TikTok: 8 Routes to Brand Inspiration and Strategy-Building

By: Laura Bedrossian, VP of Social Strategy at Hot Paper Lantern

October 9, 2019

Some call it Vine 2.0. Others call it annoying. Whatever you call it, marketers and communicators should be paying attention to the short-form video app, TikTok.

Since the platform’s launch, the app has seen more than one billion downloads. On the app, video creators can share vertical, looping videos that are between 15 and 60 seconds long. But what makes the platform special from a content creation perspective is that all editing can be done right in the app with a variety of filters, special effects and a huge music and sound library. This takes mere minutes, as opposed to hours of editing with specialized software.

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TikTok is a trend-driven platform, which means that for weeks at a time, you’ll see users create videos based on a dance, a song or movie/television quotes. The platform is also collaborative—most creators keep the option to “duet” open, allowing another user to piggyback in your video, creating their own version or placing a “react” clip next to the original video. Cue long lines of dancers in tandem, Hogwarts professors dueling and cosplayers reenacting a scene from “IT Chapter 2.”

While brands have been slow getting on board, an increasing number of brands and celebrities are signing up as a result of the app’s surging popularity.

So, who is using TikTok successfully? What’s working? And what factors should determine experimentation with it?

Below are four accounts to check out for Tiktok inspiration:

  1. The Washington Post. The Post takes part in TikTok trends to raise brand awareness for the newspaper with audiences on the platform. The person behind the TikTok account is self-aware, poking fun at his own content while highlighting The Post’s journalists and editors. Videos are wildly funny and more than a little bit weird—not what you’d expect from The Post—which make them a delight to watch. So far, there are a number of other media brands on the platform including NBC, Buzzfeed, Cheddar, Insider and Vice.
  2. Canadian Red Cross. The organization pairs music trending in the TikTok library with practical first aid and safety tips. The brand is thus able to utilize TikTok to provide useful information while reaching younger audiences—and successfully reminding people of the Red Cross’s mission.
  3. Chipotle. Challenges like the #GuacDance encouraged users to create more than 250,000 videos and helped Chipotle to serve more guacamole in a single day than ever before. Chipotle has been experimenting with the platform for a while; lately it has been experimenting with cross-posting, offering screenshots of tweets that open the door to funny reaction videos.
  4. Your local or not-so-local medical professional. There are a few doctors using the app for education and personal brand awareness. Check out Dr. Cody (presumably a chiropractor). This account has the viral appeal of Dr. Pimple Popper. It’s a mix of very satisfying ASMR and seeing people visibly happy with their treatment—easily addicting and smart for brand awareness. Another medical account: The Braces Guy. This orthodontist uses TikTok to educate users on dental and orthodontic treatment, making a dry and unpleasant topic more approachable.

After seeing the success some brands are having, does it make sense for your brand to jump in? It depends. To help with your decision to jump in (or not), follow this process:

  1. Given the platform’s popularity and freight-train-gone-wild download growth, make sure you have your account name set up, even if there is no intent to use the channel just yet.
  2. If you’re going to move forward, keep exploring various approaches from brands, keeping an eye on overall trends. It will help you decide, for instance, whether to use scrappy video edited in-app or more polished video (less popular at the moment). Familiarizing yourself with the TikTok vernacular will make your brand’s entry to the space more comfortable and seamless.
  3. Create a strategy around the kind of trends your brand might partake in, how often you would want to post, and your intent (brand awareness, education, showcasing company culture, etc.). How does this differ from, or feed into, your approach to other social channels?
  4. Don’t forget the ads—especially as TikTok starts to integrate more paid content into its business model. Targeting audiences with smart ads could be your ticket in.

Continue to stay curious about TikTok and you’ll learn enough to decide if it’s right for your brand. One caveat: It’s important to note that—given the app’s roots in Beijing—there are claims of censorship and even accusations of propaganda circulating. Regulators may begin to pay closer attention to the potential for negative political attribution.

Follow Laura: @LauraBedrossian

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