What Is TikTok? A Complete Guide for Marketers

Written by Adam Hayes

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You’ve probably only just got your head around Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Snapchat? And now you’ve been tasked with setting up TikTok for your brand too?

Are you asking yourself, will my business even do well on TikTok? Do I need to hire a young intern to even know what’s going on? 

Well, in this guide we’ll answer these questions to get you set up and ready for the TikTok phenomenon…

Why TikTok?

The growth of TikTok is fascinating! Starting in China, the mobile app has become a worldwide phenomenon, recently hitting 1.5 billion downloads from the app store and the Google Play store.

Their expansion skyrocketed when they acquired Musical.ly in 2017 and the Musical.ly app itself was fully replaced by TikTok. 

Tik Tok was the most downloaded app from Jan 2018 to March 2019 in the app store, which is a huge feat! Plus, the app is the only one not owned by Facebook that stays within the top five in the download charts. 

But what do TikTok user demographics look like? In a nutshell, here are the facts:

When talking about TikTok user demographics, ‘Generation Z’ is referenced a lot. If you’re not sure what that means, we’ll save you the Google search.

Generation Z are the generation who are reaching adulthood in the second decade of the 21st century. They are known for being up to speed with ‘all things internet’ from a very young age and are notoriously hard to market to as they are immune to ‘obvious’ marketing campaigns. 

In their own way they are very switched on and have money-making opportunities much earlier than their millennial predecessors. Because of their extensive knowledge of technology and social media, they can market themselves and find it easy to gain that coveted ‘influencer’ status that a lot of people crave. 

How to get started with TikTok

It’s easy to set up a TikTok account, especially if you follow these next few steps:

  1. Simply download the TikTok app from the app store or the Google Play store 
  2. Create an account
  3. Upload a profile picture
  4. And you’re ready to go!

Content that works on TikTok

TikTok has a huge ‘trend culture’, so any clever brand knows there’s a few bandwagons they’re going to have to jump on as well as creating original content.

We’re talking dance routines, animal videos and lip sync routines!

These kinds of videos are uploaded and copied hundreds of times over on TikTok. So if you can find a way to make these trends work for your brand, your videos are likely to reach an audience.

When it comes to creating your own original content for TikTok, the most basic and fun concepts often work best. You’ve only got a short amount of time for each video and people are likely to scroll straight past if they don’t find it interesting and engaging. 

If you’re not sure how to get started TikTok’s Discovery page is a good place to begin. This will show you examples of videos that are popular and performing well at the moment.

Brand examples

Elf Cosmetics 

Elf have embraced TikTok and produced amazing results. 

They went in full force and had an original song made for a TikTok campaign. The song was called ‘Eyes Lips Face’ after their brand name acronym.

The brand enlisted some influencers to get some hype behind the campaign and now there’s over 5 billion videos using the hashtag!

Brand campaigns using an original song may be the way forward, as even if users don’t use your hashtag correctly or tag the wrong brand page, they’ll still be directed back to you, because your music tag will be on every video that uses it.


You don’t have to go as far as having an original song produced, a catchy hashtag that inspires people to post different types of content can work too!

Skincare giant Olay created the hashtag ‘SpaDeOlay’ which allowed people to upload different skincare routines, spa day videos and some people even took the comedic route!


Crowning Enzo MVB – most valuable brother. #spadeolay #ad Olay.com code: MYSTERY ✨

♬ Absolutely Anything (feat. OR3O) – CG5

As a result there’s been nearly 10,000 videos made using the hashtag!

The TikTok Algorithm

TikTok’s algorithm is unique, your level of exposure is based on how successful your videos are, rather than your profile as a whole. It’s not just based on straight views, it takes into account rewatches, likes and follows etc.

Initial exposure is based on geographical location, which is great for local and small businesses as you’ll reach people that are close to you first. So, even if some of you videos don’t get a huge quantity of views, the people who do view it will be nearby and more likely to use your service. 

But then TikTok uses machine learning to assess the quality of video. By showing the video to a small number of users in between more popular videos, and watches for views, likes and shares. The ratio is 1 like for every 10 views in order to trigger the algorithm to show the video to more people.

The algorithm then works on how fast engagement increases, if it increases quickly, the video will be shown to more and more people.

Advertising opportunities on TikTok

  1. In-feed advertising– This is paid for space on the TikTok main feed, using videos you as a brand have produced especially for this purpose.
  1. Sponsored challenges– Like the good old days of YouTube, challenge videos get a lot of views, setting a challenge that relates to your brand or product is a good way to get noticed. 

look how beautiful my momma is :’) #MakeMomSmile @colgate_us #ColgatePartner

♬ Children Folk Acoustic – BDKSonic
  1. Influencer videos– TikTok has a specific space for this called ‘TikTok influencer marketplace’ where TikTok visitors can go to see what their favourite influencers are recommending. This is a refreshing move as influencer marketing has been seen as ‘fake’ in the past, but putting this all in one place makes it easy for an audience to distinguish someones ‘opinion’ from a ‘paid for ad’. 

How flexible are you? 1-10??? Forward folds for me are quite easy, backwards though not so much! @gymshark #gymshark #forwardfold #foryou #flexible

♬ God Is A Dancer – Tiësto & Mabel

All of the above advertising should be clearly labelled as ‘sponsored’ so audiences know they are watching advertisements or sponsored content. 

How to create a TikTok

Once you have created your account, you can get going right away!

  1. Click the ‘plus’ button, either directly from your feed or from your profile page.
  2. Choose either 60 or 15 seconds.
  1. Add a filter or change the speed you want to record in.
  2. Record your clip, or upload a clip from your camera roll.
  1. Press the ‘tick’ icon, if you’re happy with your video.
  2. Add a music track, text on screen or stickers.
  1. You have another chance to add a filter here too!
  1. Or adjust the clip by cutting it down.
  2. Click ‘next’.
  3. Add a caption.
  1. Add hashtags or tag people in the video.
  2. Click to share to other platforms.
  3. And post!

TikTok video features 

One of the best things about TikTok is the amount of features to use to make your videos fun and watchable, such as:

  • Flip– You can film a TikTok using both your front and back camera
  • Beauty– Beauty filters can offer skin smoothing, teeth whitening and all the other good stuff to make you look ‘better’ on camera.
  • Speed– When recording you can speed up or slow down the video speed. 
  • Filters– TikTok has masses of filters to choose from, from simple colour changes to funny face distorters.
  • Timer– You can film a TikTok for either 15 seconds or 60 seconds, but no longer, this helps keep the snappy nature of the app going.
  • Sounds– Sounds on TikTok range from full music tracks, or you can record your own sounds. BUt once you have recorded your own sounds, they are available for anybody to use! Hence why the lip sync videos became a trend.
  • Effects– Effects are a step up from filters, thes can change the sound of your voice or you can turn your background into a green screen.

TikTok Pro 

To really keep track of how your TikTok account is doing, you need to upgrade to a ‘Pro’ account that gives you access to your accounts analytics.

Surprisingly, it’s a free upgrade! 

It will show you video views, follower counts and profile views. You can look into your growth and decline and see which of your videos worked best.

This can help you plan your strategy and is essential for brands who are looking to use TikTok seriously as a marketing technique. 

Benefits of TikTok 

  1. It has a younger audience that could be hard to reach on other platforms– and as discussed early, this is a notoriously hard audience to market to. Using TikTok could be your breakthrough move to infiltrate Generation Z.
  1. It’s not as saturated with brands as other social media platforms are– TikTok is still a very organic platform. You can scroll through a huge amount of videos before you’re hit with an ad. So, timing is everything, get in there first and see who takes notice.
  1. It can help you explore the more fun aspects of your brand/business– If your brand is a little more serious, use TikTok to bring out the fun side- you never know where it could lead!

Final thoughts

TikTok is an exciting way forward for social media, with a more relaxed and fun feel, brands and businesses can really get closer to their audience than ever before!

You don’t have to rush in with brand new content straight away, why not take part in a couple of trends and challenges to test the water first?

That way you can figure out what works for you as a brand, then you can wow your newTikTok followers with your more planned out marketing campaign- how exciting!

Do you want a video especially for your social media channels? Take a look at our social media agency page for inspiration.

Written by <a href="https://www.wyzowl.com/author/adamhayes/" target="_self">Adam Hayes</a>

Written by Adam Hayes

Adam is Head of Content at Wyzowl. Leading a talented, fearless team of writers, Adam's passions include video, growth marketing, brand storytelling and referring to himself in the third person.
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