Are you wondering how to use TikTok for your business?
Or maybe whether or not you even should be using TikTok for your business?
In this post, I’m going to cover everything you need to know about TikTok from a marketing perspective…including:
- Should businesses use TikTok if they’re marketing to an older demographic?
- How often should you post, and what types of content should you be creating?
- How does the TikTok algorithm work?
And perhaps most importantly,
- How do businesses actually make money on TikTok?
To answer these questions, I recently sat down with Rachel Pedersen, award-winning social media strategist and educator, virtual author, and speaker. She’s been featured in many top publications, including Huffington Post, and is the founder of Social Media United, an online university for social media managers and strategists.
In this post, we’re going to cover 10 things marketers need to know about TikTok.
But before we jump in, I wanted to share a bit about Rachel’s path to becoming a social media strategist. I know her story will be inspirational for many people!
From Hairstylist to Social Media Strategist
Rachel started out as a hairstylist, specializing in giving highlights. One day, a client came in and started talking about her hair color, but then moved on to talk a bit about social media.
Rachel shared what she knew about social media, as she had been using it in her hair business. She would post before and after pictures, pictures of extensions, or colors she wanted to try. She didn’t exactly know if this strategy was working, but it did seem like there were more clients coming in.
Rachel didn’t feel like an expert at all, but she realized she did know more than the client. So when this lady asked her for her help to set up her social media accounts, Rachel knew she had to help.
And this is how it all began!
Rachel has now been in her social media business full-time for 4 years. When she first started, she wrote out a list of bucket items – one of which was that she wanted to be an early adopter on a platform.
She had heard over and over again the benefits of people coming to a platform early, so that was something she aspired to as well.
And she has certainly met this goal through becoming an early adopter and expert TikTok strategist!
10 Things Marketers Need to Know About TikTok
If you’ve been wondering how to use TikTok for your business, keep reading. Following are 10 things every marketer needs to know about TikTok!
#1: TikTok Isn’t Just for Businesses Trying to Reach Kids and Teens.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: Many marketers assume TikTok isn’t a good use of their time, because they’re trying to reach an older demographic.
So, is it true that TikTok is just for kids? Or is there an opportunity for marketers who are trying to reach the 25+ demographic?
According to Rachel, TikTok definitely isn’t just for kids. She reached out to TikTok corporate to find out just how many adults use the platform. According to TikTok, there are currently 200-300 million users over the age of 30! Wowzers!According to TikTok, there are currently 200-300 million users over the age of 30! Wowzers!Click To Tweet
Rachel also did her own experiment to see just how much engagement she could elicit from the grownups on TikTok. She put out a TikTok about In Sync, because she knew younger kids likely wouldn’t even know about the 90’s boy band.
She and her husband danced away to In Sync, and used hashtags like #over30 and #90s kids. And suddenly they found the grownups! That video was viewed 30-40,000 times and got thousands of engagements.
But even though there’s definitely an opportunity to reach adults on TikTok, Rachel recommends being cognizant of who the next round of buyers is. While kids may not necessarily be consumers right now, most of us also don’t want to just be in business for a year or two. We want to be in business for 5 years, or 10 years, or maybe even pass down a legacy for our kids.
So, Rachel warns against focusing exclusively on the over-30 demographic: “I think one of the most powerful things we can do is not discount kids or teenagers; and instead, recognize they’re the future generation of our world”.
#2: The TikTok Feed and Algorithm Work Differently Than on Other Platforms.
According to Rachel, the videos you see when you first get started on TikTok aren’t representative of the platform.
Because they’re trying to get you hooked on the platform ASAP, they’re going to throw all these crazy hooks at you. They’re going to throw you pranks, and cute animals, and all kinds of random stuff, because they don’t have any data on you yet.
They don’t know if you’re a middle-aged man, or a 16-year-old boy, or a 32-year-old woman. So they’re just throwing you all kinds of random content until you create an account…and then for 7 additional days as well. Why 7 days? That’s how long it takes their AI to know what you like engaging with so they can serve you more of it.
The Tiktok Feed
It’s also important to recognize that there are basically two versions of the TikTok feed. There’s the main one that you’re going to see when you first log in, which is called the “For You” page. This is kind of like the Explore page on Instagram.
Then if you swipe your thumb to the right, you’re going to see a different newsfeed, which is the page for people that you follow. But it’s important to note that the “For You” page is where people spend about 75% of their time.
Rachel likes to go to her Following tab to engage with people who she follows because she loves their content, and likes to connect with them one-on-one. The “For You” page isn’t necessarily going to have people you know or follow; it’s going to be serving up content that you’ve proved you like through what you’ve viewed or engaged with.
In terms of the ranking system on TikTok, Rachel advises it’s very different from any other platform. Metrics on TikTok are ranked as follows: Percentage of people who watched the video again, percentage of video completed, shares, comments, and then likes.Metrics on TikTok are ranked as follows: Percentage of people who watched the video again, percentage of video completed, shares, comments, and then likes.Click To Tweet
So the most important metrics have to do with who watched the video again, and watch time. Likes and comments are not nearly as valuable as watch time and repeat watches. And then to some extent, sharing is also really valuable. So when someone sends a link to your video, that’s going to be really powerful for the algorithm.
#3: Do What Makes Sense Natively to TikTok.
According to Rachel, the content on TikTok is very, very different than other platforms, and she strongly recommends doing what feels right natively to TikTok. For instance, you don’t want to just grab a horizontal video from Facebook and try to repurpose it for TikTok.
Videos on TikTok are full-screen vertical videos that are usually up to 15-seconds long. There’s also a second setting where you can record up to 60 seconds. Rachel is a huge fan of 15-second videos until you figure out how the platforms works and see how people are engaging with your content. You can also do live streams, but the main content types are the up-to-15-second videos, then the up-to-60-second videos.
To do live videos, you have to have at least 1,000 followers. You also have to be 16 years old, or even 18 in some countries. Getting 1,000 followers doesn’t sound like a big deal, but that was actually the most challenging step in Rachel’s journey. So that’s something that’s really different from doing lives on other platforms: it takes time to accumulate followers and viewers for your lives.
Another difference is that on other platforms, your lives are likely really succinct, you have certain points you want to make, etc. But on TikTok, it’s a very different game: “It’s almost a 24-7 look into someone’s life, and you can literally go live for up to 24 hours. You might live stream while you work; some people even livestream while they sleep. And comments on these lives are where you see followers having fun. It’s a totally different dynamic to lives on other platforms”.
#4: Use “Hooks” to Get Maximum Views and Reach.
If you’ve heard Rachel speak before, you’ve probably heard her talk about the importance of using “hooks” in your TikToks.
Hooks are essentially anything you can do to create interest at the beginning of your TikTok so that people will watch through to the end, and will then watch it again with a different lens over the content.Hooks are essentially anything you can do to create interest at the beginning of your TikTok so that people will watch through to the end, and will then watch it again with a different lens over the content.Click To Tweet
She shared how she recently used a hook to get an insane amount of views for one of her TikToks: “I did this a few nights ago actually, and the video got 3.5 million views in just a couple of days…which is mind-blowing. In my video, a mom and dad go to a concert. But the mom has a secret: that’s the hook at the very beginning. People watch the video, but don’t clearly get what the secret was the first time. So they have to watch it a few more times. And because of that, it went crazy. It’s all because there’s a hook in the beginning where people realized it’s not what they thought it was going to be, so they needed to re-watch it”.
#5: You Don’t Have to Sing and Dance to Use TikTok.
I’ve heard TikTok described as a mash-up between Vine and Musically (what TikTok used to be called). So I wanted to ask Rachel if it’s absolutely necessary to dance and use music for your TikTok videos…or if there were other alternatives.
In Rachel’s experience, this is people’s #1 fear about using TikTok. They think they’ll have to dance, sing or lip-sync, and this is obviously not something every marketer wants to do!
Rachel’s take on this? You don’t have to sing or dance, but using music is a huge part of how the platform works: “As you use the platform, you start to realize how the songs can actually play into the messages you want to bring. For instance, there’s a song that goes, “Dah, dah, dah, dah. Ya, I did”. So you could align this with something about your business – for instance, “Did I really build a 6-figure business working from home? Ya, I did”. You can use these songs to aid in storytelling, while still having fun”.
But she also wants marketers to know you do not need to dance. The only reason she dances in her TikToks is because she loves dancing. But if you don’t love dancing, then don’t do it! You don’t have to be crazy silly. In fact, it can be very on-brand just letting people see behind the scenes or answering questions that you frequently get.
#6: Use Hashtags to Create Long-Term, Searchable Content.
Hashtags are obviously super important on many social platforms. But what Rachel finds interesting is that you can actually have a TikTok go viral without any hashtags.
That said, her recommendation is to also recognize that you’re trying to create long-term, searchable content. You want people to be able to search for hashtags later on down the road and find your content: “With hashtags, I want you to imagine you aren’t just playing the “here and now” game of going viral; you’re playing the long-term game of “Who do I want to find this content in the future?”. I like to really niche down and use quite a few smaller hashtags, ones that are maybe less than 100,000 uses. Then I use several that are between 100K and 1-2 million, and then several that are in the millions+ range”.
Rachel also recommends using really relevant hashtags. A lot of people try to game the system by using trending hashtags, but if they’re not relevant, they’re going to quickly die out.
#7: Two Keys to Getting More Followers: Post Consistently and Know Your End Market.
If you’re serious about using TikTok for your business, you need to focus on building your following. To do this, Rachel recommends posting consistently and knowing who your end market is going to be.
According to Rachel, it’s far better to post consistently than to put out 15 videos one day, and none the next. If you’ve created a bunch of TikToks, she recommends letting them sit in your drafts folder and trickle them out so there’s a more consistent flow. If you flood the market with tons of videos all at once, you’re going to notice that none of them are viewed. So give each video time to perform before you release another.
Your End Market
She also recommends knowing who your end market is going to be, and then creating content specifically for them. For instance, sometimes she’ll do some dances and say something like, “This is the moms-over-30 edition”. Then she asks them, “What do you think? Did I nail it?”. And then all the over-30’s jump on. It’s a great way to connect with them.
To figure out what your audience is going to engage with, Rachel uses a 2-step reverse research method: “First you’re going to search for hashtags your ideal audience is likely to use, and then discover what type of content they’re putting out that’s performing well. Then you can start to model this type of content. Are they responding to educational content? Rants? Research what your audience is engaging with, and then go create that type of content”.
#8: Verified Badges on TikTok Are Generally Given to You (Without You Asking).
Unlike on many other platforms, you don’t request to get a verified badge: it’s simply given to you.
However, Rachel acknowledges there is also an element of having an “in” with the TikTok creator team. When Rachel wanted to verify her account, she did work with someone who had an in with the creator team, and they submitted a request for her. They then looked at different aspects of her account: like whether her watch time was increasing and staying consistent, if her follower count was growing, and if she had any viral videos, PR or press. They also looked at whether she had verifications on other platforms.
Rachel believes the biggest benefit to being verified is simply that people recognize you as someone to pay attention to. You don’t get any different functionalities. Getting a blue check mark simply means you’re not pretending to be someone, and that you are who you say you are.
#9: It IS Possible to Make Money on TikTok.
This is probably one of the biggest questions I get from marketers and business owners.
According to Rachel, there are a bunch of different ways to make money with TikTok.
Your Personal Platform
The first is building up your personal platform to become an influencer, so you can charge for collaborations and advertising.
Charlie D’Amelio, Loren Gray, Dixie D’Amelio, and Addison Rae are all creators who have really blown up on TikTok over the past year. Charlie, Dixie and Addison all have between 15 and 35 million followers, whereas a year ago, no one knew who they were. They’re doing collab posts with brands like Ralph Lauren, and are charging $100-$200K per post.
Live Stream Gifts
Another way to make money on TikTok is through getting gifts on live streams. Rachel doesn’t personally rely on that, and it’s not going to be a main source of revenue for most people…but it can be a fun thing to do.
Another way Rachel has monetized through is using TikToks as a front-end traffic driver to her YouTube. She then uses her YouTubes to promote her lead magnets, which then leads to sales. She’s also uses it to drive people to her Instagram account, and then nurture people through DMs to the point of sale.
According to Rachel, a business that’s doing really well on TikTok is Westrock Ortho. They built such a solid and raving fanbase on TikTok that they built a second, and then a third location for their ortho clinic. They did so well they had people lining up outside, and filling out waitlists to be able to join the clinic.
#10: Know the Optimal Posting Frequency for Maximum reach…and Learn How to Find Amazing Content Ideas.
Especially when people are just getting started on TikTok, it can be hard to know often to post and where to get ideas for your videos.
In terms of posting frequency, Rachel recommends 3-5 times per week, or once per day, every single day, no matter what. She posts 5-7 times per day, but she recognizes that’s not possible for most people.
Struggling with figuring out what types of videos to create? Rachel recommends sitting down and spending an hour browsing the “For You” page with a pen and paper. What kinds of videos are performing? Are the songs trending? What patterns are you seeing? Start with that so the content you create is as native as possible.
She also recommends doing some hashtag research BEFORE you create your videos. Find out which ones are performing best, which ones your audience is most likely to use, and go follow a few people who are influencers: for instance, The Rock, Jessica Alba, Reese Witherspoon, Kevin Hart, Rachel Hollis, Gary Vaynerchuk, or myself. This will give you some ideas for how people are using the platform.
Finally, after you’ve done everything above, the next big thing is going to be to just do it!
I hope this post has inspired you to check out TikTok for yourself! I’m super thankful to Rachel for all her amazing advice and insights, and I just know this is going to help so many business owners get started on the platform.
If you want to connect with Rachel or find out more about her business, you can find her on TikTok at @themrspedersen. She’s also got some great stuff on her website, including a quiz to help you figure out if TikTok is right for our business (you can take the quiz here).
Want to read up on all the current trends in social media, including TikTok? Be sure to check out my posts, My Top 6 Takeaways from Social Media Marketing World 2020 and Top 10 Social Media Trends for 2020.
After reading this post, are YOU ready to jump in and start using TikTok for your business? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below!
WATCH THE FULL EPISODE HERE:
Want to read up on all the current trends in social media, including TikTok?
Be sure to check out my posts, My Top 6 Takeaways from Social Media Marketing World 2020, and Top 10 Social Media Trends for 2020.