April 29, 2022

Why Small Businesses Should Be on TikTok

No guarantees, but there are some things businesses can do to increase the odds of success

TikTok clearly has a grip on Gen Z. But does that mean the social platform is an effective place for small- and medium-size businesses to market their products and services?

After hearing tales of nascent consumer brands shooting to success on the back of viral TikTok videos, I became intrigued. And when targeted advertising on Instagram became less efficient, and thus too expensive for my limited marketing budget last year, I decided to give it a try.

What I like about TikTok is the potential for content to go viral regardless of how many followers you have. And when a video first goes live, it’s usually shown to other users in the same geolocation to start, which is valuable for local brand awareness. That said, video views can vary widely even among creators with big followings, so you need to be willing to try, fail and try again.

While I am still finding my footing on the platform, I’ve learned a few things that other business owners might find helpful. Here are some of those insights:

—Just because you’ve created videos for other social platforms, don’t assume you have TikTok figured out. Each platform has its own values, language and sense of humor. On TikTok, audio and dance trends, humor, storytelling and voyeurism reign supreme. Keep in mind that TikTok users can be ruthless in the comments if they feel that content isn’t authentic.

—TikTok is discovery-based, meaning users typically scroll their “for you pages” in search of entertainment. That means your videos will be competing for attention with other videos on that page, and without a good “hook” or intro, they may be ignored. Beginning a video with a question or statement that incorporates the word “you” followed by a common pain point experienced by the target audience is one strategy that can get users’ attention. This intro structure makes the viewer feel like they can relate to the creator, and is statistically most likely to get them to stop scrolling and watch the video.

—To increase your chances of success, I recommend finding an experienced content creator—i.e. an “influencer”—with whom to collaborate on videos. TikTok is ripe with creative talent that has yet to be discovered—and their price tag reflects that. What better way to inject some new energy into your brand and content than by handing the reins to an aspiring and experimental creator? These are individuals with a knack for short-form content, not businesses, so the videos they produce will always feel more authentic.

—Because the market is still new and developing, you can reach out directly to TikTok influencers with whom you would like to work. Many of these personalities, eager to begin monetizing their efforts, are willing to negotiate on fees.

—Unlike other social platforms, the number of followers on TikTok doesn’t equal predictable reach. You can look at a creator’s overall engagement rate to get an idea of how many views their videos garner on average, but don’t expect to get performance guarantees. Having content that is fresh and engaging is critical, but getting the right video in front of the right audience at the right time takes a bit of luck. Experimentation is the ethos of TikTok, where creators try, fail, find success, then fail and try again.

Overall, I believe TikTok has the potential to inject some fun and authenticity back into a brand—but it isn’t a sure thing. Think of it as a trip to Vegas: Don’t spend more than you can lose, but have fun while you’re there.