How to Get Free Ad Spend on TikTok
You can't afford to wait, hope and pray that your product or service goes viral, but you can strategically place it in front of the right audience.
I’m not going to get into the politics of TikTok operating as a foreign company on U.S. soil. Millions of Americans, and billions around the globe, are using it’s platform, and if you are an entrepreneur, you should know how to use TikTok or have someone on your team that can manage it for you. The ad platform is not very different from Facebook’s, with a few twists. I’ll share what signing up was like for me and how you can get up to $2,300 in free ad spend with TikTok until the end of 2020.
I know what you are thinking. You are thinking exactly what I thought: “I just got a handle on Facebook, Instagram or Google PPC advertising, and now you want me to learn something else? I don’t have the time to do this.”
What choice do you have though? You either market your product or service — hereafter referred to as widget(s) — where the most eyeballs go, or you shut down. Most entrepreneurs do not have a widget that is so unique or substantially better than everyone else’s that you’d be able to survive on word of mouth alone. Having a great product is important, but the sad reality is that there are a lot of great widgets that never get off the ground due to lack of exposure.
Related: 3 Reasons TikTok Is Here to Stay
You can’t afford to wait, hope and pray that your product or service goes viral, but you can strategically place it in front of the right audience. That’s what Facebook and Google have mastered, and it's the reason they are the titans of online advertising. Early adopters of each platform benefited by being first. These benefits included little competition and unbelievably low customer-acquisition costs. That is until, as Gary Vee puts it, "Marketers ruin everything." Once everyone got on those platforms, the rates increased and the advertising rules had to be modified to comply with federal laws to keep scam artists from ripping off the consumer. Advertising online with Google or Facebook should absolutely be part of your online marketing strategy, but you have to play by their rules.
History is repeating itself, and you have the opportunity to be an early advertiser on TikTok just like the entrepreneurs and marketers of yesteryear who paved the way on Facebook and Google. This time, though, it’s different. Because of your prior experience with advertising on those two platforms, many of you need less convincing than before. This means that there are more of you who are going to jump in earlier and faster.
About a month ago, I saw an ad on Facebook to register as an advertiser with TikTok. Go figure. TikTok advertising on Facebook, so you can advertise on TikTok. Inception much?
On June 29, I received an email that the Ads Manager was available for me to use. That email sat in my spam box. I missed out on a seven-day window to be ahead of the pack.
On July 8, I got an email that the platform became available for all U.S. advertisers. I logged in and began the registration process.
In hindsight, I didn't register the Ads Manager with the same email address that I used to set up my personal TikTok account. I say that because as of right now, my TikTok Ads Manager and my personal account are not connected. What this means is that if anyone engages with my ad, the likes, comments and views are not being credited to my personal account page. I’m sure in the future they will find a way, a la Facebook, to connect the business pages with the advertiser account. But as of right now they are separate. In fact, I don’t get any email alerts about comments or interaction other than the cost per click (CPC) data. Again, I’m sure this will change in the future.
Once I completed the registration process, I was prompted to submit my business-verification paperwork. I submitted DBA paperwork and corporate paperwork from the Secretary of State. Make sure there is consistency in your documentation. I realize that the structure of some businesses involves multiple levels of ownership, but the more complicated the hierarchy, the more likely you will be required to submit additional paperwork. Keep it simple. If you want to start as a sole proprietorship to make it easy, go right ahead, but you might need to upload a business license from your city or town.
Within hours, I received an email that said, “Unfortunately we were unable to successfully verify your business. Until your business is successfully verified, you cannot enroll in the TikTok Back to Business Program.”
TikTok’s “Back to Business Program” offers small- and medium-sized businesses up to $2,300 in free advertising assistance. Once approved, you receive a one-time free ad credit of $300 that has to be used by December 31, 2020. Plus, TikTok will match dollar-for-dollar what you spend in advertising up to $2,000 Not a bad deal. I uploaded additional documentation and waited.
One day later, on July 9, I was notified that my account had been verified and that I could begin advertising. Here is where it’s a little different from advertising on Facebook or Google: TikTok requires that you pre-pay before you can advertise. This may be for the dollar-for-dollar matching program. Once you’ve credited your account, it will reflect bonus credit you receive as part of their promotion. It works. I’ve done it, and it’s almost instant.
Creating the ad is very similar to Facebook’s three step process:
The targeting process is not as detailed as Facebook’s, nor does it require you to categorize your audience as special groups. I used the same video for my ad that Facebook rejected, only to have it approved by TikTok. This is of course because TikTok hasn’t been taken to court yet on account of, you guessed it, marketers screwing it up. I’m not touting this as your opportunity to cut corners, but it is a little bit easier right now. It won't be like that always.
Right now, my ad is costing me about 13 cents a click. That’s pretty good. I use Google Analytics to monitor how many of those clicks really come through. Just like the clicks that come from my Facebook ads, the clicks reflected on my Analytics report are much less. TikTok does also offer a website pixel along you to track conversions and ultimately retargeting. I am still learning this process and will report back on it in a subsequent post.
That figure of $2,300 is a lot of money, and I commend TikTok for wooing entrepreneurs like me and you to advertise on their platform. There’s no shame in an entrepreneur's game. You go where the eyeballs go, and right now, the belle of the ball is TikTok. That may change, and when it does, have the courage and mental toughness to adapt to it.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor