Can TikTok be used for business?

Can Tik Tok app be used for business? By Shake It Up Creative.

It’s had one billion downloads globally and was merged with last year. Extremely popular with younger teens, TikTok is the short-form video social media app that is now available in 75 languages and has its own content trends list.  But can TikTok be used for business?

What is TikTok?

The TikTok app is available on iOS and Android, giving every user the opportunity to create entertaining vertical videos, directly from their smartphone. The short videos include lip-syncs, comedy sketches and videos with added special effects like music, filters and sound effects.  Anyone can download the app and see other users’ videos that have already been posted, but account registration is required before self-posting is possible.  Private accounts can be set up, just as with Instagram where followers can be approved or denied.  Another, separate, version of the app is available in China, called Douvin. 

Why is TikTok so popular?

According to, TikTok has 524 million active users worldwide.

They also state that @lisaandlena, identical twins, now have TikTok’s most successful account outside China, with a whopping 31.5 million fans.  When was launched, its creators, Bytedance, managed to get Warner Music Group on board in terms of music licensing.  Suddenly, teenagers were able to lip-sync with popular copyrighted music without any legal consequences and other rights holders followed.  (see Freya’s example) The app later added – livestreaming functionality.  Douyin, meanwhile, was successfully hooking users into  a free, addictive stream of 15 second videos – talented animals, beauty vids, pranks, you name it.  TikTok, the merged version of the two apps brought the growing Eastern and Western Audiences together and the celebrity fan list was increasing too.  Videos on the app can be downloaded and sometimes compilation videos appear on other sites such as YouTube.

What’s trending? (from

These are the types of videos that are most popular on the TikTok platform right now.

  • Challenges (eg. The fake travel challenge)
  • Memes
  • Influencer Sponsorships
  • Duets
  • Slow-Mo
  • Celebs
  • Cosplay
  • Twins (actual twins doing all kinds of funny stuff)

So can TikTok be used for business?

Absolutely, but like any social media or marketing activity, it needs to be right for your business, to be the right place for your brand to hang out.  The technology is in place to help filter out suspicious activity and human moderators monitor and remove inappropriate content and guideline-violating accounts, so it’s not too primitive a platform in terms of online safety.

Mike Prasad, CEO of Tinysponsor says, “The beauty of TikTok is that it’s an accessible creative space… That means it thrives on a touch of quirkiness and avoids heavily commercial-style productions.”

We wouldn’t advise jumping on and then expecting marketing miracles.  Someone using the app for business would need to get active and grow followers before attempting a campaign, just like they would in any other social media space.  Accounts can be verified, but designated business accounts aren’t available.

If your target audience is the under 25’s and you have an authentic yet trendy brand, then TikTok is currently an unsaturated (for businesses) place to be.  Fun hashtag challenges can be created by businesses, sometimes with prizes, eg. the #InMyDenim campaign by GUESS and the play-for-fun #TumbleweedChallenge and #sharpiechallenge both instigated by American TV celebrity Jimmy Fallon.  Advertising on the platform is in its infancy, but TikTok will support four types of ads by the end of 2019:

  • in-feed native content – like Instagram Story ads, analytics are provided but these videos can also be skipped by the user
  • hashtag challenges – brands create their own challenges and landing page links can be embedded
  • brand takeovers – brands can take over the app for one day, GIFs and other image/video based content can be created
  • branded lenses – like Snapchat filters

Tips for using TikTok for business marketing

  • Self-expression needs to be at the heart of any campaign/content
  • Companies need to behave in a genuine, fun, way
  • It’s likely to be a waste of time for B2B companies
  • It will be at its cheapest to advertise on now, until it becomes a proven marketing space
  • The influencer community is yet to flourish so there’s low competition for opportunities
  • Be sure your brand is ready to experiment and find what works on the platform
  • Users are likely to stay on the app as they get older so the user demographics may develop over time
  • Think about ways you could repurpose existing content from other platforms and TikTok-ify it!

There’s certainly intrigue for marketers and we’re sure many of those working for consumer-facing brands will be putting their case forward for TikTok to become a part of their marketing plan very soon.

Rachael Dines, Director of Shake It Up Creative