Digital Marketing

TikTok - The Digital Marketing Tool of the Future?

Patrick McCarthy

Some are calling it social media’s latest wild child, which may have something to do with the age of its primary audience. Or, that may denote the platform’s purpose, which extends beyond the usual post-like-share mechanism for connecting a global community.


The short answer is:

TikTok is an iOS and Android media app that is quickly becoming the next social media giant. Its claim to fame is home spun videos, averaging 15 seconds in length, that feature music. TikTok is used primarily by teenagers and other folks who fall into the category of youth, as a way to express themselves through dancing, comedy, singing, and lip-syncing. And as its popularity grows, so does its purpose.


You’re probably thinking -

Do we really need another Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or whatever else exists out there in the social ether?

Don’t answer no too quickly, because what is trending toward becoming the world’s top social media platform appears to be ina class of its own. Contrary to what it looks like on the surface, it’s not the same old song and dance.


There’s a reason TikTok has struck 155 markets worldwide.

If you’re a Gen Z’er you probably know all about TikTok, and you may even be one of its billion users. But chances are, you’re a Millennial, or perhaps even a Gen X’er (like us) and you haven’t a clue what TikTok is all about, why it exists, or the potential it holds for digital marketing.

Something that started as a social network for amateur music videos has now become more sophisticated, with a growing dedicated user base that spans age categories, countries, and preference for content.

Maybe it has something to do with our cultural addiction to becoming America’s next top something, whether that be a dancer, vocalist, gymnast, cheerleader, or comedian. Or maybe we seek constantly to progress from the next big thing to the next bigger thing. Perhaps we’re just trying to cultivate a greater sense of connection to each other.

The objective here is not to analyse the evolution of human psychology as it regards social media platforms.

The reality is that TikTok is huge and if your business has any kind of online presence, then you need to know everything about it. It’s an ideal platform for digital marketers, particularly e-commerce businesses, especially right now.

As you read, keep your eye out for key insights about why this up and coming social media platform is the latest tool to help you target the right audience and get your brand the exposure necessary for growing your business.


We highlighted these insights for your convenience, so if you’re a scanner rather than a start-to-finish reader, you’ll still get the meat of the message.

(Sidenote: If you’re an e-commerce business, social media is not really an optional business strategy anymore. It’s essential for growing in your market. You’ll have a hard time establishing any sort of proof without a social media platform backing you up.)



Can we really credit something that is a mere three years old with a history? If we consider that history signifies activity as much as time passed, then TikTok has made at least an equal––if not more––striking footprint in the history of social media than any other platform that came before it.

Have you heard of It was a teen karaoke app owned by entrepreneurs Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang that launched in 2014and grew steadily over the following few years.

Can you imagine anything more attractive to teen wannabe idols than an app that gives them a reason to practice their bestKeisha or Ed Sheeran in a spotlight before millions of people across the world?

Why wouldn’t such a tool result in epic global expansion?

But in November 2017, another similar app acquired ByteDance was a Beijing-based media and tech company that bought for a reported $1 billion. They were also the owners of TikTok, which launched in 2016. Shortly thereafter, TikTok absorbed and became the go-to app for short-form music videos.

TikTok is available worldwide, but in China, it’s called Douyin and it’s pretty much the same thing. They employ the same software, but to comply with China’s censorship restrictions, separate networks are necessary.

TikTok isn’t just about music, but that’s certainly the draw––and it’s a strong one.

By June 2018, TikTok had 500 million monthly active users.


Today, TikTok has offices across the globe inLos Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore,Jakarta, Seoul, and Tokyo. That’s a testament to its growth and establishes reasonable certainty that TikTok is more than just a mere trend.



Parkour, cheerleading, dancing, comedy, acrobatics, fire playing - you name it. With music as the inspiration, there’s really no limit to what you can capture and share with the world.

If you’re looking for a deeper purpose than what Facebook or Instagram offers, you probably won’t find it in TikTok.

Although it doesn’t replicate either, TikTok is still a social media platform for posting short videos with music, filters, and other features. It gives users the freedom to post, save, and keep private videos of themselves and whatever else they want to film.

But TikTok functions a bit differently.

It requires less commitment than Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, and it draws users in with quick visually-appealing hits of infotainment. Like the others, you can follow, “like” (by way of tapping a heart), share, and comment.

Because either commercial music or “original sound” accompanies each video, you can also tap the album icon to get the song’s name and artist and discover other videos that feature the song.

For example, we did a quick search for Footloose in the category labelled sounds, expecting, well, dance videos. And of the gazillion results that came up, most of them were. But there were a few randoms, as you might also expect, that don’t seem to have any other purpose than to display a messy bedroom, which no soundtrack really supports.

It may come as no surprise however, that we spent several more seconds engaging with those amateur Footloose dance videos on TikTok than we would have on any other platform because of the music. Music strikes that part of the brain that releases all those feel-good neurotransmitters.

It goes like this - the more we like what we hear, the more we want, the more positive an association we make to whatever it is we’re listening to. That’s a key learning in Digital Marketing 101.


At risk of sounding a tad cynical about TikTok’s featured juvenile content, let’s recalibrate our judgement and consider that TikTok offers a full range of content extending beyond mere video tales of self-absorbed teens.

TikTok reflects a desire for quick hits of infotainment that go beyond music. It features comedy, performance art, supports political expression, and showcases key quotes from controversial speeches and discussions, and more.

Users can also tip content creators using virtual currency to encourage the production of more high quality content. TikTok grossed $75 million from the sale of virtual currency, of which 55% has come from US users, accounting for $41.3 million. Users can purchase digital coins in bundles, for example, 100 coins for $0.99 (source).

And most importantly for business owners, TikTok offers marketers a grand ‘ole stage for showcasing their brand with creativity, personality, and a plethora of theatrics. There are several ways digital marketers can use TikTok to promote their brand, which we’ll get into up ahead.

It’s less formal than LinkedIn, less cutesy than Snapchat, less involved than Facebook or Instagram, and far more visually appealing than Twitter. TikTok capitalises on what social media experts have been touting since the industry’s inception: Video is far more engaging than text or still photos, and it can deliver far more information than any other medium.

There is simply no better way to get viewers’ attention than with snappy video sales ads.



Some olds might baulk at using TikTok, presuming it to be more complicated than it actually is.

We set up our profile and got access to loads of content in less than two minutes. It’s not complicated.

This is a key feature for video sales pitches:

Short, up to 60-second features attract attention to your brand.

Longer clips can reach a warm audience with a more targeted ad, highlighting key details and CTAs.


Its ease of use may explain the following stats:

●     More than 1 billion users

●     500 million are active monthly

●     Available in more than 150 markets

●     Represents 75 languages worldwide

●     Over 1 billion videos are viewed every day (Influencermarketinghub, 2018)


That happened just in the last three years. To put it into perspective, it took Facebook nearly four years to acquire as many active monthly users, and Instagram six years from the time it launched (source).

As of October 2019, TikTok is one of the world’s most downloaded apps.

Now go back a re-read that. That’s all apps. Not just social media apps, but every single app in the world. (source).



TikTok has made a huge impression on many Asian countries, for example, Cambodia, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

In Thailand alone, downloads of the app surpassed 10 million, and there are more than 20million active users in India.

As a digital marketer, your target audience is everything. Although adult use of TikTok is on the rise, most users are young and female, and 41% are between the ages of 16 and24 (Globalwebindex, 2019). Further, about 150 million of those 500 million active daily users are in China.

If you have a product or service that targets this demographic, TikTok is about to become a critical part of your life.

That doesn’t mean that North Americans aren’t interested in TikTok. On the contrary, predominantly attracted theWestern market, and since the merge to TikTok, those folks are still connected.

And adults are getting themselves up to speed, perhaps because it’s so easy to use or because it’s forecasted to become a major digital marketing tool in the future.

Since its inception, more and more US adults are using TikTok (Marketingcharts, 2019). In just one year, from 2017 to 2018, the number of US adults using TikTok almost tripled, and has since doubled.

And all those users are engaged with TikTok for almost a full hour every day (Business of Apps, 2019). That’s a lot of eyes on your ads.



By now, you’ve realised that it makes good business sense to jump on the TikTok bandwagon.

Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

Create your own channel to showcase your brand.

Share interactive, user-generated content that invites viewers to share their own videos engage with your product or service in some way.

Work with an influencer to help get your content seen by a broader audience.

Buy ads on TikTok, especially now while competition is still low and strategy, algorithms, and rules are still in their early days.

Create hashtag challenges. This requires a bit of explanation, and it is, arguably, one of the key features of TikTok that makes it so unique, slightly addictive, and ideal for online businesses.

At any given time, there are a handful of trending challenges on TikTok. They’re identified by a # so they’re easy to remember and locate on TikTok.

Challenges are anything from videos that feature taking off makeup (the #unmakeupchallenge) to putting it on (the#dontjudgemechallenge), to dancing to top hit songs, to imitating a bushy plant.

You may have heard of Jimmy Fallon’s #tumbleweedchallenge that inspired users to upload videos of themselves rolling around like tumbleweeds with western music as an audio backdrop.

As silly and inconsequential as they may sound, challenges are a clever and creative way to engage viewers and market your brand. And Jimmy Fallon’s quirky challenge garnered more than 8000submissions and 10 million engagements. Not so inconsequential after all.

If you’re running on all social media platforms, don’t leave out TikTok just for its uncertain future as the new-kid-on-the-block. Numbers don’t lie. As more adults and business owners get with TikTok and it expands further into Western markets, we project it to be an extremely fertile base for breeding digital business growth.

Learn more about how TikTok can help grow your ecommerce business. Contact us to start targeting the right audience, boosting engagement, and getting you far more conversions in 2020 than even the next big TikTok challenge.

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