TikTok Marketing: A Marketer’s Roadmap

tiktok marketing

TikTok Marketing: A Marketer’s Roadmap

Published By Sophie Krokida
December 6, 2023

Could TikTok marketing be your next best friend? Hmmm, let’s see.

A few months ago, The New York Times posted an article with the title “How TikTok is rewriting the world”. The byline read: “TikTok will change the way your social media works — even if you’re avoiding it.

You bet! With the app being the third most downloaded in 2019 with 188 million new users, and having more monthly users than Twitter or Snapchat, TikTok marketing sure deserves your attention.

Besides, you don’t need me to remind you how late you were to believe that Instagram is an actual business tool, do you?

What is TikTok

Imagine if Snapchat, Spotify, Vine, and Instagram had a baby. This would be TikTok!

TikTok is a creative social platform that encourages users to upload short videos.

Most of them are usually up to 15-seconds long, although there is also the option to create and share 60-second ones too. What really makes the app so unique and popular is the ability to apply to your creation a wide selection of compelling music tracks, and a set of filters and effects.

TikTok staff describes it as a collaborative space where it’s easier to go viral than on any other platform.

Just like Instagram and Snapchat, TikTok’s video format is vertical. This way, posts take up the majority of your device’s screen. This creates a very engaging and immersive user experience and gives you a good reason to explore TikTok marketing!

A brief history lesson

TikTok is the global version of a social media app released in 2016 in China, named Douyin. The platform was created by the now-famous Chinese Internet technology company ByteDance.

It is an AI media company that has recently been valued as the No1 Unicorn company.

tiktok marketing


But TikTok wasn’t always TikTok.

It was initially created in 2014 with the name Musical.ly. Does that ring a bell to you?

Musical.ly was an app where people would upload lip-synch videos. Most probably you too had it on your phone but never used it much. And then, in 2018, ByteDance came and acquired Musical.ly which merged with its own lip-synching app, known as Douyin.

The Douyin app was initially launched in 2016 and, while it uses the same app platform as TikTok, it operates on a different network in order to comply with Chinese censorship laws.

By September 2018, TikTok had surpassed Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and SnapChat in monthly installs, with more than one billion downloads.

ByteDance was founded by Yiming Zhang in 2012 and, as announced on its site, the company’s vision is to: help users explore and discover the world’s creativity, knowledge and moments that matter in everyday life while empowering everyone to be a creator directly from their smartphones.

And the good news is that TikTok will most probably keep expanding.

Fabian Bern, the head of a marketing company that works closely with Douyin influencers says:

People sat TikTok will run out of money, that it’s going to end up like Vine. But TikTok has one of the biggest companies in China behind them. Byte Dance is way ahead of everyone else already, in terms of the way they use A.I. They know everything about a person. They can give that person everything they want.”

So who uses TikTok?

You’ve probably heard of TikTok only because you are a marketer, right?

No worries, same here.

Because, as much as it may sadden me, I’m far from claiming myself as a member of the Generation Z club.

It’s true, TikTok is a head-scratcher for older generations and a miracle for the teens of the world. In fact, 41% of the platform’s users are aged between 16 and 24.

What’s interesting though is that, when the platform first launched, over 50% of its users were under 24. And those early users appear to have stayed with the platform as they have aged. Meaning that the average age of the app’s users is gradually creeping upwards.

And while TikTok is still overwhelmingly popular among teens, the number of adult users keeps growing too.


In 2017, there were around 2.6 million adult users in the US. 12 months later, adults were almost tripled, reaching a staggering 7.2 million. In a year, the number of US adult users grew 5.5, reaching today 14.300 million.

And my guess is that this number will only keep growing.

Does TikTok marketing sound tempting to you now?

But in case you’re wondering, nothing in the world of social media is pure luck. On the contrary, social media’s success exclusively depends on its’ users goodwill and it becomes what we make of it.

Talking in riddles here, am I?

Well, not quite.

Take a look at this video of Jimmy Fallon at The Tonight Show back in 2018.

It’s not hard to realize that this video was one of the main contributing factors of TikTok’s sudden rise in popularity.

People love Jimmy Fallon and people love challenges too.

So when the beloved host encouraged viewers to take part in a series of TikTok challenges, naturally, the app experiences a huge spike in engagement and downloads.

And don’t think that TikTok is just for the United State’s pleasure.

The app currently counts around 500 million active users worldwide, with the 150 of them being in China.

TikTok seems to be especially popular in Asian countries such as Cambodia, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Today, TikTok is now available in 155 countries and 75 languages.

How to use TikTok

TikTok is very easy to use, whether you want to just kill some time or post your own videos.

The login process is pretty simple since you can create an account either with your phone number or through Facebook, Twitter or Gmail.

Once you’re down, the fun begins!

You don’t need to “follow” anyone in order to start watching videos.

They just show up on your front screen and you swipe up for the next and the next and the next!

Another great thing with TikTok is that you have everything on one screen so you can like, follow, share and comment while the video is playing.

TikTok homescreen example

Creating and uploading a cool video is a child’s play – even if you’re a 31-year-old lady like me.

And I must admit that for the purposes of this blog post I had a lot of fun while getting to know the app. Maybe a little too much. Sorry boss.

So, back to work.

For creating your first TikTok marketing video just tap the + icon at the bottom of your screen.

Select a soundtrack for your video by clicking the Pick a sound text on the top. It will take you to a library with all kinds of songs and sounds to embellish your video.

After shooting your video you can also add all kinds of effects, stickers, and emojis to make it even more unique.

When you’re done, tap the pink checkmark to go to the preview and editing page. Hit next and that’s it! Your amazing creation is now out there for the world to admire!

To be honest, TikTok is a tool with endless possibilities. And to cover all that I’d need permission for a new blog post and many working hours on TikTok myself. #nothappening

So I advise you to tap on this goldmine of an app by watching A LOT of videos within TikTok and also help yourself to a few good tutorials.

This is a good place to start.

In the first quarter of 2019, TikTok was the most downloaded app on the Apple App Store with 33 million downloads.

tiktok statistics

The app strongly beats out YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.

Not bad, right?

So, what exactly is the secret behind this app that youngsters can’t seem to get enough of?

1. Users just wanna have fun

To start off, it’s no mere coincidence that TikTok is so popular among the young generation. It was designed this way!

Right now TikTok feels like the most fun app out there.

Like their page informs us: “TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy”.

When starting, the app creators decided to choose under 18 as their target audience and, having specified this they came to understand the habits and preferences of this age group.

TikTok allows its users to express themselves in a modern, creative way, be it singing, dancing, or doing some form of comedy.

The good news for you, dear marketer, is that not only teenagers need fun. Everyone does! That’s why the app’s audience is expanding, and that’s why it’s becoming the best platform to advertise your brand now.

2. One notification is never enough

All social media platforms face the same problem: “how do we get people to engage?”. Well, TikTok seems to have found the answer. And it lies in notifications.

What they do is bombard users with them, tell them what to do and generally take them by the hand so they use the app.

While it might be annoying, and trust me, turning them off is not that easy, it seems to be working. More points for TikTok!

3. Ready to serve

Another reason TikTok is so refreshing is that it doesn’t play with the same rules as Facebook or Instagram. As I’ve mentioned before, you don’t need to follow users to be able to view content. You get immediate content recommendations which of course with time improve. Thanks, technology!

The app is built around hashtags and, most importantly, challenges. Which takes us to number

4. An app for you and me

Instagram is all about lifestyle and perfection. For a story, you need to create the perfect environment, visit the most Instagrammable cafes and put on your makeup. *yawns*

But TikTok’s challenges are for everyone.

TikTok example

The app encourages videos of all kinds and urges users to create their own content.

On TikTok you will see videos of teenagers, 30-somethings, your mom, your boss, and even your grandpa. And they can all be discovered. 5 minutes of fame anyone?

TikTok Unique Features

I’m not a huge fan of social media. So trust me on this one.

TikTok can make you spend hours in it, and this fact heavily relies on its features.

With numerous options, the app gives users the ability to create unique and interesting content without requiring any special skills.

And while it’s not a professional video editing app, it gives you the power to create extremely creative and engaging content.

Let’s take a look at its features.

1. All things vertical

People naturally hold their phones vertically. So it’s no surprise that vertical video is on the rise. And while other social media still believe they can force users to film in landscape mode without being annoyed, TikTok is all about optimizing the viewing experience to the max.

By embracing the vertical format, there’s also an important psychological benefit. Without having to flip their phones, users connect with the creator easier and can engage with reactions and comments in a way that’s natural to them.

2. Their video is your video

Speaking of engagement, another reason to love TikTok is because it’s the naughty social media of the lot. Discovering and “liking” a great video was never enough, and with TikTok not only you can share it in a jiffy but download it to your smartphone too. Instantly!

3. Let there be music

No idea why this feature is third on this list since it’s probably their most important one.Because no other social media app allows users to add music to their videos!

This feature gives TikTok a serious advantage for short video creation, but it doesn’t stop there.

On top of that, TikTok provides users with a diverse choice of music and sounds that satisfy every creative need.

4. Make it yours

And it only gets better! How many times do you watch a video with a song you like and you want to use the song for your video as well? Well, with TikTok you can!

With a couple of taps, you can choose the song playing in someone else’s video and put it in your video.

5. Double fun

With TikTok a dream came true: collab videos!


TIkTok duets example

The popular feature is called “Duet” and it lets users occupy a split-screen with a friend, their clone or even a celebrity.

It’s a function that adds variety to the user’s feed, opens up more possibilities for creativity and helps them gain more followers.

6. The wow factors

I know, I know. All apps today have their own set of special effects and filters.

However, TikTok takes the cake for this one.

It will only take you a few videos to understand why and be amazed by the endless possibilities this application offers to creators out there.

Packed with cool features, TikTok has the most exciting and easy-to-use editor in the market.

7. You know you like this

Now, this is the secret to TikTok marketing success. A secret that has slowly become a kind of urban legend.

While it remains an uncracked code, the important thing here is that the app’s developed algorithms serve users with top-notch content recommendations.

Not only does is create a playlist based on the user’s internet behavior but it also includes popular and trending videos that you might not see, to ensure you know what’s new on the platform.

8. Every day is creation day

Challenges are one of TikTok’s main attractions. And an evil way to keep their audience engaged.

Helping users to keep creating without having to break their heads for a new idea, the app came up with the brilliant idea of the daily challenge system.

There are the #dancingclothes challenge and the #haribochallenge with more than 43 M views. (You gotta love this one)

The #faketravel with more than 163 M view and the recently added #chairchallenge that is currently taking the internet by storm.

It involves a chair. Which you have to lift while in a 90-degree angle. We live in strange times.

Users create their own challenges as well, by naming them after themselves, while lately sponsors have been getting in on the act by creating their own branded challenges.

9. Hot right now

Hashtags are an integral part of the app’s features.

You don’t have to do much in order to discover what’s trending on TikTok at the moment and follow the trend.

On the Discover page, you’ll find them all waiting for you to explore them.

And the best part is that they come with the number of views next to them so you really know what’s trending.

Do you need TikTok marketing?

It may be because it’s versatile. Or maybe because it’s too early to say so. But, for the time being, no one can say whether TikTok is for business or not.

The most important thing to note is that deciding whether TikTok marketing is for you largely depends on your company’s industry and your target audience.

If you’re looking to reach young people and Generation Z, then the network might be a catch for you, since few brands are using it to increase engagement at the moment and there are more chances for you to get noticed.

Besides, TikTok is the most viral app right now and viral videos are THE best content strategy today.

It sounds like the perfect platform for viral campaigns to me!

So if your company team is highly creative and understands the Internet culture, go for it!

Advertising on TikTok

Seeing its popularity growth, in February 2019, the TikTok team announced that they are bringing ads to the platform and officially stepped on the ad space in April.

So, if you have decided to get serious with your TikTok marketing campaigns, TikTok Ads are for you.

To start, you will first have to create a TikTok Ads account.

The process is very simple, and once you’re done you’re notified that the company will contact you within 5 working days. Be patient!

After signing up you’ll be given an ad dashboard in which you can create new ads and keep track of your existing ones.

When creating a new campaign you get to set a few things.

  • Ad positions and targets
  • Ad budget
  • Schedule
  • Ad pacing
  • Campaign goal

The coolest part is that TikTok helps users run their campaigns with an in-app tool, the TikTok Video Creation Kit.

This tool provides video and image templates to customize your ads.

It also provides over 300 free background music templates to make your campaigns more unique. Awww!

TikTok Marketing: Types of ads

There are 3 popular types of ads to create on TikTok:

1. In-feed native ads

If Instagram stories are your thing, then In-feed native ads are made for you!

They can be 5 to 15-second-long video ads, which show up on the “For you” page and have multiple design option. They are skippable ads.

On them, you can add website links and call-to-actions, like “order now” buttons or app downloads.

2. Brand takeover ads

Brand takeover ads are full-screen ads displayed when the user first opens TikTok.

They are 3 to 5-second images or GIFs and can be linked to your brand’s landing page or Hashtag Challenge within the app.

They are exclusive to different categories each day-hence only one brand can take up a particular category per day.

3. Hashtag challenge ads

In this type of ad, the user sees a banner that will take them to the page of instructions and rules of the featuring challenge.

The banner is put up on the discover page and depends on user content.

While, as a brand, you can offer your own hashtag challenge, it’s best to sponsor TikTok’s challenges for more chances to go viral.

This means that your challenge will be placed on the discovery page for six days, providing the opportunity for maximum reach and engagement.

How to promote your brand with TikTok marketing

Ads are not the only way to promote your brand on TikTok. You can also choose one of the methods below:

1. User-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) has always been a huge asset to content marketers.

And now it’s hotter than ever. In fact, 85% of consumers find UGC more influential than brand photos or videos.

The ultimate expression of user engagement, UGC is not only cool but free too.

2. Influencer marketing

TikTok marketing is perfect for influencers and the platform already has quite a few popular users with a big audience.

Before choosing the influencer you want to partner with, do your research:

  • Is their content and interest in line with your brand?
  • Do they have many fans?
  • Are their fans your target audience?

Brands that nail TikTok marketing


British humor anyone? Major fashion house Burberry decided to step up their game by joining TikTok and launching a hashtag challenge called #TBChallenge to celebrate their new collection.

The challenge invited users to recreate the new Thomas Burberry Monogram motif with their hands, in return for unlocking a new lens.

According to Business of Fashion, the challenge generated 30.000 videos and 57 million views.

Hero Cosmetics

Hero Cosmetics, the acne patch magician, is a digitally native brand. And as such, they relied on TikTok for their campaigns.

As a result, they outperformed the company’s results on Instagram.

For their campaign “Get ready with me” they created the hashtag #schoolsurvivalkit where 20 creators shared videos of their morning routine, including the brand’s Mighty Patch product.

hero cosmetics tiktok challenge

Hero Cosmetics found out that the campaign was a lot more cost-effective than Instagram Stories and showed a 12% engagement rate, compared to 4.5% for Instagram.


Chipotle is one of the top brands on TikTok.

To celebrate Avocado Day, the food chain launched the #GuacDance challenge, which urged guacamole lovers to show off dance moves dedicated to avocados.

The videos feature children’s musician Dr. Jean’s “Guacamole Song” which went viral on social media.

To promote their campaign with TikTok marketing, Chipotle partnered with YouTubers Brent Rivera and Loren Gray.

The brand reported record results, receiving 250.000 video submissions during a six-day run.

The Washington Post

The American daily newspaper launched its account in May and has been a major name on TikTok since.

Its goal is to build trust with the app’s young viewers and make them familiar with the Post’s newsroom.

They post funny, engaging videos that so far have generated over 309 K followers while Dave Jorgeson, who runs the Washington Post’s TikTok, says he’s hoping to eventually use the platform to distribute videos that will inform and entertain at the same time

The clock is ticking 

Yes, TikTok is still very new to the market and many top brands haven’t even thought of using it yet.

But its growing influence is undeniable. Apparently there’s something very cool and refreshing about this app, and you know how fast these days trends take over and become the next best marketing tool.

And as a marketer, it’s important to stay abreast of emerging trends and learning how to use this valuable platform might prove a brilliant move for your business.

So what are you waiting for?

Succumb to the charms of yet another social media platform and take your fans to a unique branded TikTok trip.

Using TikTok for your business already?

I would love to hear how it works for you so far!

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