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Do TikTok and business mix?

Seven years ago, TikTok was the digital playground for teenagers. Back in 2016, if you could gyrate for 10 seconds to a catchy track, you could be a TikTok sensation. Dance and music are still big, but businesses have now entered the fray and are using this skyrocketing platform to boost their sales. How are they doing it, and is TikTok a good match for your own business? 

What is TikTok? 

In a nutshell, TikTok is all about short-form video content. While users can post up to 10 minutes of material, the average clip runs for 34 seconds, and anything and everything is posted. Entertainment is a huge category. Lifestyle is big, as are fashion and beauty, health and fitness, food and cooking, travel and adventure. DIY tutorials also feature strongly, as do pets! 

Whatever the topic, TikTok’s quick and quirky format is designed to keep people glued to their screens with a never-ending feed of creativity and social interaction.  

How are businesses using TikTok? 

Two businesses that are at home in the TikTok space are HMC, the award-winning PR company, and Hamilton Central Business Association (HCBA). HCBA general manager Vanessa Williams recalls their first tentative steps into the short-form video world, and how it proved to be a game-changer. 

“When our organisation began Tiktoking, I knew next to nothing about the platform. All I’d done was a crazy dance video with my daughter, and she did all the editing and posting. So when TikTok crossed our radar as a way to promote our clients, I felt lost. 

“But even then, I could see it was a hand-in-glove fit for our objectives. HCBA exists to promote the myriad shops and businesses in Hamilton’s CBD, and short, snappy videos seemed the perfect way to showcase them to a new audience of younger digital natives.” 

Where do you start? 

Anything unfamiliar and complex is unnerving. It creates mental resistance which keeps us from even starting. Then there are the inevitable questions: What do I do first? Then what? What if I embarrass myself? How much time will this take? Will I see results? What will this cost? It can be overwhelming. 

The first thing HCBA did was to ask for help. Marketing manager, Vicky Redwood read an HMC article on the rise of TikTok and felt they were the people to turn to for advice. 

“It was a great article and HMC offered to chat with anyone interested in dipping their toes in the shallow end. That was us. We didn't even know what we wanted from the TikTok platform, and we certainly didn’t possess the skill to utilise it. We just knew we wanted to explore the opportunity.  

“Just talking through the basics with Jamie was gold. She navigated us through what HCBA needed from TikTok and how Vanessa and I could get things done. It quickly became very doable.” 

Can I find my audience on TikTok? 

The first question any business should ask about TikTok is, ‘Can I find my audience there?’ For HCBA, the answer was yes. TikTok’s strong demographic of younger users aligned with a specific target audience HBCA was trying to reach. Vanessa explains. 

“Because HCBA has a wide range of CBD clients, we have to attract to a variety of people of different ages and interests. We were already leaning heavily into Facebook and Instagram but felt that we lacked a good channel to reach a younger audience. TikTok plugged that gap. 

“We knew from online feedback that young people are wanting things to do. Punchy TikTok clips were a perfect way of creating engaging content that could cover a range of retail and non-retail businesses that suited a targeted demographic.” 

For other businesses, the audience fit with TikTok may be less obvious. Jamie Batters is HMC’s social media expert. She has some simple research advice. 

“See if your competitors are on the platform already. If they are, have a look at their content and the amount of engagement they’re getting from the public. That’s a very quick way to see if TikTok has an audience you can capture.”  

Can I provide value to my audience on this platform? 

Reaching an audience is one thing, but turning them into customers is another. The key is deep engagement – getting them to watch your videos then seek you out for advice. How do you achieve that? For Jamie, it’s about giving them something valuable first. 

“TikTok lends itself to quick explainer videos, light-hearted how-tos, life hacks, “day in the life” videos, and educational tools. Certain products and services are obvious candidates for these kinds of video clips – fashion and beauty, health and fitness, food and cooking, DIY demonstrations. If you’re a lawyer or accountant, what great advice can you give for free? 

“The key is giving your audience something they’ll find valuable. That’s how you become a trusted expert, the person people will turn to when they need what you’re selling.” 

Work to a plan 

Thomas Edison famously said that “Success is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration” That formula is true for most things in life, and TikTok is no exception. TikTok success comes from playing a longer game, which involves a combination of consistency and frequency of content. That may sound daunting, but Vanessa insists it’s well within reach of most businesses, provided they get one thing right. 

“Planning is everything. That’s one the early things Jamie did with us – we sat down with her and laid out a 3-month map of the content we wanted to capture on video. We still had complete flexibility to change tact if certain content didn’t land well, but working to a plan freed us from the weekly stress of ‘What now?’”    

How difficult is it to create video content? 

Got a phone? Then you’re good to go. A cursory look on TikTok will show you that most of the best content has been created with a simple point-and-shoot of the phone video. Editing will sometimes be important, but what wins hearts and minds is authenticity and brevity. For Jamie, keeping things simple is better. 

“Bring it back to basics. I can show anyone how to make compelling content that’s simple to shoot and edit. And don’t be put off when I say “edit”. Clipping video footage from your phone is now very quick and easy.  

“Vanessa and Vicky just gave me a call and we took it from there. Now they’re very confident on TikTok and are off and running without me! I’d love to sit down over a coffee and talk about whether TikTok is suitable for your business.” 

Vanessa Williams & Vicky Redwood