TikTok – Time to Discover What it Can Bring to Your Business?

Pocket-Sized Power: Video Marketing TikTok-Style

TikTok, since its international launch in 2017, has now surpassed two-billion downloads across the App Store and Google Play.

That pushes the short-form video-sharing platform past big hitters like LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat and even Twitter.

Once characterised by teenagers goofing around with self-shot video clips, for brands and businesses, TikTok might have been easy to dismiss and marginalise. After all, who’d want to occupy the same space as countless clips of show-offs and poseurs, street stunts and (admittedly charming) cats? So many admittedly charming cats.

Appeal is Shifting

But things have changed. TikTok is now a powerful ally for the digital marketer, and use outside its core Gen Z demographic is rising. Right now Statista tell us that more than half of the platform’s US-based users fall beyond the age of twenty-nine. In 2020 that figure would have been only around 38%

TikTok: a Serious Proposition for the Digital Marketer

For a kick-off, the sheer volume of users – around one-billion each month and growing – is compelling. And so too is its AI-led algorithm. It sits at the heart of TikTok, and is faithfully delivering to TikTokkers laser-guided content.

Ads Made Easy

For brands, the potential for going viral is obvious. As is the opportunity of supercharged targeting. TikTok, of course, has cottoned on to this and Ads Manager, its dedicated advertising service, makes the placing of ads – which come in several guises we’ll go on to discuss – a snap.

The user-generated content that defines TikTok videos makes the platform the natural home of the influencer too. The most popular of these enjoy millions of followers (and dollars to match).

TikTok, then, is a serious proposition for digital marketers and for brands looking to connect in new, surprising and more authentic ways.

Time for a Closer Look

So, as app creators ourselves, at Hookson we want to take a closer look at this platform for which all the world’s a stage, including the business benefits of engaging with and advertising on it.

Fully wound? Then let’s get ticking.

TikTok has captured users' imagination and keeps them returning for more

Authentic content that real people create is powerful stuff. TikTok is Main Street, not Madison Avenue. 

First Up: What Exactly is TikTok? And Why Might it Matter to Your Business?

TikTok is Creativity. Unleashed

For those looking to nutshell the platform, TikTok’s mission statement helpfully cuts to the chase:

TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy.

For businesses, that word creativity is key. It thrives on TikTok, with brands and organisations as disparate as Levi’s and The Washington Post to Red Bull and the United Nations expressing their values and unleashing their personality.

The United Nations? Seriously?


And sometimes not so seriously.

Fresh and Arresting. Surprising and Shareable

At the UN’s account big topics like food waste, climate action and online misinformation are front and centre. But they’re presented in an authentic, engaging and disruptive way. The gravity of the messages remains, but the execution is fresh, arresting and shareable.

Take a look for example at how the organisation tackles the issue of online misinformation.

Surprising, eh? And memorable and effective.


Sharing misinformation is harmful, especially amid COVID19. So PAUSE & VERIFY facts before you share online. #fypシ #CreateKindness #learnontitkok

♬ Omg so much people used my sound – 🧡Layla Weasley🧡

At TikTok, few videos look like conventional adverts. Everything feels spontaneous and in the moment. Got a smartphone? Got something to say? Then you really are all good to go. That’s thanks to…

In-App Creation

Orson Welles, when gazing once at the RKO Pictures studio backlot in Hollywood was moved to call it “The biggest electric train set a boy ever had!” What then would he have made then of the smartphone, the smallest electric train set a boy, or a girl, could ever dream of?

TikTok’s app places everything – from filters and effects to transitions and emojis – in your hand, and this is the number-one reason for the platform’s unstoppable flow of content.

Sound and Vision

Music is also a major boon, and a team-up with Apple Music spells limitless potential to soundtrack videos. Music, in fact, is of equal importance to visuals, encouraging viewing and sharing, and lifting what we’re seeing to terrific new heights.

The app’s easy-to-use tools are essential, because the more inventive, arresting, creative or surprising a video, the more TikTokkers will follow, like and share that content.

But Who are These TikTokkers?

Just like Instagram did in its formative years, TikTok began playing towards a younger demographic.

That’s not a massive surprise given the mobile-led, in-the-moment nature of the short-form video. So for brands and organisations looking to click with these groups, TikTok was, and remains, a powerful route to engagement.

TikTok’s user demographic is shifting though and, as we mentioned earlier, a more diverse base is emerging. For businesses determined to get ahead of the pack, now is a good time to think about adding TikTok to your video-marketing armoury.

Across TikTok, the opportunity is there to show your brand's personality in a totally new and unexpected light.

Content is King

Of course the bells and whistles the app provides are all well and good, But what really counts is the quality content you’ll apply these innovations to. What kind of content should you be aiming for, though?

Let’s take a look at some key areas and ideas.

Go Totally Original

Here, you start with a blank canvas and originate your video.

Maybe a quick how-to is a great fit for your business.

Got some trade secrets to spill? Go right ahead.

Or how about a behind-the-scenes film? A product launch? Or maybe your business has something big to announce?

A Perfect Fit For TikTok

Look at this example from Crocs, the people who make those ubiquitous plastics clogs.

In this post, the brand speaks of its goal to become carbon-zero by 2030. And it does so in a way that’s as colourful as its famous footwear. The firm is honest and smart enough to ‘fess up that every pair of clogs produces a footprint of the damaging carbon kind – but that it’s working on addressing this.

That honesty and authenticity is a perfect fit for TikTok, even if the video itself leans towards slicker production values and a longer duration.

Jump Aboard What’s Trending

Of course, another way in is to apply your own take on a niche that might be tending on the platform.

Let’s say that a dance craze is buzzing. Filming your brand’s participation in this gets you in on the act, noticed, liked and shared. It also projects your business’ personality, maybe showing it for the first time in a new and unexpected light. That can surprise existing customers and attract new sales too.

Remember, TikTok isn’t about glossy presentation or ads that look like ads. This is Main Street, not Madison Avenue.   

If you’re thinking ‘this all sounds a bit flippant for my business’, bear in mind that TikTok videos absolutely don’t need to be whacky or frivolous. They just need to be arresting and engaging. There is honestly scope for most businesses and organisations to get on board. Look, if the Daily Mail can be on there, so can you.

Leverage User-Generated Content

Authentic content that real people – not marketing departments – create is powerful stuff. On TikTok, brands can leverage user-generated content (UGC) in a few different ways.

Use Hashtags

A well-chosen hashtag builds awareness and engagement. On TikTok hashtags work just like they do on Twitter or any other of the big social media hitters: they’re all about helping your ideal targets find and share content.

Lush, the pungent natural cosmetics brand, has loads of fun on TikTok. Its bright product promos, plus films created by both staff and customers, come loaded with hashtags that tap into trends or related content.

Check out this post from the company’s Makeup Team, the people behind the brand’s war paint.

Creating Connections

Lush’s post aligns perfectly with #decadeschallenge – where TikTokkers celebrate and recreate the key looks of the past. Use of the hashtag connected with an audience that might never have otherwise seen the video or been aware of the company’s Makeup Team and provision.

Notice also the use of classic rock tracks that accompany each era the model is evoking. Originals from the likes of The Kinks, Elvis, and Tears For Fears.

Across traditional advertising and marketing use of such songs would be way beyond even the biggest ad budget. The mere suggestion would be good only for giving Account Directors a laugh (or worse). But in the world of TikTok, Elvis, suddenly, has re-entered the Creative Department.


WOAH! ✨ We’re loving these looks from the @lushmakeupteam 🥰 what’s your favourite? #decadeschallenge #lush #decades #makeup #fyp #lushcommunity

♬ Decades – jess keogh

Give Stuff Away. Like, For Free

Everyone loves a freebie. On TikTok, giveaways – where a business offers a prize in exchange for user-generated videos – are a proven way of creating a stir and grabbing unique, user-generated content.

Your own hashtags give your company ownership of the idea, but including a trending hashtag, and even applying that trend to your competition, widens the field. It’s easy to see what’s buzzing too: TikTok’s Discover page is the go-to place for up-to-the-minute trends.

Invent Hashtag Challenges

TikTok Hashtag Challenges encourage fun engagement with a product. This is best demonstrated by a celebrated success for Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle.

When the company noticed TikTokkers were repeatedly name-checking its brand on the platform, it swiftly created what would become a wildly successful TikTok presence.

The company’s maiden Challenge tasked users to flip the lid of a Chipotle burrito bowl. Videos of the attempt gathered pace and were rapidly shared on TikTok, complete with hashtag #ChipotleLidFlip.

From that viral success, more followed, and currently the chain enjoys more than 1.5 million TikTok followers.

Engage With Influencers

Lastly, another way to garner UGC on TikTok is to buddy up with an influencer.

Stapling your brand to a popular figure is nothing new in marketing, of course, and nor are the rules that apply to such a move.

Here you’re looking for someone who shares your brand values and whose followers reflect your target audience. As well as simply recommending your brand, service or product, influencers can become the face of say a Hashtag Challenge or a giveaway.

A Promotion With Bite

UK fitness brand Gymshark understood this way back in 2018 when it collared six influencers to lead its #gymshark66 challenge.

This promo encouraged users to achieve a personal fitness goal inside the eponymous 66-day timeframe, so chosen because that’s the time broadly required to form a habit. Gymshark’s influencers had followers upload a day-one video to TikTok, followed by one on day 66.

The campaign was a major TikTok success and secured oodles of user-generated content. Now, it’s an annual event and is promoted on social channels beyond TikTok too.


The ultimate stairmaster with 3922 steps! 🌿🙌🏻 Wearing @gymshark 🦈 #gymshark66 #hawaii #fitness

♬ One Foot – WALK THE MOON

TikTok Advertised Content

Remember we said that TikTok offers up ads in several guises? Here’s where we take a quick look at them.

Topview Ads

The choice for a prominent, umissable spot. Topview grabs attention from the off as it shows your ad as the first video a users sees on opening the app.

Brand Takeover Ads

These full-screen ads are comparable to the ads familiar to YouTube users. Just like Topview, this ad format springs into action on app opening.

In-Feed Ads

TikTok’s In-Feed Ads place your content inside a user’s For You Page and, crucially, attract comments, followers, likes and shares. Terrific for brand-building.

Branded Hashtag Challenge

The most creative ad format, and one we’ve looked at via Gymshark. A Hashtag Challenge nurtures deep engagement by asking users to create their own content around the theme of your campaign.

But is TikTok Advertising Right for Your Business?

The platform brings clear benefits to advertisers

A Diversifying Audience

Whilst it’s true that TikTok clicked first with a younger demographic, we’ve seen that stats are showing a move towards the over-29s.

Currently, around 42% of users occupy the 29-49 range (split more or less evenly between 29-39 and 39-49).

Add the 50+ cohort and its 11% takes us into a majority of older users. That’s an important and surprising shift, and one advertisers should be keeping an eye on.

A Dedicated Advertising Infrastructure

Just as its peers – Facebook, Google, Instagram and so on – offer fast, efficient routes to placing ads, so now do TikTok. Where TikTok stands alone though is the content advertisers post. Predominantly self-created. Soundtracked. Informal.

Fuelled by Authenticity

Traditional, slick ads have their place. But not on TikTok. Here, short-form videos, hashtags and sharing are the way. That makes TikTok the first-choice channel on which your brand can reveal its true identity.

Winding Down

Whether TikTok is a perfect fit for your business will depend on your target audience, your goals and your brand values. All things you’ll be on top of.

The less-formal DNA of the platform and the ads and influencer match-ups that characterise it, won’t be right for absolutely every organisation. But TikTok does bring something new, something a bit different and will, we feel, become an increasingly useful and normalised option within video marketing.

So at Hookson, we’re predicting only more success for TikTok, and are watching out for a user profile that will continue diversifying towards an inclusive demographic of millennials, Gen Xers and even boomers.