Don't Advertise on TikTok
Updated April 2022
A woman makes a stop gesture with her hand
TikTok is on everyone's lips. For Gen Z, it's the No. 1 social media platform. Marketing agencies promise enormous success. And many companies are blindly jumping on the hype. But unfortunately, many businesses are overlooking a major problem.
It's definitely a great time to try out organic posting on TikTok. Whenever it comes to reaching young people, TikTok is a must. Because you can reach a large audience with young people on TikTok. But for now, advertising on TikTok is not worth it in most cases. And you know this better than anyone else: Advertising that doesn't increase your revenue or business growth is wasted.
Sure, if your product is mainly bought by young people, then it makes sense to try out ads on this platform—no doubt. But we know that some of our clients thought they could launch conversion campaigns on TikTok to sell their high-priced electronics products. And that didn’t work well.
Now, let’s start with the demographics. If you want to skip the demographics, click here and jump straight to the main topic.
Low awareness among older consumers? Create some cool TikTok memes. — Ryan Wallman
There are so many people trying to tell you that TikTok is the non-plus ultra. This is the new way to get B2B leads. And they even tell you that you can reach C-level executives on this platform. What kind? 20-year-olds with 10 employees who call themselves CMOs who fall for FOMO-manipulation themselves?
Of course, there are also older people who use TikTok. And there are certainly also C-level executives. But that is a minority at the moment.
Yes, you can (and perhaps should) build a strong presence on TikTok. It will gain relevance, other people will join, and your current audience will get older. And yes, advertising on TikTok will become a method—just like Facebook ads. But for now? We can't recommend this way.
Anyway, let's start with some facts about TikTok.
TikTok demographics—Gen Z focused
TikTok is used most by young people, who are registered there mainly for entertainment. And due to their age, most of these users have low purchasing power. Thus, conversion campaigns are not effective in most cases.
Demographics of TikTok in 2021
With 1 billion monthly active users and a global user base grow by 1157.76% between January 2018 and July 2020, the platform shouldn’t be completely ignored. For reference: Facebook has 2.98 billion and Instagram has 1.4 billion.
The number of monthly TikTok users in the US has now surpassed 130 million. 69% of active users are between 16 and 24 years old, whereas 25+ users make up only 31%. 60% are female TikTok users and the distribution between iOS and Android is almost even, with a slight advantage for iOS with 54%.
So, if you want to target people under 35—especially women aged 18 to 25—or want to build a strong presence in Asia or Middle East, TikTok is the right place for you. But we definitely recommend organic marketing.
No classic advertising on TikTok
Your ads probably get many impressions and reach. That sounds good at first, but how many users will buy from you? As described in the previous section, TikTok users have low purchasing power.
Of course, you can run awareness campaigns and drive a long-term strategy to establish your brand right now. However, organic marketing is more suitable to achieve this goal on TikTok.
Don't make ads. Make TikToks
Don't see TikTok as a marketer—see it as a content creator.
This official statement from TikTok means that classic ads, such as those that work on Instagram, are not recommended or even working on TikTok. Instead of hyper-polished, aspirational content, the young audiences prefer authentic and real video content.
TikTok is a platform for videos. And compared to Facebook and Instagram, where videos have to work without sound, it's essential here. Thus, user-generated content (UGC) is an excellent choice here.
In order to reach and engage with your audience on TikTok, you need to understand their culture. No matter if it’s organic content or paid advertising. The trick is to create content that feel like it's all created by users. It should seem natural in their environment.
Long story short: Organic content that feels like created from a user and speaks the audience’s language is the key to success on TikTok. And that is exactly what they wanted to express with its slogan.
Instead of advertising use organic marketing
Place your brand and products in the minds of your target audience through organic strategies—and sell your products more easily in a few years. This could enhance your revenue in the future.
In the long term, TikTok could be an important social media platform. And it is definitely worthwhile to attract the attention of these young people with organic marketing now—in order to be able to sell to them more easily in a few years. You can even use your organic marketing as a foundation for your advertising campaigns in a few years. And your presence on TikTok can increase the effectiveness of your ads on other platforms too.
Imagine: Your brand regularly posts on TikTok. And the users like it—but don't have enough buying power yet. However, in a few years, they remember your products and buy from you, because they were framed early. Maybe they buy through an ad on Instagram or something else. But the reason why they buy could be your presence on TikTok a few years ago.
Still want to advertise?
Maybe your target audience is young and active on TikTok. And you want to test how your ads work. But you should definitely compare paid ads with organic content. Netflix could run ads on TikTok to alert users to new shows. And Razer could also advertise gaming hardware. Both could perform well enough to make it worthwhile. But both should compare results with organic content strategies to learn what works—and what doesn't.
With these details, you'll help your social media team successfully advertise on TikTok.
If you still want to advertise on TikTok, you should follow best practices and see how organic TikToks work to increase your efficiency—and save costs. You need high-resolution videos in vertical format (9:16) created for full-screen mode. Overlay text, sound, and a clear CTA are highly recommended.
And because of Gen Z's short attention span, the first 3 to 10 seconds are critical. Make your videos eye-catching and engaging to grab users' attention—or you lose your audience. Triggering positive emotions with good storytelling is key on this platform.
Do you want to understand the TikTok narrative? Take your smartphone and install the app. And then look at the viral content. Take the time to browse through the content, no matter how absurd it may seem to you. When you are done, ask yourself “Is this the right place for me to advertise?”.
With these best practices, you should be able to improve the quality of your ads and increase the chance of achieving your marketing goals.
If you're unsure about TikTok Advertising, you can take a look at the benefits of Facebook Advertising, which we explain in more detail here
Many companies are insecure about TikTok advertising. Can they increase their revenue? What strategy works? How does it even work? And then they ask their advertising agency for advice—expecting a qualified advice.
But unfortunately, many advertising agencies don't know any better and make false recommendations that look good on paper but don't add any value to their clients. Or bad agencies see this as an opportunity to sell their clients expensive advertising campaigns that achieve high reach and impressions, but otherwise deliver no added value—because no one buys, even if conversion is one of their business goals. And then you have wasted advertising budget.
You know your business goals better than any agency—so be critical. If they treat TikTok like any other channel, it's a bad sign. And since TikTok is also new to most agencies, they also need to learn how it works.
Companies that want to reach young target groups can achieve a wide reach through organic marketing on TikTok. You can also frame these audiences now—to position yourself ahead of the competition and gain an advantage in the long run. But that's just one idea.
What we can say is that in most cases, social advertising on TikTok is not worth it for now. Maybe it could be worthwhile for your business. But this decision has to be made individually.
We help our clients to choose the right social media platform for their business goals. And then we create appropriate advertising strategies to achieve these goals in the most efficient way. Contact us to find out if we can help you too.
Thank you for reading and have a nice day!