in all contexts. The app’s timed text feature makes this super easy, and it only takes a couple of extra minutes.
8. Features, features, features
TikTok always pumps out new features—animated GIF stickers, titles, and new filters are among some of the popular TikTok upgrades. So while the algorithm is kept secret, you can focus on using these new tools to keep your feed looking fresh for your audience.
We also suggest looking into TikTok’s beta program, as it may offer you brand-new content creation tools that most users haven’t seen yet. This can be a great way to stay on the cutting edge of what the platform is working on so you can stay a step ahead of your competition.
9. Post consistently
Again, we don’t know the algorithm, but many creators have seen amazing results from sticking to a posting schedule. We suggest posting one to two times each day and going live a couple of times each week. This cadence keeps your content fresh and interesting without overloading your followers with videos.
Check your analytics to see what time your audience is most active, because this varies depending on who you’re talking to and where they’re located.
Influencer Marketing Hub analyzed more than 100,000 TikTok posts to look for engagement trends and found these are the best times to post, all in Eastern time:
- Monday at 6 a.m., 10 a.m., and 10 p.m.
- Tuesday at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., and 9 a.m.
- Wednesday at 7 a.m., 8 a.m., and 11 p.m.
- Thursday at 9 a.m., 12 a.m., and 7 p.m.
- Friday at 5 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.
- Saturday at 11 a.m., 7 p.m., and 8 p.m.
- Sunday at 7 a.m., 8 a.m., and 4 p.m.
Read more about the best time to post on TikTok.
If your followers are more active on certain days of the week, consider doubling up posts on those days to maximize viewership. Since so many new videos are constantly added to the platform, it’s important to keep feeding the algorithm new and exciting content of your own.
While it’s nearly impossible to nail down a “required weekly output” of TikTok content, one thing I know is the algorithm favors consistency. Whatever cadence you and your team decide to go with, make sure you can maintain it for the foreseeable future.
For Brands like Dr. Squatch, TikTok has become a core channel to connect with a younger audience. Josh Friedman, Chief Marketing Officer at Dr. Squatch, said in an interview with Modern Retail that the brand experimented with TikTok at the end of 2019 and quickly gained traction, with some videos reaching over 100 million views.
Dr. Squatch’s advertising team publishes between 10 and 20 videos per week to increase the chances of viral success. Friedman was quoted as saying that organically, the brand posted “everyday or multiple times per day.” The company reported 400% year-over-year growth between 2019 and 2020, hitting over $100 million in revenue.
Dr. Squatch’s advertising team publishes between 10 and 20 videos per week to increase the chances of viral success. CMO Josh Friedman was quoted as saying that, organically, the brand posted “everyday or multiple times per day.”
10. Join creator groups
There are countless Facebook groups full of creatives looking to take their TikTok game to the next level. Take a look at what best suits you, and join a community of creators. Being around like-minded people is a great way to find inspiration, build a sense of accountability, and keep motivated over the coming weeks and months.
Check out TikTok Creators, TikTok Creators Support, or TikTok For Beginners to start, and then drill down into your specific area of focus. If you’re a business, look for a marketing or business strategy TikTok group. If you’re a comedian, find similar groups online.
If you can’t find something for your particular demographic, it could be the perfect opportunity to create your own community.
TikTok marketing examples
So what does great TikTok marketing look like? Here you’ll see five examples of ecommerce businesses that are killing it on TikTok and driving sales.
Send A Friend
Send A Friend takes advantage of the “TikTok made me buy it” trend but also shares user-generated content from its followers and customers.
In the personal grooming space, Beardbrand has a significant presence on multiple social media platforms, including Instagram and YouTube. On TikTok however, it makes sure to utilize the platform’s own captioning and thumbnail title effects.
As a way to encourage users to go to the Beardbrand website, its bio includes a special code to get free shipping (at the time of writing).
If a small design boutique is your jam, HeyPixelCo creates t-shirt designs and offers digital planners, bundles, and template freebies (at the time of writing).
What makes HeyPixelCo a little different is how the brand has documented its journey from idea to reality. The link in its bio also takes you to a special landing page designed to introduce you to the brand and direct you to either its shop or small-business video series.
A popular genre of videos on TikTok is personal hygiene—think hacks and satisfying transitions. One brand that has taken advantage of this TikTok niche is Sud Scrub. Sud Scrub sells one product: a soap scrub designed to lather better than a traditional loofah and keep itself clean.
What makes Sud Scrub do well on TikTok is how the team reacts to comments with full video responses in both creative and educational ways.
Another brand killing it in the grooming space is Dr. Squatch, which makes organic, handmade personal grooming products—though it’s best known for its soaps.
Dr. Squatch takes a more entertaining approach to TikTok content, making use of a sasquatch mascot and trending audio or videos.
Promote your ecommerce brand on TikTok
While TikTok has become noisier over the years, and the algorithm is constantly changing, the basics of marketing and brand building on TikTok remain consistent: aim for authenticity, frequent posting, active community management, and quality posts.
If all this sounds intimidating, just know that the hardest part is getting started. The TikTok community is incredibly encouraging, and you’ll be surprised how quickly your cluster of followers will turn into fans!
Illustration by Julia DuFossé
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TikTok marketing FAQ
Is TikTok good for marketing?
How do I market on TikTok?
- Be authentic
- Get the gear
- Go live
- Keep it simple
- Connect in the comments
- Master the trends
- Post consistently
- Join creator groups