Finding your voice on TikTok: 9 steps to success

TikTok is buzzing, and we’re not just talking about their viral videos. It’s the hottest entertainment platform on the market, and something many marketers are incorporating into their brand’s strategy.

For the last year, Emplifi and TikTok worked together with some of the world’s largest brands to integrate TikTok data into Empifi’s Social Marketing Cloud. Annie Culver, Director of Emplifi’s Solution Ambassador program, has been at the heart of that initiative.

"TikTok has been one of the top requests among our clients," said Culver. "It’s exciting to see marketers get visibility into what content is resonating the most with their audience."

If your brand is also ready to find its voice on TikTok, here are some key steps to consider, with real-world examples from brands that have found success.

Step 1: Jump into the deep end

For many marketers, their TikTok strategy is still in its infancy.

"We have some brands, like the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, that were early adopters and quickly climbed to be one of the top tourism brands on TikTok," said Culver. "However, many of the clients we work with may be starting a TikTok for the first time or are still trying to define their voice and marketing strategy."

Her advice? Dive in. With more than one billion active users, TikTok is not going away anytime soon.

In fact, according to eMarketer, TikTok is continuing to gain market share over other channels like Instagram and Snapchat. It has already surpassed other legacy channels among certain audience groups, like Gen Z — the rising generation of buyers with purchasing power. And that growth is not slowing. In 2023, eMarketer projects TikTok will surpass Instagram in total users in the US.

Step 2: Focus on quality

If your brand has not yet invested in TikTok and is concerned about being late to the party, have no fear.

TikTok’s algorithm differs from other platforms. For example, TikTok’s Discover tab, one of the main ways users find new brands, is heavily weighted on video performance versus account-based performance, like follower count. That means it is much easier for marketers to break into the space by focusing on quality content.

"The brands we work with focus on metrics like viewer retention, time watched, and video views," says Culver. "Using Emplifi’s Content Hub, they will go video-by-video to see what performed best, sorting on metrics like video completion and video drop-off."

Emplifi’s solution makes the process visual. You can instantly sort by top-performing metrics, based on a variety of metrics, to hone in on content that best resonates with brand goals.

Step 3: Define why you are on TikTok

While TikTok has access to a younger and often difficult-to-reach demographic, brands investing in TikTok need to be in sync with senior leadership with clearly defined goals.

"People love TikTok exactly because it’s not like other channels," says Culver. "It’s a place where creators are front-and-center, and the focus is on entertainment and storytelling."

Simply reposting content from other channels will not work. Brands must clearly define why they are on TikTok, focusing first on:

  • What their team hopes to achieve (is the goal of making purchases or influencing brand perception)?

  • What persona they are trying to reach

  • What the most important messaging is to get across

  • TikTok’s influence on short-term and long-term growth

  • How much time, effort, and budget your team will invest in the channel

Step 4: Define your brand’s personality

Having a personality is essential for success on TikTok, but making the shift from corporate to personal brand voice can be a challenge for many brands.

The next decision that teams need to make when defining their TikTok marketing strategy is who can help activate their brand.

"We work with a global candy brand with a more family-friendly personality on Facebook and Instagram. However, one of the things they ran into when they were looking to start investing in TikTok was that their audience base was not the same audience as on Facebook. In fact, quite the opposite," laughs Culver. "Videos tagging the brand predominantly focused on cocktail recipes involving their candy."

Culver says as the social media team was launching their marketing plan for TikTok, the client had to decide between their tried and true family-friendly approach or lean into user-generated content. Aligning how “playful” or how far your brand is willing to go to stay relevant is important.

"One of the easiest ways to jump-start your brand’s page is by working with influencers or creators that already have an engaged audience," says Culver. "But many of the brands we work with may also designate or hire a staff member who is comfortable on camera."

When working with an influencer, brand safety is critical. It’s important to see if the influencer is a “one-hit wonder,” if they have had long-term success, and if their other posts align with brand messaging and voice. Turn to influencers who have regularly-engaging content series, because they are much more likely to have sustainable performance.

Step 5: Be authentic

When investing in TikTok, authenticity is essential.

"Across top brands, we see trending posts are less polished, which makes sense," says Culver. "TikTokers are viewing videos from their phone, and creators are creating content primarily from their phones, too. As brands, it is important when creating marketing material to blend with existing content."

The Gen Z audience is digital-savvy, and many have negative opinions of traditional advertising. Reaching this audience requires coming in at their level and speaking their language.

"When you show up authentically, your fans show up in return," says Culver. "We see that the most successful brands don’t take themselves too seriously."

This "playful” nature was successful for brands like Xbox as they launched their Xbox Series X/S, which was one of the biggest launch days in the brand’s history and rocketed Xbox’s presence on TikTok overnight.

Humor, behind-the-scenes content, and embracing trending content are all content buckets Culver sees performing well across brands she works with, but what has worked the best is to stay focused on the storytelling element. They also strive to nurture, relate, and create for them.

Step 6: Don’t forget about your larger community

Empathy must also be at the core of your marketers’ digital strategy.

"From what’s happening in Ukraine to the pandemic, it’s important for brands to be mindful of what their audiences may be going through," says Culver. "Social Media Managers and marketers must practice active listening and pay close attention to the consumer-brand relationship."

It’s also important not to forget about the wider community on TikTok. Opportunities for engagement are everywhere, and often go beyond that initial post or story.

As a brand, one of the best ways to get discovered is to interact with other brands. On top of competitors, following a mix of aspirational accounts that ‘bring joy’ is crucial for marketers to catch patterns of fan engagement to help them iterate and create even more resonating content.

Step 7: Don’t be afraid to experiment

A big draw of TikTok is the creative aspect of the app.

It’s essential to experiment with what performs well and not be afraid to test new ideas. One of the ways brands like Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), the first football club to reach 10 million followers on TikTok, were able to swell their audience.

For instance, when the football club posted a trending video using a Korean song, they received dozens of comments in Korean. They leaned in and discovered an entirely new audience, and a new group of fans to whom they would not typically have access, leading to additional ticket and apparel sales. Today, the football club sits at over 25 million TikTok followers and is one of the biggest sports organizations on the platform.

Chipotle is another example. The company netted nearly 430 million video starts during its 6-day-long #GuacDance campaign. That also led to a surge at the cash register, with the restaurant chain needing 187,5000 additional pounds of avocados to meet demand.

"Lean into trends," suggests Culver. "You can be weird. You can use a greenscreen, have a floating head. Brands we work with use TikTok as an incubator for new ideas and they have fun with the videos they create."

Step 8: Optimize, optimize, optimize

After experimenting, it’s essential for brands to optimize their performance — using data as a guide.

It’s important to look at performance as a whole and break it down at the campaign and post level, and pay careful attention to different “content buckets” to help inform your content decisions.

Culver says clients like online fashion retailer Kapten & Son use Emplifi’s content labeling system to compare campaigns and determine ways to improve communication across TikTok and other channels.

"Kapten and Son’s social teams use labeling to help test organic traffic," says Culver. "For them, innovations in social media lead to frequently changing strategies. It’s important to keep a pulse on tracking business impact so they can not only retain their current audience, but connect with a wider audience."

Step 9: Explore live shopping

What does the future hold for TikTok? Many believe commerce will be at the heart of the user experience.

"The traditional consumer journey has evolved dramatically over the years, with Ecommerce fundamentally changing the way consumers purchase products. TikTok is at the forefront of that change," Culver explains. "When we look at what TikTok does well, they’re a platform that makes it easy for users to discover products, engage with them and transact with those products."

Retailers like Walmart were some of the first to pilot livestream video shopping on TikTok during their holiday shop-along at the end of 2020. Brands like e.l.f. followed suit, launching a live beauty campaign that resulted in over a billion views in the first three days of its launch.

"Beyond the entertainment value of TikTok live shopping experiences, the shopping experience is seamless," says Culver. "Followers can interact with influencers showcasing product demonstrations and beauty tips, quickly tapping on a product pin to move items to their carts and even check out during the stream."

Culver believes Emplifi is uniquely positioned to help guide brands through that digital transformation with products like Emplifi ShopStream. Its innovative live commerce solutions allow brands to quickly launch live shopping experiences and monitor performance on TikTok and other social channels.

"Maybe ten years ago, it was okay to drive people to a website, but today’s consumer wants an interactive shopping experience, and integrating with platforms is crucial," she says.

Next steps

As a TikTok Marketing Partner, Emplifi’s integration with the TikTok Content Marketing specialty builds on its strategy to help brands provide outstanding experiences across marketing, commerce, and care touchpoints.

Learn more about how Emplifi can help your brand. Contact us today for a free demo!

More insights and news from Emplifi
Emplifi Becomes TikTok Marketing Partner to Help Brands Unleash Power of Video
Brands will be able to use Emplifi’s Social Marketing Cloud to manage, measure, and create exciting video content for their TikTok audiences.

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