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What Makes TikTok Tick?



A few months ago, we introduced TikTok advertising as a viable digital advertising medium for most advertisers. The social media behemoth is here to stay, and it’s no longer just for teenagers. Users of all age demographics are gravitating toward TikTok, and the platform continues to make advancements in its offerings as it relates to advertising. Here at The Ward Group, we have seen firsthand the impact TikTok advertising can have on brand awareness and reach for our clients. But, before you dive headfirst into TikTok, we have a few words of advice (and warning). Let’s explore some TikTok advertising best practices as well as some things to avoid and look out for.

What To Do on TikTok


1. Be current. The content that lives and thrives on TikTok is fleeting. It’s here today, gone tomorrow (or later today). TikTok trends move so quickly that it can be very difficult for brands to detect the trends, keep up with them, and create content fast enough to participate while the trend is still popular. Brands who run ads depicting a TikTok trend that has already moved on will be committing a major TikTok faux pas, and users can be unforgiving. Those brands who move the fastest and are the boldest in their approval process will oftentimes be the ones that are first to the platform when a TikTok trend goes viral, scoring points with their target audience for being cool and “with it.” Advertisers who are slower moving and have longer content approval processes run the very real risk of being left in the dust, activating an ad depicting an outdated trend.

2. Be creative. More than any other current popular platform, when it comes to content, there are no rules on TikTok. Well, technically there are rules (TikTok has a comprehensive set of guidelines and requirements for advertisers to adhere to), but what we’re saying is TikTok content can be very unorthodox. It’s a platform that allows its users to let their creative juices flow. This includes advertisers, and it presents an opportunity for brands to capture user attention in new, creative methods. As long as you adhere to TikTok’s list of requirements, the sky is the limit on creative concepts that can run on TikTok ads, allowing your brand to stand out more than it would on other platforms.


3. Fit the platform specs. The uniqueness of TikTok content also applies to its format. Short-form, vertical video isn’t exactly the type of content brands have historically produced. As tempting as it can be to recycle content from other mediums, such as TV spots or YouTube videos, the prominence of TikTok makes it important to create content specifically designed for the platform.


4. Engage with comments. The userbase of TikTok is generally very engaged with the platform. This means your ads won’t only be seen, but they’ll be engaged with in the form of comments. Users can even engage with the comments themselves in the form of upvotes. All this user engagement provides an opportunity for brands to engage directly with users who comment on their ads and to flash the personality of the brand. By interacting with users, your brand will be humanized, and users will feel less “advertised” to and more engaged with.

5. Try Spark Ads. If you really want to generate a high level of engagement, try running Spark Ads. Spark Ads are basically boosted videos from your organic TikTok profile. According to TikTok, Spark Ads drive 42% more conversions, 300% more likes and 2.1x the engagement than non-Spark Ads. We’ve seen this higher level of performance reflected in our campaigns for clients using Spark Ads compared to those running normal ads not affiliated with a TikTok page. By combining your organic and paid TikTok strategies, you can reach higher levels of paid performance.

What Not To Do on TikTok

Besides many of the viral TikTok challenges that could potentially put you in harm’s way, there are also some key things to avoid when advertising on TikTok. Simply put, not adhering to any of the above best practices could get you in some hot water with your target audience. In addition to simply missing out on all the benefits TikTok advertising has to offer, TikTok users can be notoriously unforgiving and can pile on the pain with ruthless comments that derail your entire campaign. Brands who are late in participating in trends can get made fun of if the platform has moved on to a new trend. Trying to be creative but missing the mark can backfire in the form of “corporate cringe.” TikTok ads that don’t adhere to proper specs (horizontal video, text cut off, etc.) could also be ridiculed by TikTok users. Last, if you don’t monitor your comments and engage with them, you run the risk of nasty or mean comments being upvoted to the top of the comment section.


Obviously, some of these practices are easier said than done. But the key takeaway here is that TikTok is not like other paid social media platforms. It is not a matter of simply running a graphic or video with a caption, and you’re good to go. TikTok advertising requires a careful balance of “coolness” and relevancy. If you try too hard in one area, or slip too far behind in another, the balance will be tipped, and your ad campaign will stick out like a sore thumb. In addition, if you’re not engaging with your comments, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to enhance the quality of your campaign and head off potential backlash. The most impactful TikTok advertising campaigns are those that hardly feel like an ad at all but more like a friend’s post. If you can pull that off, then TikTok advertising should be a key part of your media mix now and into the future.


Want to get started on TikTok advertising? Our media stewards can help show you the way. Contact us today to get started!