How to use TikTok for businesses
What started as an app for short-form video sharing in 2016 has exploded into a worldwide social media phenomenon. Yes, much like our friends and family, we’re talking about TikTok.
Since its unveiling, TikTok’s popularity has expanded to countries around the world, and it’s taking all demographics by storm. Initially, the platform seemed to cater to a younger audience, with Gen-Z teenagers participating in the now-infamous dance trends. Yet with 43% of users in the 20- to 39-year-old age bracket,1 there are now hundreds of millions of users with serious purchasing power. This is where it becomes increasingly important to consider a TikTok marketing strategy, for businesses large and small. When it comes to differences between TikTok and YouTube as video-sharing platforms, TikTok has proven to be a worthy opponent to the long-running YouTube.
This helpful guide will serve as an introduction on how to use TikTok specifically for business—both for those who already dabble on the app and occasionally tune into the latest dance fads (no judgments) and those who are brand new to the world of TikTok.
Step 1: Create a business account
The first (unsurprising) step in using TikTok for business involves creating a business account. Setting it up is as easy as one, two, three… seven:
- Open the TikTok app.
- Create a personal account with an email address.
- In the lower right-hand corner, click Me and then Edit Profile.
- Click the three dots in the top-right corner and then Manage Account.
- Choose Switch To Pro Account. Then, choose a Business account.
- After that, select which category best represents the brand and click Next.
- Add a business website and email address to the profile.
Bada bing bada boom—setup complete.
Step 2: Profile optimization
The social media platform is beyond just using TikTok sounds and hopping on trends. Businesses want to catch the interest of users at every point, starting with their TikTok profiles. A brand’s profile is its first impression, its digital storefront—and those running this storefront won’t want users to simply scroll past like they’re window shopping. Businesses using the platform need to pique users’ interest so that they come inside the store and peruse the displays. In other words, they want users to interact with their content.
With a blank canvas (à la that shiny new business profile), it’s time to showcase the brand:2
- Choose a fitting photo – This is the perfect place for a company logo. It associates the TikTok account with other areas of the brand, like its website, other social media platforms, and more, and increases brand awareness.
- Write an award-winning bio – A bio is like a short, but delicious menu—it lists the brand’s juicy details and leaves users wanting to order all of the food on the menu (or at least, click on its links to learn more). With only 80 characters, think brief but impactful. Include what the brand does, a call to action, and a sprinkle of emojis because, hey, if pictures are worth a thousand words, emojis are worth at least half that.
- Include a link – Once the user is drawn in with a CTA, a link to the brand’s website or other social media accounts at the end of the bio will give them something to sink their teeth into.
Once the brand’s profile is up and running, they’ll want to compare it to competitor accounts. If it feels similar, brands can zhuzh up their business’ bio with elements that are unique to the brand.
Step 3: Get a lay of the land
Many businesses may already be wise to the wizarding world of traditional Social Media platforms, but TikTok is a completely different kind of magic.
To take full advantage, it’s important to carve out time to learn TikTok and its unique medium. After all, the medium is the message (or so says Marshall McCluhan),3 meaning if businesses aren’t aware of the nuances of the platform, their messaging can fall flat unintentionally.
Is this the greatest excuse to scroll TikTok? Yes.
Businesses engaging with a platform can make the most of their time by focusing on these elements:
- The working mechanics of the platform – Videos on the “For You” page can help brands find TikTok content similar to theirs and test out the editing features to see what’s possible. While scrolling, brands can map which types of messaging or narrative structures might draw in users.
- Scope out the competitors – Businesses can discover what types of content the competition is making for their target audience. Taking note of what resonates with the brand—and what doesn’t—can help with creative development when it’s time to join the ranks for real.
- Pinpoint a target audience – If a brand isn’t already aware of who they should be catering their content to, this is their chance to find out. Competitor accounts will likely engage with the same audience they’re targeting, so they’ll want to keep an eye out for who they’re interacting with and identify the content that draws out the conversation—this is key for the next step.
Step 4: Produce enjoyable content
The stage is set, the audience is in their seats (or on the subway or in the elevator)—now it’s showtime. Taking into account the audience’s pain points and needs, as well as the discovery the brand has performed, the business will now need to start generating TikTok content. As it does, it should keep these factors at the forefront:
- Focus on quality – Brands will be hard-pressed to find users interested in watching content with muffled sound and a shaky video—unless, of course, that’s the brand’s vibe. But even if found footage fits a business’ modus operandi, that doesn’t mean quality takes a backseat. To create high-caliber content, it’s important to have favorable lighting, proper equipment, and advanced editing. Brands that don’t have these in-house should consider partnering with an agency that has a proven track record.
- Take advantage of hashtags – #Hashtags might seem so 2007,4 but in fact they’re still #alive-and-well. Hashtags are an extremely useful tool to help your target audience discover a brand’s content. Businesses can use hashtags on their posts to drive traffic to their TikTok profile and increase views, likes and shares. They can use them to interact with their audiences or even create or even join a hashtag challenge to get their audience involved.
- Include instructional videos – Some brands’ audiences may have particular problems the brand can solve for them via video. By becoming the go-to source of information, the business can demonstrate commitment to solving their audience’s pain points. This style of thought leadership translates to authority in the industry and, eventually, brand recognition.
Businesses can also include a mix of short-form video and long content to keep followers hooked.
Step 5: Engage with your audience
As content reaches the eyes and fingertips of the populace, slowly but surely, a business’ follower base will grow. And while that first uptick will certainly have brands buzzing, to ensure users and followers remain engaged with their content, brands will want to form a dialogue.
Businesses often become stuck in a one-way street of communication. But by replying to users’ questions and comments as they arise, brands can stroke a conversation, one that invites more users to participate.
On TikTok, there are a few different tactics to engage with audiences:
- Start an interactive live stream with followers
- Seek feedback with polls and questions
- Explore other TikTok accounts and engage with their content
Step 6: Understand TikTok’s mystical algorithm
All TikTok business accounts have one priority in common—appearing in those coveted “For You” feeds.
“For You” feeds include content that’s curated specifically for each user’s tastes and preferences. For example, a beauty brand would rather have their content on the feeds of people who live and breathe fashion, lifestyle and cosmetics, rather than, say, golfers.
But how does TikTok create a “For You” feed tailored for 1 billion individuals?5
The answer is simple—the TikTok algorithm.
According to TikTok, the recommendations a user receives are based on the following factors:6
- User interactions – One important aspect involves learning what content the person is watching, commenting and liking (or not liking) when they use the app.
- Video information – The second factor that plays a part in the algorithm is identifying the extra tidbits of information included in videos they’re viewing, such as hashtags, captions and trending topics.
- Device and account settings – Although this final factor doesn’t have as much impact on the TikTok algorithm, it still uses basic information from a user’s account settings, such as their location, language preference, and type of device they’re using to craft recommendations on their feed.
The TikTok algorithm isn’t the easiest to comprehend. Brands that consistently find TikTok challenging to understand and adapt to can employ the help of a TikTok agency.
Step 7: Utilize TikTok Analytics
Another great part of using TikTok for business beyond running TikTok ads and posting content is tracking progress. After crafting a painstakingly perfect bio, adding top-notch content for users to enjoy and becoming acquainted with all things TikTok-related, businesses should take a moment to see if their hard work has paid off.
Enter: TikTok Analytics.
With this built-in tool, brands can determine essential data within a certain time frame, like:7
- Follower growth
- Video views
- Profile views
If interested in conducting a deep dive into all content-creating efforts, brands can find comprehensive data for each TikTok video they’ve posted, including:7
- Total views, shares, and likes on each video
- Average watch time
- The percentage of viewers who watched the entire video
- Where viewers found their video
- Where their audiences are located geographically
By analyzing this information monthly, businesses can watch their progress over time and iterate on top-performing content.
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- Exploding Topics. TikTok User Age, Gender, & Demographics (2022). https://explodingtopics.com/blog/tiktok-demographics#tiktok-demographic-data
- Linkedin. How to Optimize Your Linkedin Profile. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-optimize-your-tiktok-profile-jasmyne-o-neal
- Marshall McCluhan. The Medium is the Message. https://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/mcluhan.mediummessage.pdf
- CNBC. Meet the Man Who Invented the #hashtag. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/30/chris-messina-hashtag-inventor.html
- Demand Sage. TikTok User Statistics (2022): How many TikTok Users Are There? https://www.demandsage.com/tiktok-user-statistics/
- TikTok. How TikTok recommends videos #ForYou. https://newsroom.tiktok.com/en-us/how-tiktok-recommends-videos-for-you
- TikTok. Understanding Your Analytics. https://www.tiktok.com/creators/creator-portal/en-us/tiktok-content-strategy/understanding-your-analytics/