As TikTok’s popularity continues to soar, it opens up potential for unprecedented reach and targeted impact in a sphere where interactive engagement is the norm.

Last year belonged to TikTok, with the social media platform hitting the one billion active users milestone, and ending 2021 as the most visited website – ahead of Google. The social video platform already has its eye on expansion plans into out of home (OOH) and connected TV (CTV) in 2022.

Unsurprisingly, TikTok’s commercial appeal has not gone unnoticed, with the platform itself initiating ‘TikTok World’: a global experience designed to help brands and marketers harness its vast reach through a range of creative, branding, and advertising solutions. As marketers take advantage of these expanding opportunities, however, it will be vital to ensure they drive worthwhile returns; especially with TikTok ads costing up to $120,000 in the US.  So how do marketers make the most of TikTok?

The TikTok effect: understanding the platform and its audience

The pandemic isn’t the only reason why TiKTok has been dubbed the social platform of the moment. While COVID-19 restrictions did accelerate growth — fueling user uplift of over 60% and 40% in 2020 and 2021 — the platform has many other attractions for users and brands alike. By nature, TikTok is configured to cater to users who want to view and communicate using easily consumable, bite-sized video media, a trend mostly associated with the millennial and Gen Z camps.

Where over half of Gen Z and 39% of millennials are TikTok users, the platform is an ideal environment for marketers to connect with these increasingly numerous and powerful cohorts: Gen Z alone now makes up a third of the world’s population and controls an estimated spending power of $143 billion annually. TikTok and its users wield sizeable influence over buying decisions: not only has the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt racked up six million views, TikTok also extended its services to include a shopping feature which Australians were able to enjoy from late 2021 onwards. This ‘TikTok effect’ even drives impressive results beyond mobile screens, helping to increase in-store sales efficiency by up to five times, and fuelling 63% higher paid media ROAS for CPG brands in Southeast Asia and Europe.

Taking authenticity seriously in a user-driven space

TikTok is at its core a user-first environment, intended for consumers to become short-form video creators. This means brands need to navigate this creator-dominated landscape with care: minimizing disruption and maximizing authenticity is crucial to yield optimal results.

Forging partnerships with established influencers is one effective way for brands to make an unobtrusive entrance, with the added bonus of the halo effect TikTok stars afford – a tactic recently used by Mountain Dew in its collaboration with WWE star-turned-actor John Cena. But where driving engagement with self-propelled promotions is more of a challenge, there remains plenty of scope for brands to strike the right chord — as long as they cover the right key bases.

With its own idiosyncrasies and uses, brands that go the extra mile to understand and adopt TikTok’s unique culture and communication style consistently outperform those that do not. Off the bat, this involves adapting ad specs: ensuring ads are vertically oriented, configuring CTAs for taps and left swipes, and including sound as an integral part of creative rather than an add-on.

The specific requirements as well as the range of potential ad formats – from branded takeovers and in-feed ads to top view ads – require smart creative management tools that simplify the process and streamline workloads. Marketers looking to thrive in the TikTok arena need access to technology that allows them to adjust their creative, so switching up ad length, style, and CTA positioning for effectiveness and optimal user experience is as seamless as possible.

Telling your brand story across channels

A TikTok presence can also bolster results across other ad channels, but its effectiveness depends on consistent messaging and storytelling. Brands need to ensure they are reaching target audiences with messages that resonate not only in their current context, but also with previous interactions via wider touchpoints. Using tools that can connect different identities across platforms in a privacy-secure way will allow businesses to find target audiences and deliver cohesive messaging across various ad channels, including TikTok.

Additionally, combining personalized delivery with granular measurement will provide a more in-depth understanding of not only TikTok-driven results, but also how they impact wider omnichannel performance. Implementing approaches such as multi-touch attribution (MTA) will create a complete picture of consumer journeys and the contribution made by each touchpoint. This insight supports brands in accurately measuring TikTok ad effectiveness and adjusting campaigns for greater impact; be that by tweaking ad positioning in omnichannel stories, or fine-tuning specific messaging.

Social and digital media are now an integral element to any advertising budget. As TikTok’s popularity continues to soar, it opens up potential for unprecedented reach and targeted impact in a sphere where interactive engagement is the norm. However, consistency and authenticity are key to unlocking returns: brands must go beyond simply reposting content across multiple channels.

Instead they need to master the specifics of the platform, and invest in tools that facilitate both formatting and performance measurement, to inform and adapt strategies where necessary. Only by keeping a finger on the ever-quickening pulse of social media can brands hope to make the gains and impact that will set them apart from competitors.