TikTok: The ongoing state of play

Evaluate whether TikTok is the right app for your brand

Brands are worried about the ongoing debates around TikTok. It’s hard to escape the stream of questions about TikTok’s future. But we’ve yet to see significant analysis of how these issues are influencing user behaviour.

Yes. TikTok is one of the hottest apps out there, but that doesn’t mean all brands must be on it. Your content can get stunning levels of reach and engagement, but does it help you meet your goals?

What TikTok does best

Professor Robert Cialdini argues that  we’re less likely to focus on the most accurate or useful information compared to something that grabs our attention in the moment – this is where TikTok excels. 

Brands that can work with this have done great things on the platform.

Brands that shine on TikTok

Just Eat’s football league ads featuring Snoop Dogg run perpetually during streamed football, to the point where it’s become a meme in my Signal, Telegram and Twitter football group chats.  

Just Eat has a captive audience. They’re at home, and they want something nice to eat and drink during the game. It’s the perfect time to run paid media on TikTok. 

Diageo and other alcohol brands are allowed to run content between 5pm and midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s brilliant for them as it’s the best time for them to prompt people to purchase – at around the time we all want a drink.

Fashion brands experimented with the app and found that the clothes alone won’t do it, TikTok users want the social proof of regular people (and influencers) endorsing the product.

TikTok’s perfect for sites like StockX who already have a massively engaged user base.

They’re prepared to spend a lot of money on rare kicks. Push that content out on pay day, and feature some of their favourite influencers showing off their rare sneakers, and you have people’s attention. 

TikTok works wonders for brands that use social proof to showcase a real product at the genuine price. App users are more than willing to click through and purchase from TikToks.

But what about Reels?

Facebook has launched its version of TikTok, so brands may be wondering if they should stick with TikTok at all.

Facebook clones everything that becomes popular. These are frequently short-term solutions, something that helps Facebook collect data before it moves on to the next trend.

However, Reels appears to be more like Stories: it could stick around for the long-term.

I doubt that it will lure in significant numbers of TikTok creators and influencers though, for two reasons

  • TikTok’s massive organic reach

TikTok is brilliant at organic reach. Instagram is far less impressive. TikTok users can build massive followings easily when they create compelling content on the app. 

On the other hand, I know influencers on Instagram who spend thousands a month promoting their posts to get enough reach and engagement to make them attractive to brands. 

I don’t see the motivation for content creators to move back to Instagram once they’re established on TikTok. The well has run dry.

  • Competition for the attention of a passionate fanbase

There’s only so much content a person can consume, and it’s hard to break the habit of checking your favourite app every day. The magic number for app use is two – most don’t get opened more than that.

I don’t believe Reels will make people install Instagram, which means that the biggest audience for Facebook is people who already use both Instagram and TikTok. They’ll need to nudge people into spending more time on Instagram and less on TikTok. If they can incentivise this by getting content creators to move, they’ll win. But this will likely involve big bags of money. 

It’ll work in the short-term, but long term I don’t think the content creators want back into the zero organic reach economy.

In summary, TikTok has some major advantages for brands, as long as they’ve assessed whether it’s the right app for them. Brands may be tempted to opt for Reels instead, especially with the current uncertainty around TikTok, but Reels may end up being TikTok’s untrendy cousin.