What Is TikTok, and Should Your Company Be There?

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TikTok is an exciting new social media platform for small businesses. This article offers a brief overview of what it is, how it works, and why entrepreneurs should join. 

Last year, TikTok became the fastest growing social media platform in the U.S. In 2018, it took just six months to explode to 14.3 million users. That’s a rapid growth rate—within 18 months, it jumped from 2.5 million and became 5.5 times bigger in 2019.

The TikTok app has been downloaded more than 2 billion times on the app store and has a global user base of 800 million people. Then, in June of this year, TikTok launched a new offering, aptly named “TikTok for Business.” This is a huge opportunity for small business owners. 

Here is what you need to know about the new social media sensation, why it’s important to pay attention, how it works, and how a business will benefit by getting in on the ground floor. 

What Is TikTok?

TikTok is a video sharing application that focuses on short, 15-second videos. There are several great song features and filters that make using the app extremely fun. The social media platform is fueled by content creators, who use it in many creative ways as a video-first social network. 

It was initially a platform from China called Musical.ly, which capitalized on the popularity of lip-syncing to music. A big shift happened for the site when ByteDance acquired it, and TikTok sprang to life. 

More importantly, it quickly and easily crossed borders and was adopted by the international community at a blinding pace. Kids love TikTok, and they can’t get enough of it. When you consider all this happened in four years, it’s a testimony to how quickly trends can change.

Today, TikTok is a formidable social network with brand new business possibilities. 

How Does TikTok Work?

TikTok is an app, so it’s predominantly used on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. It takes advantage of user-generated content and sharing culture to create substantial engagement. 

Nothing is more engaging than video—and short-form video seems to be in the process of proving that brief, highly engaging content is what connects best with people everywhere.

Yes, but how does it actually work?

Like any social media network, TikTok requires you to sign-up and create a user profile. Once the account is set up, the user will have their personalized username and profile picture—like on any other platform. Accounts default as public, but they can be made private in the settings tab. 

From there, you can explore TikTok in its entirety, watching clips that users call “TikToks.” The app has two main streams, one created for personal content and one for recommended content built by the site’s AI. This depends on following, searches, and engagement. 

With an active account at the ready, creating a TikTok video is easy. Simply film, edit, add photos, songs, and filters as desired —the videos can be looped to last as long as a full minute. Custom content can be uploaded to TikTok, and so can music.  

Creators can add text overlays (to the beat of the music) and reactions to other people’s TikToks. Users follow different creators and get followed by people who like their content. 

Videos are grouped by hashtags, and there is a challenge culture on the platform—meaning that large numbers of people do the same challenge (be it dance, song, or theme).

 

Why Should Entrepreneurs Pay Attention?

Small businesses need visibility and engagement to boost their online presence, and TikTok is the best platform for that right now.

 

  • Short-form video is shareable across all social media platforms, so when TikTok is used, it acts as a  linchpin for a solid content strategy across other platforms.
  • TikTok has the highest engagement rate of any social media network. It beats Instagram and Twitter by far, coming in with 9.38% engagement if you have less than 1000 followers. Even Instagram, with its high engagement, only reaches 7.2% for the same number of followers.
  • TikTok influencers see close to an 18% engagement rate.
  • TikTok is particularly influential among their core user base of 18- to 24-year-olds (42%) and 13- to 17-year-olds (27%). These age groups are where trends start.

A small business owner pinched for time and is looking for a fast, effective way to gain visibility, engagement, and popularity online would be wise to focus on TikTok.

Plus, TikTok for business is brand new. Looking back on Instagram, the first advertisers made small fortunes from being among the first to use ad features. 

In the social media space, history often repeats itself. There is an enormous opportunity here to get in on the ground floor of a lucrative platform.

By developing an account populated with engaging brands videos and building a large audience – advertising on TikTok will launch your business into another dimension. 

Popularity on one platform will leak over into others, and soon the company will have a vibrant and bustling social presence with the website traffic to match. Hello, ongoing sales!

 

What Are the Benefits of TikTok for Business?

TikTok gives small businesses a unique opportunity to join in on a burgeoning social network that is only just starting to bloom. The benefits are significant. 

  • Entrepreneurs can be relevant and join in on pop culture trends or movements, promoting them to gain an audience of genuinely engaged people.
  • By telling inspirational stories, your brand will grow faster and convert strangers into fans quicker than on any other social network—which translates into repeat customers.
  • Tap into a type of research unlike any the world has seen before, using TikTok to find out exactly what your buying public wants.
  • Expand the social presence of your company to secure an audience around the products and services being sold.
  • Engage more often with people that want to get to know you and your brand.
  • Advertise in fresh and creative ways—not through traditional ads—but by using the TikTok format to invoke storytelling and invite curiosity
  • Use many creative tools on TikTok that are free to build an audience.
  • Enjoy a flexible ad budget and scale it when things are going well.
  • Get access to TikTok analytics to track and measure the platform in real-time.

 

Should Your Company Be on TikTok?

Whether you are a solopreneur, own a small restaurant of 10 employees, or have a bustling engineering firm of 50—TikTok can be the bridge that brings you a social audience. Social media marketing continues to be a mystery for many small- and medium-sized businesses. 

As a new entrepreneur, if social media has never quite worked for you, this is a way to change that and rapidly boost business visibility, reputation, engagement, and sales online. Sometimes a platform comes along that changes everything. TikTok is doing that right now. 

So yes, companies should be on TikTok. If time and money are being spent on fruitless efforts with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—then the opportunity cost of being on TikTok is worth it. Divert attention to this platform and see what can be achieved while the wave is cresting!