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 A Guide to TikTok Marketing

Romina Dashghachian

Senior Programme Executive, Germany

TikTok has developed into a highly valuable social media platform for brands. It’s available in over 150 countries, has over 1 billion users, and has been downloaded over 210 million times in the United States alone. Brands continue noticing the value it has brought to theirs or competitors marketing efforts. Duolingo even recently won an Ad Age’s Creativity Awards Social Marketer of the Year award for their marketing strategy on the platform.  

While many have stayed focused on marketing through Instagram it has unfortunately become oversaturated, making it difficult for newer and even existing brands to press through to their audiences. Not that there’s anything wrong with Instagram, but if you really want to connect with your audiences and in a less “sales-y” way: TikTok is going to be your best friend. 

Why is TikTok good for marketing? 

So let’s look a few reasons why TikTok will elevate your marketing: 

  • Large user base: Of the one billion active users worldwide, the majority sit in the 16-24 age range, providing a large, potentially untapped, audience for marketers to reach. Even brands who you wouldn’t necessarily associate with younger audiences – such as The Washington Post – have seen success in engaging users on the platform. And it goes further than just young audiences, nearly 40% of users are over the age of 29. The platform also has a strong influencer culture. By partnering with popular creators, you can increase visibility with untapped niche audiences.  
  • Creative freedom: TikTok allows for a lot of creative freedom with its short-form video format and various editing tools. Marketers can experiment with different styles, sounds and visual effects to create engaging content and show their followers a different side of their company  
  • Viral potential: TikTok has a unique algorithm that can help videos go viral quickly. If a piece of content resonates with users, it can spread rapidly across the platform, leading to increased visibility for a brand without the need for paid spend.  
  • Cost-effective: Advertising on TikTok can be relatively inexpensive compared to other social media platforms, making it accessible to smaller businesses with limited budgets. 

Ways to market on TikTok  

TikTok has a culture of authenticity and relatability with users often sharing unpolished, behind-the-scenes moments of their lives. This raw and genuine approach has resonated across generations and developed a strong community of users. Consider the following ways to market on TikTok: 

User-generated content  

If you can get users creating their own content, on your behalf, you’ll be onto a winner. Compared to content created and published by brands, user-generated videos on TikTok can help you emotionally engage your audience, and create a positive association with your brand.  

Challenges and contests are a great way of encouraging users to participate in your campaign. Both should be simple and fun, and, ideally, related to your brand. You get the ball rolling and the TikTok community will do the rest – here, you might also want to partner with an influencer to get a head start. 

TikTok’s advertising offering is evolving all the time. Last year marked the launch of TikTok Pulse, a contextual advertising solution that ensures brands’ ads are placed next to the top 4% of all videos on the platform.  


The platform offers several ad formats, including in-feed ads, brand takeovers, sponsored hashtag challenges, branded effects and more. Brands can target their ads based on user demographics, interests and behaviors. The platform also operates on an auction system where brands bid on ad placements in line with their budget and ad performance goals. TikTok provides detailed analytics on ad impressions, clicks, engagement and more, allowing you to see who, where and how your content is resonating with your target audience. 

Understanding the TikTok algorithm 

The TikTok algorithm is a complex system that determines what content appears on a user’s “For You” page, which is the platform’s main discovery page. You don’t have to know exactly how it works, but if you want it to favor your content, you need an awareness of the factors that its AI uses to determines which videos it will show to which users: 

  • User interactions and activity: Tracking user engagement including likes, comments, shares, and how long the user watches a video. Videos that receive a lot of positive engagement are more likely to be shown to other users. The algorithm also considers a user’s activity on the platform, such as videos they have liked and accounts they follow to suggest similar content. 
  • Video information: The algorithm considers details about the video, such as the hashtags, sounds and effects used. It also takes into account the video’s completion rate (how many viewers watch the entire video) and average watch times. 
  • Device and account settings: These can include settings such as language preference, location and device type.  
  • Popular trends: The algorithm identifies popular trends, challenges and hashtags on the platform and promotes videos that participate in those trends. 
  • Keywords and captioning: Videos with closed captions increase impressions by more than 50%, allow you to reach those scrolling without sound and also make your content more inclusive. The algorithm then picks up all words from the captions, meaning your content will pop up in searches around those words (even if they’re not included in your hashtags etc.) Just like using SEO for your website, you can include keywords in your videos to be included in TikTok searches. 

It’s important to note that the TikTok algorithm is constantly evolving, and there is final formula for creating viral content. 

TikTok marketing best practices 

  1. Keep it short and sweet: Aim for videos that are 15-60 seconds long. 
  1. Use trending hashtags: Keep an eye on the latest trends and use relevant hashtags in your videos. 
  1. Focus on storytelling: Get creative and engaging in your storytelling approach. 
  1. Use music and sound: Use trending audio or create your own sounds and music to make your videos more engaging. 
  1. Be authentic and relatable: Use humor and personality to connect with viewers. TikTok is not about being “corporate” or getting in all your key messages. Users love tongue-in-cheek videos and seeing another side of brands, like Ryanair or Duolingo
  1. Engage with your audience: Respond to comments and messages, and encourage user-generated content to build a community around your brand. When you see videos about your brand, engage through comments, stitches or DMs. This video by a Rare Beauty fan receiving Rare Beauty products after mentioning in a previous video how much she loved them and this Urban Decay response to a complaint are best practices. 
  1. Experiment with different formats: TikTok offers a range of video formats, including in-feed videos, stories and live streaming – use each of them to see what provides the best results. 
  1. Be consistent: Post regularly and at the same time each day to build a loyal following. 

Developing a TikTok marketing strategy 

91% of users find TikTok content to be different from any other competitive platform. When setting out to develop a marketing strategy, approach TikTok as you would other social media platforms, such as Twitter or Instagram, as there are some basic elements that always transfer.  

Define your goals 

What do you want to achieve? Are you trying to increase brand awareness, drive sales, or build community? Setting extremely clear goals will help you focus your strategy and measure your success. 

Research your audience 

What type of content do they engage with? Understanding your audience’s interests and behavior on the platform will help you create content that resonates with them. Based on your audience research, develop a content strategy that aligns with your brand’s messaging and values but also your audience’s interests. Consider using popular trends and challenges on the platform, as well as partnering with influencers to increase reach. 

Optimize your profile 

Your TikTok profile should clearly communicate your brand’s identity and provide a call-to-action for viewers to engage with your content. Use eye-catching visuals and include a link to your website or other social media channels. If your goal is to build community, respond to comments, participate in challenges and collaborate with other creators.  

Measure your success and refine the process 

Finally, you can tap TikTok’s (free!) analytics tools to measure the performance of your content and adjust your strategy accordingly. Monitor your follower count, engagement rate and other metrics to track progress towards your goals. 

These analytics include metrics such as views, engagement rate, click-through rate and more. But these metrics don’t really do justice to just how granular you can get on how users are engaging with your content – you can see everything from average watch time, completion rate (percentage of viewers who watched the entire video), traffic source type (where viewers found your videos, including your profile, the For You feed, etc.), follower insights (which other videos or sounds have they watched/used/liked, times when they’re active, etc.), and audience territories. 

Testing different strategies and approaches is key to refining your TikTok marketing efforts. Experiment with different ad formats, targeting options and creative elements to see what works best for your brand. Those analytics can help to inform and guide you in your experimentation, but you should be mindful of creating future videos based primarily around them. It’s best to consider the bigger picture, lean lightly on analytics, and use them as a source for insight rather than strategy.