How brands are creating (and contributing to) TikTok communities

It never ceases to amaze me how in this day and age, at a time of culture silos and cynicism, TikTok has managed to transcend categories like age, gender and location and build incredibly powerful TikTok communities and subcultures. On TikTok more than anywhere else, people across demographics connect around the things they identify with, creating powerful indicators of brand affinity and purchasing behaviour. 

These subcultures have a direct influence on sales, and people move fast to buy. Some retailers have even created #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt sections in-store, to promote products that have gone viral on the app. 

TikTok users value the sense of connection and community they get from the app. Nielsen research found that three out of four TikTok users see the app as a place where they could “express themselves openly” while 60% feel a “sense of community” when using it.

A community for everyone 

There’s something for everyone on TikTok – from niche interest (but huge!) communities like #WitchTok, to more mainstream communities like #MomsofTikTok

Some of the biggest topics on TikTok are #makeup and #beauty; #cottagecore (a romanticised fashion and lifestyle aesthetic); and #rollerskating. There are more serious topics, too: TikTok is driving a serious movement in sustainability and climate change; there’s a thriving LGBTQ+ community; and even advice from TikTokers on personal finance. And for those looking for support, there’s a strong mental health community offering advice. 

It has even been credited with bringing news of the war in Ukraine to a younger generation, as Ukrainian TikTokers and reporters post footage of the current situation. Disinformation is a concern raised by many in this case, yet there’s no arguing that TikTok is changing the playbook for communications in times of war.

Five ways brands can use TikTok communities 

  1. Listen and learn from the community before diving in. Connect to the purpose of the community, listen to its tone and style, and know who the key influencers are. You want your content to fit right in, and not jar with the community. 
  2. Use hashtags. Communities on TikTok are built around hashtags, so research the right ones for your brand. We’ve talked before about the power of the TikTok algorithm – users will be shown videos similar to what they’ve liked before, via the ‘for you’ page – so thinking about what hashtag fits your brand (and vice versa). 
  3. Work with TikTok influencers. Influencers are at the heart of TikTok communities. We’re not talking celebrities as such, but authentic TikTokers whose popularity has risen because of their ‘realness’, their creative content and their deep understanding of what their followers want from them. Be prepared to hand over the reins, and allow them to create the content they know will work. This is the basis of TikTok’s ‘Community Commerce’ concept (more on this in our next blog in this series). 
  4. Ditch the corporate messaging and be authentic. TikTok is not a place for corporate ads. The real opportunity for brands on TikTok is to tap into cultural moments, to entertain, and to connect with ideas that people love. 
  5. Jump on trends quickly. Things move fast on TikTok. Ditch the long creative cycle, and post quickly. Authenticity and speed beats polished production.

TikTok communities are all about discovering and sharing new content.

According to ‘The power of TikTok’ research undertaken in late 2021 by Kantar for TikTok, 67 percent of users share videos beyond the app itself, extending the potential reach of branded content onto other platforms. They’re engaged – 94 percent of TIkTokers take action from the ‘For You’ page (either liking or commenting on a video). And they remember content. The research found that 54 percent of TikTok users recall branded content they’ve seen on the app. 

Still think TikTok isn’t for your brand? Think again

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