01 Jun How TikTok is Changing the Way We Market
These days, it feels like everything from world news, fashion, music, buying habits, mental health discussions and comedy skits are being shared on the dreaded “clock-app” and despite my initial apprehension to download TikTok, I must admit that the platform has very quickly become one of my favourite ways to consume content, and my reason? It is completely unpredictable.
Gone are the days where TikTok is reserved for sharing your latest dance moves to a trending song. Instead, it is defining pop culture, opening conversations, and changing how we interact, engage and market. Without a doubt, it is completely fascinating – and perhaps even addicting – trying to understand how the platform works.
I think one of the most perplexing parts about TikTok is how accurate the algorithm is. The ‘For You Page’ (also known as FYP) is tailored to share the content that you want to see, based on your searches and interactions on the platform. The more you engage and spend time on TikTok, the more refined and relevant the content becomes.
When putting my husband’s and my phone next to one another, we both have vastly different content. While my FYP shares the latest book recommendations, F1 news, mental health awareness, plus-size influencers and discussions on corporate culture, his shows the latest in Premier League news, comedians sharing their work and the odd recipe. However, we both get a sprinkling of pop culture and world discussions which I believe is the app’s way of deciding what we are interested in, to tailor that content further. For example, I engaged with content related to the Depp trial, but skipped content regarding the Texas shooting, so in turn was shown more content about the trial and no further content on the shooting.
It’s breaking rules
Unlike Facebook – which is very corporate driven – and Instagram – which is curated and ‘picture-perfect’ – TikTok takes everything we know about social media marketing and turns it on its head.
For the first time, we’re seeing brands breaking that “corporate” barrier and spending time engaging in content created by regular people like you and me. Companies like Duolingo, Ryanair and Tabasco – who quickly realised that TikTok isn’t the platform to be “perfect” but rather a space to be human – have gained quick success.
Suddenly, we find ourselves being able to engage with celebs like Lizzo, who duets and engages regularly with her fans. We can ask science-y questions to people like Hank Green and engage with his and his brother’s childhood drama over selling baseball cards. Not to mention, we can simply hit Dan Povenmire up with a request to draw a custom Perry the Platypus from Phineas and Ferb for our next tattoo. There is no longer a barrier between “us” and the brand or person – we can engage freely and embrace the human element, making the world seem smaller and more relatable, which I think was needed during the pandemic.
Throw away everything you know about marketing
Probably the most fascinating thing about TikTok is how marketing has changed and evolved. I find that brands who are trying to force their product or service down your throat in the way of paid ads and even through curated content, sometimes completely miss the mark. Whereas brands who are shared in a more authentic and organic way by means of a third-party person showing or talking about the product can lead to viral success. The result? You can’t count on anything.
As an example, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas was first published in 2015 and while the book was popular among fantasy and YA readers, no one could have predicted that it would shoot up in popularity more than 5 years later, like it has, because of the ‘Booktok’ community on TikTok.
If we look at Google Search trends (source), we can see that prior to it going viral on Booktok, the interest had dropped to as low as 26, but a mere 3-months later, the book peaked in interest. Since then, it has had periodic spikes because of newer Booktok members restarting the viral success of the now infamous fan favourite ensuring that every Sarah J Maas release day is a battle of “fastest finger to checkout”.
The same can be said for authors like V.E. Schwab, Holly Black, Madeline Miller and Jennifer L Armentrout whose books are 10-20 years old and yet, they’re seeing new spikes in interest caused by content that has gone viral on TikTok. Most interestingly is that this content is not curated or distributed through the author pages, but rather through the Booktok community of creators.
In the same breath, indie authors like Raven Kennedy and Lauren Asher who self-published their Plated Prisoner and Dreamland Billionaires series respectively, have gained popularity among romance readers that traditional publishers have been forced to take notice and buy the rights to traditionally publish and distribute these Kindle Unlimited favourites.
And this is all just what we can see in relation to books. So, if we start looking closer at all sorts of industries – from cleaning products, to apps, office environments and work culture –TikTok is having a massive impact on the brands we use, and how we engage and interact.
The real question is, how – or rather, when – will you use TikTok to grow your brand?