The TikTok rabbit hole is deep.
With the average user spending at least an hour a day over 8 sessions on the app, TikTok mania is devouring hours upon hours of free time for hundreds of millions of entertainment-hungry consumers across the globe. And, of course, the only remaining question for brands and their marketers is how do we cash in?
Now, don’t blame me for being so cynical. I think we’re all long past the notion that, of all social media channels, we’re on the hunt to extract some “social good” from TikTok. Right? Right.
Most of this article focuses on how to create better TikTok ads, but before we get into that I want to make sure we answer a few important questions that I know you’re already asking.
You should answer this question the same way you would answer it for any other marketing channel. And the actual question you’re asking isn’t whether or not you should advertise on “blank” channel, it’s do you have XX dollars to spend on a new marketing channel without damaging the health of your business if it’s a total flop?
Think of it like this.
Marketing shares the same principle as investing (but isn’t nearly as risky, or shouldn’t be). You don’t put money into play that you can’t afford to lose. So if your other channels are working for you and you’re looking to expand your reach with a new channel AND have $5,000 to “risk” without worry – yes, you should be advertising on TikTok.
If you don’t have those extra dollars or if you aren’t generating leads or transactions consistently with Google Search, Facebook, or any of the other more “tried and tested” digital channels, then the answer is no, you shouldn’t be rolling the dice on TikTok.
If the answer to the above is yes, keep on reading. If the answer to the above is no, we’ve got a different problem to solve and you should reach out so we can help.
I’ll keep this one short, yes, yes they are.
There’s a lot of talk about the younger makeup of the TikTok audience, but only 41 percent of that audience are between the ages of 16 and 24. 50 percent are under 34 years old. That may seem like a lot, but there are 37.2 million users in the U.S. If only 10 percent of that audience fits your demographic makeup that’s still 3.7 million people. No matter how tight your audience target, I guarantee you they’re using TikTok.
Now, that’s not to say this isn’t an important question to ask and when I was getting ready to write this piece I wasn’t sure where I fell on the matter. So, I turned to a friend and colleague who has already built a TikTok audience of over 50,000 followers to get a straight answer. Lauren Pope is a content marketing guru at G2 Crowd and we talked about her TikTok journey, the nature of the channel, what she’s learned so far, and of course advertising.
Below is the full, unedited recording of our conversation.
First things first, why did I cross out “ads” and replace them with “content”? Simply put, in a feed channel like Facebook, Twitter, or TikTok your ads are content, or absolutely need to be, because they are placed alongside regular content produced by users and brands.
I don’t know you and I don’t know your business, so if you’re looking for a specific formula on how to create the kind of ad that’s going to deliver results for your specific business you’re a little out of luck. However, if anyone else tells you they do have a secret formula you can rest assured they’re lying to you.
TikTok is organized by tiny tribes of people who are accustomed to engaging and seeing very specific kinds of content that are a direct reflection of their preferences and those of the TikTok “community” or the people of like-mind they are paired with algorithmically.
Sure there are common patterns to the content on TikTok, but like any channel creating good content and advertising is really about the process you use to discover, create, test, and refine that content. Here’s a process that will get you to a place where you can create TikTok content that will work.
In fact, you can use this 5 step process for any channel.
Understanding what kind of content your TikTok audience wants to see, is used to seeing, and loves interacting with is the most critical step. This is the observation step in the process.
Create a “ghost” TikTok account with a dead or junk email address unattached to you personally so you can exist in the channel, liking, commenting, etc… as if you were a member of your target audience. This is the only way to see what they (your audience) will see in their feed without tainting it with your own tastes and preferences. If you are your target audience, then this step is unnecessary, just watch your own feed and do the following:
Look for patterns.
What kind of content is your audience “liking”, “dueting”, “commenting” on. Do they all use music? Are they people just talking to the camera? Do they have a high production value? Fancy editing? Watch as much as you can and record everything you see that registers as a pattern. Document it ALL.
Now that you’ve taken a full inventory of the kind of content your audience likes, it’s time to think about what it says about the value your audience is expecting to extract from their TikTok experience. And when I say value, I mean are they there to be totally entertained, do they want to laugh, to be politically engaged, reassured that being old is still kinda cool, etc…
Every cabal of TikTok users has an agenda of some kind. Your job is to figure out what that is and play into it.
There’s an obsession with originality when it comes to creative endeavors of all kinds, none more so than advertising (which is strange, but we don’t have time for that). The bottom line is that this focus is misplaced and dangerous if you expect to produce a quality, ROI positive result in any channel.
So now that you’ve seen what is already working for your target TikTok audience, it’s time to mimic that style of content in a way that works for your brand. Don’t reinvent the wheel, just steel like a good artist should.
If you’re still feeling like a plagiarist, consider the fact that nearly all the world’s greatest creators took the same journey. And if you get it right, somebody is going to copy you.
Before you spend the first penny make sure you’re tracking everything you possibly can. For most delving into a new digital channel this is already a foregone conclusion. For the uninitiated and burgeoning analytic masterminds reading this, I want to underscore the importance of isolating your TikTok test to ensure you can reasonably assess the impact of this channel.
UTM tracking. It’s super simple.
If you have google analytics (GA) setup and you have your digital store connected to it, or your form conversions tracking there, the easiest way to measure the effectiveness of these campaigns is to affix unique UTM strings to each ad and leverage GA to see the impact.
Isolation and temporal measurement – the old school way.
This is pretty simple. If you can afford to do so, shut everything else off and run your TikTok experiment. You could reasonably assume any leads, transactions, or traffic increases are attributable to your campaign. That being said, this is rather unscientific and should be considered a last ditch effort.
Last click, first click, channel traffic, and direct (branded) traffic
The first step is to understand exactly what metrics your campaign should impact. Again, if you do this kind of thing, skip ahead.
Last Click: Last click attribution measures the effectiveness of your campaign’s conversion in a single session or experience. A user clicks on the ad, visits your website, and converts without leaving. For tactics like paid search this is usually the best way to determine the effectiveness of the channel because conceivably the keywords on which you’re bidding are garnering traffic with buying intent.
For channels like Facebook and, of course, TikTok, which are disruptive in nature, the traffic you’re attracting may be interesting in learning more about your offering but may not yet be ready to buy. For TikTok you should expect some last click conversion, which GA measures by default as an attribution model, but it’s not the only way TikTok success can be measured.
First Click: First click attribution measures which of your digital channels started a users journey toward conversion. They may come to your website, float away, and return. It’s important to know what brought them there in the first place because that exposure is equally as important as last click conversion and, of course, these users eventually converted anyway.
Traffic: Measuring the actual web traffic produced by your campaign is important to make sure it is at least delivering new faces to your website. It is also a good way to test the analytics of the advertising platform. While it is never an exact one to one, the number of clicks you have paid for, or are being reported by the advertising platform (TikTok in this case) should be pretty close – say within +/- 15 percent. If it’s more than that, trust your GA measurements.
Branded Traffic: Another less exact way to measure the impact of a digital channel is to watch the volume of traffic coming to your website because someone searched for your company’s name. Using Google Search Console, make a note of how many people are searching for your brand before, during, and after the duration of your campaign. In GA this will be a portion of your “direct traffic”, keep an eye on that as well.
Ok! Hopefully you’ve had some mild success, break even success would be the best, but any kind of success from a digital channel is an indication that there’s a way to make it work. Once you’ve got things moving it’s time to start your cycle of test, measure, optimize. Maybe the landing page needs some work to increase conversion, maybe the text of your ad needs a little work, maybe your targeting needs adjustment?
There are too many variables to account for here, but the key thing is to keep your optimization tests simple and isolated.
It’s important to clarify what I mean by “best TikTok ad I’ve ever seen”. I added the emphasis because it’s not the best TikTok ad ever, but from a creative and targeting perspective this company did an excellent job of understanding the kind of content their audience engages and leveraging that to get my attention.
This ad from Black Rifle Coffee company didn’t feel like an ad at all. In fact, they hit me with several different ads that felt like native content and it just happens that this was the one that drove me to their website. (You can check out all their content here, they know their audience so well) So in that sense, as a professional marketer, it was the best TikTok ad I’ve ever seen. Without this context, the ad I’m about to show is otherwise unremarkable.
But for me, a 39 year old, Gen X, coffee loving, video game playing, outdoor enthusiast, who enjoys practical jokes and brands that have a sense of humor. This was perfect.