No, TikTok isn’t just for teens anymore. Its popularity has spread far and wide. Now, it’s a huge place of opportunity for social media marketers and managers.

Let’s lay it on the table. A lot of social media managers and marketers don’t know what to do with TikTok. The short-form video app launched in 2017 seems to have catapulted itself into our lives—and left us struggling to find a place for it in our social marketing plans.

But TikTok and its user base are rapidly growing. In Q3 of 2019, TikTok surpassed Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Snapchat for App Store and Google Play installs.

As the director of leading content marketing agency Contentworks, I have to stay on top of the latest trends. So, no more procrastinating! TikTok isn’t going anywhere, and we all need to embrace it. Enough of the tough love, try these three ideas if you’re new to TikTok marketing.

But first, let’s look at some TikTok essential info that you need to know

TikTok videos are around 15-seconds, but users can string clips together to make stories of up to 60 seconds long
There’s also a live-streaming option and a range of filters and tools to help improve your video presentation.
Statistics show that 66% of all TikTok users are under the age of 30
TikTok is for sharing fun, meme-related videos. (It’s not for a 10-minute speech from your CEO.)
Last year, Guess was the first brand TikTok collaborated with in the US for its #inmydenim campaign.

How Can Brands Use TikTok?

Brands can use TikTok for marketing by:

Creating their own TikTok channel and upload relevant videos
Working with influencers to create and circulate content to a broader audience
Paying to advertise on TikTok (It’s early days but expect this to develop rapidly.)

Many brands do a combination of running their own channels and working with others. The problem is influencer marketing isn’t cheap. So, let’s assume you have a low budget and you’re not working with influencers. How can you use TikTok?

Let’s delve in.

1. Hashtag challenges

Challenges are an essential feature of TikTok’s community and probably the best known of all the marketing techniques. TikTok users love challenges. They usually involve making specific videos and creating a #-tag name to make them memorable and searchable. There have been lots of viral TikTok challenges in 2019, but here are a few of my favorites.

#BeautifulPeople Challenge

Ed Sheeran pushed his Khalid-featured song “Beautiful People” in the best possible way with a TikTok challenge. The much-loved singer received thousands of heartwarming vids full of people celebrating their friends and loved ones.

This challenge was a tearjerker—but there was a monetary side, too. The challenge received more than 270M views in five days, thanks to more than 150K videos. According to the hashtag’s page on TikTok, that number has since swelled to more than 335M views.

tiktok ed sheeran


Dance challenges are popular on TikTok, with over one billion views for the hashtag #DanceChallenge alone.

Rising rapper Ambjaay’s song “Uno” went viral on TikTok last summer, largely thanks to #UnoDanceChallenge. “It’s given me more fans and a bigger fan base, and I’ve been able to build more relationships and meet more people,” Ambjaay says. “Dance gave the song more room to grow and create a different way to have fun.”

tiktok dance challenge

Dance challenges have become so popular that even the United Nations got involved. (Yes, really.)

The UN teamed up with choreographer Sherrie Silver and “Freedom” singer Mr Eazi to start the #DanceForChange challenge. The aim was to call on global leaders to increase funding for agriculture.

tiktok sherrie silver example

#YouOwnIt Challenge

A super-successful TikTok marketing campaign I loved was #YouOwnIt developed for cosmetics company MAC by ad agency Pulse Advertising. In the challenge, a seemingly dowdy, rain-soaked girl (Anna O’Brien )is transformed into 1950s elegance. The video is just one of many on the platform under the hashtag #YouOwnIt.  

Pulse selected 18 influencers for the campaign, with a focus on diversity, such as YouTuber Louie Castro and Noah Murphy.

The 2.3 billion views certainly proved that TikTok was the right space for this type of campaign. The challenge “completely exceeded our expectations,” said MAC Cosmetics’ Diederik Koenders.


Want to create a TikTok marketing hashtag challenge for your brand? Here are my top takeaways.

Don’t be promotional. Very few viral hashtag challenges have been promotional. They always focus on a message, funny meme, or engaging challenge.
Build your following first. Unless your brand has managed to build up a popular TikTok channel, you will probably do best to work with micro-influencers to kickstart your #hashtag challenge. Alternatively, you can use employee advocacy to kickstart your views.
Piggyback off an existing hashtag. If you’re a small brand, you will probably have more success using a trending challenge hashtag than creating your own. If users don’t follow you, your #MyCEODancingAtTheWaterCooler video probably won’t go viral. Tag it to a #dancechallenge, and it might.

Fun Fact: TikTok is the international version of the Chinese successful short video app Douyin. Despite Bytedance’s efforts to present Douyin and TikTok as being the same product, they are actually two separate entities.

2. User-Generated Content

Gen Z, TikTok’s main audience, loves to be involved. So, brands that employ a “them and us” approach just won’t succeed with this generation. Marketing your product to Gen Z needs to feature user-generated content (UGC). Of course, a hashtag challenge is user-generated content, but what else can you try?

Answer Tea

Answer Tea ran an offline/online campaign on Doyin, China’s TikTok. In the campaign, users sent their orders along with a question. Will I get rich this year? Do you think I am beautiful? Their answer was revealed as they opened the lid of their cup. It was a bit of a fortune-telling exercise, which was perfect for the brand’s target audience.

The Douyin channel accumulated 345,000 followers, and their clips have garnered 1.1 million likes. The campaign has also driven Answer Tea to sign with 250 franchise partners. WOW.

Authentic content-generated by users has become one of the most powerful forms of marketing. A recent survey found 85% of consumers find user-generated content (UGC) more influential than brand-created content.

Chinese restaurant Haidilao

The restaurant added a DIY option to its menu where users can select and video the way their food is made according to their choice of ingredients. This was a super-smart campaign as it showed choice, quality, and fun.

In addition, it encouraged 15,000+ users to film their experience at the chain restaurant. More than 2,000 videos were shared on the app with over 50 million views. (Who’s hungry now?)

tiktok example of social media marketing

Gym Shark

From fast food to gym (story of my life), Gym Shark is another brand rocking UGC on TikTok.

It has 1.4 million fans and has been posting consistent, quality videos for a while now. Its target audience is clearly super-fit gym bunnies, but they still share member workouts, fails, and tips.

Knowing your target audience is key on TikTok as with other social media channels. However, bear in mind that the user-age demographic of TikTok is much lower than Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

tiktok gym marketing example for social media managers


You have plenty of ways to encourage user-generated content on TikTok. Here are just a few …

Pose a question video. Ask your fans what they think about a new product or service you’re trialing, incentivize them to film their responses.
Ask fans to make a choice. Another simple way of engaging your audience is to provide them with options to choose from. For example, show them two new color lipsticks in your range and ask them to pick their favorite. Or ask for five ways to wear a dress. Hopefully, it will turn into a debate, which is even better for engagement.
Celebrate holidays. Tap into holidays and celebrations and ask your fans to share videos of them celebrating. For example, #NationalHappinessDay or #Diwalhi. You can also incentivize with giveaways for the most popular video.
Host contests and giveaways. Contests and giveaways boost engagement and attract fans. Though there is a cost element involved, this is a way of creating user engagement for a lesser cost than advertising or influencer marketing.

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3. Educational Videos

Never underestimate the power of educational videos.

Whatever we need instruction for (furniture assembly, DIY, beauty or hair), we all prefer watching a video to reading an article. Generation Z kids have a higher preference for learning from YouTube and videos, compared with printed books or blogs. This shift, of course, boosts TikTok but also sparks discussion among brands about how to present educational information.

Fun Fact: In a survey of people ages 14 to 23 (Generation Z), YouTube ranked the highest as a preferred learning tool with 59% choosing it over apps, games, printed books, or classes. Teachers are even employing TikTok as a teaching tool.

Even IKEA has a “How to Build” YouTube channel! So, take this to the next level and provide educational video content on your TikTok marketing channel.

NBC’s Stay Tuned

News has a place on TikTok whether that’s international world news or news from your brand. Stay Tuned was originally an NBC-produced Snapchat news show but after gaining success on that platform, the network started making content for TikTok. The account, which has nearly 500k fans, offers quick news, facts, insights, and thoughts on weird events and Gen Z-inspired pop culture.

staytunednbc on tiktok

Fenty Beauty Tutorials

Fenty Beauty has nailed the art of the TikTok tutorial garnering 308K followers and 3.6 million likes. With catchy tunes, onscreen annotation, and clear CTAs, this is a brand winning at TikTok.

fentybeauty example on tiktok

Check it out.

squad goals on tiktok

And if you’re doing tutorial videos, you will need to master the art of keeping them short and sweet. Quick tips, before and afters, or a series to create a complete look will work well.

TikTok also allows you to string clips together to make stories of up to 60 seconds long (a bit like Twitter threads).


Showcase products well. The best TikTok marketing videos, as with Instagram, showcase products in a great light. That means literally using good lighting, a high-quality smartphone, and carefully thought-out scenery.
Focus on one tip. TikTok videos are short, so cramming too much info into one video will lose your point. You could build up a series on how to create a look, paint a cabinet, or fix a car, so users can watch one or all your videos.
Keep it fun. Nobody wants to watch a boring video. Smile, have fun, make mistakes, and don’t try to be perfect.
Show a different side of your company. TikTok marketing is all about being different. Go backstage or behind the scenes. Show bloopers, interviews, and relatable humor.
Try new things.  This is a new app, so it’s OK to experiment. Some things won’t work, and others will. This is a chance to be creative and try something you haven’t tried on the other platforms. In fact, you know my golden rule about not repeating content from channel to channel.
Don’t neglect your content. Your tags, descriptions, and CTAs need to be on point. Just because TikTok is a video app, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to write good captions. They are searchable, and unless you’re a celebrity, simply adding a peach emoji won’t cut it.

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