The past decades have seen a radical transformation in the way that information is being shared - from the early days of internet, when communicating via online channels suddenly became possible, to the present-day, where the search for authenticity amid a crowded digital space is a key concern. The latter is evidenced perhaps, by the explosive rise of TikTok in the past two years.
That rise is particularly evident in Southeast Asia. According to Sensor Tower, TikTok crossed two billion downloads in April 2020 - a sizable portion coming from the region. It's likely that number has risen further with work-from-home policies during this period.
TikTok is unique in the way it engages with both content creators and followers - never before have we seen audiences so eager to express themselves. From a brand’s perspective, this voracious appetite to create new content provides ample opportunities to connect with audiences. Yet, this also poses unfamiliar challenges for brands. Engaging with customers in today’s Age of Participation means rethinking how you're connecting with your audiences. This means being truly authentic and moving away from simply blasting off a branded message with the hope that it sticks.
From the Age of Communication to the Age of Participation
TikTok calls this age of user engagement fuelled by short-form videos - the Age of Participation. In the last couple of decades, our need to - and ways of - engage(ing) and to express(ing) ourselves has evolved in dramatic ways. During the Age of Communication, information was divulged one-dimensionally through IRC or forums, and mostly behind anonymous accounts. In the mid 2000s, Facebook ushered in the Age of Interaction, where sharing our personal lives with the world in exchange for likes became commonplace. When Instagram broke onto the scene a decade later, it ushered in the Age of Expression - we became comfortable in our own skin, so much so we started to share not only our opinions and interests, but every facet of our lives through social media.
The Age of Participation, according to TikTok is a culmination of all that. One only needs to look at the engagement levels of a TikTok hashtag challenge. Now, TikTok for Business plans on leveraging that virality, alongside recently-launched tools, such as Branded Effect, which allows brands to create ads on 2D, 3D and AR formats, to help brands engage with consumers on the platform.
What makes TikTok unique
At the root of TikTok’s high participatory rate is the way it encourages users to discover content. Unlike most social networks, TikTok doesn’t use a social graph to recommend content. What you see isn’t defined by what your friends enjoy, or how popular a piece of content is. Rather, your feed is an amalgamation of your personal interests and preferences.
Not only does this formula enable one to discover content from all walks of life, it also democratises the content discovery process. As a viewer, you’re watching what you to enjoy. As a creator, regardless of the number of followers you have, you have an opportunity to be seen by the world. And on TikTok, one is likely to find communities with interests of all kinds - from the mass to the super-niche. This scale of participation or engagement on is rarely found anywhere else.
Why and how TikTok matters for businesses
As much of an unique opportunity TikTok presents, the best performing campaigns stay true to its roots in offering creative, yet also truly authentic content. On TikTok, the campaigns that generate the highest traction are often those that are most creative in engaging with users. TikTok users generally have a huge appetite to consume and create content, and become your ‘unofficial’ brand ambassador - as long as your campaign strikes a chord. TikTok virality isn’t just a pipe dream or buzzword - it is critical for brands who want their campaigns to succeed on TikTok.
That might be music to the ears of smaller brands. Even if your marketing budget is small, as long as you have the right mix of creative and strategic thinking, and are able to create content that resonate with your key audiences, your campaign is likely to succeed. That said, what a sizable budget could do is drive the right audience at scale to a piece of content, for example, by using precise targeting.
Equipping yourself with the tools to succeed on TikTok
To ensure the success of any digital campaign, it goes without saying that marketers need to adapt not only their messaging but strategy to that specific platform, whether it might be Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram. And so it is for marketers who are looking to promote their brands on TikTok - they must recalibrate current thinking around content creation, virality and audiences.
To lend a hand to SMBs, TikTok for Business is rolling out an educational programme across APAC that'll divulge the latest in the TikTok world - to give marketers the tools and confidence to promote their messaging on TikTok, and to help those new to the platform become TikTok marketing rockstars.
July 28: SEA Webinar
August 6: Thailand Webinar
TikTok is also dedicating US$100 million in ad credits to help small busineses reach their customers on the platform during this difficult time. Eligible SMB customers can claim a one-time ad credit worth US$300 to be used before December 31,2020. Any additional spending will also be matched 1-to-1 with ad credit, up to US$2000 per business. Click here for more information about the initiative.