Every few years, a new app comes in and takes the world by storm. Enter TikTok — this generation’s biggest social media platform that, at first, many were reluctant to join. But with 1 billion users (and counting), we can no longer deny the massive impact that this micro-video app has on our society — and on business, for that matter.
Per the company itself, TikTok’s mission is to “capture and present the world’s creativity, knowledge and precious life moments directly from the mobile phone. TikTok enables everyone to be a creator and encourages users to share their passion and creative expression through their videos.
And there is no question that their mission has far exceeded anyone’s expectations. As of 2019, TikTok was the most downloaded app on the Apple App store with 33 million (!) downloads in a single quarter, widely beating out Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube and more.
So, where did this all start? And ultimately, should your brand get in on the hype?
Where TikTok Started
TikTok was launched in 2016, and by 2017 TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, purchased the app Musical.ly, giving TikTok full access to a teenage market they previously didn’t have.
Since then, TikTok has been downloaded over 2 billion times worldwide and can make the average Joe a viral sensation literally overnight. Take Charli D’Amelio (below) for example. Charli started posting TikTok videos in 2019 and by July 2020, boasted a staggering 71 million followers on the platform, and today is at 109 million followers.
With such quick fame, it begs the question: How do you get viral on TikTok? To many users’ disbelief, it can even happen at zero followers, and the secret lies in the platform’s algorithm.
The TikTok Algorithm and Going Viral with Zero Followers
In June of last year, TikTok shared a release explaining exactly how each account’s social feed is calibrated and
Summed up, it works like this: the TikTok algorithm works as a meritocracy and gives every video a chance to shine by showing it to a small audience on the For You Page (also referred to as #FYP). That means that even if you have 0 followers, if your video performs well with this small group, TikTok will continue to push it out to more people that they think will like it. Because of this, typically you can tell in the first hour or two if your video will be going viral.
If you’ve used TikTok, you know that sometimes the For You page feels like it’s “listening” to everything you like and showing you content curated to what they think your interests are. TikTok said, “The system recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors — starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you’re interested in, too.”
But it doesn’t stop there — each of the above factors is individually weighted by TikTok’s For You recommendation system. That means that each user’s For You page is unique to that user and their interests. A few indicators include whether or not you watched a video from beginning to end, or if you share, like or comment on the video.
While it helps to have a larger following, you don’t need it to go viral, as “neither follower count nor whether the account has had previous high-performing videos are direct factors in the recommendation system.”
How to Utilize TikTok for Your Business
TikTok is not like Facebook or Instagram. TikTok stands out from its competitors because instead of being a lifestyle platform, it is more of an entertainment platform. Anyone can become a content provider because of the simplicity, and with a bit of creativity, your business can get involved, too.
Even if your brand is unknown, there are ways to have a presence on TikTok in hopes that your video, too, will go viral. Here are a few things to keep in mind when taking off:
1. Be Authentic
Be yourself in all of your content and show an inside look at who your business is. Take Zoup! Eatery, for example. Zoup!, a locally owned Fresh Soup Eatery, created a ‘12 Days of Christmas’ spoof video using menu items from their restaurant and saw instant fame. Their video now boasts a staggering 1.4 million likes and 43,000 comments, when they originally set out to just have fun.
2. Keep it Fun and Get Creative
Take TikTok as an opportunity to show a more creative and humorous side of your brand. Whether you want to copy a viral trend or do a famous TikTok dance, it’s important to keep your content light and fun.
3. Format For Your Audience
While you still can provide educational materials to your audience, it is important to position it in a quick, digestible and easy to quickly apply to their everyday life. For example, if you are a Tax Company, post a quick TikTok of one thing you NEED to remember when filing your taxes. The smallest tip or trick can have a big impact on TikTok.
4. Mimic Content That’s Trending
TikTok takes well to trending content. We’ve all seen dances like ‘The Renegade’ and ‘Savage’ take the TikTok world by storm. Whether it’s a challenge or a dance trend, show your playful side and get involved. Companies that are willing to make fun of themselves, or just be humorous and entertaining, are far more likely to gain quick fame on TikTok than those who stay buttoned-up and follow the “traditional” rules of social media.
There is no question about it that TikTok is here to stay, and it’s time for you to dip your toes in the TikTok water. You may never know: TikTok could quickly become your company’s best-kept marketing secret.