How Brands Can Succeed on TikTok

By Taylor McCutcheon, Director of Performance Marketing at Aisle Rocket

TikTok is the hottest platform in digital advertising right now. TikTok’s parent company, Byte Dance, just passed more than 1.9 billion users worldwide, and the popularity of TikTok among the 35-and-under set in the United States has put companies like Snap-on the defensive.

More and more brands are wanting to appear on TikTok, and the platform seems to have achieved a rare level of viral popularity among the most desirable audiences. TikTok, however, is not a typical media platform. Here are some very important points to consider for brands that want to get onto the newest, most popular digital platform.

Make TikToks, not ads. There is a learning period where brands develop an understanding of what creative elements work best on the TikTok.  Though tempting, it’s important not to repurpose creative assets that work on other channels or social platforms in an effort to test the waters on TikTok. It may take a while to develop a content strategy that audiences respond to, but only certain customized content is likely to succeed on the platform, so testing is imperative. Brands should post organically to see how certain content is received before spending money on the platform.


Lower-funnel offerings are still in the experimental stage on TikTok. Brands that need to maximize ROI are better off optimizing and testing on tried-and-true partners like Facebook/Instagram or Pinterest before expanding to TikTok. Yes, there is buying power on TikTok (40% of users have a HHI of $100K+), but the advertising products that TikTok has released still aren’t sophisticated enough to match the efficiencies seen elsewhere.

TikTok is a strong option for upper-funnel objectives but can be price prohibitive. In the self-serve environment, TikTok’s 1st party campaign targeting doesn’t yet allow for super granular segmentation. As a result, it can be difficult to narrow the audience down to a manageable size or make a measurable impact without a major investment. For those on a budget, it can often feel like you’re trying to boil the ocean. That said, CPMs are competitive with efficient platforms like Facebook, so self-service awareness campaigns are the best way for new brands to start advertising. This is in comparison to high-impact units like a hashtag challenge or takeover, which make a splash but come at a hefty price (Bloomberg). All of these tactics can be measured via brand lift study, which requires a minimum investment of upwards of $100K.

Just hire a creator. Bigger brands with money to play have started advertising on TikTok and found that creator assets nearly always outperform owned assets in the UGC environment. TikTok’s Creator Marketplace will connect you with individuals who know how to develop assets that will feel native, which will ultimately set you up for success. Things to think about when considering a creator include:

  • Creators are the best form of social listening. They know what’s trending on the platform and what tone/topics resonate with the audience.
  • TikTok’s native video editing tools are new to almost everyone, including creative agencies. TikTok Creators are fluent when it comes to using these unique transitions, voice filters, and camera techniques to produce good content, which allows them to capitalize on trends in a timely manner.
  • Influencers or ambassadors that are successful on other platforms may not have clout on TikTok. TikTok gave rise to a whole new group of creators who often don’t have transferable followings across social platforms.
  • While celebrities may have star power regardless of the platform, video production won’t be an area they can help with.
  • Brands have to be able to relinquish some control over what these creators can/cannot do – this is not Instagram and audiences don’t want to see a perfect or highly curated image of the company.

TikTok will likely overtake Snapchat in terms of the user base by 2023 (eMarketer), and is developing its advertising functionalities at a break-neck speed. It’s also a platform that is representative of the creator economy and the future of ecommerce – influencers, ambassadors and creators are becoming brands in themselves (charli d’amelio x dunkin donuts), and TikTok is potentially more potent than any other social channel at reaching Gen Z (Adweek). Every brand wants to be seen as a successful early adopter, but it’s important to remember these structural and strategic distinctions when branching out on the world’s fastest-growing social channel.