With the popularity of TikTok booming in recent years with more than one billion active global users, the platform has been top of mind for many marketers as companies and brands seek to connect with a potential set of consumers.
Given that the platform is relatively new compared to existing social media marketing channels, we went straight to the source for the best advice: Lindsey Bond, who works on the growth team at TikTok and leads the company’s VC program.
Here are some highlights from her recent master class for founders, marketers, and other leaders in GGV’s portfolio:
Step 1: Spend some time on it to understand TikTok and its mechanics better. Keep an eye out for popular accounts and influencers, and get to know some of the features, such as the For You page, trending sounds, video responses to comments, and filters.
Step 2: Set your content in motion. For some brands, this may be posting organically to start getting a feel for what their brand voice is, and who they’re going to be on the platform.
Step 3: Once you feel comfortable, you can start doing paid content by opening a business account. After opening a business account, the best way to start is to do an organic and a paid strategy side by side.
Step 4: Lean into high-performing creative and develop an always-on auction approach using organic and creator partnerships as fuel. Punctuate the always-on presence with key moments like campaigns, partnerships, or new product features.
Step 5: Launch paid campaigns to support bigger moments, drive co-creation at scale, and deliver against full-funnel marketing goals.
Be human. TikTok is known to be a platform for creators, so it’s important to have a human presence as opposed to a corporate one. This applies to all organizations—even B2B companies! Check out Duolingo, Walmart, and Chipotle’s approaches to TikTok.
Lead with a main character. Creating content with one consistent character helps to draw a throughline between all the content that you do, and it allows you to create episodic content.
Engage and respond. If you want to drive brand equity within the platform, the best way is to actively engage in the TikTok community you want to be a part of. Comments are a huge part of TikTok, especially as opportunities to drive awareness.
Build episodic and brand-adjacent content. Storytelling is one of the best ways to help consumers interact with your brand. Whether it’s through multi-part TikTok posts or a continuous story line with a main character, a continuous storytelling strategy is key.
Iterate on trends old and new. Make your brand relevant by engaging with viral TikTok challenges, dances, and stitches. Many trends on TikTok are sound-driven, which are not limited to music (which sometimes can be tricky in regards to licensing) but also popular voice-overs or narrations.
Start in the upper funnel end of marketing, where your goals are to develop brand equity by reaching as many users as possible and to build familiarity with the brand through creator partnerships and engaging content.
Here’s a strategy for starting out with paid ads:
Before moving down the funnel, ensure mid-funnel success before moving too quickly. Be willing to accept high CPAs/negative ROAs as your pixel acquires learnings. And if your transition isn’t showing success, it may make sense to switch back to a higher-funnel optimization if you are struggling to reach 50 conversions in one week.
In terms of setting up your campaign…
Another resource that TikTok has is the TikTok Creator Marketplace (TCM), which is a free tool that provides brands access to TikTok’s best creators (also known as influencers on other social media platforms). Because TikTok content is so human-focused, working with creators is one of the most effective ways to tell stories about your brand. In addition to adding a human element to your message, creators can act as gateways into new audiences beyond where your typical branded content is going.
People-focused footage matters the most. Overly produced or corporate content does not belong on TikTok. Have talent speaking to the camera or doing a voice-over, and show a range of expressions.
The content should have a DIY feel to it. Don’t overpolish. TikTok’s popularity was propelled by user-generated content, and brands should tap into this type of format.
If you’re trying to sell or showcase a product, make sure to include product shots and explain its features. Show the product or service being used so that users can see how it works.
Pro tip: If you’re creating an ad, make sure to include an end frame that includes a CTA.
The biggest surprise that Lindsey shared about TikTok is that, contrary to popular belief, TikTok is not merely a “Gen Z app” that provides a channel to market exclusively to those born before mid-to-late 1990s. In fact, the majority of TikTok’s users are now 25 years old or older (the platform has aged up with its users over the last few years) and mothers on TikTok comprise one of the largest groups on the platform.
The bottom line: There’s a place for everyone on the platform—even for brands with higher price points, or companies that are B2B. If you’re a marketer looking for a new way to reach audiences, right now is a great time to break into the world of TikTok marketing.
Note: GGV Capital was an early investor in Musical.ly (now TikTok), which was acquired by ByteDance in 2017.