A Beginners Guide to TikTok Marketing in 2021

A Beginners Guide to TikTok Marketing in 2021
Jay Gross

tiktok marketing 3d icon concept, dark mode style


The winner of the ‘I did NOT see that one coming‘ award for the past few years.

It was taking off even pre-pandemic, but post-pandemic, this social media app has been on fire!

In fact, in Q1 of 2020, TikTok had 315 million installs – setting the record for most downloads in a single quarter.

For any social media app.

So it stands to reason that TikTok marketing is now all the rage (as the cool kids say.)

But with good reason.

Because as many users discovered when they had time to play around with it during the pandemic, it’s a new and fun way to connect with your audience in different ways.

So if you’re thinking about using TikTok marketing for your business, read on, my friends. 

Let us take you on a journey: From the history of this crazy new app, to a TikTok marketing strategy, to how TikTok influencer marketing could be a boon to your brand.


A TikTok History

tiktok on a typewriter

Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

In 2014, Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang created an app called Musical.ly in Shanghai, China, on which users could post 15-second videos of them lip-syncing to popular songs. By 2016 the app reached 70 million downloads.

In 2017, ByteDance created an app called TikTok in China.

Later that year, TikTok merged with Musical.ly (for a cool $1 billion), after which it came to the U.S. to, apparently, begin its domination.


What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media platform that encourages users to upload short videos. It started with lip-syncing to videos, and it still trends in that direction, although there’s much more you can do with it.

Anything you can think of in 15-second videos, or 60-second “Story” videos.

Initially, TikTok (and Musical.ly) targeted teens and tweens, making it no surprise that the 13-24-year-old market is still the primary market and target audience.

But with the growth and popularity came more types of videos: Comedians performing their acts, skateboarders, snowboarders, musicians, dancers – you name it – all share their videos on the platform.

So while the younger generation still dominates the target audience, you’ve seen it trend upwards.

At the end of the day, TikTok is social media for creative types. And suppose you’re looking to use this enormous and new social media platform as a form of content marketing and bring creativity. In that case, it could be a gold mine (it helps if your target audience tends to be the younger generation, too.)


Who Uses TikTok

woman holding phone and on the tiktok app

Image by Stefan Coders from Pixabay

Musical.ly actively targeted Generation Z, and TikTok seemed to start the same way. 

As mentioned, TikTok is typically used by ages 13-24. So that’s your ideal market, but the user age is trending upwards, especially with the huge upTik (get it?) for TikTok in the digital marketing realm, and the vast upTik in subscribers since the pandemic, so if your target audience is older, don’t let that stop you.

TikTok currently sits with about 66% of its users under the age of 30, and about the same 66% is female.

What is TikTok used for?

Pop quiz – what are the two most used hashtags on TikTok?

The answer?

#entertainment and #dance.

That does an excellent job of answering the question, “what is TikTok used for?” as it’s a primary destination for people to go to find content that entertains.

Some of the most popular categories for TikTok users are fitness, pranks, DIY projects, beauty, cooking, fashion, and (as always…) pets.

But it is getting more serious categories as well, such as psychology advice and healthcare advice.

While the Instagram market seems to be trending more towards polished videos and images, the TikTok market appears to be taking over what many initially loved about Instagram. This is to say that TikTok videos are more raw and authentic, which lends a sort of appeal to many that’s missing elsewhere in the market.

How does TikTok work?

When you first log into the social media app, you’ll see curated content on your home page. This is where you’ll often discover new content and new TikTok users to follow.

TikTok uses its algorithm (including video information, country, language, device, your video interactions, content and user engagement, etc.) to find curated content it thinks you’ll dig.

Hashtags are huge on the platform, and searching hashtags is how you can discover new TikTok videos.

TikTok Marketing Strategy for Your Brand

You’re here for the potential new avenue for your social media marketing needs.

And while TikTok has taken off recently, it’s still relatively new to the marketing game – so don’t think you’re too late.

As the famous Chinese proverb goes:

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Here are some reasons you should be a TikToker for your brand (in no particular order):

  • With TikTok, marketers can reach younger audiences around the globe in a highly creative and playful way. 
  • You can TikTok market without enormous budgets for content marketing.
  • Given its algorithms, even TikTokers without a huge following can go viral.
  • TikTok users love the rawness and realism, so you don’t have to spend time and money making a perfectly polished video.
  • Regardless of your number of followers, as long as a TikTok video appeals to a specific audience, engagement will follow.

If you think your audience will dig TikTok videos, and you’re the creative type who loves having fun, you can do worse than giving TikTok a try.

And videos are quick and easy to make and put out there into the social media world.

Very similar to the other social media, there are three main ways that your brand can use TikTok for your social media marketing strategy:

  1. Create your own channel and upload brand-relevant videos through your channel.
  2. They can work with TikTok influencers to get your content out there.
  3. You can “pay to play” on TikTok. While TikTok advertising is in the early stages (there’s not yet a huge market like Instagram or Facebook), it may be the perfect time to get in on TikTok advertising. It’s early, it’s cheap, and it’s just gaining traction. 

We’ll go more in-depth into some TikTok marketing strategies below.

It’s Time for a TikTok Hashtag Challenge!

TikTok users LOVE the challenges. In fact, it’s an essential part of the TikTok community.

Top challenges attract millions of TikTokers to compete in said challenges.

I’m sure you’ve heard of or saw challenges by people (#challenge), but brands can also create a challenge, either with their own followers (word will spread if it’s good), or you could take that up as part of your TikTok influencer marketing (which we’ll touch on later.)

Use User-Generated Content

You can ask your followers to create user-generated content for your channel.

Generation Z loves to be involved and have an immersive experience (as opposed to sitting on the couch watching TV). So if you can encourage your customers or audience to share videos of themselves using your product, doing something fun that has something to do with your brand, or talking about how amazing your product was, you’ll likely get a lot of attention.

As with everything, be creative; if you have fun doing it, and your audience and customers have fun creating and enjoying the whole experience, you’re likely to get a lot of attention and boost your following.

How About TikTok Influencer Marketing?

We’ve brought it up enough, now’s the time that we discuss TikTok influencer marketing a little.

Nothing new here, but as with all influencer marketing (<—read all about influencer marketing in the link), your product must be something said influencer would actually use and truly likes or enjoys.

People trust influencers because they’re honest (as opposed to celebrities who are paid for their commercials but have probably never even used the product or service), and their followers trust their opinions. But to keep that trust, they must remain authentic.

And as far as influencers go, TikTok is HUUGGE, and they know what they’re doing. So if you are going the route of an influencer in any way, trust that they know what they’re doing and let them do it their way.

TikTok is so big into this that they have their own Creator Marketplace that connects brands and creators.

Think About Using TikTok Ads

TikTok advertising is at a very exciting stage if your target audience works on the platform.


Because as we discussed, the platform already has a massive following, is growing at a breakneck pace, yet the advertising aspect is just coming around.

Meaning it’s not yet saturated with advertisers, which means it’s affordable, and you’ll get out in front of more people without all the competition.

In fact, an advertising pitch deck for Europe was leaked that showed the possible ad types, which, according to the article, are:

Brand takeover; in-feed native video; hashtag challenge; and Snapchat-style 2D lens filters for photos — with 3D and AR lenses listed as “coming soon”.

So if you’re tossing around getting into TikTok advertising, now’s the time to at least dig into it.

Pro Tip: How You Can Create Great TikTok

If you want to create a great TikTok video, what do you do?

Here’s a quick checklist for you:

  1. Be engaging, creative, and fun within the video (or, if you’re not the main “actor,” then whoever is in the video). Make sure to create engagement from your audience.
  2. Use a short caption on your video, which gives more information but makes it easy to read and potentially engaging and fun.
  3. Hashtags – you already know hashtags are huge on TikTok, so make sure they’re relevant to your video, and they help you get discovered by categorizing your content.
  4. Make sure the music or song you use is new, trendy, or otherwise captivating. The music can help promote your video within the TikTok algorithm as well.
  5. It’s theorized that videos with a high “finish rate” do better within the TikTok algorithm, so keeping your videos under that 15-second time limit can theoretically help you get more views.

Is it Time to Try Your Hand at TikTok Marketing?

business people fist bumping

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

There you have it, everything you need to know about TikTok marketing.

Still on the fence?

If you’re ideal customers fit, and you (or your brand) are creative and can work well within 15-second videos, then why not?

It’s time to plant that tree and go for it.

If you have any comments or questions on TikTok marketing, or anything else, feel free to leave a comment, and we’ll get back to you.


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