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Pro Tips: TikTok Shares Advice on How Brands Can Establish a Presence on the Platform, and Generate Results

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TikTok is the platform of the moment, with the short-form video app continuing to lead the app download charts, and add users at an unprecedented rate.

And with the platform now on track to reach a billion users this year – despite losing its biggest user market in June 2020, due a ban in India – that will put it on par with Instagram, and make it one of the top five biggest social/messaging apps.

Which, of course, now sees it attracting more interest from marketers, looking to go where consumer attentions lie. And no doubt, there is huge opportunity for boosting brand awareness and even generating direct sales – but the creative focus of TikTok does mean that it requires a dedicated approach, you can’t just re-purpose content from other platforms or campaigns.

So how can you make the most of TikTok for your brand?

We recently spoke to Becca Sawyer, TikTok’s Global Head of Small Business Solutions, to get her insights into what brands starting out on the platform need to keep in mind, as well as her key tips for growing your business presence in the app.

Q: What ad/promotional elements are seeing the best response on TikTok right now?

BS: Ads that perform best don’t look or feel like ads – they embody our “Don’t Make ads. Make TikToks” motto.

We always remind brands to not overthink it. TikTok is the place where authenticity and realness is not only accepted; it’s celebrated.

We know it can feel intimidating at first, and that’s why we’re constantly working on ways to make it easier to create and share content on TikTok. Our Small Business Resource Center has creative tools and examples of successful businesses to help business owners get comfortable. We also recently partnered with Vimeo to launch templates that can help small businesses create quality video in a few easy steps.

TikTok Vimeo integration

Q: What’s the key to an effective marketing strategy on TikTok?

BS: We always encourage brands/organizations to:

  • Engage Like a User  Join conversations and build a community – brands can put themselves at the forefront of trends and conversation happening within our community
  • Think TikTok First  Creativity, culture and trends start on TikTok. Thinking TikTok first allows your creativity to scale with dynamic nature of the platform.
  • Build a narrative  As a brand/organization, you have an opportunity to not just join a conversation, but start a new conversation.
  • Create with Intent  Don’t Make Ads. Make TikToks. TikTok as a platform is designed to inspire with authentic, creative content that could only be on TikTok.

Q: What’s the most common mistake you see brands make with their TikTok approach?

BS: A common mistake from brands and businesses is approaching TikTok with the mindset that the last click is the holy grail.

Brands should be thinking about TikTok uniquely – it’s an immersive, entertainment experience, where people build and find community. Brands that show up authentically, and genuinely want to be part of the everyday conversations, will see the best results. As such, we often remind brands that engagement prior to the final click is highly valuable.

Q: What’s a good example of a brand that’s achieving strong results with TikTok marketing?

BS: The brands we see having the most success are those that embrace the creativity and authenticity of the TikTok community.

Examples of brands that have really leaned in:

  • Aerie – Aerie’s crossover leggings were sold out online for nearly two months after a viral TikTok post by Hannah Schlenker led to overwhelming demand for the product. Her single post prompted over 700,000 searches for the product alone on the Aerie website, as well as an increase of 200,000% in Google searches. The brand received a total of 130,000 emails from customers asking to be placed on its “notify me” waitlist. They’ve since used paid advertising to further drive conversions.
  • GAP – More recently, GAP’s brown hoodie went viral, with the hashtag #gaphoodie reaching 6.7m+ views and counting thanks to a post by creator Barbara Kristofferson. Although the hoodie was vintage, the TikTok community created such viral demand that GAP brought it back in stock, after ending production over a decade ago. TikTok and GAP recently partnered for the “Gap Hoodie Color Comeback”, a campaign that will decide GAP’s next hoodie release by engaging the TikTok community to vote for the next product color.
  • Sour Patch Kids (Mondelez Int.) – By consistently tapping into trends, and having fun with the community, Sour Patch Kids is TikTok’s most-followed snack brand, with over a million followers. They’ve also activated lots of campaigns based around the platform, one being its most recent April Fools’ Day #SourPatchPrankFund challenge, which rewarded TikTokers with Sour Patch Kids and money for their pranks. For the campaign, they partnered with five TikTok creators: @TheCrazyGorilla, @VirziTriplets, @SometimesMamaYells, @SantiAndMikay, and @TattedBoy92.
  • KFC – Competing in the never-ending chicken sandwich wars, KFC took to TikTok to collaborate with popular creator Lili Hayes to introduce its new chicken sandwich. The collab, which was posted on KFC’s channel, has over 1.1m likes, while #trythekfcsandwich has garnered over 208m+ views and counting.
  • Sider’s Woodcrafting is a family-owned woodcrafting shop out of Maine. They make amazing cutting boards, shelving and other custom products and have grown to over 118K followers on TikTok. The owner, Bruce Graybill, has attested that TikTok accounts for roughly 90% of his business. He recently published a TikTok about how “TikTok saved our business”.​
  • Izola’s Country Cooking is a cafeteria-style Southern comfort restaurant in Hinesville, GA. Their content often features their daily dishes created by Chef Dave, as well as messages from customers who have traveled across the country to try the food. Owners Glenn and Lori Poole have said that many of their customers found them on TikTok.
  • Lala Hijabs is run by a wife and husband team in Canada, who started their business and their TikTok account during lockdown. Sana made a video showing a hijab she customized, and a lot of her followers wanted to buy one like it. She launched her shop last year for “hand tie dyed hijabs – inspired by the beautiful colors of life,” and they have already done six figures in revenue, with zero paid advertising up until recently. They’ve since activated paid advertising on the platform to boost organic presence

Q: What would be your top tip for someone starting out with TikTok marketing?

BS: Just dive in! Read the comments. See how people are talking about the community or subject your brand fits into.

Also look at what’s going on behind the trends and culture movements. A brand’s content should look and feel the same way as the community’s posts. That way, your brand’s content will be grounded in what’s really happening on the platform, and will have a stake in the conversation. 

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Cheeky branding wins (and missteps)

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Cheeky branding wins (and missteps)

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Branding and rebranding is getting more fun, here we look at some of cheekiest brands that have caught our eye – for the right and wrong reasons.



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Google Outlines Ongoing Efforts to Combat China-Based Influence Operations Targeting Social Apps

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Google Outlines Ongoing Efforts to Combat China-Based Influence Operations Targeting Social Apps

Over the past year, Google has repeatedly noted that a China-based group has been looking to use YouTube, in particular, to influence western audiences, by building various channels in the app, then seeding them with pro-China content.

There’s limited info available on the full origins or intentions of the group, but today, Google has published a new overview of its ongoing efforts to combat the initiative, called DRAGONBRIDGE.

As explained by Google:

In 2022, Google disrupted over 50,000 instances of DRAGONBRIDGE activity across YouTube, Blogger, and AdSense, reflecting our continued focus on this actor and success in scaling our detection efforts across Google products. We have terminated over 100,000 DRAGONBRIDGE accounts in the IO network’s lifetime.

As you can see in this chart, DRAGONBRIDGE is by far the most prolific source of coordinated information operations that Google has detected over the past year, while Google also notes that it’s been able to disrupt most of the project’s attempted influence, by snuffing out its content before it gets seen.

Dragonbridge

Worth noting the scale too – as Google notes, DRAGONBRIDGE has created more than 100,000 accounts, which includes tens of thousands of YouTube channels. Not individual videos, entire channels in the app, which is a huge amount of work, and content, that this group is producing.

That can’t be cheap, or easy to keep running. So they must be doing it for a reason.

The broader implication, which has been noted by various other publications and analysts, is that DRAGONBRIDGE is potentially being supported by the Chinese Government, as part of a broader effort to influence foreign policy approaches via social media apps. 

Which, at this kind of scale, is a concern, while DRAGONBRIDGE has also targeted Facebook and Twitter as well, at different times, and it could be that their efforts on those platforms are also reaching similar activity levels, and may not have been detected as yet.

Which then also relates to TikTok, a Chinese-owned app that now has massive influence over younger audiences in western nations. If programs like this are already in effect, it stands to reason that TikTok is also likely a key candidate for boosting the same, which remains a key concern among regulators and officials in many nations.

The US Government is reportedly weighing a full TikTok ban, and if that happens, you can bet that many other nations will follow suit. Many government organizations are also banning TikTok on official devices, based on advice from security experts, and with programs like DRAGONBRIDGE also running, it does seem like Chinese-based groups are actively operating influence and manipulation programs in foreign nations.

Which seems like a significant issue, and while Google is seemingly catching most of these channels before they have an impact, it also seems likely that this is only one element of a larger push.

Hopefully, through collective action, the impact of such can be limited – but for TikTok, which still reports to Chinese ownership, it’s another element that could raise further questions and scrutiny.

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The Drum | Trump’s Instagram & Facebook Reinstatement Won’t Cause Marketers To Riot Yet, Experts Say

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The Drum | Trump's Instagram & Facebook Reinstatement Won’t Cause Marketers To Riot Yet, Experts Say

While the reinstatement of Donald Trump’s Twitter account in November had some advertisers packing up in protest, many will strike a different tune with Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram, experts predict.

Meta Wednesday announced that it’s lifting the ban on a handful of Facebook and Instagram accounts, including that of former US president Donald Trump – who was suspended nearly two years ago following the January 6, 2021 riots at the Capitol.

In a blog post yesterday, Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, explained the reasons for the company’s decision, saying that it “evaluated the current environment” as it pertains to the socio-political landscape and security concerns and determined that “risk has sufficiently receded.” As a result, the company will welcome Trump back onto Facebook and Instagram.

The former president will be expected to comply with Meta’s user policies, but, considering his past violations, will face “heightened penalties for repeat offenses,” Clegg explained.

While it’s unclear whether Trump will become an active user on either platform following the decision, media and marketing experts are already sounding alarm bells at his potential return.

In particular, experts are cautious considering recent developments at Twitter. Elon Musk’s turbulent takeover – which has included mass layoffs, dramatic platform changes and the decision to reinstate the accounts of controversial figures like Trump and Kanye West (whose account has since been re-suspended) – has led to an exodus of advertisers. Could Meta’s decision to reintroduce Trump invite a similar fate?

‘Fear, frustration and protest’ could catalyze drawback

Concerns regarding brand safety and suitability on Facebook and Instagram are piquing among marketers. Trump’s presence on social media has long proven to exacerbate the spread of misinformation online. The risks of a potential recession, paired with new political tensions spurred by the 2022 midterms and the anticipation of the 2024 presidential election, may only up the ante.

“Misinformation on Meta’s platforms was an issue prior to Trump’s ban, during the ban and will likely continue to be an issue, even with the new [policies that] Meta has put in place,” says Laura Ries, group director of media and connections at IPG-owned ad agency R/GA. In light of this fact, Ries says, “Advertisers will need to continue to consider the type of content they’ll show up next to when evaluating whether or not to advertise on the platforms, especially as we march toward the 2024 election.”

She predicts that Meta may see some advertisers leave Facebook and Instagram “out of fear, frustration or protest.”

Others agree. “I suspect advertisers will not be pleased with this move and might make reductions in spend as they have done with Twitter,” says Tim Lim, a political strategist, PR consultant and partner at creative agency The Hooligans.

Although some advertisers are sure to pull back or cut their investments, the number will likely be low – largely because the scale and reach promised by both Facebook and Instagram will make it hard for most advertisers to quit. Smaller brands and startups in particular often rely heavily on Meta’s advertising business to spur growth, says Ries.

A ripple, not a wave

Most industry leaders believe Trump’s reinstatement won’t cause anything more than a ripple in the advertising industry. “Marketers who advertise on Facebook and Instagram care about their own problems, which generally [entail] selling more products and services,” says Joe Pulizzi, an entrepreneur, podcaster and author of various marketing books. “If Meta helps them do that, they don’t care one bit about brand safety – unless this blows up into a big political issue again. It might not, so marketers won’t do a thing.”

The sentiment is underscored by Dr Karen Freberg, a professor of strategic communications at University of Louisville, who says: “Facebook and Instagram are key fundamental platforms for advertisers. Marketers may … be aware of the news, but I am not sure if it will make a drastic change for the industry.” She points out that Twitter’s decision to lift the ban on Trump’s account in November caused such a big stir among marketers advertisers that Meta’s decision to do the same may come as less of a shock.

Trump’s return may even benefit Meta’s ads business by giving the company new opportunities to serve ads to Trump devotees, says Pulizzi. Ultimately, he says, Meta “needs personalities like Trump,” who, whether through love or hate, inspire higher engagement. “With Facebook plateauing and Instagram now chasing – and copying – TikTok at every turn, Trump’s follower base is important to Meta, which is hard to believe, but I think it’s true.”

But while some users may be energized by the former president’s return to Meta platforms, others may be outraged – even to the point of quitting Facebook and Instagram, points out Ries. In this case, she says, “advertisers will need to follow them to TikTok, Snap or other platforms where they’re spending their newfound time.”

R/GA, for its part, which services major brands including Google, Samsung, Verizon and Slack, will work on “a client by client basis” to address concerns about Facebook, Instagram or any other platform, says Ries. “R/GA recommended pausing activity on Facebook and Instagram after the insurrection and won’t hesitate to do so again if another incident occurs.”

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