By now, you’ve probably heard of the emerging social media site, TikTok. Launched in 2016, the platform now boasts 500 million active users worldwide. TikTok was also downloaded 1 billion times in 2018, eclipsing Instagram’s 444 million downloads.

Apps by Worldwide downloads

Source: SensorTower

So What Exactly is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media app that allows users to post short-form lip-synced, music, talent, or comedy focused mobile videos. TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. The platform’s mission is to “empower and share the world’s imagination, knowledge, and moments that matter. The platform is a home for creative expression through videos that create a genuine, inspiring, and joyful experience.”

How TikTok is Different

TikTok is different from other social media platforms in that it is content-driven rather than relationship-driven. That means that when a user opens their feed, they see the most popular content first – rather than content from other users that they know and have connected with on the platform. TikTok’s content is also a sharp departure from the perfectly curated images made popular by the rise of Instagram. These differences make the platform especially popular with Generation Z.

“People have been in a perfect, manufactured world for a while, where they have to live up to expectations and ideals. Now it’s about real life. Real people. It’s getting a window into someone else’s life, with surprise and delight. And because it’s content-driven, not connection-driven, you see people you wouldn’t normally see, outside of your traditional circle.”
– Stefan Heinrich, Director of U.S. Marketing

It’s still early days for this social platform, but brands should be paying attention. In the past year, TikTok has tested and launched advertising options including in-feed native video ads, brand takeovers, hashtag challenges, and more. The app’s parent company

ByteDance is also taking steps to monetize the user-generated content (UGC) that millions of people post to the video-sharing platform.

If Generation Z is a target demographic for your brand, the time to embrace TikTok has come. However, young users tend to be ahead of the curve when it comes to social media. As TikTok continues to mature and grow it will become an important way for brands to connect with members of older generations as well.

If you are considering experimenting with TikTok, here are 7 brands that are already doing it well to get your creative juices flowing.

#1 GUESS Launches First-Ever Fashion Takeover on TikTok

GUESS Launches First-Ever Fashion Takeover on TikTok

Image source: Business Wire

In 2018, fashion brand GUESS launched the Guess #InMyDenim challenge, encouraging fans to post videos using the hashtag while wearing GUESS clothing. It was the first-ever campaign of its kind on TikTok. As each user opened the app during the GUESS brand flight, they were directed to the #InMyDenim challenge.

To kick off the challenge, GUESS partnered with popular influencers including  @ourfire (2.3M fans), @madison_willow (+983K fans), @jammincammy (+184k fans), and @operamericano (+380k fans). These partners participated in the denim transformation challenge by posting a native meme from TikTok.

TAKEAWAY: This campaign was an early example of how brands can work with TikTok to create a campaign that makes viewers want to be a part of something big. It encouraged user-generated content creation, resulting in over 37 million views of videos using the hashtag #InMyDenim.

#2 Uniqlo Engages Fans Desire for Diversity & Creativity

Uniqlo on TikTok

Source: Mobile Marketer

In a similar campaign to GUESS, retail brand Uniqlo partnered with TikTok to launch a hashtag challenge campaign to promote their Spring and Summer 2019 collection. The campaign not only challenged users of TikTok to post videos of themselves wearing their favorite Uniqlo outfits but also incentivized participants. Winning videos were offered a chance to appear on video screens at Uniqlo stores and on the brand’s social media accounts.

This challenge got users of TikTok talking about Uniqlo and encouraged contestants to follow the brand’s TikTok account. After posting a public video with the campaign hashtag (#UTPlayYourWorld), participants could receive notification of winning if they followed the @uniqlo.tiktok account on TikTok.

TAKEAWAY: TikTok is a platform that celebrates diversity and creativity – and has become a preferred destination for users to express themselves through their videos. Uniqlo leaned into this creativity by encouraging a new and influential generation of consumers to engage with the brand through this novel format of user-generated content.

#3 Chipotle Celebrates National Avocado Day with #GuacDance Campaign

Chipotle on TikTok

Source: PR Newswire

Chipotle’s #GuacDance challenge urged guacamole fans to show off dance moves dedicated to avocados on National Avocado Day. The campaign, which launched in July of 2019, received 250,000 video submissions and 430 million video starts during its six-day run.

These results make the campaign TikTok’s highest-performing branded challenge in the U.S. It also resulted in Chipotle’s biggest guacamole day ever, with more than 800,000 sides of the condiment served.

TAKEAWAY: Challenges are a key component of successful campaigns on TikTok. Active participation from users is a key driver of viral growth. Chipotle’s #GuacDance was a fun and lovable approach to encouraging user engagement.

#4 NBA Ups the Relatability Factor

Unlike its Instagram channel, which focuses purely on basketball games and highlights, the NBA’s TikTok posts show the lighthearted, and sometimes silly, side of the professional organization. They’ll often post videos of players working out dramatically to music, dancing on the court, or adventures of team mascots. The NBA uses the app’s musical features to make its athletes and brand feel more relatable. The videos still promote basketball, but they fit well within a TikTok feed that is full of other funny or musical posts.

TAKEAWAY: It’s always important that a brand’s content fits within the ecosystem of the platform they are on. TikTok offers even the most professional brands an opportunity to show off their lighter side and create more engagement with fans.

#5 The Washington Post Goes After a Younger Demographic

You may not think of The Washington Post as a fit for an emerging platform full of music videos and memes, but the news organization curates its content in a way that works on TikTok.

Instead of focusing on news headlines, they use their account to post comedic behind-the-scenes videos and skits about the newsroom. These videos fit in perfectly with the platform because they’re funny, musical, and embrace some of TikTok’s weirdest special effects.

TAKEAWAY: When experimenting with new platforms or types of content, it’s important to keep brand guidelines in mind. The Washington Post’s TikTok content is still appropriately funny and pleasant – while showing the real people behind the journalism. By fitting their content to the platform, The Washington Post is able to raise brand awareness among a younger demographic.

#6 Ralph Lauren Lets Consumers Drive Platform Decisions

A longtime sponsor of the U.S. Open, Ralph Lauren looked to TikTok this year to help them embrace a new generation of consumers. The campaign was the first on TikTok that tied into a live sporting event and incorporated the use of custom content and influencer activation in partnership with TikTok content creators. By testing new advertising opportunities on the emerging platform, Ralph Lauren was able to extend its marketing efforts onto more mobile platforms and engage younger, tech-savvy generations.

TAKEAWAY: While Ralph Lauren plans to use TikTok in the future to continue winning over a younger customer base, they rely on consumer behavior to guide their platform decisions. When asked about future campaigns Alice Delahunt, Chief Digital Officer, remarked, “The consumers and users decide to the life and death of a platform… we’ll participate and grow as this platform grows.”

#7 The San Diego Zoo Embraces the Natural Platform Fit

The San Diego Zoo has a very simple TikTok strategy: post videos of cute animals with funny music. It’s no secret that cute animals drive engagement, but they also fit naturally into the ecosystem of TikTok. And the results are clear: in the short time the zoo has been on the platform their account has grown to over 50,000 fans.

TAKEAWAY: Sometimes a platform comes along that just perfectly fits your brand. When that happens, it’s important not to overthink the strategy. Just get yourself on the app and start experimenting. You will learn quickly what content resonates the most with users.

Is TikTok Right For Your Brand?

When a new platform comes along, it’s not always clear if joining is the right move for a brand. It’s important to consider what the platform does, who is using it and how it will affect internal resources. While TikTok is still in its early days, the platform has earned some well-deserved attention with its fast growth and ability to win over Generation Z. It may just turn out to be the next big thing in social media. What are your thoughts on TikTok? Will your brand be jumping on the bandwagon?

To learn more about the latest social media platforms, join us at one of our upcoming social media strategy conferences.

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