“[TikTok] is currently the third most downloaded non-gaming app of the year, after WhatsApp at No. 1 and Messenger at No. 2… Facebook and Instagram rank in fourth and fifth place, respectively.”
Yet, while influencers have cultivated lucrative clout through platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, TikTok’s monetizable marketplace has been slow to unfold.
Popular among generation Z, now becoming known as “zoomers,” TikTok’s user base is rapidly expanding. As a result of the platform’s explosive growth, marketers have been eager to utilize the app for promotional purposes.
In early 2019, that opportunity began to materialize as TikTok began quietly testing ads, with GrubHub as the inaugural advertiser. Several months later, users are seeing video ads injected after every four or five organic posts, according to the app’s users.
While the ads have been relatively simplistic thus far, the ability to reach an up-and-coming consumer base holds incredible potential for marketers who are willing to get in on the ground floor and do some experimenting.
Given the freshness of this new social media advertising option available to eCommerce retailers, now is the ideal time for sellers to get acquainted with the platform, its user base and how to leverage TikTok advertising to boost eCommerce sales.
TikTok began as a Chinese video-sharing application known as Douyin in its homeland and TikTok across the rest of the world. However, in 2017, the company purchased social app Musical.ly and migrated the app’s non-Chinese users to the newly integrated platform, leaving Douyin as a separate entity in the Chinese market.
Much like Musical.ly and the now-defunct Vine, TikTok’s content is comprised of short videos, many of which are in the lip-syncing style of the aforementioned app. However, more proficient users of the platform produce original content, giving rise to a generation of TikTok influencers. These individuals generate videos around everything from pranks, dances and skateboarding tricks to makeup tutorials and more. As something of a natural outgrowth of the diversification of content topics, users are beginning to share content featuring their favorite products.
Most TikTok videos are 15 seconds long. That said, users can create Stories-style videos that are up to 60 seconds in length.
TikTok’s user base demographics skew younger as “66 percent of worldwide users are under the age of 30. In the U.S., 60 percent of the app’s monthly active users are 16- to 24-year-olds.”
Additionally, TikTok’s audience is comprised of slightly more males (55.6 percent) than females (44.4 percent), thereby showing a clear divergence from the female-dominated Snapchat and Instagram platforms.
Therefore, brands should take these demographic distinctions into account when considering if TikTok advertising is right for their business. If a company caters to an older audience, this probably isn’t the right platform for them.
That said, it is worth noting that money spent in-app on coins that are given to other users via live streams has surpassed $23.1 million in the U.S., and total over $75 million in revenue. This shows that there is clearly revenue to be generated from TikTok’s users.
With a basic understanding of the platform and its users covered, let’s explore the TikTok advertising options available to eCommerce retailers.
However, as it stands, sellers must go through a TikTok advertising representative to run promotions on the app. While this may not be ideal for advertisers who are used to utilizing a self-serve bidding platform to manage their own adverts, this is the only option currently available. That said, there is a good chance this will change as the ad platform continues to grow and mature.
As for biddable ads, the only option currently available is the in-feed video ad, which is inserted into a user’s video stream. While this allows ads to be seamlessly integrated and not be as disruptive as other ad formats, it also creates a certain degree of conformity.
Currently, there are three action models available to advertisers:
That said, sellers can employ their own targeting lists, if they have one at their disposal. Moreover, TikTok has promised to expand its targeting options to include behavioral components and other more refined demographics in the future.
While there is a $500 minimum campaign spend requirement, TikTok does encourage marketers to invest enough to harvest actionable data and produce concrete results.
Brand takeover ads surface as soon as a user opens the TikTok app, thereby ensuring a company’s message reaches its audience. While these adverts can be utilized to send paid traffic to pages outside of the app or to a company’s TikTok profile, it is limited to a single advertiser per day.
Moreover, this ad type has a much higher barrier to entry, being significantly more expensive than biddable adverts.
Challenges are a big part of social media culture these days, and TikTok is no exception.
Using Hashtag challenges, companies partner with TikTok advertising representatives to craft a unique hashtag challenge that encourages users to take part in the campaign by creating relevant TikTok videos that feature the hashtag beneath the content.
During this campaign type, brands partner with a TikTok advertising representative for six days, which is the length of the push.
Additionally, TikTok’s newer Hashtag Challenge Plus is geared more towards eCommerce retailers as this ad type enables users to directly browse and purchase products that are related to the sponsored challenge.
“We did see that there was a large increase in those who recalled seeing the ad, as well as associating Kroger as a convenient back-to-school shopping destination, which was the main goal of the campaign. We were able to see that there was an increase in users’ likelihood to shop at Kroger in the next three months. The other KPIs of views and engagement rate were also above our benchmarks.”
Brand Filters and Lenses
In addition to the three adverts above, TikTok offers branded filters and lenses, much like those users enjoy on Instagram and Snapchat.
With this feature, businesses can develop their own face filters, 3D objects and other interactive elements.
Filters and lenses are more likely to be utilized by the app’s users, thereby resulting in elevated brand awareness.
Shoppable TikTok Videos
While Shoppable TikTok videos are not officially part of the company’s ad arsenal (yet), they are being rolled out to influencers for testing.
Much like Shoppable Instagram posts, these videos enable brands to attach a URL to their TikTok advertising videos to send traffic to eCommerce product pages.
However, it is essential to note that while this feature seems incredibly promising, there has been no confirmation as to if or when Shoppable videos will become more widely available.
With the TikTok advertising options covered, let’s dive into how brands can begin creating ad campaigns through this burgeoning social media destination.
How to Get Started with TikTok Advertising
If TikTok seems like a promising platform for your brand, here are the necessary steps to follow for utilizing the app’s advertising features:
Since sellers must go through a TikTok advertising representative, merchants must then fill out a form requesting business details. After submitting the form, a company representative will reach out to set up a TikTok advertising account. This process can take up to 48 hours.
Generate a TikTok Advertising Campaign
From the TikTok Ads dashboard, select the “Campaign” tab from the top of the page and click “Create.”
From here, select one of the following campaign objectives:
Select Placement and Targeting
Here, sellers will create their campaign ad group and select their desired placements and targeting options.
With TikTok Ads, advertisers can run campaigns across the entirety of the company’s family of apps, including BuzzVideo, New Republic and other destinations. Moreover, retailers can also leverage automatic placements, thereby allowing TikTok to decide where the ads will show.
After choosing the desired placements, follow the prompts to fill in the necessary campaign details such as URLs, images, display names and the like. Additionally, advertisers can enter up to 20 keywords to help match products to the most relevant users.
Next, advertisers will set their targeting options, delineating parameters for age, gender, location, device type and interests. Again, if sellers have a list of consumers they wish to target, they can enter a CSV, TXT or ZIP file in this section.
Set the Budget, Duration and Goal
At this point, advertisers will be prompted to set their budget, advertising schedule and campaign goal.
Under the “Budget & Schedule” section, advertisers can set the budget for the ad group by selecting either “Daily Budget” or “Total Budget.” Do be aware that the minimum daily budget at the ad group level is set at $20.
Next, marketers can set the duration for their ads. Moreover, TikTok advertising does provide dayparting options that allow advertisers to run ads only during specific times of the day or week to help optimize campaign outcomes.
From here, advertisers will be asked to set the pacing for their budget, meaning the speed at which the budget can be spent. The “Standard” delivery method will space the budget evenly across the duration of the advertising push. Alternatively, the “Accelerated” option will expend the budget as quickly as possible.
Next, retailers will select their optimization goal. Here, sellers can elect to optimize for:
Bidding will be honed based on the goal advertisers choose.
When opting for impressions, sellers will be charged on a CPM basis. However, when selecting to optimize for clicks, advertisers will be billed on a CPC basis.
As far as conversions are concerned, this goal is charged on an oCPC (optimization cost per click) basis, ensuring that ads are served to those who are most likely to convert. Here, sellers will bid on the expected conversion cost but pay by the click. Be aware that TikTok automatically adjusts bids based on the ad’s setting to align with the target price.
For those who select conversions as their optimization goal, it is necessary to create conversion events by clicking “Library” and then tapping “Conversions.” Next, set up conversion tracking for app installs or specific elements for the desired landing page with a pixel.
Finally, advertisers can select if they would like to turn TikTok’s Smart Optimization option on or off. If this feature is turned on, the system will continually optimize to increase conversions.
Design TikTok Ads
Creating TikTok ads is a reasonably simple process. As it stands, adverts can be oriented vertically, horizontally or displayed as square videos or images.
Moreover, through the TikTok Video Creation Kit, advertisers gain access to video and image templates that can be utilized to create unique adverts and combined with one of TikTok’s 300-plus free background music options.
“Upload up to 10 images or videos, five ad texts, and one call-to-action (CTA). Once uploaded, our system will automatically combine your creative assets into multiple ads. From here, our system will continuously explore, evaluate, and optimize your ad campaign to calculate the optimal combination of creatives and present the best possible creative combination for your target audience.”
Advertisers can also take advantage of TikTok’s Landing Page to Video tool, which grabs high-quality images from specific landing page URLs provided by the advertiser and combines them with background music to create video adverts.
Optimize TikTok Ads
When creating TikTok ads (particularly biddable display and brand takeover ads), it is vital that advertisers employ high-quality images as these adverts will consume a user’s screen. Anything less than crystal-clear quality will potentially leave viewers with a bad impression.
As for the ad copy, do be aware that TikTok significantly limits this space, only allowing for descriptions of 80 characters or less. This means that advertisers must be concise and precise in their messaging. Moreover, given the limited character count, wise marketers will integrate copy into their display creative using the aforementioned Video Creation Kit.
Naturally, when implementing a call-to-action, it is vital that merchants keep the appeal focused and extremely relevant to its associated landing page. Therefore, ensure that ads concentrate on driving a single action–like downloading an app or purchasing a product.
Finally, as with all adverts, marketers should experiment with various creative elements, messaging, targeting options and other promotional ingredients to determine which combinations resonate with audiences most and achieve goals best.
With over 500 million users on the platform, TikTok advertising shows tremendous promise for eCommerce retailers looking to reach new audiences in engaging ways. As the application continues to grow in prominence and size, the potential for generating sales through this platform only increases.
That said, learning a new platform and its best practices is never easy. In fact, this can be an immensely time-consuming process, particularly when it comes to advertising through a new channel.
If your brand is interested in engaging TikTok’s thriving user base with its products, reach out to Visiture’s social media advertising masterminds and we can get your company in front of the TikTok users who are most likely to engage and convert.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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