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As it awaits its US fate, TikTok doubles down on its revenue funnel with marketing partners

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There’s a big question mark hanging over the future of TikTok right now, in the form of what exactly will happen to its U.S. business come September 20, when President Trump said he plans to shut down the Chinese-owned app over security concerns.

But in the meantime, it seems to be business as usual for the app.

Today, TikTok — which has 100 million users in the U.S. — announced a slate of marketing partners to help brands create and measure the impact of campaigns on the app. The company, owned by ByteDance in China, is kicking off the program with 20 partners that include companies for campaign management (e.g. Sprinklr and Bidalgo); for creative development (e.g. QuickFrame and Shuttlerock); branded effects around VR and AR (e.g. Bare Tree Media and Byte); and measurement (Kantar). The full list is below.

This is the latest expansion of TikTok for Business, the company’s advertising platform, which launched officially in June to bundle together TikTok’s existing marketing products alongside a new AR product it launched to rival Snapchat’s.

TikTok confirmed to us that this is a global initiative — that is, it’s set up to create marketing campaigns for wherever TikTok is available.

And I’m going to be honest. It feels a little like an alternate TikTok reality, like the kind you might see in a split-screen meme on the app itself.

On one side, adding marketing partners is very, very standard for a social media app that’s doubling down on making money through adtech based on its growing and engaged (and young) audience. Facebook (and the apps in its stable like Instagram) did it. Twitter did it. Snapchat did it.

And now TikTok is doing it. It speaks to the company’s ambition to expand its platform to work with the biggest brands and at scale, leveraging its strong audience growth to build advertising units to sell brands and products to them in innovative and sticky ways that are uniquely “TikTok.”

On the other side, of course, TikTok is having anything other than a standard growth trajectory right now.

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It’s in the middle of a messy bidding process for ByteDance to sell TikTok’s U.S. assets (along, potentially, with others) to U.S. owners. The company has had to deal with the abrupt departure of its U.S. head. And now the situation seems to be spilling over into speculation over what might happen in other parts of the world, such as India. All of this means that it’s unclear what will happen to marketing relationships, and where advertisers and partners will be left if and when the app has to splinter.

Or indeed, how ad products and other IP would be passed on in a potential sale. (Right now, reportedly, one of the sticking points for a deal has been the possibility that China might limit which algorithms, which form the basis of how TikTok works, would be passed on in a sale.)

“With the launch of TikTok For Business, we’re building new opportunities for marketers to be creative storytellers and meaningfully engage with the TikTok community,” Melissa Yang, head of Ecosystem Partnerships, TikTok, noted in the blog post. “We’re thrilled to collaborate with some of the most strategic and trusted leaders in the advertising industry and continue giving marketers access to more tools to successfully create, measure and optimize ad campaigns on TikTok. We can’t wait to collaborate with partners to bring a creative and joyful experience to our brand partners and the broader TikTok community.”

We asked TikTok if it can comment on how marketing programs like these would be affected if and when the company does split up into regional operations, and it declined to comment specifically. “Unfortunately we’re not able to comment on speculation,” said a spokesperson. “In general we along with our partners are excited to kick off these partnerships and continue bringing more solutions to the marketing community.”

Here’s the full list of partners in the meantime, per TikTok:

Campaign Management to plan, create, optimize and measure marketing campaigns

  • Bidalgo – Bidalgo drives growth and reduces user acquisition complexity for mobile marketers, leveraging AI to generate actionable insights and powerful automation capabilities for creative production and media buying.
  • BidShake – Empowers fast, efficient and reliable campaign management by enabling real-time, automated cross-channel actions based on aggregated data all from one platform.
  • Sprinklr – The world’s leading Customer Experience Management (CXM) platform.
  • WinClap – The marketing company that provides advanced AI analytics, expertise and creative production to boost the performance of your campaigns.
  • MakeMeReach – Multi-channel ads management platform optimized for scale.

Creative Development to build assets like videos that work on TikTok

  • QuickFrame – More than a marketplace connecting brands to video creators. We help businesses grow by transforming the way they produce video content at scale.
  • Shuttlerock – Transforms existing brand assets into stunning handcrafted video ads.
  • VidMob – Leading creative analytics & post-production platform that uses data to understand your creative, improve your ads and increase marketing performance.
  • Vidsy – Helping brands achieve their business goals with effective digital ad creative.
  • Cohley – Helps brands and agencies cost effectively scale the creation of UGC videos for ads.

Branded Effects for AR and VR content

  • Bare Tree Media – A full-service creative agency enabling brands to reach, engage and entertain consumers through the creation and digital publishing of augmented reality (AR), emojis, messaging stickers and GIFs within popular messaging platforms.
  • Byte – Global specialists in branded AR, Byte is a martech agency that combines technology and creativity to  help solve brands’ challenges.
  • Happy Finish – Global creative production collective studio, creating realities. We specialise in cross-platform services including Retouch, CGI, Animation, VFX, VR, AR & Mixed Reality and Creative AI, and craft experiences for some of the biggest brands and agencies in the world.
  • IgniteXR – Ignite XR is an end-to-end creative solutions group for augmented reality, creating integrated AR campaigns for brands and translating ideas into engaging immersive creative experiences.
  • Poplar Studio – A global creative platform that makes the creation of 3D and AR campaigns easier, faster, affordable and fun — including face filters, world effects, mini-games, portals and image trackers.
  • Subvrsive – Subvrsive is an immersive innovation studio focused on creating content, software and experiences that transform businesses on a global scale.
  • Tommy – A modern communications agency that uses technology, strategy and award-winning design to help brands earn the attention of their audiences.
  • Unit9 – A production studio focusing on AR/VR, Digital, Experiential, Gaming, Innovation and Film projects.

Measurement to target and analyse campaigns

  • Kantar –  The world’s leading data, insights and consulting company.

TikTok is opening the program to other interested partners, it said.

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MARKETING

What Will It Take To Drive Content Marketing Forward?

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What Will It Take To Drive Content Marketing Forward?

You’re doing everything in your power to craft amazing content.

You sweat over quality, optimize everything to the last keyword, and feed those greedy channel beasts more and more and more.

But the results you get don’t match the effort you put in. What are you doing wrong?

The game has changed. Simply doing the once-right things – and more of them – won’t guarantee wins.

Doing more of the once-right things no longer guarantees #ContentMarketing wins, says @Robert_Rose via @joderama @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Playing to win now means doubling down on strategy

“The content you create provides no sustainable competitive advantage for your business.”

Robert Rose kicked off Content Marketing World 2022 with that bold statement. Even the most exceptional work will be copied, remixed, reimagined, and reissued by other brands and consumers.

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But don’t take that statement as a eulogy for our beloved practice. Instead, celebrate new and different ways of looking at your work, Robert said, starting with your strategy and structure.

Having the right resources (including the strategic roles, teams, and repeatable procedures) lets you fluidly change and evolve all the time.

And that’s where you’ll find your new competitive advantage.

Invest in a remarkable (and human) voice

Take Netflix, for example. The streaming giant made the strategic choice to invest in real, live humans to write the closed caption subtitles for its smash-hit Stranger Things. That choice paid off with the kind of online buzz no brand can buy.

Woman with brown hair and glasses in a floral suit on stage.Marketing Profs Ann Handley brought the backstory to the keynote stage:

Most streamers use automated transcriptions to help people with hearing difficulties follow what’s happening on screen. But Netflix assigned marketing writers to craft vivid descriptions of the sounds accompanying the Stranger Things action.

The evocative and unsettling words they used (wetly squelching, tentacles roiling) caught the attention of younger viewers – a segment that watches shows with captions on regardless of their hearing ability. Earned media mentions skittered across the web, entangling viewers in a whole new viewing (and reading) experience.

The lesson, Ann said, is that voice can carry your brand’s unique personality, even when your brand isn’t mentioned. Investing in it is a strategic choice that sets your brand apart.

“A warm, relatable brand voice is increasingly crucial. It’s how we need to start developing relationships with our audiences, especially in this world of content abundance,” Ann said.

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A warm, relatable brand voice helps develop relationships with your audiences in a world of #content abundance, says @annhandley via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Do what others don’t dare

Black man with a mustache and beard wearing a black shirt, sport coat, and black pants on stage.Before Netflix broke the closed-caption mold, marketing visionary Bonin Bough broke publishing conventions.

While writing a book about how mobile phones transformed communication, he hit on a unique idea. Why not put his phone number on the cover, so readers could reach out and continue the dialog?

His publishers balked. So, Bonin purchased the rights from them and published the book his way. Since 2016, more than 50,000 readers of Txt Me: Your Phone Has Changed Your Life. Let’s Talk About It have called to create a personal connection with him.

A co-founder of Group Black – a media collective and accelerator focused on advancing Black-owned media properties ­– Bonin built his groundbreaking marketing career by thinking differently about what others consider impossible.

Bonin offers advice on how to challenge convention into meaningful marketing actions:

  • Aspire, but have a plan to see ideas through: While aspiration is a significant first step, you must develop the muscle memory to see your ideas to completion. Allocate the time, resources, and effort to execute the ideas.
  • Operate in real-time: The set-it-and-forget-it mentality doesn’t work anymore. Think about how you can change your business to deliver products in real time.
  • Be resourceful: Experimenting with content is not about how much money is available. It’s about how well you use the assets, talent, and resources you have.
  • Operationalize innovation: Look for models you can reverse-engineer to guide the development of your ideas and create guardrails and structures that make innovation more manageable.
  • Be curious: If you build the skill of curiosity, you can foster environments that create change.
  • Don’t give up: A no from stakeholders doesn’t mean your idea is bad. It just means it’s not the right fit under the current situation. Keep workshopping it. If all else fails, consider developing it elsewhere or on your own.

How you use the assets, talent, and resources you have matters more than the size of your budget, says @boughb via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Advocate for a clear content career path

People remain the most valuable (and expensive) content marketing assets. So cultivating content marketing careers is one of the most strategic choices an organization can make.

Upcoming CMI research shared at the conference shows most content marketers are at least somewhat satisfied with their current roles. Yet few feel sure about how they’ll grow in those roles. And of those who do have a clear career path, 20% say they’ll have to leave their employer to get there.

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“We have to build a career path into what it is we do. There’s no way content becomes a strategic function in the business if we don’t look at this. It will always be just a content factory,” Robert said.

White woman with blonde hair wearing a navy blue shirt and green and navy pleated skirt on stage.Jessica Bergmann shared how Salesforce did this. Working with the employee success team, Jessica and colleagues documented a career path for content team members to follow to progress from individual contributors to executive management.

Each company should build a path that suits its structure and culture. But Jessica shared some ideas any brand can use to start seeding opportunities and laying a professional path for content team members:

  • Advocate for integrated content teams: “It’s important that you show up as one company with one voice. We can’t have all different teams creating content everywhere and showing up with different voices and perspectives,” she said.
  • Define content roles and responsibilities clearly: Understand how content-centric teams across the organization collaborate and align their efforts to help content strategy get a seat at the decision-makers’ table.
  • Create democratized performance dashboards: Empower company leadership to see each content asset’s performance without asking for it.
  • Automate the ordinary: Using your automation tools to reduce time spent performing mundane tasks will allow content teams to focus on creating extraordinary and impactful content experiences.

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Set your vision on meaningful change

Perhaps the most urgent strategic question today is this: How will you create content that leads to a meaningful change in the world?

With trust declining in government and other institutions, audiences now expect brands to work toward something beyond their balance sheet. Robert Rose pointed out in his talk that the subhead for Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer is this: “Societal leadership is now a core function of business.”

Light skinned black man wearing a black shirt and black pants on stage. Content Marketing World 2022 on screen in the background.

Mark Harrison brought home the role of content (and individual content practitioners) in this function. A volunteer and entrepreneur who founded sponsorship agency T1 to work exclusively with impactful brands, Mark is committed to making a difference.

“I have a simple personal vision, and that is to create a world of belonging,” he said. “No matter what you look like, what you sound like, or where you come from, you will feel that you belong.”

Mark executes his mission by building what he calls the above-ground railroad, giving the nod to the underground railroad that helped thousands of enslaved people escape to freedom in the United States. The above-ground railroad activates networks of people to bring greater equity and opportunity to those who have been marginalized by society.

Part of that work involves amplifying their struggles and their strengths to those who have the power to increase inclusivity.

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“Amplifying voices is not giving your social pages over to somebody that doesn’t look like you. It’s about showing real courage,” Mark said.

Amplifying voices is about showing real courage, says @MarkHarrison3 via @joderama @CMIContent #CMWorld Click To Tweet

Mark shared a brand example that shows how powerful courageous content can be. When Harry Met Santa, a video from Posten Norge, tells the story of a developing relationship between a man (Harry) and Santa Claus. The video ends with a romantic kiss between the two, followed by this closing line: “In 2022, Norway marks 50 years of being able to love whoever we want.”

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

How will you make content better for everyone?

These and other Content Marketing World conversations make one thing clear: You have your work cut out for you.

But you also have an opportunity to rethink your content strategy to create something remarkable. That strategy might include investments in:

  • Talented creators who help develop your brand’s distinctive voice
  • A clear career path that helps you keep your talent
  • New and different approaches to content possibilities
  • Making a societal impact

What takeaways resonate with you? Where do you plan to focus your strategy for the rest of the year and into 2023? Let us know in the comments.

Want more insight from these and other Content Marketing World speakers? Register for an on-demand pass to get access to session recordings through Dec. 31, 2022. Use code BLOG100 to save $100.

 Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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