TikTok and programmatic marketing strategy

Brands should start planning TikTok into programmatic marketing strategy now.

Since lockdown began, TikTok’s popularity has soared. While the platform is still evolving, it’s the perfect time to start planning it into programmatic marketing strategy. Even if TikTok doesn’t seem relevant to your brand right now, we’re predicting it will turn into another staple social platform your brand will need to be on, and bake into digital campaigns. With user engagement currently high, now is a great time to experiment and figure out what content and ads work best to engage your audience.

Summary Points

  • Q1 of 2020 gave TikTok the most global downloads by any app ever.

  • TikTok is currently the social platform of choice for Gen-Z. 41% of users are between 16-24

  • Users are highly engaged, spending an average of 52 mins per day on the app, opening it 8 times. 

  • There are currently the four types of ads available: sponsored hashtag challenges, home screen takeovers, branded lenses and auto-play vertical videos.

  • Brands and retailers can’t be solely focused on conversions as a metric of success. As it continues to evolve, marketers need to focus on the opportunity TikTok presents to reach a new audience.

Much hype and publicity was made of TikTok in 2019. It reached over a billion active users, and was responsible for being the launchpad of one of the biggest songs of the year. Owned by ByteDance, even the most optimistic executive couldn’t have predicted what 2020 would have in store for the short-form video app. Along with its Chinese counterpart – Douyin, it ranked #1 in the world for mobile apps revenue for April 2020, according to Sensor Tower data.

To put that in perspective, it’s a tenfold increase on in-app purchases for the month, to $78 million, and puts it ahead of Netflix and YouTube. If you need further proof of its popularity, how’s this.  In Quarter 1 of 2020, TikTok app had 315 million global downloads, which is the best quarter ever, by an app. In March alone it was downloaded 115 million times.

Who uses it?

If you’re asking yourself what TikTok is, we’re going to presume you’re over 30. Actually you may only be over 25. In the main TikTok is the platform of choice for Gen Z. It’s really hit the sweet spot when it comes to engaging with teenagers and young people. It enables all users to become a creator and content provider. This makes it more of an entertainment platform, instead of a lifestyle platform. That has really helped the platform stand out from the competition, especially during lockdown. 

As TikTok grows up as a platform, so are its users. A number of older users have joined the platform in lockdown (much to the dismay and cringe from children as their parents now make ‘funny videos’ to share) the majority of users are aged between 16-24 (41%).

Users of the app are highly engaged. They’re using the app a lot. Even before lockdown, users were spending an average of 52 minutes per day on the app, opening it 8 times. The New York Times recently reported that usage has spiked further during lockdown. That’s comparable to Instagram (53 minutes) and Facebook (58 minutes).

Why brands should get involved

Just in case we weren’t clear earlier. It’s the fastest growing app. Ever. Right now, there is no quicker way to advertise to 16-24 year olds. With the majority of TikTok’s users being highly-engaged Gen Z and Millennials, brands can instantly connect with the next generation of customers.

If Gen-Z and Millennials are part of your target audience, as a marketer, you have to have a TikTok strategy. Even if that strategy is just to justify why your brand is not on the platform.

The fact users are so engaged on the platform is an obvious brand benefit. It doesn’t (currently) have the noise of other platforms, so there are obvious opportunities. Pricing is very competitive, and the influx of new users should see that decrease further.

AI is central to TikTok’s success. And it’s what will make brand advertising so successful. The algorithm makes personalised recommendations for users. The video feed plays the minute the app opens, instantly sucking users in. Users can follow their favourite creators, but they don’t have to for the feed to be filled automatically with curated clips. Content discovery is central to the TikTok experience. If that content happens to be an ad, so be it.

What can brands advertisers do on TikTok?

TikTok is a platform where brands thrive by being authentic. It’s a way to connect with an audience by creating videos that are both genuine and engaging. To do that, brands need to reach users with paid advertising, or work with influencers to spread content. All of that can be done using TikTok’s creative toolkit, which is pretty powerful in its own right.

Types of TikTok ads

The ad-platform is pretty similar to other social media platforms. There are currently three objectives  – Traffic, App Installs and Conversions. Interest targeting and demographics are also easy to deploy. There is a TikTok pixel you can install to start collecting data, but you need an ad account to do this, or work with someone who has an account (like us!).

A hashtag challenge is an excellent way to get people quickly talking about a brand. The goal of a challenge is to get users to create or recreate content with your hashtag. It’s very unique to the TikTok platform and costs around $150,000+. Such is the popularity, we’re anticipating a steady price increase as they provide excellent ROAS for brands who create a compelling hashtag challenge.

Discovery page takeovers work well for reach and awareness campaigns. This displays a full-screen ad when a user first opens the app. Costs for this are around $20,000-$50,000. In-feed video and sponsored lens filters can be good tactics for reach and consideration, and are a more affordable option. These native ads are bought on a CPC, CPV or CPM model, with a broad average CPM of $10. They are placed either at the bottom of organic TikTok videos or in the feed as part of the video queue, depending on the type of product.

What about influencers?

Like almost all social networks, TikTok has a host of influencers who want to cash in on views, likes, comments, and shares. 

At the moment, TikTok influencers are significantly more cost effective per post than other social platforms. That said, if you’re a teenager, getting paid as an influencer is pretty much the dream. The brand benefit of working with influencers on TikTok is that they understand what resonates with the platform’s young audiences. Unlike other platforms, it’s important for brands to let TikTok influencers guide the content creation. This won’t be an option for risk averse brands, but TikTok influencers know what works. Brands are generally so new to the platform, they don’t.

Which brands are doing well on TikTok?

If your brand is not on TikTok, we’re going to showcase what some of the best brands on TikTok are up to. Hopefully you’ll get some takeaways and ideas that you can apply to your brand’s approach.

Gymsharkwith almost 2 million followers, Gymshark is quietly doing very nicely on TikTok. They’ve been very active during lockdown with home workouts, memes, tips and inspiration.

Crocs – the ubiquitous kids shoe brand has quickly emerged as a key brand on TikTok. It joined the platform by default after it’s shoes went viral as a result of #shavingcreamchallenge. It makes perfect sense for them to be on there as their core audience are using the platform. They’re across most paid opportunities now, and recently did a #ThousandDollar challenge with Post Malone that generated 2.9 BILLION views.

Levi’s – have stepped up to the virtual plate during the pandemic. It was one of the first retailers to use TikTok’s “Shop Now” buttons which allow consumers to buy through TikTok post links. It’s still early days for this social-commerce, but Levi’s did announce high engagement and increased website traffic for the test campaign. The brand also partnered with some TikTok influencers, Callen Schaub, Cosette Rinab, Gabby Morrison and Everett Williams (we told you they’d be unfamiliar didn’t we), to create and customise their own denim pieces, and share the resulting products on the platform.

Chipotle – the Mexican fast-food chain isn’t so well known in the UK, but TikTok users should be very familiar with it. It’s become one of the most successful brands on the platform, through a series of engaging challenges. It’s unsurprising, as  Millennials and Gen Z form nearly half of the customer base. For the Chipotle brand, engaging young people is crucial. For National Avocado Day the brand asked people to put their own spin on Dr. Jean’s viral dance hit with a gyrating tribute to guacamole. The #GuacDance helped Chipotle break through on TikTok generating 500 million impressions from 250k fan-submitted videos. It also created a record-breaking digital sales day while becoming TikTok’s highest performing branded challenge to run in the U.S. ever. 

BMW – we didn’t expect to feature a car brand in this list. While many users don’t drive, it does show the platform’s potential that such a major brand decided it needed a presence. The company ran a hashtag campaign encouraging users to post a video of themselves showing off their dance moves with the BMW Series 1 on the #the1challenge gaining 6.1m views in the process. 

How to measure success of TikTok advertising

We’ve learned that products going viral on TikTok can lead to sudden spikes in sales. Brands and retailers can’t be solely focused on conversions as a metric of success on the platform. As it continues to evolve, marketers need to focus on the opportunity TikTok presents to reach a new audience. The popularity of the “for You” page means organic growth on the platform can be achieved alongside paid campaigns, when brands post consistent engaging content.

If you’d like more information about how TikTok advertising and programmatic marketing can help accelerate your existing activity. Get in touch using the form below.