Is TikTok right for your brand? What you can learn from other brand’s successes – or missteps

Once dismissed as a trivial app for teens to share dance videos, TikTok has emerged in recent years as a cultural compass – dictating what’s hot and what’s not in pop culture.

Take American singer/songwriter Olivia Rodrigo. In 2021, you couldn’t scroll through the app without hearing her debut single Drivers Licence, giving her incredible reach and visibility. It went to the top of the charts in multiple countries and even scored her a Grammy. Now, she’s a household name and has cemented herself as one of the most popular musicians in the world. And it’s all thanks to TikTok.

Rodrigo is just one of countless success stories TikTok has spawned. And, unlike other platforms such as X and Facebook, its momentum has never looked like slowing. So, in hearing the success stories of other businesses and brands, it’s only natural to wonder how you can get in on the action (and get everyday people to do your marketing – for free). Take heart – even if you don’t accidentally fall on the right side of a TikTok trend, you can still build a successful presence.

Here we present the dos and don’ts of TikTok.

1. Do your research

Don’t approach TikTok marketing the same way as more traditional social media channels such as Instagram and LinkedIn. It’s an entirely different beast with unique trends, features and user behaviours that can only be truly understood by diving in headfirst.

To put it simply, if you don’t understand TikTok to the level of a high schooler, you might not find the ‘instant success’ you’ve heard so much about. The platform has a language of its own, and if you want to reap its benefits you need to speak the lingo. So get on the app. Mindlessly scroll for a while. See what is popular and figure out if your brand could find alignment. 

2. Act fast

Trends come and go faster on TikTok than on any other social media platform. So if you see a trend your brand or business could leverage, but don’t upload your video until 2 days later, you may already be too late. Acting on trends as soon as possible is crucial to relevancy and viral success.

One brand that continues to hit the nail on the head in this respect is language lessons app Duolingo. The second there’s a trending sound, Duolingo uses it. When there’s a pop-culture moment buzzing in the media, Duolingo talks about it. By simply riding the coattails of relevant news and trends, it has cemented itself as a key TikTok player. Not to mention the mascot, a little green owl character, is known to frequent comment sections, from popping up on celebrity pages to cheering on everyday people. This continues to nourish the company’s relevancy and interest among the TikTok community. 

3. Do your own thing

The past few years have seen social media reject traditional marketing methods focused on products and services in favour of attention-getting personality pieces. From major retail brands cracking dark jokes to small businesses commenting on current affairs, this marketing strategy has seen some brands reach new heights and record profits, while others have failed miserably. Point is, the risqué strategy is not a good fit for every business or brand. While out-of-pocket remarks might be well received coming from a fast-food outlet, they’re unlikely to land as well from a civil law firm.

In short, don’t abandon your brand message, tone and sensibilities just to try and replicate another brand’s success. The market is saturated, so put your own spin on trends.

4. Don’t dismiss niche groups

Appealing to the masses might seem like the right way to maximise your platform potential, but some of the most successful brands have built their following by catching the eye of small, but mighty, audiences.

One example of this is the mobile gaming app Subway Surfers, which was able to build a cult following by tapping into one of the internet’s loudest and proudest fanbases: K-Pop fans.

When fans of popular K-pop group Enhypen started noticing the game’s main character Jake shared a name and even some physical resemblance with band member Jake Sim, the Subway Surfers marketing team decided to use this to their advantage. They started using Enhypen songs, referencing fandom inside jokes, and even hinted at a possible collab. All of which saw their views and following skyrocket as fans suddenly felt a brand connection.

Ultimately, there may be countless TikTok success stories, but there are also plenty of cases where brands or businesses failed to benefit. To avoid joining their ranks, follow the rules and, above all, treat it as a serious marketing avenue, even if your content is anything but.

Could your brand or business benefit from TikTok? Don’t just sit there – reach out to discuss how Bespoken can help to amplify your social media goals.

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