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TikTok for Business? The Pros and Cons

November 22nd 2019 | by David Hofstede

How does something spring up out of nowhere and acquire one billion users seemingly overnight?

Welcome to TikTok.

If you’re not on it you’ve certainly heard of it. As a social media platform it already has more users than Twitter and is still growing rapidly. But can it be used to promote your business? Let’s take a closer look.

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What is TikTok?

It’s an app that allows users to watch, create and share 15-second videos shot on cellphones. These videos can be enhanced with a wide range of audio and visual effects like filters, background music and stickers. Users can also connect with each other to create split screen "duet" videos.

Leveraging TikTok for Business

Advertising is one obvious opportunity. Ads are a relatively new feature on the app, and offer a way to get your company name in front of millions of eyes.

But the more effective strategy is to use the strengths of the app as a way to promote your business. If you sell a product, try a demo. Even within a limited time frame there may be a way to show how your solution compares favorably to your competition.

Another option is to launch a challenge based on your product or service, and invite users to participate.

This is the biggest current TikTok trend, and is easily adaptable to a wide range of video types. There have been challenges where users were invited to submit a video showing them doing a specific kind of dance, or imitating a famous person, or doing something as simple and silly as sliding across a slick floor.

Obviously this won’t adapt to every type of product or service, but requesting videos of people using your product (perhaps with a prize offered to the best one) may bring you a great compilation video you can add to your website and promote on your other social media platforms.

Finding the Right Approach

TikTok is all about creativity and fun. Products that are colorful and trendy and marketed toward teens and millennials will have an advantage on this platform. But if you sell something that no one would describe as ‘fun’,’ don’t give up on TikTok. Let your imagination run wild.

Do you sell printer cartridges? Challenge offices to show the employee who can change the cartridge the fastest. Put all the submissions together and run the “Benny Hill” saxophone music behind the videos.

Do you offer workforce optimization software to call centers? Challenge people to come up with the worst possible way to greet a customer on the phone. You’ll certainly receive some hilarious responses.

The goal here is not necessarily a testimonial or a mini-commercial. It’s to raise awareness of your company by getting people to talk about it. Use humor if you can (as long as you keep it PG – maybe PG-13), but if that’s not appropriate in your business at least shoot for friendly and informal.

Reasons to Think Twice

There may be practical benefits to trying to reach a huge global TikTok audience. But the app has also garnered more than its share of negative publicity.

It has not always been quick to remove offensive material. It was forced to pay a $5.7 million fine to settle allegations that it illegally collected personal information from children. That is the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the Federal Trade Commission in a children’s privacy case.

ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, is based in China, where the censoring and banning of content on social media is common practice. Twitter has been blocked in China since it was partly blamed for helping to organize a protest against the government in 2009. Currently, there have been several news items about how TikTok is banning videos of the protests in Hong Kong against the Chinese government.

Additionally, popular TikTok creators have been grumbling about TikTok removing perfectly appropriate videos for no apparent reason. Customer service is nearly nonexistent to help creators understand why videos are taken down, and there is zero consistency to understand why these problems persist.

While it’s unlikely that your business would face any kind of censorship if it’s just trying to market a solution or service, some may disagree in principle with TikTok’s government-mandated restrictions, and not wish to support that type of content and moderation policy.

Should You Try TikTok?

That’s your call. It’s big now – it may be bigger next year, or it might be the next Vine – hot for a time, now extinct.

But if you’d like to explore the possibilities, our social media team can work with you on ideas to leverage the platform effectively. Let’s talk about it