By now, you’ve probably heard of TikTok, even if you’re not quite sure what, exactly, it is.
The platform began beta testing in-feed ads last year and in late 2019, released a few new formats like branded lenses and brand takeovers.
TikTok’s decision to allow brands to advertise on the platform proves that the youth-oriented social network is becoming an increasingly valuable opportunity for brands–, particularly in the B2C space.
What You’ll Learn:
- Who uses TikTok
- What types of brands benefit from advertising on TikTok
- How to set up an account
- How to set up a TikTok campaign
- Types of TikTok ads
- Influencer partnerships and ad costs
Who Uses TikTok?
Well, the first thing you should know about TikTok’s user breakdown is, this is a really young demographic.
66% of users are under 30, and the content that does well here might look a bit different than what you might post on other channels. While the platform represents a major opportunity to reach Gen Z consumers on their terms, brands need to be really savvy about how they talk to this group.
The platform’s atmosphere is fun, informal, and largely, positive. However, brands unfamiliar with this online space risk coming off like they’re trying too hard if they post TikTok dances or hashtag challenges that don’t match their brand or partner with the wrong influencer.
What Types of Products & Services Benefit Most from TikTok Ads?
Okay, you’re probably wondering what types of brands should be using TikTok.
The short answer is B2C brands, particularly those that fall into any of the following categories:
According to Hubspot, top brands include the NBA, the NFL, Radio Disney, Red Bull, and Nickelodeon–all brands with an easy “in” with the younger crowd.
Consumer goods brands–whether that’s a telegenic snack food, a fashion brand that teens love, or a beauty brand with a knack for viral tutorials–can all be really successful here.
But–there are certainly outliers. Print newspaper, The Washington Post has been able to carve out an authentic, humorous voice, without compromising its “core value prop,” hard-hitting news.
Nasal congestion brand, Mucinex, too, has been able to successfully break-through to the TikTok crowd–with it’s latest challenge racking up a whopping 560M views.
While we’re talking about two very different brands, the key here is to keep it light and embrace humor. Your LinkedIn thought leadership posts won’t work here.
How to Get Started with TikTok Paid Ads
So, before you can start advertising, you’ll need to set up a self-service TikTok advertising account or work with a dedicated account manager.
To set up an account, click here. You’ll then be asked if the ad account will be used for a business or to promote individual pages/websites (i.e. if you’re a consultant/thought leader/influencer where you are the business).
Click next and you’ll be taken to this short form. It’s pretty basic and essentially asks where you’re located, where you’ll be running ads, and what you want to promote.
Click “make a reservation,” and a TikTok representative will review your account to see if you qualify. Once your application has been approved, you’ll receive an email and can start setting up your account.
From there, you can log in to your dashboard to complete your profile.
Create a Campaign
Once you’ve uploaded all of your business details and billing info, you’re ready to launch a campaign. Ideally, you should have a plan first, though for the sake of this post, I’ll quickly go over the setup process.
In your dashboard, click the Campaign tab in the top navigation bar, then click “Create.”
Select Your Campaign Objective
Successful TikTok campaigns are like any other digital ad campaign, and are designed with a specific goal in mind. Do you want to drive traffic to your site? Drive downloads? Make more sales?
TikTok’s campaign objectives match what you’d find on any other paid social platform, and are designed to follow the stages in the sales funnel.
Here’s the breakdown per the platform’s help center:
- Traffic–Send users to a dedicated landing page or a specific section of your website.
- App Installs–Instead of sending users to a traditional landing page, install campaigns direct traffic to an app store page so they can easily download your app.
- Conversion-focused ads require the TikTok Pixel to be installed on your site (I’ll discuss this in the next section), and can be designed around a wide range of “events” that represent your desired action–purchase, subscription, form submission, etc.
Select Placements, Specs, & Your Target Audience
The next step is uploading your creative and choosing where you want your ads to run.
Placements play a bigger role outside of the US, allowing users to target users on TikTok proper, as well as related apps like BuzzVideo, News Republic, and more.
There’s also an option that allows users to give TikTok more control over placements in order to optimize your campaign based on when it’s most likely to achieve the desired outcome–a la Google smart bidding.
And, also like Google, optimized placements work best the more you use the platform. On TikTok, you’ll need to generate traffic from a minimum of 1,000 users to ensure that the algorithm is working with an accurate representation of your target audience.
If you want to track app downloads, conversions, or use TikTok ads to run retargeting campaigns, you’ll need to download the TikTok Pixel, an HTML snippet that tracks user activity as they move from the social platform to a second location. Much like its Facebook and Google counterparts, the TikTok Pixel allows you to:
- Measure campaign success
- Optimize ad delivery to reach users most likely to complete the desired objective.
- Remove users who have previously converted or don’t fit your target audience.
Still, you can create custom audiences a few different ways (sans Pixel): by uploading customer lists, website analytics, app engagement reports, and more. Plus, the app’s built-in targeting allows users to target audiences based on the basics–age, location, interests, etc.
How to Set Up the TikTok Pixel & Create Your First Event
- Navigate to the Library tab in your dashboard.
- Click “Event,” then “create Pixel”
- Give it a name, save, and get your code.
- Add the Pixel code manually to the back end of your site or follow these instructions to install the Pixel using Google Tag Manager.
- Download the TikTok Pixel Helper, an in-platform tool that will help you determine whether you’ve successfully implemented the pixel code. This allows you to test your setup to ensure the event triggers work as planned before launching your campaign.
- Select an industry category that best matches your business model–the reason for this is, the platform will present a list of events that generally correspond to how users interact with this type of business.
- Next, you’ll define your events based on clicks or a destination URL.
- And finally, you’ll create the ad and launch the campaign. Link the pixel at the ad group level and choose an event as your “optimization goal.”event as the optimization goal. Once the campaign goes live, you can monitor its performance
Set Your Budget and Schedule
You can choose either a daily budget or a total budget. Please keep in mind that there’s a minimum limit of $50 for the regular budget and total budget at the ad group level.
Apart from this, you can choose your campaign duration, which can range from a single day to a weeks-long affair.
Types of TikTok Ads
Unlike Facebook, Google, Instagram, and Twitter, TikTok’s format options are fairly limited. As it stands, here are the ad formats available today (or, at least they’re in beta):
In-feed ads are pretty versatile and look similar to an Instagram Story. These are 15-second video spots that appear alongside organic content and can be used to generate brand awareness, increase reach, and drive traffic to dedicated landing pages. In-feed ads support a diverse range of objectives, including click-throughs, conversions, and downloads.
Shoppable In-Feed Ads
Shoppable in-feed videos aren’t an official member of the TikTok paid ads team, but the platform has been testing the feature with select brands since fall 2019. These ads allow users to incorporate CTA buttons and links that send users directly to a landing page where they can complete a purchase.
Advertisers can attach a URL to their video, much like Instagram Shopping posts, to direct users to their store. The benefit of using shoppable videos is that you can track the ROI of your marketing campaigns in a more direct way.
Traditional in-feed videos don’t offer this option. Instead, brands must rely on the familiar “link in bio” workaround we’ve all seen on Instagram.
One thing that’s immediately clear about TikTok is that its user base loves a hashtag challenge.
They’re not always a paid strategy and are often started by regular users.
Among the best-known challenges is Jimmy Fallon’s #tumbleweedchallenge.
While the segment began on Fallon’s late-night show, it quickly became a TikTok staple. The challenge encourages users to upload videos of themselves rolling on the ground to Western music like a tumbleweed. As it stands, 14,850 users have shared their take on the popular meme.
Paid advertisers can also get in on the hashtag challenge trend for a fast track to virality by embedding them into an in-feed ad.
Here’s an example of Clean and Clear’s hashtag challenge, a campaign launched in India to promote their limited edition bottles featuring five different personality types and five different songs.
According to TikTok, the campaign generated 1.96 billion video views, 172 million likes, shares, and comments, and 2.62 million UGC posts to Clean & Clear’s official account.
Guess also did something similar.
The #InMyDenim Hashtag Challenge was designed to drive brand awareness ahead of the Fall 2018 back-to-school season.
The campaign centered around the idea of going from “mess” to “best dressed” and the brand posted several official videos to Bebe Rexha’s “I’m a mess.” They also enlisted the help of a few influencers to demo the concept and encourage users to participate.
The campaign generated 5,500 UGC videos, 12,000 new followers, and 10.5m video views.
Brand Takeovers are ads that appear when a user opens the app and fills up the whole screen. The spot is expensive, but the platform only features one advertiser per day–meaning, if you run one of these campaigns, people will definitely see you.
Here’s an example from GrubHub, which used the strategy to drive app downloads:
TikTok’s answer to the AR lenses found on Snapchat and Instagram, brands can pay for custom face filters, AR effects, and 3D objects.
Branded lenses are a great way to drive engagement, and based on the platform’s demographics and the type of content that does well here, lenses could be a really valuable tool for boosting brand awareness and messaging.
One of the key benefits of branded lenses is they offer a ton of visibility. They always have a place in TikTok’s trending section, and when users open the app to start filming, they’ll be presented with a library of branded lenses they can use to kick their videos up a few notches.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, fashion brands are flocking to TikTok, hoping to expand their reach and gain exposure among Gen Z users, while continuing to court Millennials on Instagram.
Of course, brands can’t just “buy” an influencer partnership and expect to have a successful campaign. The same rules apply when it comes to selecting the right influencer for your brand.
Like YouTube and Instagram, TikTok is loaded with influencers boasting huge numbers of followers. What’s unique about TikTok’s approach to influencer marketing is that brands can partner with influencers directly through the platform, as opposed to traditional outreach methods such as sending proposals via email or at the more expensive end of the spectrum, working with a talent agency.
The TikTok Creator Marketplace was introduced back in September 2019 and allows brands and certain platform-approved talent agencies to search for influencers by follower count, audience demographics, content topics, and more to track down the right creator for the job.
Just this past March, TikTok introduced a few new reporting tools to help brands get a sense of what to expect from their investment before reaching out. Now, brands can track performance metrics, review audience segments, and see what kind of engagement creator posts get, on average.
How Much Do TikTok Ads Cost?
As it stands, TikTok ads aren’t exactly made for the budget-conscious startup. While the platform’s help center doesn’t get too specific about costs, a TikTok pitch deck leaked in June 2019 revealed the following figures:
- In-Feed Video: In-feed video ads start at $25k per campaign, and max out at a $30k daily spending threshold.
- Brand Takeover: $50k per day.
- Hashtag Challenge: Hashtag challenges reportedly cost $150k for a 6-day campaign.
- Customer Influencer Package: Varies based on who you’re working with. According to eMarketer, typical rates average between $600 and $1,000 per post.
- Branded Lenses: Costs vary based on the complexity of the AR lens design, though the report states that lenses typically range from $80-120k each.
Self-service advertisers can set daily or campaign-wide spending limits. Keep in mind; you can’t mess around with a couple of bucks here. TikTok requires its users to spend a minimum of $500 per campaign or $50 per ad group.
TikTok says that these minimums exist to ensure that you reach your target objectives.
While it’s clear that TikTok is chasing big brands right now, we’ll likely see advertising costs drop in the near future following in the footsteps of other social platforms.
TikTok ads offer a massive opportunity for brands to reach a new generation of fans in a way that’s really authentic and engaging.
However, it’s essential that you work hard to get to know the TikTok “culture” promoting your own take on the #tumbleweedchallenge in an effort to humanize your brand.
Many of the larger brands mentioned above have tapped influencers to help them run campaigns. This is a smart strategy, though it’s worth pointing out that options like brand takeovers and high-profile partnerships aren’t exactly low-cost options.
While GrubHub, Guess, Chipotle, and the NBA can afford to play around with these options, smaller brands may want to start off posting organic content and testing in-feed ads on a smaller scale before diving in head-first.
And finally, you’ll want to make sure that your audience actually uses the platform, otherwise, you’re just giving yourself more work and spending more money.