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Practical Guide to TikTok: Marketing and Advertising


Digital Marketing / July 16, 2020

What Marketers Need to Know About TikTok 

2020 is truly a TikTok takeover. In the past few months, the app really showed that it was more than crazy challenges and weird dances, it can also become a powerful marketing tool for brands. Here’s the topic we’ll cover in this article:

• What is TikTok?
• How does TikTok Work?
• Who uses TikTok?
• Why is TikTok so popular?
• How to use Tiktok For Business?
• Advertising on TikTok

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a 15-second-or-less video creation app that can be compared to a bite-size version of YouTube. Unlike other social media platforms geared towards connections and friends circle, TikTok focuses on what’s popular and trendy. With TikTok, users have the unique opportunity to express their creativity or showcase a special talent and share it with the world. 

TikTok was already the most downloaded app of 2018, but, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the platform witnessed a massive boost. According to Comscore, TikTok’s U.S. unique visitor count rose by 48.3% between January and March 2020. Furthermore, the time spent on TikTok increased substantially this year. U.S. visitors spent, on average, 14 hours and 18 minutes on the app in March 2020, a 26.2% increase over January 2020.

How Does TikTok Work?

TikTok offers a fully-immersive vertical video experience whose mission is to “inspire creativity and bring joy.” Unlike more passive social media platforms like YouTube, TikTok’s users are highly-engaged as content creators – more than a third (!) of TikTok’s users create content on any given day. According to eMarketer, TikTok is part of a new type of “social entertainment” that’s capturing the attention of teens across the world. Users can also engage with other content through likes, comments, shares, and reaction videos. 

On their homepage, users have access to the “Following” tab (content from creators they are following) and the “For You” tab (a curated list of content that will most likely interest the user). The way the app is designed hooks users in as bursts of content keeps appearing automatically. 

Then, on the “Discover” tab, users have access to popular hashtags and challenges. TikTok’s most popular content includes dances, hacks, DIY, and lip-sync, and more.

Who uses TikTok?

TikTok is available in about 150 markets around the world in 39 different languages. China, India, the United States, and the United Kingdom are the most active countries on TikTok. According to Apptopia, in September 2019, 48% of TikTok’s active mobile user base in the U.S. was 20 and younger, a higher rate than Snapchat (44.5%), and even Instagram (43.5%). 18 to 24 years olds are TikTok’s biggest age group followed by 13 to 17 years olds. Another source says that 60% of TikTok users are between 16 and 24.

Plus, about 60% of TikTok’s U.S. users are female and 40% are male.

There are many reasons behind TikTok’s increase in popularity:

1. TikTok’s algorithm is extremely powerful as it dictates which content is seen by users rather than just suggesting content like Facebook and Instagram. Their special algorithm allows pretty much anyone to potentially become famous. 

2. TikTok’s successes rely on Gen Z using social media as an entertainment tool rather than a place to share personal updates.

3. Users have access to a wide variety of visual filters, time effects, split screens, green screens, transitions, stickers, gifs, emoji, and more to embrace their creative side. 

4. TikTok users also have access to an extensive music library to add complex sound effects to their creation. The social platform even has an integration with Apple Music.

5. A ton of content on TikTok focuses on recreating another video or challenge. Therefore, users do not have to be highly skilled or have access to fancy tools to create user-generated content and jump on the bandwagon.

How to use Tiktok For Business?

Brands are flocking to TikTok to try and grab a piece of the puzzle while it’s still a fairly new marketing channel. And, some brands, have been killing it: 

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren’s Tiktok page focuses on exclusive content that can’t be found on Facebook or Instagram. They use clever TikTok editing to create eye-catching 10-second lookbooks. Ralph Lauren also works closely with younger influencers to support their content on the platform.


This very simple post to show off Dunkin’s new Iced Matcha Latte got almost 1 million views, 120K likes, and 872 shares. 


The American Eagle Outfitters sister brand uses organic TikTok posts as well as branded hashtag challenges to connect with TikTok users. Their #AerieRealPositivity as over 2 Billion (!!!) posts on TikTok.

Clip N’ Climb

As I was roaming the app, looking for SMB that were successfully using TikTok as a marketing tool, I stumbled upon Clip N’ Climb, a family-friendly climbing center in Laval, Québec. One of their homemade TikTok video as over 1 million views and they have over 38K followers on TikTok. In comparison, their Instagram page has just over a thousand followers. Clip N’ Climb success seems to rely on funny and simple videos created by their team members. Well done!

Five Tips to Use TikTok As a Marketing Tool

The last thing you want to do, as a business, is to use the platform without really understanding its purpose, its users, and its creative abilities. Every brand should take some time to test, research, and use the platform before fully launching. Here are 5 tips to keep in mind for brands looking to add TikTok to their marketing mix: 

1. Keep branded content short and engaging

We’ve been telling brands for years to keep their video short and to-the-point. Internet users’ attention span is getting shorter and shorter every year. As for Gen Z, their attention span is less than 8 seconds, it’s therefore even more important to keep TikTok videos short and straight forward. 

2. Don’t repurpose content from other platforms

What works on Facebook and Instagram probably won’t work on TikTok. Try to create brand new content within the TikTok guidelines rather than repurpose content from other platforms. Keep in mind that TikTok even flags low-quality content (often from Instagram).

3. Focus on entertaining content

Unlike Pinterest or Instagram where users are looking for shopping inspiration, TikTok is primarily for entertainment. Your content’s main goal shouldn’t be informational or promotional, it should be entertainment. For brands, working with influencers and content creators can add authenticity to a post without completely removing the entertainment value.

4. Be open-minded and test new ideas

TikTok is a fairly new platform and brands need to take time to learn the platform inside and out. Not many brands have cracked the TikTok code, it’s, therefore, a great opportunity to try out new things and see what works best. 

5. Keep things simple and relatable

If your brand is trying to launch a new hashtag or a new challenge, make sure your content is easy to replicate, accessible, and fun.

Can you Run Ads on TikTok?

Yes, brands in Canada and the U.S. can advertise on TikTok to express their brands’ voice, encourage user-generated content, and create a long-lasting relationship with their younger audience.

Just like Pinterest and Snapchat, advertisers can use TikTok’s self-serve advertising platform. TikTok advertisement possibilities are pretty unique, here’s a rundown of ads available on TikTok: 

Branded hashtag challenge

This is TikTok’s signature ad placement as it’s a never-seen-before ad feature that highlights user-created content. This ad type invites users to use their tendency to create and reinvent by participating in a brand challenge and use a specific hashtag. This unique advertising form drives deep engagement and can quickly become a viral success story. 

The branded hashtag challenge is showcased on the “Discover” page and works well in combination with brand takeover ads, in-feed video ads, and influence marketing. Featured above is Guess’ branded hashtag challenge in the U.S.

Brand takeover ad

A brand Takeover Ads is either an image, a gif, or a video that appears when a user opens the app. It’s the first interaction users will have with the platform and last between 3 and 5 seconds. This ad placement is incredibly exclusive as only one brand is promoted each day. 

Topview Takeover

Very similar to a Brand Takeover Ad, the TopView Ad appears as the first in-feed post seen by viewers. The ad runs up to 60 seconds, with sound on. Keep in mind that no targeting is available for this placement as it reaches an app-wide audience.

In-feed video ads

TikTok’s In-Feed Videos Ads looks similar to in-feed ads found on other social media platforms. This Tiktok advertisement is a clickable 5-30 seconds long full-screen vertical video experience. This more common advertising placement is great at generating brand awareness and increasing traffic to a website. 

With In-Feed Ads, brands can also add the super like feature which increases engagement. When a user likes an ad, floating hearts with branded elements are displayed on the screen.

Branded effects

The branded effects are very similar to Snapchat Filters, they run for 6-days in conjunction with the hashtag challenge. 

How to Run TikTok Ads?

There are a few rules to follow to create efficient advertising on TikTok. Let’s deep-dive into TikTok’s advertising.


TikTok’s advertising placements support the following objectives: reach, traffic, app installs, video views, and conversion. These objectives fit right into the conversion funnel. Reach campaigns should be used for awareness purposes. Traffic, App Installs, and Video Views work well for consideration, or mid-funnel, campaigns. And, finally, conversion-driven campaigns fit perfectly for bottom-funnel or action-driven ad campaigns.

Ad formats

For in-feed advertisements, TikTok recommends using a vertical video (9:16 aspect ratio) as the creative. 

  • Key elements should be kept in the center, otherwise, they will be covered by icons
  • The video file should be .mp4 or MOV and it should be under 500MB.
  • Ad copy should be around 12-80 English characters


Just like other social media advertising platforms, TikTok ads offer first-party targeting and third-party targeting. Custom audiences, lookalike audiences, and remarketing audiences are available for in-feed ads.

Advertisers can target TikTok users based on different characteristics such as demographics, languages, devices and interests.

Bidding Methods

Bidding strategies are an important part of any advertising campaign. TikTok currently offers 4 bidding methods

  • Cost per click (CPC): the cost you are willing to pay per click
  • Optimized Cost per Click (oCPC): the price you are willing to pay per results or conversions
  • Cost per Thousand Impressions (CPM): the price you are willing to pay for a thousand impressions
  • Cost per Thousand Views (CPV): the price you are willing to pay per one thousand 6-second or 2-second video view


To ensure that your ads have sufficient budget, the minimum budget at the campaign level for an in-feed ad is $500 and the minimum budget at the ad group level is $50.

There you have it! We hope you know a little bit about TikTok and its advertising platform. If you are looking for a digital ad agency to help you launch your TikTok ad strategy, get a proposal here.

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Marie-Joëlle Turgeon

Marie-Joelle works at Bloom, a digital marketing agency, as a Marketing Coordinator. She's passionate about digital marketing tactics (from social media to web design) for B2B businesses looking to grow online.


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