How Startups and Entrepreneurs Can Use TikTok to Grow Their Businesses

TikTok has risen to new heights in recent years with its short-form videos: the app is now available in over 150 markets across the globe, in 75 languages and has over 689 million active monthly users. Internet usage has spiked amid the pandemic, and TikTok remained the most downloaded app in Q1 of 2021. As people seek online entertainment as a way to stay productive, healthy and aware, brands are considering ways to harness their reach and shape new conversations on platforms like TikTok. Even news outlets have joined tin! The Washington Post uploads exclusive breaking stories and videos, and now has more than 928,000 followers.

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Prior to the pandemic, TikTok was already helping businesses achieve real growth. Now, the platform’s potential to facilitate scaling up is even bigger. One of the most significant advantages of TikTok is that its primary demographic is people aged between 16 and 24, so businesses that target a younger demographic have greater potential to garner long-term customers.

Three steps startups and entrepreneurs can take to grow their businesses on TikTok

Build stronger relationships

Studies show that 64% of consumers want brands to connect with them. Gone are the days where businesses operate in a separate silo from their customers.

In 2021, consumers care about culture, communication and ethics. As a result, audiences want authentic interactions from real people with real experiences. They want to know that companies are owned and run by people just like them, and that they can relate no matter the industry.

Especially during the COVID-19 crisis, brands that convey empathy and practical ways to stay healthy and positive are proving to get the most traction. In these current circumstances, TikTok offers a space to be creative and fun, to use video as a way to bridge the gap between people who are physically separated. Over the course of the last year, entrepreneurs had to stay at home for months just like everyday consumers, so why not seize the opportunity to empathize?

For example, TikTok influencers have been posting photos of themselves wearing masks, completing online workouts and offering tips to keep occupied during lockdown. Not only do these videos increase their popularity, but also conveys that they are responsible and grounded. It’s important to note, however, that startups shouldn’t compromise their style or messaging to fit in with the wackier trends on TikTok. It’s better to stay true to your company values and be transparent with audiences to build trust faster.

For instance, rather than chasing trends, the World Health Organization has used TikTok throughout the pandemic to post informative videos about how to wear masks and educational content about the vaccine.

Related: WJR Business Beat with Jeff Sloan: TikTok is Now Number One

Increase user engagement

Part of building stronger relationships is actively engaging users. TikTok offers a variety of ways to not only reach but also spark dialogues with people. For one, hashtag challenges are where brands ask followers to recreate content and share it with a specific hashtag. The challenge boosts brand awareness and designates brand ambassadors who promote products or services on behalf of a company.

For example, when Chipotle asked followers to record themselves dancing on National Avocado Day with the hashtag #GuacDance, the campaign ended up being the highest-performing branded challenge in the U.S., earning over 250,000 video submissions and 430 million video starts across six days. A host of influencers also joined the craze, fueling its international momentum.

In fact, influencers are ideal for startups looking to leverage large followings and target customer groups. Influencer marketing is often cheaper than traditional forms of advertising, as well as more effective. A reported 63% of consumers admit that they trust what influencers say about brands more than they trust brand advertisements. For early-stage companies (those that don’t yet have a solidified reputation, nor a disposable income), influencers can use their position as mediators to spread the word about emerging startups.

Scale faster

One of the most notable perks of TikTok is not needing to spend money on specialist videographers or editors. You can simply pull out your phone and start recording, because on this platform, the more “real” a video is, the better. Whether a tour of the (home) office or a tutorial on how to use your product, content that gives viewers an insight into the general day-to-day of the company performs best, and is free to make!

Additionally, startups with offices in multiple locations can create localized marketing campaigns, where they upload content in different languages, featuring scenes from the local area. They can also develop promotions based on local holidays, sentiments or customs, therefore building strong ties with local communities around the world.

Alternatively, micro-influencers are useful for startups, as they have a deep understanding of where they’re based, as well as credibility among users in those populations. These types of influencers don’t have the same mass followings that influencers have, but they speak to more niche groups.

Interestingly, TikTok only introduced advertising capabilities on the platform in 2019. Running ads is a big part of many startups’ growth strategies, and on TikTok, ads can support metrics like website clicks, app downloads or improved online visibility. There is even the option for brand takeovers, where businesses design images, videos, GIFs and embed links to landing pages across the platform. Another plus is that TikTok advertising can be filtered by age, gender and location, giving startups a more direct pathway to communicate with the customers they want.

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Key takeaways: Use TikTok to connect, engage and grow

In the digital age, TikTok is a powerful resource to better connect, engage and grow users among startups. Companies can target specific segments, extend their reach and present their brand in a modern light. Particularly for startups, TikTok is a medium to experiment with and apply inventive ways to scale without spending large amounts of money. No doubt, TikTok will be an essential social media and business tool in the “new normal.”

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