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How to advertise on TikTok

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How to advertise on TikTok


TikTok has become a massive platform for both the average user and businesses. If you’re not advertising on TikTok, you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity – particularly if you are targeting Gen Z. 

In Q2 of 2021, consumer spending on TikTok reached US$535 million for just that quarter. Overall, the platform reached over US$2.5 billion in total consumer spending

TikTok is not just a social media platform – it’s now a marketplace.

But what sort of advertising works best on TikTok? Every platform has its quirks and unique feel. You have to make sure that your advertising is considering what sort of content fares well on whatever platform. 

Be genuine

TikTok is widely used by Gen Z. As such, its values tend to affect what succeeds on TikTok. As is evidence in the research, authenticity is key. 

Gen Z and TikTok users are far more active than other social media platforms. This is a function of TikTok’s unique platform affordances – such as the ability to “duet” with another user, or respond to previous videos with your own. Therefore, TikTok is seen as a place for “personalised content creation”. 

In other words, people are going to TikTok for content that feels user-driven and personal. So, your advertising needs to reflect that. 

You can see this in how effective TikTok is at selling cosmetic products. Beauty products are some of the best selling products on the platform, largely because of the highly influential (duh) beauty influencers on the platform. 

Take a look at Dr. Shah, otherwise known as @dermdoctor. His feed consists of pimple-popping videos, beauty tips, and ads. But his ads don’t feel like ads. It feels like real “content”, no different from his other videos. 

@dermdoctor Gel Moisturizers: Key for Oily Skin and Humid Weather @LaRochePosayUS #larocheposaypartner #skincare #oilyskin ♬ original sound – Dr. Shah

 But this kind of content, especially for beauty products, isn’t just successful because it comes from an actual doctor. For example @rogerwh0. He’s got a sizeable following, but most of his videos get around 50k views or so. His videos about which products from Sephora are actually worth the cost routinely get hundreds of thousands of views. What this disparity shows us is that people are actively searching for tips about what to buy.

The ads don’t feel like it’s designed to sell you something. Instead, it feels like a nudge and a wink. Insights shared between insiders and people in the know. The influencer is just somebody who’s looking out for you, or at least that’s how it’s meant to feel. 

Virality and relatability

Another thing about many of the products and trends that go viral is that it taps into a specific and well-known need or problem that people have. This sort of thing is infinitely shareable, and it’s organic. 

Take a vacuum cleaner.

@itsmeserenac it’s so cute 🥰 #bissell #fyp #cleantok #littlebissellgreen ♬ CRAFT – OFEKNIV

Anyone can relate to having stubborn stains they want to get rid but can’t. These sorts of videos immediately establish trust and solve a consumer’s problem. 

But, is this an ad? Or just a regular TikTok video? Would a company pay a random girl with just a couple of other videos to advertise its product? It’s hard to tell the difference, and that’s the point. 

Advertisements have always tried to show people that a product can fix problems, of course. But it’s just not credible. Of course a company is going to say that its own product is great. People have just begun to completely tune it out. There’s still a need, though, that isn’t being met. Their problems haven’t gone away, just trust. 

That video, whether it’s an ad or not, is in function an advertisement. This is made all the better by the fact that it came from a TikTok user who has no clear reason to endorse the product. 

This sort of advertisement works so well on the platform because people are constantly trying to get trending. Products like this spread like wildfire, as everyone starts hopping on the bandwagon, trying to get views. And, it’s all organic.

Don’t try to sell anything

It’s been talked about a lot lately, but it’s so important. Advertising has to become part of your product offering. People will watch your content if it feels like it is just trying to be creative and enjoyable. The second it feels a little too forceful, you’ve lost them. 

Take Duolingo. The company has amassed a huge following just by being funny and not taking themselves too seriously. It seems counterintuitive, but you just can’t take yourself or your company too seriously on TikTok.

Your social presence has to be designed to pull people in, not push a product. Users will find your product. What your social media advertising should be for is making people feel comfortable with your brand. 

That’s especially important for Gen Z. They want to feel like you are making a product not because you want to sell it, but just because you think it’s sick and vibe on it. 

In short, make your TikToks about your brand ethos, not your products.

Build a community

Another key thing for marketers to keep in mind is that TikTok is about more than just posting. TikTok users are more engaged and interconnected than users of other platforms. 

It’s also a matter of TikTok’s algorithm. 

TikTok claims that its “path to purchase” is not a linear one. It’s an infinitely repeatable and adaptive “loop”. The loop moves from: 

  1. Discovery
  2. Consideration
  3. Review
  4. Participation


Participation and Discovery is what connects the ends of the “path to purchase”. By participating in the trend, and posting videos displaying what a user has purchased and their thoughts on it. They are now fuelling someone else’s discovery of that same product. 

According to TikTok, users on its platform are 1.7 times more likely to search for and discover new products than other platforms. They are also 40 percent more likely to purchase a product they find on TikTok. 

Because of this constant progression within TikTok’s purchasing loop, brands and marketers need to be engaged in all these steps. It’s not enough to just post a video. You need to engage with relevant influencers by collaborating with them, uplifting organic content that other users generate.

Hashtags and user viewing habits are very powerful in shaping a user’s experience of TikTok. Users spend more time in the “For You” tab on TikTok than on other platforms, which is evidence enough of how effective the algorithm is at driving engagement. As a brand, you can reverse engineer this – take note of what songs and hashtags are trending and utilise them in your own posts. 

User journey

TikTok’s algorithm is adept at understanding where users are along the purchasing path/loop. That’s why it’s so important to have content for each stage of that journey. 

For example, you should have content announcing a product, obviously. But then you should also develop content offering tips and tricks on using the product. If other users discover a new or interesting use for the product, share that out. Be engaged with the reviews. 

It’s also very important to engage with users on the platform directly. TikTok claims that users are twice as likely to message a brand or comment on a post after purchasing a product for them. You need to communicate with them on the platform

Another important fact: TikToks that get a lot of engagement will perform better in the algorithm. So as a business, you’re more likely to get engagement from customers. Fuel that engagement by responding, and you’ll soon see an improvement in the reach of your content. 

TikTok is not just a place for discovering new products and posting funny videos. It is a platform where customer relationships can be grown and managed, a brand’s personality can be developed, and a community can be fostered.


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Collin Vogt

Collin Vogt was a writer and intern at Marketing Magazine.

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