Social media is a powerful tool for brands — both big and small. And every platform has seen the need for businesses to be visible and active too! TikTok, the famous short-form video platform that needs no introduction, has also joined the club.

But it’s estimated that only 20% of brands are actually using this social media platform.

Since TikTok for Business launched in June of 2021 in South Africa, the platform has encouraged brands across the country to join and “make TikTok videos, not ads”. So marketers, what does this mean for your businesses?

The team at media update spoke to Scott Thwaites, head of emerging markets at TikTok Global Business Solutions, to find out more.

Let’s take a closer look at what Thwaites had to say:

How can brands leverage TikTok trends to improve their brand storytelling?

Leveraging TikTok trends is important in making sure that your brand story resonates with the audience. Brands who’ve had the most success on TikTok in other regions have embraced the creativity and authenticity of the TikTok community, which also comes alive in trends and challenges. [They also] used the platform to amplify their unique brand voice.

Brands are working with creators to tell their brand stories rather than focusing on products. TikTok is right in the heart of this change with its creative content that creators bring to the platform. Jumping on a trend will keep a brand top of mind on TikTok, while providing many exciting opportunities to turn its consumers into advocates and engage them in the creative storytelling process.

What does the paradigm shift in digital content between lean-backward to lean-forward mean for brands?

Lean-forward ad engagement has proven to be impactful. Consumer attention is captured with interaction of any kind — whether a dance or song for brand recall. In a digital world, user interaction is the driving force behind premium and higher value-ad opportunities. It is, therefore, important for media companies and marketers to capture the most meaningful signals from viewers through their viewing behaviours and activity, along their content journey — which is something that the TikTok algorithm offers.

Also, a standard on TikTok is how a video would start playing the moment the app opens — just like tuning into a TV channel. [This is] something that has proven to work with lean-back engagement. It means that brands have options and can choose what impact they wish to have with their ads.

What are three tips that brands can use to grow their audience on TikTok?

Be authentic: The audiences resonate the strongest with authenticity, and consumers can tell very quickly and easily if a brand is unauthentic to its core values.

Be creative: TikTok allows businesses to tap into an engaged community in a fun and rewarding way, which allows the brand to relate and connect with different audiences. Creativity acts as one of the driving forces behind that connection.

Be engaging: Brands can become a part of the community by joining the conversation, participating and introducing yourself to users. 

Does TikTok for Business have analytics tools to enable brands to track their metrics? And what do these entail?

We have recently launched TikTok Brand Lift Study (BLS), a user-friendly, first-party measurement solution, that is there to help advertisers measure and optimise advertising resonance on TikTok such as awareness, perception, intent and recall.

This will help advertisers inform campaign decisions and to build on brand affinity.

Why should brands move away from making ads to making TikTok videos?

Users see TikTok as an ad-friendly environment, believing the platform to be more trustworthy, less intrusive, as well as more creative and entertaining. Creating TikTok videos instead of ads offers the following:

Duration: TikTok videos get the message across concisely and effectively. Videos can be five to 60 seconds long, but 12 to 15 seconds is the optimum time for the user's attention span.

Vertical video: TikTok is built for vertical video, the vast majority of all user content is shot on their phones and in-app. Anything other than vertical just looks out of place.

Strong call-to-action (CTA): TikTok uses CTA’s to tell the audience what you want them to do such as to shop now, click to the website or to find out more.

Leverage creators: Collaborate with creators who can give brands the inside lane when it comes to relevant content that feels native to the platform. You can utilise the targeting capabilities of in-feed paid ads and select creators who align best with your brand’s audience.

What makes video the ideal format over other forms of media?

We know that the GenZ and Millennial audiences have a shorter attention span and juggle more screens, so they prefer visually-oriented mediums in short bursts and expressing themselves.

What elements added to video format can help a small brand attract audiences?

TikTokers are spending a movie length’s worth of time with us every day, which means they are incredibly engaged with the format, and small brands can leverage this!

With TikTok, small businesses can build their content for a mobile, sound-on environment — whether it’s music, sound effects, voice-overs or reactions.

We've seen incredible examples of businesses sharing their story through authentic, fun short-form videos. Business owners take consumers inside their community, workshop and daily lives while connecting with new local and global audiences.

Are you using TikTok for Business? If so, what other tips can you give brands? Let us know in the comments below.

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Are you keen to find out more about how social media can help businesses? Then be sure to read Social media’s contribution to small businesses: A Q&A with Itumeleng Lekomanyane.