Many brands struggle to find success on social media. You only have to look around Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even TikTok, to see numerous brand accounts with lame, boring, and overtly promotional content, from months, even years ago. And then the posts stop. The brands give up and decide social media isn’t for them. They may have a few hundred followers, who occasionally like or comment on a post, but otherwise, their accounts echo the Sounds of Silence. If only they knew some TikTok secrets, so they could find success on at least one social channel.
Yet it isn’t that hard to have a successful, engaging social media presence. Both big brands and small ones can taste success, with high engagement levels and impressive conversion rates.
Probably the first “secret” (in plain view), is to go where your target audience spends their time. If you’re a funeral home selling prepaid funerals, Facebook should probably be your social channel of focus. However, if you sell to a younger demographic, you can’t ignore the current popularity of TikTok, even if you don’t understand the platform yourself.
Many big brands have succeeded with their TikTok marketing. We examine a selection of TikTok secrets in plain sight you can learn from their successes. And perhaps surprisingly, none of these TikTok secrets will overly surprise you – the brands making it big on TikTok do so because of good gut feeling and common sense, rather than because they follow some mythical magic formula. And that makes it easy for all brands (as long as they target an appropriate audience) to replicate that success.
And another TikTok secret in plain view we share with you:
Throw away all those traditional marketing rules you have religiously followed over the years. The big brands that succeed on TikTok do so because they don’t replicate the marketing they do elsewhere.
Instead, they followed tactics that worked with their target audience rather than what a dusty marketing textbook told them.
TikTok Secrets from Big Brands
1. Work with Influencers and Promote Their Content as In-Feed Spark Ads
Cosmetics brand, Maybelline, has found that working with influencers on TikTok can mean much more than reaching a sizable audience. It can also provide you with video content that you can repurpose and reach an even broader audience. You will have to ensure, however, that any contacts you sign with influencers permit you to reuse their content.
Traditionally, Maybelline’s core target audience was strong, sophisticated and mature women. However, the company wanted to expand their target audience and win the hearts of a younger generation. They chose to promote Volume’ Express Hyper Curl Mascara to enhance brand favorability amongst young digital-native female consumers.
They invited a popular influencer, Reiko, to film a video, ‘Mascara Boyfriend’. The video employed a metaphor comparing eyelashes to boyfriends; no matter how hard you try, just like boyfriends, eyelashes are always not what you want them to be. At the end of the video, Hyper Curl mascara is presented as a solution to the eyelashes problem, if not the boyfriend problem.
Maybelline then promoted the video on TikTok as an In-Feed Ad. Before long, it went viral and attracted massive awareness and engagement.
Thanks to this campaign, Maybelline successfully expanded the target audience of a classic product.
2. Take your serious corporate hat off when marketing on TikTok
Creativity and staying true to your brand can lead to massive TikTok success. We can’t ignore the success some brands have through sheer tenacity, creativity, originality, and being true to themselves. Ryan Air is almost a textbook case for brands hoping to succeed on the platform.
Ryan Air is an Irish ultra-low-cost airline, firmly focused on the budget market. It uses TikTok to demonstrate that you can create memorable experiences even when on a strict budget.
The secret to Ryan’s TikTok success is its understanding of the importance of authenticity to a successful social media presence. Therefore, it doesn’t use its TikTok account to hard-sell flights. Instead, it has built a reputation for sharing funny and stimulating content, that appeals to the section of its target market who engage with TikTok.
It has found particular success with a plane face filter, where it superimposes faces onto its planes. For example, the following five-second video from just before Christmas 2022 has attracted over five million views.
The only airline to slay this hard 💅 #slay #ryanair
They follow the fun with their comments. For example, they joined in the conversation around the above video:
3. Entertain Your Audiences, Don’t Sell to Them
This may seem like heresy to marketers and C-level executives at many big brands, but it is the secret behind many brands’ successes on TikTok. As we wrote in our Guide to Marketing to Generation Z, authenticity and transparency are key when marketing to Gen Z. “Generation Z is just a lot more conscious of advertising tactics and has a greater appreciation for original, creative, authentic material.” The most successful ads come across as organic content.
Duolingo understands this. The company highlights Duo, its big green owl mascot, in its videos. And it doesn’t just include a few pictures of its mascot. No, Duo is a full-size “live” mascot who takes centrestage in his videos. He (or perhaps she) dances and participates in TikTok trends and challenges.
I’m prioritizing ME this year #duolingo #languagelearning #dulapeep
Duo almost makes you feel guilty for not keeping up to date with your language practice.
Duolingo, like Ryan Air, has learned the importance of fully participating in the comments to their videos, too. TikTok users love it when brands break the corporate fourth wall and talk “with” them, not “to” them in comments.
4. Even if You Consider Yourself a “Serious” Brand be Prepared to Keep Your TikTok Account Light
Most big brands keep a strict corporate image on social media. Every post and ad follow stringent rules and guidelines about the look and feel of the brand.
However, the Washington Post, despite being a serious news organisation, has created a sizable audience with of younger generation on TikTok. And it does this by being quirky.
The first thing you notice is its tagline: “we are a newspaper”. You can’t get much clearer than that!
Then you look at the actual videos themselves. They are based on real news events – but take a quirky take on them. The Washington Post understands the importance of delivering its stories to those who use TikTok, rather than simply repeating traditional news messages on a very non-traditional platform. They work with their audience, rather than some artificial representation of how they would like young people to be.
The ozone layer is … healing? The ozone layer — which blocks ultraviolet sunlight from reaching Earth’s surface — continues to slowly thicken.
5. Create a Challenge to Establish Your Brand on TikTok
Just because you are a well-known brand doesn’t mean that TikTok’s young audience will automatically accept you. Even if you sell to Gen Z every day you need to do something special to establish yourself as a force on TikTok. Coca-Cola understands young people well. They have been selling their products, predominantly to younger consumers, since before most of us were born. Yet, when Coca-Cola decided to build a TikTok presence they didn’t just expect people to blindly follow them on the platform. Instead, they started with a hashtag dance challenge, featuring the hashtag, #ShareTheMagic.
Coca-Cola partnered with musician, Khalid, and creator of the Renegade TikTok dance challenge, Jalaiah Harmon, to launch their challenge. They set the challenge with an original dance by Jalaiah to Khalid’s latest single. Coca-Cola then contracted twenty BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of colour) TikTok influencers to amplify the campaign. The choice of BIPOC influencers was a deliberate act by Coca-Cola to improve the position of BIPOC creators on TikTok.
Ultimately, #ShareTheMagic received over 14.2 billion views and encouraged one million creators to make 1.7 million original videos.
According to a Coca-Cola press release, “We [Coca-Cola] want to be inclusive of all passion points and groups by elevating creatives who love our brand – from multi-platinum global superstars like Khalid to emerging talent like Jalaiah – and giving them a stage to connect with our fans”.
If you can find a way to pique the interest of TikTok users, a challenge can be highly beneficial to your brand’s performance. You will, however, need to devote a decent-sized marketing budget to achieve this aim.
6. Repurpose Stunning and Engaging Videos as TopFeed and In-Feed Ads, Linking to a Custom Instant Page.
New Vauxhall mokka elite #newvauxhall #mokka #mokkaelite #vauxhallmokka #fyp #foryou #vauxhall #carsoftiktok #carsalesman #carsaleswoman
You possibly wouldn’t consider the UK’s oldest surviving car brand, Vauxhall, to be the typical brand to target TikTok in its marketing. Yet, that is precisely what Vauxhall did recently with its UNBOX YOURSELF campaign.
Like many leading car makers of late, Vauxhall has embraced the movement to more fuel-efficient vehicles and released its Mokka Electric model. And who will be the main drivers of Vauxhall Mokka cars over time? The current users of TikTok will most likely become Vauxhall’s next generation of customers.
As with many of the firms we’ve profiled here, Vauxhall partnered with a TikTok influencer, in this case, @cjexplores, to produce a series of stunning videos and followed the creator around beautiful UK destinations in her Mokka Electric. Other creators joined in, and they too produced engaging content relating to using the Mokka Electric.
Vauxhall then repurposed these videos as TopFeed Ads and In-Feed Ads which linked to a Custom Instant Page. Advertisers can build fast, mobile-first landing pages (11x faster than external landing pages) from within TikTok Ads Manager.
Ultimately, Vauxhall’s campaign achieved over 75,000 clicks to their Instant Page. Surveys showed they achieved an 8.9% lift in ad recall.
7. Boost Your TikTok Followers with User-Generated Content
Doesn’t get anymore annoying than this 🤦♂️ #spotter #gym #gymtok #fitness #fyp #foryou #gymshark
A year ago, we highlighted the success Gymshark found in promoting its services on social media, particularly on TikTok. At that stage (December 2021) they had consolidated an extremely healthy 3.4 million TikTok followers worldwide in just over a year, after shifting their focus from Instagram, where they had already tasted success.
That success has continued since we wrote that article, and by January 2023 they have now attained 4.3 million followers.
In that article, we looked at six tactics Gymshark used to grow their TikTok account, all of which would be valuable for most brands to try and emulate. However, one tactic stands out – using user-focused content to boost TikTok followers.
Remember, if you’re using TikTok to target Generation Z, you are fighting their natural distaste for anything promotional. This can be particularly challenging if you’re paying for ads that look anything like normal ads. User generated content can be powerful in creating that spark you need. All TikTok’s users want to do is swipe through to a video that will entertain them – not watch your ad. Gymshark understands this – even the most committed gym junkies don’t want to see yet another ad for a gym, even if they feel dissatisfied with the one where they usually train. But if they see gym-related videos (preferably entertaining) from fellow TikTokers, then that is a different story.
That doesn’t mean that Gymshark doesn’t share some original content – they upload workout tips, their take on current trends, funny videos, and amusing videos. However, they also curate content and incorporate their messages in such a way that they don’t come across as promotional.
Finding a TikTok Agency That Can Knows Those Key TikTok Secrets
It can be daunting to see other firms, particularly your competitors, succeed on TikTok, particularly as most of these TikTok secrets appear relatively straightforward and obvious. Yet they typically require massive changes in mindsets from conventional marketing thinking.
Perhaps the biggest change in thinking necessary if you intend to use TikTok as a marketing channel is that it isn’t all about you. TikTok users couldn’t care less about your brand. They come to the platform primarily for entertainment and have little to no interest in any conventional ads you might throw at them.
Any TikTok agency that understands the platform can tell you this. Even big-name, popular brands can’t expect to coast on name recognition with TikTok. They must earn their audience on the platform.
While many of these TikTok secrets may not appear ground-shattering, they can take considerable time and resources to do well. For example, it’s much harder to make an ad that doesn’t look like an ad than a lavish production you’d play on television.
House of Marketers is an expert at understanding TikTok’s users. Our agency can help you micro-target your target audience, source influential creators, and produce high-converting content that will attract the interest of the “right” TikTok users. By leaving this to our TikTok marketing specialists you can more productively devote your time to selling your goods and doing the things that really matter to your business. The TikTok secrets we have covered are not hard, but they do require consistent effort and monitoring to see optimal results.
House of Marketers (HOM) is a leading TikTok Marketing Agency. Our global agency was built by early TikTok Employees & TikTok Partners, which gives us the insider knowledge to help leading brands, like Redbull, Playtika, Badoo, and HelloFresh win on TikTok. Want us to convert more of Gen Z and Millennials with TikTok? Get in touch with our friendly team, here.