What Is TikTok and How Can I Use It To Promote My Business?

If you believe the hype, TikTok is the next Snapchat or Instagram. According to Variety, the app has about 80 million users in the United States and about 795 million internationally. What is TIkTok? Should your business care? If you’re wondering how to promote your business on TikTok through organic or pay-per-click, learn more about this phenomenon that is said to be a cross between Carpool Karaoke and the defunct app Vine.

Understanding TikTok

TikTok is an app for iOS and Android in which users can create and share 15-second videos. It works like most social media apps with followers who like and comment on content. Hashtags let users find content by theme. On paper, TikTok doesn’t sound very different from most apps, but it is a lot of fun and has some interesting content.

Lip-syncing videos are popular, but so are short videos of parkour moves, band promotion, magic tricks and other stunts. One of the best features of TikTok is its editing tools, giving users resources to create fun videos. It has some interesting features, such as the ability to record your reaction to a video while you’re watching it. Users can also record a video of their own using the audio from another video.

TikTok was launched in China in 2016 under the name “Douyin.” It was rebranded as TikTok for an international market a year later. Today, it’s one of the fastest-growing apps on the market, regularly ranking in the top three spots of free downloads in the Apple Store. Its parent company, ByteDance, merged TikTok with the popular musical.ly app to build a broader user base. The TikTok name was kept, but all of musical.ly’s content was brought into TikTok.

TikTok’s Growth

TikTok has seen a huge surge of downloads in the U.S., most likely due to Jimmy Fallon becoming a fan. In November, Fallon issued the #tumbleweedchallenge on “The Tonight Show.” Viewers were told to act like a tumbleweed and upload the video to TIkTok. It was the biggest engagement surge the company had seen. The challenge generated over 8,000 submissions with 10.4 million viewings.

How brands are using TikTok

While TikTok is just started to get noticed by brands in the United States, several large companies are already starting to experiment with promotions on the app in other countries.  Most of these promotions take advantage of TikTok’s “challenge” concept by creating their own challenges and even going as far as providing new music clips for users to interact with that could win some of the users big prizes.

For instance, in Malaysia, the multi-national fast food chain, McDonald’s worked directly with TikTok to create a contest called the #BigMacTikTok Challenge.  To enter, TikTok users would dance to one of many pre-recorded #BigMacTikTok music clips that were uploaded to the service. After creating the video, users were also required to submit their entry via the official McDonald’s mobile app. All entries won a free Big Mac and a few select winners danced away with actual cash prizes.

More recently, fashion brand Guess partnered with TikTok, on a campaign targeted at millennials and Generation Z. During early September of 2018, as TikTok users opened the app, they were directed to the #InMyDenim challenge that urges them to post videos with the hashtag.

The #InMyDenim hashtag challenge marked the first promoted hashtag challenge on TikTok in the U.S. and the official launch of the app’s U.S. brand partnerships program. Guess promoted the challenge with the support of popular TikTok content creators.  Unlike the McDonald’s example, there weren’t any prizes, but that didn’t stop thousands of TikTok users from posting videos using the official hashtag.

How Can TikTok Fit Into Your Digital Strategy?

Currently, one of the major features of TikTok is that there isn’t advertising or methods for monetization. It makes the user experience more relaxed and enjoyable. That’s not to say that the app won’t move in that direction at some point, because it can’t be free forever.

For businesses, this can be a good time to build a user base and enjoy organic advertising techniques to show off your products or services. Issue a #challenge to your followers showcasing your product. You may get some valuable ideas for marketing and content across other platforms.

TikTok has a younger clientele than other social media platforms. If you can create videos that appeal to the demographics on TikTok, it could be a valuable marketing tool for your business. TikTok is billed as a social media platform where you show your real side. Authenticity is a great marketing strategy.

With TikTok’s sophisticated editing tools, you can really shine. Contact us about using TikTok in your social media marketing campaigns.

UPDATE (January 30, 2019): According to an article on Mobile Marketer, TikTok users reported seeing a five-second ad in the interface for the food delivery service, GrubHub.

UPDATE (February 23, 2019): According to an article on Mobile Marketer, TikTok TikTok is testing native video ads that point to websites. Remember how long it took SnapChat to link out to other websites? This is pretty big.

UPDATE (July 2019): Details on the advertising opportunities on TikTok! TikTok currently has four ad formats: in-feed autoplay vertical video, branded lenses, branded home screen takeovers, and sponsored hashtag challenge.

TikTok is in that early phase where all the really big brands are doing it just to do it, which means TikTok can do goofy things like have minimums and have ridiculously high pricing. In our experience, what we’re seeing right now is even higher than what we saw on SnapChat in its early days. That said, the minimum investment requirement, in our experience, can be as low as $6,000.

Update (August 1, 2019): Chipotle has MASSIVE success with it’s #GuacDance Challenge on TikTok.

Update (August 5, 2019): Interesting article from eMarketer on the idea if TikTok is a true challenger to YouTube just yet, at least from a content creator standpoint. Given that YouTube has 1.1 BILLION more monthly users than TikTok, and TikTok just started its advertising program and doesn’t have a revenue sharing program yet, we think it’s a bit early for that line of thinking.

Update (September 6, 2019: Great chart from eMarketer on the relative size of TikTok compared to other platforms like Facebook Ads. When new, shiny things like TikTok come along, it’s easy to get caught up in the craziness, so it’s important to keep things in perspective before throwing everything you’ve got into something new:

Update (September 17, 2019): Another good write up from eMarketer on TikTok Ad Formats. While the article really only hints at a few new formats (AR, lenses, etc. similar to SnapChat), the more interesting segment is a long list of brands that have started running campaigns on the app, such as Ralph Lauren, Macy’s, Kroger, and Chipotle.

Update (November 22, 2019): TechNumb just released a fantastic TikTok promotion infographic that pulls together some really solid data!

Update (January 16, 2020): AdAge published this quote in their daily newsletter: “The TikTok takeover is upon us. App Annie’s State of Mobile report finds that U.S. consumers spent 85 million hours on the platform last year, up from 15 million in 2018. That’s an eye-popping 375 percent growth year-over-year, writes George P. Slefo, who notes that ‘U.S. consumers spent more time on TikTok with their smartphones than other popular video streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video.‘”

Update (January 17, 2020): IAB reports today, “Privately-held TikTok generated $176.9 million in revenue in 2019, which is 71% of the total it has garnered since the app launch, and its $88.5 million in fourth-quarter earnings were six times higher than a year prior, according to Sensor Tower estimates. The app held the second spot for number of 2019 downloads on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store, and Sensor Tower attributes most of its earnings growth to ad sales and in-app purchases.

Update (February 4, 2020): TikTok may not have spent the money for an ad during the Super Bowl, but that didn’t stop a few advanced thinking brands to use its most popular influencers or the popular app to expand the ads during the big game. Mobile Marketer has a great write up today that shows some great examples of how to use this app effectively.

Comments (6)


Thanks for writing! We can help you with advertising campaigns on TikTok.


Because a significant portion of TikTok s users are very young, authenticity is key when running promotions. Gen Z tends to be very perceptive when it comes to advertising and want to be marketed


Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂


Your blog post is very informative, thanks for sharing such a good content.

General News

Tiktok is next hype… right. It’s a huge marketing platform now!.
Thanks for sharing amazing information.


This article really provides some great insight too marketing on Tiktok! Thank you for publishing this article it definitely will help me in the long run.

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