“When launching a brand with limited marketing budget, the effectiveness of the campaign is crucial. Where can you stretch that budget, reach a lot of consumers, engage with them and prompt clicks? In terms of the influencer space, there is no platform currently better for this than TikTok,” says Norton PR’s PR director Emma Arthur and Joel Silverman, co-founder and CEO of KidsKnowBest.
Built upon the foundation of creative expression, TikTok provides its users with the creative tools to make it easy to produce fun, joyful content on the app. TikTok users can create and share short videos with music, filters, and other features.
Since launching in the UK, in September 2017, the video-sharing social media app has really taken off – in particular with Gen Z. One of the fastest growing social media platforms in the world, TikTok is now available in more than 150 countries. In April 2020, DataReportal reported that TikTok had 800 million active users worldwide. And, while the app was already popular, the latest surge comes amid the outbreak of coronavirus, which has led consumers to be more drawn to their mobile devices. In Q1 2020, Sensor Tower reported that TikTok had generated the most downloads for any app ever in a quarter, accumulating more than 315 million installs across the App Store and Google Play, reaching more than two billion cumulative downloads.
For businesses, this popular social platform offers “an easy to achieve organic reach,” say Arthur and Silverman. And, because the app is “still in its growth phase and isn’t yet a ‘pay-to-play’ platform,” they say, “there is still time to achieve really strong ROI on the platform for brands with varied budgets”.
But if you’re new to TikTok, you might be wondering why you should invest valuable resource – both time and money – into incorporating the social platform within your PR and marketing plans.
To answer some of the questions businesses may have about TikTok, TNP.MEDIA approached Norton PR – the UK-based full-service kids and youth specialist PR agency with over 25 years’ experience in delivering highly successful campaigns – and KidsKnowBest – the dedicated kids media agency that offers tailored social-first strategies and services to help companies better connect with their audience. Emma Arthur comes together with Joel Silverman to capture the essence of what the app is about; they discuss why it’s worth engaging with users through carefully devised TikTok content; and they share some top tips on how best to achieve a strong return on investment.
Written by Emma Arthur and Joel Silverman
TikTok: Not just another marketing tool
It’s easy to label TikTok as ‘just another marketing tool’ – a route to consumer engagement that sounds cool, looks on-trend and ticks the ‘social’ box on the marketing plan. Examine it more closely though, and it’s clear that where TikTok can become most effective is as an integral part of a strategic PR campaign created to fit around a specific brand, product, licence or news agenda.
Arguably one of the more affordable ways to target a Gen Z audience in an era driven by content, TikTok is one of the most honest forms of social media. And at a time when real-life, easily identifiable first-person content is becoming more trusted among this demographic, it’s an exciting place to be for PRs and marketing professionals.
Why integrate TikTok into your PR and marketing plans?
As an agency, Norton has been able to adapt quickly to include TikTok in our campaign planning having experienced a growing frustration with YouTube as a brand partnership platform given its high costs, disparity of engagement and limited ROI. Our experience in PR storytelling across multiple channels, combined with some of our (younger!) Norton team members already knowing the TikTok basics meant we had a great starting point.
Working with client media agencies to develop activity timelines focusing on pre-launch and on-shelf dates enable us to identify those days and months where we need to ‘plug the gap’ for consumers between TV and digital ad scheduling, PR feature sell-in and in-store activity. The speed at which a TikTok campaign can be implemented, plus the added bonus that the content can be re-issued means that we are able to jump on a trend, story, issue or new partner creator and generate creative content fast to drive sales.
Not all agencies are set up to have a dedicated social team who can apply themselves fully to devising TikTok targeting and partnership strategies. We work closely with the team at KidsKnowBest, who are experts in their field. Not only do they know the creators inside out – who’s reliable, who isn’t; who resonates with family brands, what their engagement levels are etc. – but more importantly, they also provide accountability and full reporting post-campaign which is valuable analysis against campaign KPIs.
Achieving a strong ROI with a limited marketing budget
When launching a brand with limited marketing budget, the effectiveness of the campaign is crucial. Where can you stretch that budget, reach a lot of consumers, engage with them and prompt clicks? In terms of the influencer space, there is no platform currently better for this than TikTok.
The app is still in its growth phase and isn’t yet a ‘pay-to-play’ platform (like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, where those who spend more will appear more regularly in a user’s feed). This means organic reach is still very easy to achieve, which for us as PRs, is refreshing news. Things are slowly starting to change as TikTok is beginning to test its revenue model, but there is still time to achieve really strong ROI on the platform for brands with varied budgets.
Embrace the weird and wonderful
The key thing that makes TikTok stand out from the social media crowd is the fact the content is so irreverent and fun, as opposed to a platform such as Instagram where everything seems a lot more superficial. Products and brands should use this to their advantage; the weird and wonderful works really well on TikTok and if you can tap into that, you are onto a winner.
Let your creators ‘own’ the product
Two years ago, when Norton PR helped to launch two games on TikTok pre-Christmas we let the creators devise the brief, the content ideas and storyboard. This ensured that they kept the content as close to their own creative style as possible so as to appeal to their followers.
The results were staggering. Over four million views for just one of the creators in the first week and even now, as the content remains on their channel, the views have hit over 15 million for one game alone. With an identifiable sales spike at retail during the initial period that the content was live across the creator’s channels, it succeeded beyond all expectations.
Since then we have delivered multiple TikTok activations for large and small budgets with similar numbers. The key is to let the creators ‘own’ the product. It works brilliantly for own IP designs that don’t require multiple corporate sign offs as the speed at which you have to work to deliver a TikTok campaign is crucial, so getting held up with brand messaging and red tape can prove tricky – though not impossible.
Image: Slap Ninja TikTok campaign run by Norton PR and KidsKnowBest
Work with influencers that are a good fit for your brand
To deliver results like these, a key element is trusting the creators you work with; as with any platform, influencers are an extension of your brand. If you can’t trust them to create content that suits your product, they aren’t the right fit for you, irrespective of their following and reach. Consumers can see straight through fake endorsements.
TikTok has a lot of niche pockets of creators and you need to find talent within these that matches your brand to a tee. In partnership with KidsKnowBest, we work with a lot of family-focused brands, who need brand safety and trust for which comedic value focusing on a product’s USPs works brilliantly and appeals to a cross-section of TikTok users.
@OTB is one of the many hugely talented and creative TikTokkers we have recently partnered with through KidsKnowBest, having spent years developing his craft, he says: “Musical.ly and now TikTok is a stage that gives you 15 seconds to show your talent to the world. It could be a skill, a joke, a tutorial. I saw the huge potential in a platform that served up snack-sized, fast-paced content that reached the new aged social media user in a way no other app was.
“TikTok still goes from strength to strength for me having learnt so much about what worked and what didn’t on the platform and I am able to create regular comedy sketch series, multi-part adventure travel videos and work on epic brand campaigns showcasing popular games whilst amassing millions of views. TikTok is not just a place to consume content, but it has a wonderful way of inspiring and encouraging people to create as well! With challenges, dance trends and catchy sounds, there’s plenty of source material to get the creativity flowing.”
Keep your messaging consistent
Despite the relative freedom given to TikTok creators to devise content, a TikTok campaign and its messaging needs to have consistency with your other marketing materials, PR campaign and brand guidelines. This isn’t a ‘new kid on the block’ who can act how they want, despite letting the creators go rogue with your product to some extent! The messaging, tone and creative needs to be very closely related to your marketing on all other channels; this is absolutely key to brand building.
Product placement is a must
Having your own TikTok channel provides an opportunity for creators to push users to your brand. You don’t have to be posting all the time but TikTok is here to stay so it’s worth considering having a brand presence on the platform. Product placement is a must – a lot of creators may push back on this and attempt to say this doesn’t work on TikTok, but we have seen the opposite to be true via various campaigns we have run recently.
Ride the trends!
Ensuring you have a 'reactive PR' element to any TikTok campaign is vital. In the same way PRs react quickly in a press office or media relations capacity, being on the ball and able to jump on the back of any trending sequences that may happen to link to your product can put you ahead of the game.
For example, if there's a sequence going around on TikTok of people mixing cake batter to a certain piece of music and in a certain stirring pattern, then a brand like KitchenAid could seize the opportunity and create a video of their product mixing batter with the same music and in the same movement pattern. This is all completely free to put out on your own TikTok channel, it links to a trend and is a fun way to show brand relevance on the platform. These trends tend to only last for a week or so before everyone has moved on to the next one, so you have to act fast!
A PR no-brainer…
In a nutshell - if you have the right product, brand or license that lends itself to creative, funny and innovative content creation then TikTok is a PR no-brainer.
Take the time to speak to those agencies and experts who know the creators, are able devise a campaign that works for your budget and timings and, most importantly, work closely with your PR team that has an in-depth understanding of how to maximise the opportunity within the scheme of an overall launch campaign. Does it fit with your marketing plan? Are you targeting the right audience and exactly what are you trying to tell them? Is the timing right and are there issues on the news agenda or across this demographic that will enable your brand to really resonate?
Gen Z love to develop an affinity with brands so TikTok is a fantastic opportunity for those more ‘serious’ brands to re-position themselves with a softer, more light-hearted tone. Whether your budget or product is large or small, that first foray into TikTok is a thrilling rollercoaster ride for any company as you will be challenged into looking at your brand with fresh eyes, from a different perspective and with an outcome you may never have imagined.