The Power of TikTok – Brand Building Through Micro-Storytelling

TikTok has become an increasingly powerful force in social media but how can we use it to drive business value?'

Since its initial release in September 2016, TikTok has steadily grown into a major player in the social media market. Known in China as Douyin, the video-focused social network has seen particularly significant adoption amongst Gen Z and Gen Alpha. In fact, it’s this mainstream success that earned TikTok an average of 1 billion monthly active users during January 2022.  

In line with this statistic, businesses can no longer afford to treat TikTok as niche. This goes doubly so as its total user base sneaks ever closer to the total population of China. Consequently, several organizations have started to incorporate TikTok into their social media strategy to build out their brand. In particular, businesses want to take advantage of the sites micro-storytelling capabilities to help get the word out. 

What is Micro-Storytelling? 

Micro-storytelling refers to the application of status updates, short videos, photos, and hashtags to convey a brand’s message at pace. The emphasis here is on taking up as little of the audience’s time as possible, cutting straight to the value. Mastering this will be critical to engaging the TikTok market given the love/hate relationship that its audience has with ads. 

How are Brands Using TikTok? 

Brands can leverage TikTok one of three ways: 

  1. Influencer Marketing With a sizeable community of influencers, brands can look to pull on content creators to assist with brand marketing.
    Dunkin’ – Dunkin’ was one of the first major brands to utilize influencers to increase brand awareness. For example, by working with creator Charli D’Amelio on a new product launch, the coffee company saw a 57% spike in app downloads from the campaign. 
  2. Original Content – Businesses can also create their own video content to take advantage of current trends and sentiments on the platform.
    NBA – The NBA use their TikTok account to host lighter, less formal content. Unlike their Instagram account, TikTok is used as a space to express the personality of their brand.  
  3. Paid Ads – Delivered through its own advertising platform, TikTok For Business, ads on TikTok were introduced during June 2020. These allow organizations to run in-feed ads or create branded hashtags and video effects.
    KFC – KFC have made use of TikTok For Business to boost brand favourability and purchase intent through reach and frequency ads. 

How to Realize the Power of TikTok 

As with all things though, success is easier to imagine than to institute. What works for one brand may not work for another and this is something we must be prepared to accept. To this extent, your offering on TikTok must be tightly wound around who you are and what you do. For Natalie Wills – Chief Marketing Officer for Zalando – leveraging TikTok to this effect has become part of the everyday.  

In her recent keynote presentation at GDS’ March CMO EU Summit, Natalie discussed the platform and the values of micro-storytelling. Accordingly, for the businesses planning to jump onto TikTok and engage the audiences therein, Natalie offered 6 key tips. 

  1. Understanding: If we want to grasp the ins and outs of TikTok, we must get to grips with the platform. As such, Natalie suggests that “the first thing to do is spend time with the platform to understand what works for your brand or for your business.”
  2. Dare to fail: We must be open to failure where TikTok is concerned as the learnings it provides could prove invaluable. In Natalie’s words, “there were many times that we failed, and we just had to pick up and move on, taking the learnings from failures.”
  3. Empowering creators: If we want to realize success on TikTok, it is critical that we trust the creators to work their magic. As Natalie put it, “there are such incredibly talented people out there that make beautiful pieces of content. As long as you give them a very well guided brief, the creators can make some real magic happen for your brand.”
  4. Challenge Preconceptions: We all have preconceptions about what exactly TikTok is, but it is up to us to challenge them. As Natalie put it, “on TikTok, you do not have to dance. There are many things you can do like DIY etc, so do not feel that TikTok is just about dancing.”
  5. Know Your Space: Naturally, on TikTok there will be spaces for your business to have impact and spaces for you to disregard. As Natalie put it “not every trend is yours to own. Work out what’s right for you because you don’t want to be that brand that is seen as inauthentic.”
  6. Don’t Make Ads, Make TikToks: In line with the inauthenticity described above, if you’re looking at being on TikTok, don’t make ads, make TikToks. As Natalie concluded, “make sure that you have got really engaging native content that makes your community smile and engage with you, versus putting an ad up that is going to annoy more than anything else.” 

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