Social Media Marketing
7 min

Marketing, Meet TikTok: From the Wild West to Future Performance Player

Grayson Gilcrease Grayson Gilcrease Senior Content Writer

The internet is certainly a wild and wonderful place, and the potential for any single piece of content to suddenly go viral is permanently on many a marketing executive’s wish list.

tiktok monthly users

When there was a limited number of social platforms, it was much easier to crack the code and get massive reach from a single post, tweet, or video. Now many brands see the over 138 million monthly users on TikTok as their latest, best chance to insert a piece of marketing into the broader pop culture zeitgeist.

As a platform, TikTok has found a new way to monetize virality. Individuals can go from absolute obscurity to millions of followers in a short period of time: take Charli D’Amelio, who went from an unknown teenager to the platform’s most-followed account, or Brittany Broski (aka “Kombucha Girl”), whose dramatic facial expressions turned her into an internet meme and social media darling.

Brands are hungry to get a piece of the action, and marketers should use a significant portion of their testing budget to carve out a presence on TikTok. But let’s figure out how your business can take advantage of the opportunity while making sure your brand doesn’t go full Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock and get embarrassed in front of all the hip teens.


Think you know social? Marketing on TikTok is a whole new frontier

First of all, your tried-and-true Facebook or Instagram strategies aren’t necessarily the right for TikTok. The platform’s current marketing capabilities are less mature, and its algorithm works in a different way than other social channels.

48% of TikTok users are not on Instagram

One example: want to make sure your content is seen by others? Better make use of the trending hashtags, even if they have nothing to do with your content. If you don’t hop on the trending hashtag train fast enough, you’re likely to get lost in the shuffle.

Pay attention to why people are on the platform: audiences on TikTok are looking to be entertained, inspired, and educated. Many are looking for an escape from an increasingly difficult reality, and can easily spend hours scrolling through an endless feed of videos and memes.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that if you haven’t gotten the mental health warning from TikTok encouraging you to put down your phone for a minute, you haven’t really lived. You need to stand out from the crowd while staying true to what brings people to the platform in the first place. 

TikTok is also unique because of the app’s wide range of demographics. Despite its prevailing reputation as a gen Z (and younger)-centric platform, 80%+ of TikTok’s audience is eighteen or older.

89 average daily minutes spent on TikTok

People of all ages use and enjoy the platform because its unique algorithm is constantly surfacing new and surprisingly relevant content, not just prioritizing content from people you already know. 

What matters on TikTok is relevancy and engagement. People are much more likely to interact with what’s on their personal “for you” page than even the creators they already follow. And they’re not just there to watch videos or memes.

What TikTok can add to your paid social media strategy

One of the major concerns seasoned social media marketers have about TikTok is efficiency, and often relegate its potential to driving upper-funnel brand awareness, not direct response performance.

But TikTok’s 2021 numbers point to a more complex array of customer behaviors on the platform, including lower-funnel activity. The plethora of influencers on TikTok can attest to the fact that 75% of TikTok users turned to TikTok for help on deciding what to buy when making a purchase.

75%. of TikTok users turned to the platform when deciding what to buy

To capture that high-intent audience, you need to show up, and that means putting sufficient budget into running tests and experimenting with the platform.

Commit to a specific campaign or amount of time or budget, then figure out what success looks like by considering how TikTok can contribute to your overall business goals and how you want to measure success. What benchmarks are important? Is it reach or engagement or conversion?

It’s worth considering starting further up the funnel to establish your credibility on the platform before pursuing more aggressive conversion-oriented campaigns; after all, that’s what TikTok was built for.

The endgame of your social strategy should be a diversified marketing mix that can reach, engage, and convert your target audience across channels. The clock on the early adopter advantage on TikTok is quickly running out, and waiting until the platform is as saturated as Facebook is a losing proposition.

TikTok was the #1 most visited site in 2021

For those still wary about how much TikTok is going to cost them, the good news is that it’s relatively cheap to start. You don’t have to spend loads of money to be competitive.

Because it’s still the frontier of social media marketing, the CPM is lower than other platforms, so you can experiment with how to best implement a paid strategy without breaking the bank.

The key to successful TikTok marketing: wrangling niche audiences

For those of you who haven’t taken the plunge yet, it’s worth noting that there isn’t just one version of TikTok. You could be on the “berries and cream” side, so named for the Little Lad seen in a 2007 Starburst commercial. Maybe you’re on the MCU side, where people discuss their theories around the latest Marvel offering. Or finance TikTok, which can be a profoundly weird place. The possibilities are limitless.

Whatever your industry and whatever audience you’re trying to connect with, there’s a TikTok that’s a great fit for your brand. When we asked one of our paid social media experts where TikTok was headed, she said that “this kind of segmenting will only continue as the platform grows.”

89% of users have made an unplanned purchase on TikTok

That’s especially important when you consider that 89% of TikTok users have made an unplanned purchase; your specific audience is likely already on the app, primed and ready. You just need to find it.

If you’re ready to make your move, you could be in luck: early adopters will likely get more access to beta tests of new features that will help you move audiences down the funnel by creating more specific, personalized content.

Savvy marketers know they need more options when it comes to channels as walled gardens proliferate in the age of data privacy, and TikTok is likely to be near the top of the list of contenders.

Reaching the promised land of profitable growth: TikTok brand examples

You might be wondering how brands are finding success. Look no further; here are some examples of brands killing it on TikTok.

DuoLingo, the language learning app, has found a way to deliver quality content by hopping on TikTok trends with reckless abandon.


@duolingoreal ones let you do the bare minimum and give you full credit 😌 ##Duolingo ##ourgodisanawesomegod ##trend ##comedy ##god ##imscared ##DuaLipa ##DuaLingo♬ original sound – William

DuoLingo leans into the wacky world of TikTok instead of trying to come across as highly polished. The focus is on having fun and staying accessible. 


@duolingoy’all so pressed about me being everywhere but someone’s gotta do the work. 🤷‍♀️ ##Duolingo ##holyspiritactivate ##comedy ##trend ##saveme ##DuaLipa♬ Holy Spirit Activate – Victory Youth

Another brand that’s embraced TikTok culture is The Empire State Building. Here’s a video with 3.2 million views that hopped on the immensely popular “couch guy” trend:


@empirestatebldgI may be a building, but I’m not blind. ##couchguy is sus 👀 #empirestatebuidling ##n#yc♬ original sound – Empire State Building

They’ve even gone head to head with DuoLingo in what amounts to a marketing throwdown.


@empirestatebldgDon’t you want things to go back to the way they used to be? @duolingo ##newyork ##empirestatebuilding ##kingkong♬ Adeles Clubhouse – ranvision


You don’t have to be a “fun” brand to make fun content. Remember: approach TikTok as a unique opportunity to expand your audience and connect with your customers in a new way. Brainstorm new angles and interesting ways to create content that resonates with your audience. As their marketing offering expands and matures, TikTok could become your future favorite marketing partner.

Learn more about diversifying your marketing mix by downloading Death to Siloes, our full guide to integrated marketing.


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