TikTok Cover

How to use TikTok for business

Danielle Collard
26 Apr 2023

Well, the truth is your business could massively benefit from this new social media platform. 

We’re afraid even if you don't like TikTok, or social media as a whole, there's no use in pretending it doesn't help businesses grow. Creating a business account with a few useful links can help those curious about your business learn more about what you offer. And you can do it for free. But is TikTok the right platform for your business?

In this blog, we’ll deep-dive into this question, plus:

  • A brief history of TikTok
  • TikTok’s controversy and potential US ban
  • How to know if your business should use TikTok
  • Instructions on getting started using TikTok
  • Tips on making engaging TikTok content (including examples)
  • How to advertise on TikTok (paid social media)

Ultimately, as the golden age of social media continues, younger users are moving away from older, established platforms such as Facebook, so it’s time to see if TikTok is where your customers have moved to. And to gain the exposure your business craves, you'll need to master how to get the most out of TikTok marketing. But don't panic: we promise it's easy once you know how it's done.

TikTok: a very brief history

Put simply, TikTok is a short-form, video-sharing platform. It’s comparable to Youtube and Instagram, rather than more text-based social media services like Twitter and Facebook. TikTok offers people the opportunity to share user-generated video content.

These videos could be anything from short video essays to dancing to music. The maximum video length on TikTok is currently ten minutes; the minimum is 3 seconds). These videos can be viewed across the world, and shared to other TikTok users to comment on, or add their own video react. TikTok famously launched the career of musician Lil Nas X, whose first big hit, "Old Town Road", started as a TikTok music video in 2019.

What fewer people might know is that TikTok began as a purely Chinese social media program called Douyin in 2016. The app was developed by the Chinese tech company ByteDance,

Douyin then launched (under the name TikTok) outside China in 2017, rapidly gaining success outside of Asian markets with celebrity profiles bringing their followers to the platform.

By 2020, TikTok had been downloaded an astonishing 2 billion times. This remarkable global exposure makes TikTok such an appealing option for many businesses.

A possible US ban? TikTok's latest story

Whether it's because of its Chinese roots or because of data and privacy concerns, TikTok's seemingly gold-paved road to success may shortly uncover a United States-shaped pothole as Congress moves towards a nationwide ban.

The current debate originated in 2020 under Donald Trump's administration. Trump cited TikTok and its vast data assets as a national security threat. However, as of April 2023, TikTok's only US restrictions are on federally-issued devices and on federal employees and contractors who are not permitted to use TikTok.

The Biden administration, though, might be moving to enact the RESTRICT Act, a new piece of technology-based legislation that would provide the Secretary of Commerce with powers to review and restrict perceived threats to the US through technology owned by declared adversaries (including nations such as Russia, Venezuela, and China).

For some US-based businesses, TikTok provides a crucial means of communication with customers. A US TikTok ban would undoubtedly be to the detriment (and loss of) many livelihoods. It's possible, should the act pass, that these businesses will enter a prolonged legal battle with the Biden administration.

Googling TikTok

Does my business really need TikTok?

The big question! To really understand the answer to this, we’ve broken this section down into:

  • TikTok demographics
  • The benefits of a TikTok account for your business
  • The cons of starting a TikTok account you need to be aware of

TikTok user demographics - and how it relates to your business

As with all social media channels - you should only launch an account for your business if you’ve done the research. You need to know if your target demographic is using the platform first.

Just under half of TikTok's total US users are under 30, although the reputation of the platform would have you believe that figure to be way higher. This shows that even if your business doesn't target younger people, a large percentage of your target audience (present and future) will be using the app.

21.7% of TikTok users are in their 30s, while 20.3% are in their 40s, with the remaining 11% over 50, proving that there’s plenty of material on TikTok that appeals to older generations.

If you're still sceptical about TikTok, their reputation is likely working against them. Non-users think of TikTok as for youngsters and for shallow, easy entertainment, and while this is true for many, there's much more diversity in the world of TikTok than you might think.

The benefits of a TikTok account for your business

Naturally, the different benefits of social media accounts will be more or less valuable depending on your industry. However, the short-form, aural and visual qualities of TikTok make advertising more effective on TikTok than in many other places.

Posting soundbites or short, creative videos showcasing your products or your business does take a little work. But, once mastered, can easily expose your business to the TikTok audience in an engaging way, showing products in action or showing what your business offers from an insider perspective.

Here are some of the advantages of a TikTok profile you may want to consider:

  • As Lil Nas X discovered, the chance to go viral can be transformative for any brand or business. A business can go to sleep with a hundred followers and wake up with a million potential customers. For businesses seeking online sales, this can be a key strategy. TikTok’s current algorithm (which decides whether a user sees a video) is often praised as one of the best social media channels to get a viral hit.
  • The light, often casual approach to content creation common to a TikTok feed offers creative freedom businesses can use to fine-tune their branding with instant feedback on what works and what doesn't.
  • A TikTok business account encourages your team to naturally create a database of handy, snappy video ads that you can use in many other contexts: in emails, on other social media platforms, or in-store.
  • Making videos effectively doesn’t mean you have to put a lot of money into it. (Despite the many larger businesses allocating a budget for running ads on social media). TikTok can still be a cheap form of advertising and engaging with customers. Many personal accounts are successful despite a lack of funds spent to create content for the platform.
  • As mentioned earlier in the article, exposure to several billion users is not something to pass up lightly.
  • TikTok's platform is also well-suited to showing your product and business at its best and most exciting with easy-to-use video templates or filters to keep your videos short and attention-grabbing.

Why shouldn’t your business be on TikTok

While it’s one of the most popular apps out there, TikTok won’t be ideal for every business. You need three things before launching on any social media channel: strategy, time and consistency. If you can’t guarantee all three of these elements, you’ll end up with a social media account that quickly dies out (which is worse than never starting!)

 Here are a few things to consider before you launch:

  • You must research your target audience first, before you start a TikTok account for your business. Find out what they enjoy, what they interact with, and then figure out how you can create videos that combine both of these with selling your products. If your target audience isn’t there, go to the apps they are using!
  • There’s a lot of temptation to jump on trending videos - but only follow TikTok trends if you’re staying true to your brand. With every new content idea, you need to ask yourself: does it align with your brand vision? Does it align with your business goals?
  • You won’t go viral instantly, and there is no guaranteed formula for instant success. It will take time to build up a customer base, and a lot of experimenting to see what works and resonates with your target audience.
  • You need to be prepared not to spread yourself too thin. If you already have good success on other social media platforms, continue to use and master those first. Don’t jump to a new platform just because it’s new.
  • There’s a lot of competition on TikTok - you’ll need to prepare yourself to regularly get new content up, to reply to comments quickly, and not feel overwhelmed if you see other businesses getting more attention than you at the start. But remember to see what your competition is doing to find some inspiration for your own videos.
  • TikTok has had mega early success as an app - but we don’t know its future in continuing to bring audiences and conversions. Like other hit social media platforms like Vine and Snapchat, only time will tell if TikTok will stand the test of time.

How TikTok users get started

At this point, we hope you’ve decided if TikTok is the right step for you and your business.

But how easy is it to create TikTok videos? Or how easy is it to use the TikTok app?

While sharing user-generated content may sound confusing, all businesses really need to do to succeed on TikTok is record and post videos.

Creating an account

As with many more recent social media companies, TikTok is an app, and the vast majority of people (both TikTok influencers and viewers) use it as a mobile app. However, you can create your account and use the service online through your laptop.

If you have a business account on other platforms, such as Facebook, you can sign up using that account, and you'll be offered this option when you select "Create Account", making things a little simpler for you.

Even without copying over another profile, the process is fairly straightforward. You'll need to input your business's username and email to create the initial account. The important thing to remember is that once created, you'll need to switch to a business account. This option appears in the settings under "manage account".

Once created, you can write a bio, add your brand logo or storefront as a profile photo, and input a URL to link to your business website.

Getting your account right

If you want to succeed with your social media marketing, putting together the best TikTok strategy to suit your needs is key. There are some practices unique to the platform, some general good social media and marketing practices, and some strategies you can tailor to the needs of your business. In each case, you'll want to take advantage of the TikTok algorithm, and you'll need to know what makes a good TikTok video.

But first things first, the photo, URL, and bio you use to start your account can influence your success, just like the videos you post. So what makes a good profile in each case?

  1. Profile photo: Typically, a business will use a logo for a profile photo. But not all businesses have logos or even premises to photograph. Neither of these is a huge problem. What's most important is that the image you use embodies the business, ensuring viewers get an accurate idea of your business's identity. This means consistent colour choices and aesthetic practices (such as smooth rural imagery, crisp, urban photography etc.). If you're already using other platforms, many brands use the same images for multiple platforms.
  2. Your business bio: TikTok gives users 80 characters to describe themselves, so each character needs to be used wisely. Describe your business in a suitable brand tone. If you're a fine-dining restaurant, keep it formal; if you're a clothing outlet targeting younger demographics (perfect for TikTok), keep it short, snappy, and informal. Your bio is the perfect place for any slogans. Your bio needn't contain all key data for your business. A TikTok bio needs to catch the eye, and your address or foundation year will not keep anyone's attention for long. Instead, write something concise that might stir a feeling in someone while expressing yourself, either with humour, style, or values.
  3. URL: You can link to one website from your TikTok account. If your business has its own website, this might feel like a no-brainer. However, your products may be on sale in multiple online locations. Or, you have a web presence in a number of other places, in which case, you'll have a choice to make. No matter where you link to, ensure viewers will have no doubt as to the credibility of the link. Social media is rife with fake accounts, viruses, and other questionable users. So having your own business name in the URL or a recognised platform like Facebook or Shopify can ensure viewers trust your account.
Social Media Dancing

Creating engaging content for TikTok

With so many users, no one is surprised to discover how diverse TikTok can be. Businesses of every kind, every hobby, and people of all stripes are represented in the TikTok community. Therefore, creating engaging videos will mean very different things to different people.

TikTok views have value to your business because many of those people will be interested in the products you feature in your videos. You want the content you create to appeal to anyone on TikTok who can elevate your profile, especially those who might spend money at your business. So how do you achieve both?

Fool-proof TikTok video principles

  • Create content in a way that reflects your values. Does your company have stylistic values? Use the eye of your camera to highlight the things you care about.
  • Include your products and services in your content. While they don't always have to take centre stage, remind customers of what it is your business has to offer.
  • Inform your viewers about your offers. When you create videos, creating clear explanatory content can prove effective. Tell your viewers about your new deals.
  • Create a narrative through social media videos. How did your business come into being? What is your company's journey? Business marketing that plays on stories sticks in the mind of consumers.
  • Post entertaining videos about day-to-day life at the business. What are the funny sides of life at your business? Any unusual orders? Any fun staff stories?
  • Film Q&As and respond directly to comments on your videos. What questions are you regularly asked online and in-store? Listening closely to consumers often helps businesses create an effective, direct content strategy that addresses thoughts people are already having.

Once you get started, finding new ideas to keep momentum on social platforms isn't difficult. Just as there's always something going on at your business, there'll always be something to say.

However, taking ideas from other TikTok accounts or learning about TikTok's algorithm and what sorts of videos tend to succeed can ensure your channel gets the attention it needs.

Advertising on TikTok

One potentially lucrative avenue for businesses looking to build a presence on TikTok is paid advertising. In-feed ads appear alongside follower videos in a user's feed, and the line between adverts and other content is not as clear on TikTok as on other web platforms.

Indeed, research has shown that TikTok users are less concerned with advertising than other audiences.

As many as 38% of users say they are willing to watch adverts in exchange for other content.

Significantly, 15% of users say they struggle to tell the difference between their regular feed and TikTok ads.

There are several different options for TikTok ads:

  • Standard ads
  • Brand takeover ads
  • Branded hashtag challenges

These include setting objectives such as lead generation, conversions, outreach etc. When setting up an ad campaign, you'll also be able to specify your target audience by age, location, gender, language, and interests. This ensures you'll be hitting your target demographic to maximise your potential success.

Beyond targeting, however, there are also several kinds of ads you can create for TikTok:

Brand takeover ads or "TopView" ads

When a user opens TikTok, full-screen adverts appear displaying short adverts. These are called brand takeovers or TopView adverts, and given the TikTok audience's receptivity to advertising have the potential to provide a good return for the right business. 72% of those surveyed report these to be more attention-grabbing than other adverts due to their position on the platform.

If you're thinking about using these full-screen videos for your adverts, it may be worth investing in good quality video to ensure you get full bang for your buck.

Branded hashtag challenges

A branded hashtag challenge is a paid, usually in-feed ad that looks to encourage other users to post videos of them completing a "challenge" to create trending hashtags and spread brand awareness and engagement.

You can start a hashtag challenge through your own videos. You don't need to create ads to do this. However, branded challenges can help spread the hashtag and gain your business more attention.

These challenges can be anything from playing a funny prank, making a political statement, or attempting a physical task. Depending on your target audience and ambition for your marketing campaign, hashtag challenges provide a unique opportunity for your business.

TikTok Influencer adverts

While competition can be intense on social media, it can be wonderful when influencers come together and help each other grow.

TikTok Influencers often promote other channels, helping smaller accounts benefit from the extra attention the influencers get. This is usually in exchange for a fee or free products, so make sure you invest well by choosing influencers carefully before investing in them.

While an influencer may have 100,000 followers, they may not be of value to you if your audiences don't match.

Before working with an influencer, be sure to:

  • Research the influencer and their audience to ensure you know the publicity you pay for will be effective
  • Set clear goals and objectives, including the messaging you want to convey and how your business or product will be presented
  • Establish a clear route the influencers audience can reach your products or services
  • Conduct research and analytics to measure the success of your campaign

Keep your sales as snappy as a TikTok video with an Epos Now POS

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Find out more