The 4 Key Steps to TikTok Success for Startup Brands

With over 680 million active users worldwide, TikTok has become a force to be reckoned with. It’s offered in 155 countries, has the highest social media engagement rates per post, and nine out of 10 TikTokers use the app multiple times a day. A major perk is that it’s still in its early stages, so building an audience on the platform is easier than most any other social media platform.

If you’re thinking TikTok is just for the younger generation — think again. Users of all ages and walks of life (including celebrities, influencers, publishers and businesses) are joining the TikTok phenomenon.

At Printful, we’ve begun experimenting with TikTok ads, and we’ve experienced never-before-seen social media engagement rates on the app. If it’s possible for us, it’s possible for you, too!

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Here’s what we think are four main steps you can take on your way to TikTok success:

Find your niche and become a part of it

When a user opens TikTok, the first thing he or she sees is the platform’s “For You” page. This page is an endless scroll of videos personalized to each user’s taste. The app’s complex algorithm relies on song choices, hashtags and content types to dictate which videos show up for which users.

But beyond simple views, you want users to watch your entire video, like, save, share and comment on it to get better visibility. To do that, you need a defined niche. That’ll lead to your account getting discovered by the right people, resulting in increased engagement and a boosted following.

To define your niche, ask yourself:

  • What are my interests and passions?
  • What problems can I solve?
  • How can I differentiate myself from my competitors?
  • Is this niche active and profitable? 

From there, experiment with content types that seem to be working well in your niche. What’s interesting about TikTok is that it’s not about standing out per se, it’s about blending in. That doesn’t mean you can’t be original, because originality is what TikTok thrives on. However, it means you have to be aware of the platform’s content formats and trends and figure out how to stay within your genre while bending it to the needs of your brand and audience.

Here’s a sample of the most popular content formats to explore:

  • Behind-the-scenes content
  • Dance videos
  • How-to content
  • Lifehacks
  • Unboxing videos
  • Educational content
  • Oddly satisfying videos (think ASMR)

Be careful not to take on too many different content types at once — TikTokers love consistency and knowing what to expect from a creator.

For example, when TikTokers follow Printful, they can expect quick tips, educational content and how-to videos. We make sure to maintain a consistent visual style, use the same spokesperson, apply on-trend transitions, and engage with curious customers in our comments section. We’re still looking to see how we can expand our TikTok strategy, but so far, these have proven to be effective content categories and techniques for us.

It may take some time to figure out your niche and what works for your brand, so keep experimenting!

Remember that TikTok is a UGC (user-generated content) powerhouse. The good news is that brands can both create their own UGC-style videos and repurpose the content created by their followers. It’s something Printful is experimenting with, as well.

Related: How Startups and Entrepreneurs Can Use TikTok to Grow Their Businesses

Use hashtags with purpose

TikTok hashtags are one of the best ways for a new creator to get discovered. They work similarly to Instagram hashtags in that they help organize content by type and allow users to search for content.

You can add multiple hashtags to a video, but it’s recommended to use a maximum of five hashtags, so be strategic about which ones you use—ultimately, you’ll want to use a combination of trending hashtags, niche hashtags and awareness hashtags. 

To find out the trending ones, head to TikTok’s Discover tab, which is organized by popular hashtags and songs.

TikTok's Discover tab
(TikTok’s Discover tab)

There, you can check out the top videos under each hashtag, which will give you an idea of what content has already been created. It’ll also help you understand how you can differentiate yourself from others who have already used the hashtag.

Be sure to include a few no-fuss hashtags to increase your brand awareness and access new audiences, such as:

  • #foryoupage
  • #fyp
  • #foryou
  • #viral
  • #trendingsong
  • #viraltiktok
  • #trendingtiktok
  • #like4like

You can even create a hashtag to organize and promote UGC for your brand. #Printful has over 877,000 views, mostly from users who enjoy Printful and want to promote our services.

The more deliberate you are with your hashtags, the better your chances of getting discovered by users who are interested in what your videos have to offer.

Participate in challenges and other trends

The good news with TikTok is that you don’t have to spend much time coming up with your own fresh ideas, because you can join trending challenges, songs and effects.

Take some time to explore the trending challenges, songs and effects. Once you’re in the know about what’s going on and where you should be, you’re all set to start participating.

As far as song challenges go, note that if you’re a verified business, you won’t be able to access many of the trending songs since you’ll be restricted to a royalty-free library, but you can still use original audio.

Using the right effects on TikTok can also increase your chances of being discovered and boost your engagement, so check out which effects are trending by creating a video and clicking on the “Trending” tab under effects. Be sure to hashtag your video with the effect you’ve used, as well!

Trending effects on TikTok
(Trending effects on TikTok)

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Experiment with TikTok Ads

Our team found that the TikTok Ads Manager is very easy to use. We like how simple it was to set up the tracking pixel and use the built-in tool to mark the conversion events that are important for us (i.e. add-to-carts, registrations, page-views etc.).

The advertising platform is very similar to Facebook Ads Manager, so anyone who is familiar with it can likely navigate TikTok ads with ease.

Compared to our budget using Facebook and Instagram ads, the CPC (or cost-per-click) and CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) on TikTok are almost eight times lower. So, TikTok ads are a paid tool that’s well worth exploring for boosting brand awareness and generating traffic for your online store.

Speaking of TikTok advertising content, unsurprisingly, USG is king—so see how your ads compare to the rest of the organic content on the platform. Ad freshness also is a key factor. TikTok recommends doing a lot of testing and changing the campaign ad creative every other week, because old creatives tend to perform worse over time.

So far, TikTok has been a positive experience for our customers and we’ve had suggest incorporating it into our social media marketing. We suggest you look into experimenting with it. These days, it’s one of the best ways you can reach potential customers!

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