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5 Strategic Ways to Grow Your Brand With TikTok

The power of this social networking service and its one billion users is undeniable, but what are the most profitable ways to harness its features?

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TikTok, the result of a 2018 merger of two Chinese applications, Douyin (video) and Musical.ly (social media service), has taken the world by storm. Its associated app was the single most downloaded non-game variety over the course of the first six months of 2021 (383 million installs), and TikTok is now the fourth most popular social media service after

Instagram, Facebook Messenger and Weixin/WeChat. Clearly then, companies looking to expand would be remiss in proceeding without marketing strategies that address its now billion-plus active monthly users.

Presenting a handful of ways to do just that.

1. Create a TikTok business account

If you plan on scaling your brand this year, a TikTok business account is an absolute must. These enable you to:

• Obtain real-time profile metrics: The profile metrics from your business account will assist in measuring the efficacy of marketing campaigns and the success (or failure) of your social strategy. Some key performance indicators you'll have access to include number of likes, comments, shares, video views, total viewer playing time, traffic sources, audience location and average playback time. This information is important because, without metrics and analytics, it's difficult to make data-driven business decisions, and without a clear view of demographics, your marketing campaigns can either be a hit or a miss.

• Access audience insights: There are four main TikTok analytics: Content, Followers, Overview and LIVE. Under the Followers category, you'll have direct information regarding who your audience is, their gender, where in the world they are viewing your content from and how active they are on the app.

• Add detailed information to your profile: Start with pertinent information such as your business website, company email, phone number, etc. Then, with each post you upload, you have the opportunity to optimize it by adding a keyword-rich description of the video, any hashtags that complement it and relevant links (to a merch store for example). And don't forget to tag your friends, like so: @[insertTikTokhandle]. You can also limit viewership if you want to target a certain demographic or geographic location.

Related: 4 Steps to Grow to 1 Million Followers on TikTok

2. Use a variety of ads in your marketing campaigns

TikTok provides brands with the opportunity to create different types of ads.

• In-feed: In-feed ads are TikTok's standard advertising format. These are typically 15 to 60 seconds in length and users can share, like, comment, follow and even record videos using your TikTok sound. You can roll out all sorts of campaigns with different objectives, too. Thanks to the clickable "Call to Action" button, you'll be able to drive traffic to a website landing page or wherever you'd like them to go.

• Top-view: These are the ads you see when you first open TikTok — the ones that enjoy prime real estate (of the "top view" variety) and which are up to 60 seconds long. As the first forms of advertisement seen by users, they're ideal for drawing attention to a brand and increasing its presence, guaranteeing a wider reach and higher impressions than other types.

• Brand takeovers: If you're in search of full-screen dynamic or static displays, then look no further than brand takeovers — a category that enables you to create visually impactful content akin to top-view ads (in that they are usually seen by users when they first open the app). The major difference between the two is that your audience cannot engage with brand takeover ads (cannot like the video nor comment on it).

These are similar in nature to the bumper ads you see on YouTube, and when it comes to length, are designed to be on the shorter end (three to five seconds at most) and are best combined with the aforementioned ad types for best reach.

• Managed ads (and ads for managed brands): To get started with these, you need to get in touch with a TikTok sales rep, who will help you to obtain access to additional formatting options such as top view ads, branded effects and branded hashtag challenges.

3. Invest in influencer marketing

This is a type of advertising that's gained widespread traction on social media, and involves brands partnering with individuals with a social following (influencers) for sponsorship opportunities, endorsement deals and product placement features. You have a couple of options when it comes to working with them: You either go for the breakout stars, those with the biggest followings (as Maybelline does) or for lesser-known but upcoming influencers in your niche area. Spend time browsing TikTok to see who's who and then reach out for a collaboration.

Related: What Bernie Sanders and Charli D'Amelio Can Teach You About Influencer Marketing

4. Don't miss out on viral challenges

Users recording themselves engaging in certain (usually defined) actions, viral challenges have become hugely popular. On TikTok, the most typical are hashtag and dance challenges. Using clever product placement and putting a comedic twist on things, you can make your ad memorable and share-worthy.

One kind of comedic advertising that seems to get people tuned in involves friendly brand rivalry. Think of the legendary Audi vs BMW billboard ad war, but now, instead of billboards, you can use the various ad formats within the app.

5. Collaborate with other brands via TikTok marketing campaigns

Collaborating with influencers is one thing: Partnering with brands in a similar niche is another. The benefits of working with one that's doing better and has a bigger following can be the push you need to break through in a tough market. This can be a delicate negotiation, however, so don't be disheartened by the first few rejections. Keep pitching; you'll eventually find a brand to collaborate with.

Related: 3 Tips for Co-Branding Happily Ever After

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