How To Win at TikTok (According to TikTok)

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TikTok is not a social media platform. It’s an entertainment platform.

That’s how Khartoon Weiss, TikTok’s Global Head of Agency & Accounts, described the world’s most downloaded app at The Gathering, an annual business and marketing summit held in Banff, Canada.

What’s the distinction?

People don’t “check” Tiktok. They watch it. And, Weiss says, “that small pivot in behavior is everything.”

Bonus: Get a free TikTok Growth Checklist from famous TikTok creator Tiffy Chen that shows you how to gain 1.6 million followers with only 3 studio lights and iMovie.

So what does it mean for marketers?

In this post, we’ll share key takeaways from Weiss’s on-stage presentation. But that’s not all!

Weiss shared more detailed insights at one of The Gathering’s intimate “inner sanctums”. And we’ve got the scoop for you below.

Embrace the shift from Me to We

TikTok is not a platform for YOLO, FOMO, and selfies. Instead, it’s familial and inclusive.

You see into everyone else’s living room. And they see into yours.

It’s a collaborative space that rewards optimism. “Microcommunities” crystalize around hashtags like #crafttok, #planttok, and #DIYtok.

The experts within these communities share “complex information boiled down so usefully”. This in turn creates even more experts and more knowledge to share.

@housetohomediy

#learnontiktok #diytiktok #diytok #painterstape #oddlysatisfying #painting

Feel It Still – Portugal. The Man

As a brand, this means you need to focus on providing entertainment or edutainment.

Find your place in these existing communities and contribute value that’s uniquely yours. Turn your assets into multiple TikToks and learn as you go what works for your brand.

And leave the comments on your content open – the community will tell you what they think. Use their insights to guide your ongoing TikTok strategy.

Be real, not retouched

You know who’s not big on TIkTok? The Kardashians. “We keep it real on TikTok,” Weiss said. “They are not accepted at the scale of a Jessia.”

So who’s Jessia? A Vancouver-based singer who went from this:

@jessiamusic

TikTok is too beautiful #Welcome2021 #RareAesthetic #belly # #pretty #fun #fyp #neverseentwoprettybestfriends #wtf #bop #trash #newyear #new

original sound – JESSIA

To this:

@jessiamusic

Tour with @OneRepublic was a dream #nexttime #onerepublic #tour #pov #tour #tourlife #fyp

Next Time by Jessia – JESSIA

After her song caught fire as a body positivity anthem that spawned countless TikTok duets.

On TikTok, it’s all about “the language of the next generation and the new digital media behaviors.”

“It’s challenging if you want it to be great, but the community doesn’t have a problem with accepting whatever it is you want to put out there,” Weiss said.

And that community acceptance is critical. TikTok’s algorithm focuses on a content graph, not a social graph. That means what you see in your feed is what the community brings to the surface, rather than who you follow.

On this front, #smallbusinesstiktok is leading the way. How? You guessed it: by telling real behind-the-scenes and product-creation stories.

“Small businesses have taken their creativity and turned it into content and now it’s automatically commerce,” Weiss said.

@frolic_creations

Guess what scent they will be? #smallbusiness #ZFlipClackdown #halloween #spooktember #spookyseason #slimemonster #cute #newproductalert #cutesoaps #foryou #froliccreations

original sound – Meg

Real, genuine stories create that visibility in the content graph. And the best people to tell those genuine stories about your brand may not (yet) work for or with you.

Understand the power of creators

“We’ve redefined what celebrity means,” Weiss said. “And we’re the driving force behind the migration from the attention economy to the creator economy.”

A key example? Just like Jessia, 7 of the 10 nominees for Best New Artist at the 2022 Grammys gained at least some of their momentum from TikTok.

Creators fuel discovery. And discovery creates demand.

“We consume things, and we convert on product, because it embodies the communities and the people we want to emulate,” Weiss said.

For marketers, this means empowering and learning from creators who understand the platform.

@andrea.animates

#ad made a new level on @candycrushsaga

original sound – Andrea Love

“Unlearn everything you’ve learned,” Weiss said in her inner sanctum. “It’s not how the next generation speaks. You’ve always had agencies consult you – why wouldn’t you let creators? Creators will help you unpack your brand and think about ways to connect with your audience.”

View discovery as lower funnel (aka #tiktokmademebuyit)

“When every touchpoint becomes an opportunity to buy, every strategy becomes a commerce strategy,” Weiss said. “It’s a brave new world where media and entertainment have found their way to content, creator, and commerce.”

Rather than social commerce, TikTok likes to think of this as “community commerce.”

“Thousands of creators are jumping in, and they are delivering product efficacy and product advocacy,” Weiss said.

Witness the case of 54-year-old Trinidad Sandoval:

She created a nearly 3-minute TikTok showing her go-to eye cream in action. Trinidad thought only her 70 followers would see it. Nope.

She went viral and led the 10-year-old product to sell out virtually everywhere within a week.

@trinidad1967

original sound – user3761092853451

This wasn’t a paid partnership – it was brand loyalty and advocacy in action.

This all adds up to one important lesson for brands: TikTok is not like other platforms, and it’s impossible to fake your way to success.

Above all: Be real and put the community first. Create a great product. Build that loyalty. And the community will fuel the discovery of your brand.

Want to learn more about how to get the most from TikTok? Check out the resources below!

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