Staff Writer
Aug 18, 2022

Follow me on TikTok: How SMBs can drive growth on the platform

On TikTok, every brand — of every size — has the potential to go viral. Learn how small-to-medium businesses market themselves on the platform and drive real, tangible growth.

Follow me on TikTok: How SMBs can drive growth on the platform
In recent years, the e-commerce and digital marketing landscapes have become increasingly intertwined. As the line between offline and online worlds becomes ever more blurred, we’re seeing a shift in consumer expectations, where a brand’s digital presence isn’t just a nice-to-have or even an informational resource, but an extension of its identity. 
Online communities are particularly effective in driving purchases among digital native demographics such as Gen Z and millennials, who are just as comfortable discovering and purchasing products within apps as previous generations have been at brick-and-mortar shops. This self-contained purchase journey is happening more and more on platforms such as TikTok, whose proprietary algorithm is designed to show people content they like, rather than people they know. 
The growing accessibility of technology and shift towards discoverability has essentially democratised the media landscape, giving every internet user the potential to become an influencer and equally, every brand the potential to go viral. On online platforms, brands of all sizes have the chance to reach just as many people, audiences, and markets as large corporations do — but how can small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) leverage that opportunity to maximum effect? 
According to Salesforce’s Small and Medium Business Trends Report (2021), 71% of growing SMBs said their business had survived the pandemic because of digitisation. There is no getting around the fact that brands need to step up their game online in order to promote their services successfully, and knowing what works on each platform is the first step.
The case for being on ‘the clock app’
Even for SMBs that have been online for some time, the relatively new territory of TikTok can prove daunting. However, the video platform has plenty to offer brands, not least a massive, engaged audience that can be converted into consumers in no time.
Since its global launch in 2018, TikTok has quickly taken the world by storm, with Cloudflare ranking it the most popular website of 2021. As of today, the platform boasts 1 billion global users, with over 240 million users in Southeast Asia alone. 
With so many engaged users, TikTok offers unique ease and efficiency that allows brands of all sizes to meet their target audiences, right where they already spend time every day. TikTok operates on an endless scrolling format, with an algorithm designed to show users content based on their interests. It's a system that clearly works, with The TikTok Marketing Science Global Retail Path to Purchase Study 2021 conducted by Material, revealing that four out of 10 TikTok users have immediately purchased products after discovering them on the platform — a 1.5-times higher conversion rate than other platforms — while 50% of users reported buying products after watching TikTok ads.
Small businesses, big opportunities
The basis of TikTok is content created for the everyman, by the everyman. With its short-form format, videos can be produced and disseminated with much less time and effort — essentially levelling the playing field, giving anybody with a smartphone the potential to create viral content.
With that emphasis on authenticity, SMBs can create and share content easily without the barrier of high production costs or pressure to produce highly curated creative assets. Additionally, with TikTok’s user base spanning virtually every niche imaginable, each brand already has a potential audience on the platform, just waiting to be unlocked. And with 63 billion views on the #smallbusiness hashtag, there’s definitely an appetite for SMBs.
Just like how musicians now want their tracks to become TikTok’s trending sounds, the easiest way for brands to sell their products is to have it go viral on TikTok. This phenomenon has been well documented under the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag, with products from high-end and drugstore makeup, exercise leggings, and water bottles, to jewellery, blow-dryer brushes, and sunset lamps all having their moment of fame on the platform before rapidly being sold out. 
To help brands maximise their assets and efficiency, TikTok provides automated creative optimisation and customisable ad formats to suit all levels of familiarity, as well as full-funnel capabilities, guiding consumers along a seamless purchase journey. The algorithm facilitates discoverability by displaying content based on each user’s preferences, and it clearly works — 39% of users discovered brands they had never heard of from TikTok, and 49% have made buying decisions directly in-app.
With over half of TikTok users saying they want branded content to be entertaining, brands are offered the same versatility as any other creator, with the freedom to participate in video duets, challenges, hashtags, and trends, thereby interacting with consumers in fresh, new, ways. On the back end, the marketing suite also makes the testing, tracking, and monitoring of ad spend and performance simple and easy to manage.
The results are in
With all these opportunities for creators and brands of every size — and TikTok’s sheer popularity in Southeast Asia — it’s no wonder that there are already plenty of success stories from SMBs in the region. 
In Vietnam, English learning centre Step Up English joined TikTok to advertise its tutoring services. After taking a test-and-learn approach to developing content and targeting audiences, Step Up was able to boost its conversion rate by four times within one month of using TikTok ads.
Meanwhile, Indonesia-based handbag brand Oktaviana Tas Grosir saw monumental growth after joining TikTok Shop in September 2021, with their account amassing 2.7 million followers and garnering 35.6 million views on its most popular video. Since then, the brand has since opened three extra warehouses, and its founder Regina was even able to launch a reseller program for female entrepreneurs. 
In Thailand, second-generation owner of Pure Foods, Nitchakran Niyhaitwatchanchai, chose to take her family business into the digital realm after recognising the high potential for growth on TikTok. Within less than three months of posting videos, the Pure Foods account grew over 40,000 followers and over 100,000 likes — all using 30-second clips. Despite Pure Foods having been in business for over 26 years, Niyhaitwatchanchai credited TikTok with broadening its brand awareness, adding that the platform’s creative tools are beginner-friendly.
To support entrepreneurs and SMBs, TikTok has recently launched the global Follow Me programme, a free-to-access resource which offers participants guided onboarding, helpful videos with tips from other SMB owners, a playbook with best practices, exclusive events where entrepreneurs can connect with TikTok’s SMB network, giveaways, and more. With the Asia-Pacific region, Follow Me is available across nine markets, namely South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Philippines. To help inspire and guide businesses on TikTok, the platform also sends business account holders regular creative newsletters with best practices and various tips and tricks for making the most of TikTok.
Could your brand be the next big trend in the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag? The potential is certainly there. With an authentic brand voice, paired with inspiration and support provided by TikTok’s SMB-friendly programmes, your chances of having the next TikTok viral product are greatly increased. Just don’t forget that even brands should have fun, as creativity and a sense of joy are key to the TikTok spirit.
Click here to find out more about the Follow Me programme.

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