Wondering how to use TikTok for business? Looking for proven advice that goes beyond basics?
To dig deep into TikTok for marketing, I interview Michael Sanchez on the Social Media Marketing Podcast.
Michael is a TikTok marketing expert who specializes in helping consumer-focused brands increase their reach and exposure on TikTok. He also founded TikTok Marketing Secrets, the world’s largest Facebook group dedicated to marketing on TikTok.
You’ll learn how the TikTok algorithm evaluates and serves content, find tips to create TikTok content for your business, and discover examples of businesses using TikTok successfully.
Michael’s background is built on content creation. He moved from working in photography and video into the marketing and advertising space. He became interested in finding areas of opportunity that nobody else was considering; different platforms, different apps, and so on.
About two and a half years ago, Michael was seeing success using YouTube to promote a client selling kids’ toys. Looking for alternate platforms to experiment with, he discovered Musical.ly and Smule—both of which were karaoke-like content platforms.
When Musical.ly was acquired by Dance, the social media platform now known as TikTok was born. Michael very quickly realized the value of the platform. Attention, awareness, engagement, and organic reach are, in his words, “…off the charts,” and he’s been running TikTok campaigns and engagements ever since.
He’s worked with brands, influencers such as @edmylett, and even with TikTok directly, running organic growth campaigns, influencer campaigns, and advertising campaigns. Until recently, he’s remained a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. Now he’s stepping into the spotlight and sharing what he’s learned while growing large accounts for brands and companies.
Last summer, he created the TikTok Marketing Secrets Facebook group.
In the group, Michael shares tips, advice, and data from his own TikTok marketing experience alongside insights from people with accounts ranging from 1,000 to 30 million followers. Everyone contributes. Discussion topics cover everything from how to funnel traffic or create custom audiences to running campaigns or getting influencer deals.
Today, in addition to running the Facebook group, Michael is actively consulting.
Why Should Marketers Pay Attention to TikTok?
Michael believes TikTok evens the playing field for the average person or brand. With decent content, he says, anyone has a legitimate shot at going viral and growing an account very, very rapidly. That popularity on TikTok can then be used to route your audience over to YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram—even to your website or email list.
Then there are the statistics.
On average in 2019, TikTok users spent about 52 minutes per day on the app watching more than 1 million 15-second videos. For perspective, Instagram users currently spend about 53 minutes per day on the platform. That’s about the same amount of time but it took Instagram years to build up the time spent on-platform. Facebook users average 58 minutes per day and Snapchat users 49 minutes per day.
What’s more, 9 out of 10 people return to TikTok multiple times a day. If you’re an advertiser or a business, that means your content is likely to be seen by the same person or your ideal audience multiple times each day. The more they see you, the more likely they are to follow you on TikTok and then find you on other platforms.
With regard to audience demographics, there’s a misconception that TikTok’s audience is limited to kids or pre-teens. In reality, TikTok’s adult audience is rapidly growing by 357% year over year in the U.S. alone. Today, 14.3 million U.S. adults are part of TikTok’s global audience of 800 million people.
Now TikTok is financially investing in their community.
First, they recognized that some of the best-converting content on the platform is from the educational and information space so they dedicated $50 million in a Creative Learning Fund for education- and information-based content. If you’re a marketer or content creator—say, a Facebook ads expert—and you put out some how-to TikTok content, the platform could reach out and pay you to continue what you’re already doing.
Second, they funded the Creator Fund—originally with $200 million, then increased to $1 billion—to pay everyday people to play and create TikTok content.
Michael believes these investments signal that the preferences of marketers, ad agencies, brands, and the attention of the actual audience will be heavily favored on TikTok.
Ads Options on TikTok
There are two different types of ads on the TikTok platform: self-serve ads that let you use an auction bid to show your ad to an audience for a specific amount of money, and placement ads that display in specific places when the app is opened—as the very first video in the feed, for example.
Over the last 6 months or so, since access to the self-serve ads opened to everyone, Michael has been watching ads and learning. In his opinion, the ads work well for building brand awareness and driving traffic to a website where you can retarget audiences with ads in other places but not for converting offers in excess of $50. Currently, Michael is seeing about $1 to $4 cost per action for eCommerce products selling for between $20 and $50. He cautions that will vary based on advertising brand, the product itself, and the ad content.
The ad content itself is important. If you try to wholesale reuse an ad from another channel, the ad will likely fail. Consumers on TikTok will spot it for what it is and then swipe out of it to completely skip it. The best advice for successfully advertising on TikTok comes straight from the platform itself, “Make TikToks, don’t make ads.”
How the TikTok Algorithm Evaluates and Serves Content
One of the fundamental strengths of TikTok is the way its algorithm curates and tailors the content it serves to each specific user, and how that differs from other platforms’ algorithms.
TikTok uses seven key data points to evaluate and serve content that reflects the unique personality traits of your profile. Those seven points take into account things such as video views, likes and comments, followers, forwards, shares, saves, average watch time, completion rate, and video integrity.
The least understood of these—video integrity—focuses on markers such as the topic of the content, whether the audio was pulled down for violating copyright, or whether the content is flagged as too aggressive. To visualize this, TikTok doesn’t typically show videos that feature profanity or people getting hurt during a stunt to a wider audience. Featuring oversized logos or logos from other social media platforms can also result in a video being flagged.
To learn about your video, TikTok first serves it to a small group of people—typically in your local area such as Los Angeles, if that’s where you live. The algorithm watches things like views, comments, and completion rate in real time. If the response to your video is favorable, the video is served to a larger geographic audience such as southern California. The more data TikTok receives, the wider the distribution of the video.
This testing happens rather quickly. You can literally put out a video, and within 5–6 hours, get 200,000 views.
Content Discovery and Performance on TikTok
From the user side, TikTok has two feeds by which it serves content: the Following tab and the For You tab. People who have followed you will see your content on the Following page tab. People who haven’t followed you can still see or discover your content on the For You page feed tab. These two tabs combined with the algorithm are what sets TikTok apart because your follower count doesn’t directly impact your video views.
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Content isn’t subject to a short shelf-life on TikTok in the same way it is on Instagram or Facebook. Rather, similar to content on YouTube, a simple 30-second TikTok video can continue to surface and perform for weeks and months.
While one video’s poor performance won’t adversely affect the performance of other videos, you want to try to work with the algorithm. To give each of your videos the best shot at performing well, don’t release too many videos in a small window of time. TikTok’s algorithm needs time to evaluate your video. If you publish five or six videos in a short window of time, you’re basically pitting your videos against each other.
When you’re just starting on TikTok, Michael suggests doing one or two videos every day. When you’ve zeroed in on what works and what your audience likes—and TikTok understands your videos—you can increase the number of videos until you’re publishing 10 videos a day.
If the thought of committing to doing a TikTok video every day overwhelms you, some successful creators publish on a less frequent schedule; however, one video a day is best because TikTok—both the algorithm and the audience—values consistency. Deliver fresh content consistently and you’re more likely to sustain top-of-funnel awareness and be remembered as the go-to expert or person, podcast, marketer, brick-and-mortar, or whatever your positioning reflects.
Managing Low-Performing TikTok Videos
If your video isn’t seeing views in about 48 hours, it’s likely a dud. The majority of people should simply leave that video up but there are instances in which you may want to make the video private or delete it.
Before you make that decision, check the individual stats on that video to see what you can glean; you’ll need a pro account for this. To illustrate, if your video was 45 seconds long and the average watch time was only 3 seconds, perhaps you need to work on capturing attention quickly. Did your video do better in some regions than in others? Why might that be?
Use the data available to you to improve your future content.
When should you make a video private or delete it? Michael says you should only delete a video in two cases. The first case is if you get a violation strike on existing content because that will work against you. The second case is if you were testing a concept before you settled into your niche or ideal audience.
For example, if your TikTok profile has evolved to talk about Facebook ads but your first 10 videos talk about your cat or cooking, you should delete those first 10 videos because that data is still attached to your profile. TikTok is still using that data to find other people it thinks are similar to your ideal audience. Get rid of that data to attract the audience you want.
If the video aligned with your niche and the interest of your ideal audience but simply didn’t perform well and you don’t want someone new to land on your profile and get the wrong impression of your content, you can make that video private.
A Note About TikTok Analytics
Most platforms offer some type of metrics to help you understand your content’s performance and TikTok is no exception. To view this data, you’ll need to activate the TikTok pro account on your profile. Note that data is currently limited.
For instance, TikTok Analytics won’t tell you what your completion rate is. Michael has two options to help you get this data. First, in his Facebook group, he offers a free worksheet that auto-calculates completion rates for you. Second, a third-party tool integrated with TikTok called VidMob renders graphic data that reveals things like where people drop off, when they exited, and when they visited your profile.
While the data is currently limited and what you see differs by logging in on desktop or mobile, it’s worthwhile to look at.
Creating TikTok Content That Drives Traffic
While Michael believes more sophisticated features such as a swipe-up action are on their way, driving traffic with TikTok content currently requires some intentional thought and content creation. Rather than relying on the rudimentary link-sharing capabilities on TikTok, use your video to deliver Why but not How, then deliver a call to action to drive traffic: “Hey, if you want to see more about this, check out my Instagram…”
Michael says many people are using this tactic to fully revive Instagram profiles, get more YouTube subscribers, and attract new people to their Facebook groups. For example, a member of his Facebook group is a makeup artist. She has 30,000 followers on TikTok and has leveraged the platform to build a Facebook group that now has 800 paying members.
The key is to know how to market to your audience—solve their problems, entertain them, and give them informational content—and then leverage that audience properly.
Creating Educational Content
Ask yourself, what’s the problem your audience is looking to solve and how can you help them get there in the least amount of time? Then create content around that topic to entertain people while simultaneously making you their go-to source for whatever they want to learn. That content will not only help you keep an audience but indirectly it will also make you an authority in your space so you can drive traffic to your offers, your landing pages, or other social platforms.
Remember TikTok wants to understand who your audience is and to show your content only to the people it will resonate with it so they’ll come back for more. Creating a bunch of random videos that don’t serve a purpose will only dilute that process.
Figure out who your audience is and what your goal is. Are you trying to drive sales, build brand awareness, or some other objective? Then create niche-specific content around your audience and goal.
Answer common questions about your product or service, or deliver simple shareworthy tips and tricks, case studies, or testimonials. For instance, a social media manager could do a before-and-after shot of an Instagram profile to show what the feed looked like before and after their work.
Successful Businesses Accounts on TikTok
While @washingtonpost and @chipotle are well-known accounts on TikTok, Michael suggests learning from some lesser-known but successful accounts.
@popl.co, a phone sticker that allows NFC data to transfer between another phone with the sticker, started marketing on TikTok and is now a multimillion-dollar business.
@alex.stemp went from being a 9-to-5 photographer to launching his own brand, company, and product by leveraging TikTok.
@the.truth.doctor, a therapist who had her own private practice, now has multiple practices and a thriving Facebook group.
@shiftintoactionnow, a neuro-linguistic programming practitioner, was struggling last year. Now he has his own office space and travels around the world with clients.
Key Takeaways From the Episode:Learn more about Michael and his services on michael.consulting. Explore the TikTok Marketing Secrets Facebook group. Check out Michael’s group coaching mastermind. Download the TikTok Profits Idea Generator sheet. Check out TikTok’s Creative Learning Fund and Creators Fund. Explore VidMob. Find inspiration from @edmylett, @biddle3music, @washingtonpost, @chipotle, @popl.co, @alex.stemp, @the.truth.doctor, and @shiftintoactionnow on TikTok. Learn more about the YouTube Marketing Summit at ytsummit.com. Download the Social Media Marketing Industry Report. Watch exclusive content and original videos from Social Media Examiner on YouTube. Watch our weekly Social Media Marketing Talk Show on Fridays at 10 AM Pacific on YouTube.
What do you think? What are your thoughts on using TikTok for your business? Please share your comments below.