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Want to Blow Up on TikTok? Follow These 12 Rules for Business Success. Tackling TikTok may seem daunting for you and your marketing team. Use these 12 rules to create viral content and grow your business.

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Despite pending legislation in the U.S., TikTok is still on the rise — for now. What first emerged as an entertainment platform in 2016 has grown into a social media behemoth over the past several years. There are more than 1.5 billion users on TikTok today, and since the COVID-19 pandemic it has been among the world's most-downloaded social media apps. While it hasn't surpassed Facebook (3 billion) and Instagram (2 billion) in terms of total active users, TikTok is dominating peoples' attention better than any other platform. Adults spent an average of 54 minutes a day on TikTok last year, and its popularity is only growing among both individuals and businesses.

Other social media platforms have taken note. You've probably noticed your Instagram and Facebook feeds have shifted to prioritize short-form video and viral content from outside your network. Instagram Reels, Youtube Shorts, Snapchat Spotlights and others are iterations of the bite-size video revolution that began with TikTok.

Related: How Brands Are Capitalizing TikTok to Win New Audiences

Audiences are engaged on TikTok, which means there could be a huge opportunity for your business. If a teenager with a smartphone can do it, your marketing team probably can, too it's just a matter of understanding the terrain and replicating what works.

If you're thinking about launching a TikTok account for your business — or scaling the one you already have — here are the 12 rules you should follow to harness the potential of the platform for growing an audience, advertising your products and going viral.

Related: Here's Why Not Being on TikTok Is a Huge Mistake

12 Rules for TikTok Success

Best Practices for Content Marketing on TikTok

Rule #1: Be Authentic

TikTok users prefer content from real people, so there's no need for stellar production quality or professional actors. In fact, many TikTok users are turned off by overly promotional and professional content, instead valuing videos that seem genuine and spontaneous.

So, take some risks and have fun. Don't be afraid to lean into trending themes and playful ideas, and avoid making videos that look like they were designed for the board room.

Rule #2: Follow the Trends

Success on TikTok depends on knowing what's trending right now. Whether it's the "Oh, No" sound effect or recreating Wes Anderson movie trailers, you need to know what is driving engagement. One easy way to do that? Spend time on the platform and replicate the most viral themes of the day.

You can also invest in social listening software like Awario, BuzzSumo or Meltwater, which can track your mentions and analyze the most popular posts on the platform. TikTok trends have a life cycle of about a week, if you're lucky. Social listening tools can pinpoint what trends are bubbling beneath the surface so you're ready to participate when the time is right.

Rule #3: Avoid Making Organic Content That Feels Like an Ad

If someone came to your birthday party and started handing out their business cards, you'd most likely be thrown off by it – and maybe even annoyed. The same rule applies on TikTok. The bulk of your content should be lighthearted, aiming to build an audience and add value to their day. Most users are not scrolling TikTok to find a business hawking its products, so it would be misguided to pump out purely promotional content. Think of your job as a storyteller: Your goal is to entertain people and keep them coming back for more. Tell your story, don't sell it.

Related: How TikTok Can Help You Supercharge Your Career

TikTok in Your Content Strategy

Rule #4: Work with Creators — Not Influencers

Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to force your employees to dance to the latest trending song in order to go viral. If you don't have the creative skill or bandwidth to produce TikTok content, find someone who does. There is no shortage of creators looking to partner with brands. But there's a major difference between creators and influencers. A content creator can give your brand a storyline and provide some direction (and much-needed humor) towards original, relevant video ideas. An influencer is more likely to simply promote your product in front of the camera, and users will note the lack of authenticity.

Rule #5: Always Use Captions

You come across an interesting video and want to know what's being said, but your phone is muted and your headphones are out of reach. So, you skip it altogether. How often does this happen? A lot. Facebook found that over 85% of its users watch videos on mute. TikTok users prefer captions, too, which is why the platform encourages content creators to add them — a shift that can increase impressions by 55%.

Business Growth on TikTok

Rule #6: Use TikTok as a Product-Market Fit Test

Product-market fit (in other words, customers are buying, using or telling others about the company's product or services in large enough numbers to promote profitability and growth), is one of the most important things a business can accomplish — and TikTok can be a valuable tool for getting there. TikTok is a platform for niche communities (or TikTok "sides") that gather around specific values and needs. The platform's algorithm caters content to the right communities based on the value the content provides. On the paid side, TikTok allows a range of targeting options — from demographics to niche interests, hashtags and creator profiles the target audience follows. You can put your content in front of your hypothesized "ideal" audience and see how they respond to your product. Are you actually solving a pressing need for your target audience? Let your TikTok audience answer that question.

Rule #7: Create Content That Adds Value

Building authority in any market can be challenging. TikTok helps brands gain visibility for consistently adding value and building trust with consumers. For instance, maybe you use TikTok to educate users about a specific issue or sector relevant to your business, or perhaps you bring users along on your growth journey, sharing backstories, the founder's passions or how you plan on evolving. You can also build trust by going behind the scenes and offering users a window into your office culture or how your product is made. Just remember, the content should never be too promotional.

Rule #8: Collect User Feedback to Inform Your Business

TikTok can be a powerful tool to create a feedback loop between your business and its customers. The video comment section can highlight valuable insights that may guide your team's decisions, from roadmap planning to product messaging. Is there anything users are confused about? Any roadblocks preventing them from converting? Do their comments shed light on ways your product might evolve? By listening to your audience — and engaging with them — you can ultimately build a better product and a stronger business.

Rule #9: Create Content You Can Use on Other Channels

Beyond TikTok, many other social media sites have adopted the short-form video format. Assets you create for TikTok can serve as strong starting points on multiple channels, including Facebook, Instagram Reels, Youtube Shorts and other platforms. This will allow you to grow audiences on multiple platforms without having to create original content for each one. By reusing strong video assets, you can reach a wider audience and save your team some time and resources.

Maximizing ROI on TikTok

Rule #10: Consider Audience Quality and Quantity

When building your brand through social media, it's natural to gravitate toward platforms with the most users. However, just because a platform has a lot of users doesn't mean it's a good fit for you. Audience quality is just as important as quantity. For instance, nearly 45% of TikTok's users are age 25 or under, and 75% of all users are under 35. If your business is trying to figure out a way to reach Gen Z or younger millennials, being active on TikTok is a valuable investment. Conversely, if your primary audience is over the age of 50, you're probably better off focusing your efforts on a platform better suited for that demographic.

Rule #11: Pay Attention to #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt

According to a recent study conducted by TikTok, the platform touted having the highest percentage of frequent social shoppers on any social media platform. An estimated 20.6% of TikTok users reported that they buy things on TikTok "all of the time," and 67% said they "feel inspired to shop" when using the platform. The growing #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag doesn't beg customers to make purchases. Instead, it shows off trending new products – and it's working. If your goal is to drive purchases, create content that shows how your product works and features people using it without it looking like a sales pitch.

Rule #12: If You Need to Advertise, Do It the Right Way

While your organic TikToks should not feel promotional, that doesn't mean you can't spend ad money on the platform – you just need to make sure you separate it from your organic posts. Like every other platform, TikTok has a business arm — TikTok for Business — that allows brands to run ads. This is where you can execute an ad campaign in an inoffensive way. There are even incentive programs that will give your business credit to launch campaigns and use free advertising spend. Still, you should not simply run ads on TikTok and ignore the organic content side of the platform — that's the meat of the app and what users are coming to see.

Christopher Tompkins

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of The Go! Agency

Christopher Tompkins is the CEO and founder of The Go! Agency and an internationally renowned expert in digital marketing. With more than two decades of experience, he has turned The Go! Agency into a top-ten marketing agency in Florida and a top-25 digital marketing agency nationwide.

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