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What I’ve Learned as a TikTok Manager: How to Use TikTok to Grow Your Brand

Want to build a successful TikTok account for your brand or business? Envato's TikTok manager gives her top tips on how to use TikTok to grow your brand.

Posted 23 Nov 2022
What I've Learned as a TikTok Manager: How to Use TikTok to Grow Your Brand

TikTok is the go-to social platform for short-form video content – a format that grows in popularity by the day. If you’re not a current TikTok user and want to launch an account for your business, you need to start familiarizing yourself with the platform, its features and content. You might have put it off because you don’t have time for another social media app or you don’t think its right for you, but this is the platform to be across if you want to stay on top of digital marketing trends and consumer behavior. 

If I can give you one piece of advice before you start an account for your business, it’s this: plan to launch your TikTok organically before introducing media spend. But more on that soon.  

 So, why should marketers take TikTok seriously? 

  • TikTok has over one billion active monthly users globally. Roughly 90% of users access TikTok every day, spending an average of 95 minutes a day on the platform – that’s 25 more minutes per day than on Netflix.
  • 30% of TikTok’s audience can be found only on TikTok – they don’t have accounts on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, or any other social media platform. 
  • 44% of TikTok users are 18-24, and 22% are 25-34. TikTok is ageing up as content is diversifying. 
  • The average user opens the app eight times a day. 
  • And one of the craziest stats of all – only 5% of marketers are using TikTok.

If marketers need to go where the eyes are, and the eyes are on TikTok, where are all the marketers? In this article, we’ll discuss why TikTok is the pinnacle of organic content in the social media landscape, how to join the conversation authentically, and how to stop making ads – and instead, make TikToks! Here’s what I’ve learned as a TikTok manager and my top advice for building a successful TikTok account for your brand or business

1. Win Fans, Not Customers

One of the greatest mistakes brands make when launching an organic TikTok account is that they think they’re there to win customers, not fans. Trying to win customers with your TikTok strategy is like turning up at a social event and treating it like a networking opportunity. Trying to win fans is like showing up to an event and being so entertaining, funny, and friendly that people find and follow you on Instagram on the way home.

Your fans on TikTok can be the most powerful brand advocates you will ever have, and they might never spend a cent with you. What do they do? They talk, and people love to talk. TikTok is about participating in a conversation, whether creating a video, duetting or stitching, commenting, or even liking a comment. If you can get people to talk positively to you or about you on TikTok, you’re winning fans.

On your brand account, engage with User Generated Content (UGC), comment on content in a similar realm, and talk like a human – not a business. Being across content outside your niche is also critical for building your community. You can win fans by joining their conversations – pop your head in even if they aren’t mentioning you. Act as if you’re verified, even if you’re far from it.   

2. Learn the Algorithm

TikTok’s algorithm is built on an engagement graph rather than a social graph. It’s less about pushing you to follow users and more about filtering you into content categories. Based on its engagement graph, TikTok will determine that you’re more likely to be interested in specific content based on what other users with similar interest profiles have engaged with.

TikTok’s algorithm structure provides more opportunity for any user to gain significant reach with any video, as opposed to their audience size being a factor – and a limitation. This algorithm vets any video uploaded to the platform. Before posting, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Was it shot on a quality phone? 
  • Is the sound clear? 
  • Has it got captions? 
  • Does it include trending music? 
  • Is it short and punchy? 
  • Is it well-edited? 
  • Has it been uploaded with a strong wifi connection? 
  • Is it entertaining or educational? 
  • Does it drive engagement? 

If the answer is yes, then it has a shot at virality. As a social media marketer, it’s hard not to roll your eyes when the word ‘viral’ slides its way into a strategy conversation. But here’s the thing – a user scrolls TikTok expecting to see content from people they don’t know, don’t recognize, or follow. They trust the algorithm to have essentially audited the For You Page content into a curated feed specific to their interests and demographic and based on their historical engagement. This gives any content that’s uploaded a chance to be featured in this highly-consumable, individually-designed, infinite video gallery.  

3. Create ‘Sticky’ Content

Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell came up with the concept of stickiness. The attractiveness of a message or product; the thing that makes it stick. Sticky content is remembered, repeated, and acted upon by many people. Social communities are ‘sticky ecosystems.’ Curating an experience on TikTok with an interaction between community, an ability to discover, and an objective to entertain puts consumers in a more receptive state to return and take valuable actions. The best content creates an emotional trigger that makes people want to participate and be part of the groundswell by posting, engaging, or purchasing. Users congregate around shared interests and trends that transcend age groups and demographics, and brands can take advantage of this if they listen well. 

On TikTok, 80% of users say the platform helps them discover brands and products they’d never heard of before. When users are scrolling their For You Pages, they’re in a state of openness to new information because they trust the algorithm to supply them with exciting content. This is where the power of fans comes into play. If people are making content about a brand or product, and that brand is also present in the conversation with strong TikTok content, this social proofing stimulates decision-making. If a TikTok user is a ‘lurker,’ meaning they don’t personally make videos, their way of participating in the conversation/fandom is by purchasing whatever is being talked about by others so they can be a part of the conversation in the comments. 

4. Push Your Brand Boundaries

TikTok has its own language and sense of humor that native users instinctively use to communicate, operating in subcultures that are unique to the platform. It’s cheekier than other social media platforms, and users love seeing brands act like them (like humans rather than like brands). You may need to stray more from your brand boundaries here than you ever have before. 

For those who haven’t spent much time on TikTok, I urge you to trust the people in your team who use TikTok to make calls about appropriate content. I’ve launched seven TikTok accounts for brands in the last three years, and those that didn’t want to adapt to native messaging struggled with the algorithm. After realizing that repurposing content from other platforms wasn’t going to cut through, the brand gave me more creative freedom resulting in better content and viewership. I’d recommend having an internal kick-off session between social media managers, brand managers, and even CEOs to mark those absolute brand boundaries before launch. Finally, trust your employees who get TikTok to be your content creators, community managers, and decision-makers.  

5. Define Your Content Pillars

Your content pillars are buckets or themes you can lean into when brainstorming your content ideas. You probably already have them defined for other organic calendars on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. Use your knowledge of who your customers are and what they like, and answer this question: how do we entertain that person?

It’s about staying true to your brand while making your content pillars work for TikTok. If you don’t know where to start brainstorming for content, here are a couple of ultimate #TokTips: 

  • Use the Search function on TikTok for your industry or product type.  
  • Use the filter – select the last three months and most liked. 
  • Watch as many videos as possible and figure out what they all have in common. 

This process gives you the most viral video ideas in your niche recently. TikTok is giving you the recipe to cook up a video with a good chance of doing well in the algorithm! Study those editing styles, the movement, the length, the use of text, the opening hook, and the audio that these top videos have and use. Then give the concept an original spin. How can you make the idea quirkier, more you, more targeted, and more controversial? TikTok users and the algorithm love originality and authenticity. 

6. Prioritize Your First Five Videos

The algorithm gives your first five videos more reach. This is because the platform is trying to get you excited about posting, encouraging you to post more and keep eyes on the app. This is the testing ground for the audience’s appetite for your product or service, as well as a chance to demonstrate you are joining the conversation by speaking in the native language. Have a strategy for those first five videos because they signal the success of your future posts and give your account a quality rating in the algorithm. Here’s how I plan a brand’s first five TikTok videos:

Video 1: 

  • Introduce the business: ideally, embed a TikTok reference to provide context and nod to users immediately. 

Videos 2-5: 

  • Show your business in action: show yourself processing or packing an order to legitimize your business.
  • Jump on trends: trending formats will give you a better chance at extending your reach.
  • Tell a story with a challenge and a resolution. 
  • Show something relating to your brand or business that’s satisfying or enjoyable to watch – “behind the scenes” content works well for this.

Every video you post should include trending music, even if it’s muted. It will help pull your content into the algorithm wave that audio is riding. Using TikTok’s text functionality, the copy you write and the hashtags you choose all act as SEO and algorithm keywords. Be specific and strategic to help find your engaged audience. 

7. Timing is Everything 

The time you post on TikTok impacts your viewership massively. The first two hours after posting are crucial, so post when your audience is online. If your TikTok has high view-through and engagement in the first two hours, it exits the first testing phase and will be released to a broader audience. It should keep building momentum if your video can maintain a +10% engagement rate through each audience test. 

Users on TikTok have very low attention spans, so maximize the first moment of every video. The first syllable, the first frame – it all matters. Edit your video to ensure no silence at the start (deemed ‘the millennial pause’), and open with controversy, emotion, or whatever you need to do to grab attention and stop that scroll. 

Keep across your Analytics in your account’s Creator Tools – it will provide critical data so you can interpret future results and feed those into your growth strategy. It will display metrics like engagement, follower growth, and my personal favorite – what time your followers are online. 

8. Find Your Network of Content Creators 

It can be a lot to ask a social media manager to look after multiple social media channels, roll out content strategies for each, and star in, produce and edit videos. Building a network of content creators to feature on your account is really important. There are a few different ways to approach this: 

  1. Pay someone to make videos specifically for your TikTok account (think of this like paying an actor).
  2. Pay a content creator with a known face to TikTok users to create content for your TikTok account. 
  3. Upskill your internal employees to star in TikToks.

The considerations between these options are your budget, experience, and objectives. Hiring content creators is a low-cost option, whereas hiring recognizable TikTok stars to create content for your brand account will be more expensive. The benefit of outsourcing content creation is that it doesn’t require much internal knowledge of the platform to activate a strong strategy.

The upskilling of internal staff requires a channel leader who has advocacy and understanding of TikTok and can instill confidence in others to be on camera. This is how the Envato channel operates – I brief my colleagues with a concept and shot list to execute, edit the footage, optimize the text and audio, and post. This is the most cost-effective way to run a TikTok account and has the added benefit of featuring a behind-the-scenes look at a company which helps to humanize a brand. A word of caution – don’t rely on one person to be the face of your TikTok account. If they stop working for you, that could be the end of your TikTok success, as users might have attached their loyalty to that person, not the business. I’ve seen this happen first-hand.   

9. Use Influencers Authentically

If you want to use TikTokers to amplify your TikTok account via their own, this is typically on a campaign-to-campaign basis rather than an always-on approach. This is mainly because meaningful, genuine mentions of your brand on a TikToker’s account have more impact on their audience. Rather than a sponsored Instagram post or story, this is a short-form video – the creator’s audience will be able to tell if the collaboration is authentic. Choose to work with creators who have shown an interest in your niche so you know that their followers are your target audience. 

Don’t overlook the power of a smaller account either – micro-influencers on TikTok often have highly engaged followings who love to see them succeed with a sponsored collaboration, and the video might do better than expected. Test out working with one big creator for a campaign, and then try working with several smaller accounts for the next to see what works for your messaging. Emphasis on this point – if you’re working with a content creator, have them come to the table with their ideas. They know their audience and what’s going to land. If their content is consistent with their other videos and your brand is embedded beautifully, that is far more powerful than the creator hitting every point in your messaging handbook. The content creator is the vessel for trust – if they appear to trust your brand to their followers who trust them, then you’re away. 

It is important to note that if you have someone representing your brand (an employee, content creator, or influencer), do your due diligence on what kind of content they post, what opinions they hold publicly, and what values they align themselves with. They will be directly associated with your brand, so be cautious – this strategy should bring positive sentiments to your account, not drama. 

10. Organic Content is King

I didn’t talk about paid TikTok much, if at all, throughout this article. Putting media spend behind your posts and boosting them to become what TikTok calls ‘Spark Ads’ alerts your audience that they are being served an Ad. It will always say Sponsored down the bottom of the post – and users are savvier than ever about scrolling on as soon as they see that Sponsored tag. Disguise your ads as organic TikToks, so they fit in naturally with the rest of your feed. 

If you decide to commit to a TikTok account, I recommend starting with organic intent. If the algorithm doesn’t pick you up in the first few months of consistent posting, then re-evaluate transitioning to a Spark Ads approach. This means your account likely will become a ‘Pay-to-Play’ situation with limited access to trending sounds, but of course, it does mean you can target who you want to speak with, get on their radar and grow your following through auction buying. Even if you decide to put spend behind your posts, shoot and edit them as if they’re going out organically. You will see better engagement and results – if you can maintain that +10% engagement rate across your boosted posts, this is invaluable for social proofing. 

So there you have it – the top things I’ve learned as a TikTok manager. TikTok is shaping how the world consumes entertainment and education and heavily influencing purchase decisions, so now’s the time to tap into the opportunities TikTok presents for your brand. Start scrolling today! 

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