How Marketers are Using TikTok


TikTok is a free IOS and Android application that has seen rising popularity and growth since its launch in 2016. In October 2018 it became the most downloaded app in the United States. Globally, TikTok has over 2 billion downloads, with over 800 million monthly users. 

The app utilizes shared, 15 second video clips that are reminiscent of the now dead platform Vine, which left the market in early 2017. Much like Instagram, TikTok has a “discover” page where one can explore new accounts and videos, and has an “infinite scroll” style feed. 

With the bulk of TikTok’s daily users being in their teens and 20s, the app has quickly become a new way to market to Generation Z. Marketers on the app have the difficult task of making advertisements that can get these young users’ attention, and maintain it through the end of the video.

“I don’t like the feeling that I’m being marketed to,” said Julia Newcorn, of New York City. “For an ad to really get my attention, it shouldn’t have to feel like an ad at all, especially in the beginning. It could even be an interesting video that grabs my attention,” Newcorn said.

Newcorn is just one of the 60% of TikTok users that identify as female and at 20 years old, she’s an example of the type of consumer that your brand will have to keep in mind when creating advertisements.

There are a few key ways that brands can market with TikTok. Unlike Youtube, where paid advertisements have been well ingrained for over a decade, TikTok is just getting started with their freshly unveiled, “TikTokAds.” Since it has yet to become as popular as Instagram for advertising, now is a great time to start marketing on TikTok before it is oversaturated.

How Advertising on TikTok Works

TikTokAds works in a few main ways, some of which you may be familiar with from other apps. 

Branded Effects Ads: This is reminiscent of what we have been seeing on Snapchat for years. This is a branded, interactive filter, lens or sticker effect that users can apply to videos. 

In Feed Ads: This method will probably be familiar to many, with the ad placed in between videos as you scroll, very similar to ads seen in the Stories feature of Instagram. 

Brand Takeover Ads: A takeover ad is the first thing a user sees when they open the app. This unavoidable ad fills the screen. It’s tailored to the user based on their viewing history.  

Branded Hashtag Ads: These are sponsored hashtags that the user will be aware are paid for. When clicked on, they will lead the user to more info about your brand, the trend your brand has created, a link to your website, and some top viewed videos that support the hashtag. Users can find these hashtags in the Discover section of the app.

TopView Ads: This is another variety of unavoidable ads. TopView ads appear to the user a few seconds after opening their feed. 

How Much TikTok Ads Can Cost

These paid ads are not particularly cheap unfortunately. Because the platform is the freshest place to advertise, TikTok can charge a premium that companies like McDonalds or Paramount will be happy to pay. The minimum cost for a campaign is $500 USD with every 1,000 views costing $10. A “Brand Takeover” style ad will run $50,000. An “In Feed” style ad will cost $10 per impression with a minimum of 600 prepaid impressions required. A sponsored “Hashtag Challenge” will cost a whopping $150,000. 

Lower Budget Advertising

If you’re a smaller business or just don’t have the budget to spend on TikTokAds, there are still a few cheap ways to market on the app. By reaching out and connecting to your audience through these methods, your brand can even generate buzz for free.

iPhone shows TikTok app

Make an Account: Brands can make an account and post through it for no cost at all. They can post more traditional advertising or behind the scenes, real world type videos.

  • Gen Z TikTok users like Emma Perry, 20, from Chicago, prefer nontraditional ads.
  • “The ads that engage me most don’t blatantly advertise to me, but subliminally market the product or service in a creative way. That, or they use real world situations and real world people to advertise.”

Start a Trend: Unsponsored hashtags can go viral as well, though not without a lot of work. Every day new hashtags appear, so yours needs to be clever to stand out.

Influencers: Influencers are on all social media platforms and many of them have a huge following. By sponsoring a video, or sending them your product, an influencer can introduce your brand to a much larger group of people. An endorsement from the right person can also make a world of difference for your business.

TikTok is one of the most used apps. With so many people using social media now, more than ever, it’s worth your time to get acquainted with it. Because of TikTok’s rapid growth and recent introduction of features for advertisers, It really is the next marketing frontier. If your brand can get a handle on TikTok right now, then you’ll get to know your audience better. Get ahead of the competition.

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Zora Digital is a Chicago digital marketing agency. We help lifestyle brands with a spirit of innovation navigate the digital landscape and create significant ROI.