TikTok Marketing: Your Ultimate Creative Guide (2024)

This guide to TikTok marketing is part of our Ultimate Guide series on social media video marketing best practices. Learn more about how harnessing the power of video marketing helps brands stand out on other platforms, from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and Snapchat.

Since its launch in 2016, TikTok has quickly become one of the most influential social media platforms in the world. But some marketing teams still haven’t taken advantage of this opportunity. From TikTok video ad specs to how to create TikToks at scale, we’ve got everything you need to know to start advertising on this hot video-first platform. 

TikTok gives users a slate of creative features to produce an endless stream of short-form video content. Similar to Instagram and Snapchat, TikTok allows users to add filters, text, and effects to their videos, but it goes beyond the limitations of these other platforms. As a video-focused, sonic-oriented app with a vast library of popular songs, TikTok allows users to seamlessly integrate music directly into their original videos. This makes the user-generated content feel slick and professional.

Even if the value of TikTok marketing isn’t immediately apparent for your brand, there’s a wealth of opportunities for your team to lean into the rising social platform to build community and awareness for your business. And as they introduce new features, those opportunities are only growing.

You may not be as fortunate as BMW, which saw a surge in visibility when the brand was organically featured in a wildly popular TikTok series, but it’s a success story that proves the power of the platform. With one simple video, you can make a significant impact, which can potentially reverberate across the pop culture spectrum. In a swelling sea of competitors vying for domination on the social platform, it’s high time to start exploring what opportunities TikTok marketing holds and how the platform can help you achieve your business video marketing goals.

This guide will give you an overview of TikTok advertising, the suite of ad placements you can utilize, as well as creative best practices (for paid and organic) to give you a leg up on other brands as the race to embrace the new social platform continues.

TikTok Marketing: Platform Overview

TikTok Marketing: Ad Placements and Specs

TikTok Marketing Creative Best Practices

What Is TikTok? Platform Overview

TikTok began its life in 2016 as Douyin, a video-sharing app developed by the tech company ByteDance for the Chinese market. In 2017, ByteDance acquired Musical.ly, a lip-syncing app with many of the same social video features that typify the TikTok experience. When Douyin integrated Musical.ly’s functionality into their app, the global version of the social platform, TikTok, was born. 

Flash forward to today, and the app has boomed, growing to over 1.5 billion monthly active users across 150 countries. A large part of this rapid adoption is how easy TikTok makes it for users to create and share original native video advertisements on the platform. 

As TikTok states, “Our mission is to capture and present the world’s creativity, knowledge and moments that matter in everyday life. TikTok empowers everyone to be a creator directly from their smartphones, and is committed to building a community by encouraging users to share their passion and creative expression through their videos.” As we all know, TikTok is more than accomplishing its mission. The app has been downloaded over two billion times, and 83% of users have posted at least one piece of video content. 

The platform has played a vital role in turning everyday people into viral content creators. TikTok’s users are already fluent in the tools of visual storytelling, and brands need to know they’re advertising to an audience of content aficionados in order to effectively plan their marketing strategies. 

The sheer amount of videos produced daily means the platform is saturated with content, mostly from — and targeted to — younger demographics, like Gen Z and Millennials. While we think of TikTok as a social channel geared toward younger audiences, there is a balanced representation of users across all demographics, including Baby Boomers. As older generations tap into the fun of the latest social platform, brands have an opportunity to connect with their target audience in new, innovative ways. With so much content on the platform, nearly anyone can find something to suit their interests. 

The potential for brands to drive sales with TikTok marketing will only grow more apparent as the platform pivots to meet the demands of social commerce. With the ever-increasing popularity of TikTok Made Me Buy It and the introduction of TikTok Shop, product advertisements are only becoming more essential. As the platform continues to embrace the emerging eCommerce trend, TikTok is setting itself up to become a true full-funnel marketing channel for brands.

TikTok Organic Video Specs

Before we dive into the ad placements that exist for marketers, let’s take a look at what specs users need to follow when organically posting to TikTok.

  • Resolution: 1080×1920
  • Aspect ratio: 9:16
  • Length: Up to 10 minutes long
  • Maximum size: 287.6 MB
  • Format: MP4 or MOV

Organic TikTok Videos: What To Keep in Mind

In addition to running TikTok ads, creating an organic profile is critical. While improved engagement and conversions won’t happen overnight, establishing your brand’s organic presence on the platform can help build trust and familiarity with current and potential consumers. 

Since TikTok is optimized for mobile use, you can shoot your videos using typical dimensions. Now, TikToks can be up to 10 minutes long, but the most popular videos are significantly shorter. As reported by Wired, the most recent data shows the most popular TikToks are between 21 and 34 seconds.

TikTok Marketing Ad Specs & Placement Types

What are the specs for a TikTok video? How long should a TikTok video ad be? What is the best resolution for TikTok? This section will answer these questions about TikTok video ad specs — and more.

Related: TikTok Video Ad Specs & Placements

Need help with other networks? Check out our complete Social Media Video Ad Specs & Placements Guide

TikTok surged in popularity in 2020, dominating the cultural zeitgeist during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the same year, the company unveiled TikTok for Business, which eased the barriers to entry for competitors of all sizes who want to get onto the platform. 

It’s a creativity-driven, video-first platform, making it an attractive buy for advertisers targeting younger demographics with unique TikTok video ideas. Let’s look at three popular ways to advertise, including TikTok ad specs and TikTok ad sizes:

In-Feed Video Ads

While all TikTok ad specs are important, you’ll certainly want to familiarize yourself with In-Feed ads. These video ads appear in the For You feed, which is an algorithm-based feed that shows users videos targeted to their interests. If you’re familiar with ads on Instagram, you’ll have an idea of what an In-Feed Video ad will look like. 

Users can engage with and share the ads natively on the platform. This ad placement can be further supported through calls to action (CTAs), which help drive traffic to internal landing pages, your website, or an e-commerce store.

Video Ad Specs

  • Aspect ratio: 9:16, 1:1, or 16:9, but 9:16 is recommended for a native experience 
  • Max file size: 500 MB
  • Video length: Can support 5 to 60-second videos. TikTok recommends 9 to 15-second videos for optimal performance. 
  • File types: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .avi
  • Description: 1 to 100 characters are supported
  • TikTok ads should be supported with sound and/or music as the app defaults to a sound-on experience.

In-Feed Video TikTok Ads: What To Keep in Mind

Since these ads are quick bursts of content, users can easily swipe past them, so make sure you grab users’ attention in the first few seconds. Out-of-the-box creative video campaign ideas, like animation production and stop-motion, can make a TikTok marketing video stand out. 

This ad for Self, created by QuickFrame, taps into the creative culture of TikTok while promoting Self’s app by framing the ad as a behind-the-scenes look at digital animation.

Spark Ads

This native ad format allows you to create ads from your own TikTok videos or videos from other creators (with their permission, of course). While Spark Ads initially seem similar to In-Feed Ads, there are some notable differences, including the metrics you can track. These additional metrics include music clicks, paid profile visits, anchor clicks, and more. 

This new feature allows you to elevate different types of videos — even UGC from your loyal fans. Whether you want to boost your video production, an unboxing of your products from a fan, or another video entirely, you can do it with Spark Ads. 

Video Ad Specs

  • As long as it’s uploaded on TikTok as an organic video, you can use it as a Spark Ad. Otherwise, there are no restrictions on video ratio, video resolution, file type, video duration, bitrate, or file size. 
  • Account tagging, emojis, and hashtags are allowed in Spark Ads’ captions. 

Spark TikTok Ads: What To Keep in Mind

Maybe one of the most popular features of Spark ads is that all actions revolve around your (or another creator’s) organic post. According to TikTok, “Spark Ads use posts from real TikTok accounts, which ensures all views, comments, shares, likes, and follows gained from boosting the video during the promotion are attributed to your organic posts.” 

Related: 5 Best eCommerce Product Videos to Boost Conversions

Video Shopping Ads

Video Shopping Ads (VSAs) allow brands to make their In-Feed TikTok videos into shoppable videos. Available to all TikTok Shops, viewers can browse products and then make purchases. 

These ads default to a Product Anchor Link-style CTA, since TikTok reports it has “historically strong conversions and click-through rates.” However, it’s not your only option. With several interactive features, you can customize your VSA, test it with your audience, and optimize it as needed. 

Video Ad Specs

  • As long as it’s uploaded on TikTok as an organic video, you can use it as a Spark Ad. Otherwise, there are no restrictions on video ratio, video resolution, file type, video duration, bitrate, or file size. 

Video Shopping Ads: What To Keep in Mind

Even though your audience will have easier access to your products, you still need to connect with them as quickly as possible. Use this opportunity to highlight your value propositions, use cases, and even brand values. As video commerce evolves, you can use these (and future features) to make the most of your social media video marketing budget. 

New and Notable Features

In addition to their suite of ad placements, TikTok is continually iterating and expanding on their product to bring new features, resources, and creative plays to their users–that advertisers absolutely should leverage.

Brand Safety and Suitability

Some brands have shied away from using TikTok partly because they want to make sure the platform is safe. In the past, some age-inappropriate content has made it through the platform, and some of its popular influencers have also been involved in scandals. 

To avoid tainting your brand, TikTok gives you more control over how your ads run on the platform. TikTok has been working with a variety of companies, including the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM), to help brands place their ads alongside relevant content. Brand Suitability features help you run your ads alongside quality content that’s safe and suitable for your target audience.  

Branded Effects

TikTok is fun for users, in part, because you can add effects to videos and make them more engaging. With branded effects, you can create a custom filter that runs for ten days. You can create these effects using 2D, 3D, or augmented reality (AR). 

Branded effects can range from something as simple as a branded sticker to custom animations and sound effects. Branded effects are a great way to create easily discoverable user-generated content that’s also easily identifiable as part of your brand. 

Community Competitions 

TikTok is creating more ways for the video community to come together, including through competitions. The #TikTokShortFilm competition, for example, is a way to bring the TikTok community together. In 2024, the competition is available to creators in more than 55 countries around the world. 

Effect House 

Effect House is a TikTok effect creation software that allows users to create and share their own effects. To help the community thrive in this space, they’ve also supplied guides, tutorials, and an asset library within the Effect House website. According to TikTok, they created the platform to “expand what’s possible with effects.” 

Mobile Effects Editor 

To supplement Effect House, TikTok created a mobile effects editor so video makers can easily create effects from their mobile devices. According to a statement made by TikTok, “That means anyone… can become an effect creator and make effects that spark trends on TikTok.” 

Need help making videos? See how our video production platform can help your business.

TikTok Best Practices for Brands

The best way to get a firm grasp on what content performs best is by immersing yourself in the platform, which will help you understand what to post on TikTok and the best time to post on TikTok.

What are the popular trends and hashtag challenges that are exciting for users right now? How are brands and TikTok influencers playing with different video styles to drive viral awareness and growth? Even more importantly: what are your competitors doing to get a leg up on your own TikTok marketing campaigns? 

Once you know what makes TikTok, well, tick, you can create a content framework and use the platform to your advantage. Here are a few TikTok best practices for marketers to keep in mind.

Stay on Trend

According to TikTok, they don’t spark trends; they set them on fire. 

Trends and hashtags are a huge part of the TikTok experience. What makes trends appealing to TikTok users is that they establish an environment of cross-content storytelling. Users build communities by contributing to an overarching narrative — advancing a story (or meme or dance) that the community collectively created. 

With on-trend creative, your brand can participate in social conversation with content in several ways, including through text, audio, and other stylistic elements. Trends can be short-lived, so always stay on the pulse of what’s happening and act fast to produce relevant content.

Adopt a Native Approach

As a community of content creators, TikTok is a UGC-first environment. To feel native to the platform, adopt a UGC-style in your video ads with relatable, on-screen talent. If you want your ads to blend in even more with the platform’s user-generated feel, consider casting actual customers to promote your brand. 

Audiences expect storytelling and entertainment on TikTok, so focus on putting a fun and snappy spin on your UGC-style creative to make it feel new and different. Think about how you can integrate b-roll, lifestyle shots, and more to play with the UGC-style video format

While it might sound strange, talent doesn’t always need to be visible on-screen to be effective in UGC. You can take a UGC-style approach by making your creative look like it was filmed by hand. Leverage stills, motion graphics, music, and voiceover to craft a UGC feel solely through post-production techniques.

This QuickFrame-created TikTok ad from Apostrophe shows some unique ways you can use post-production editing to add filters and text to give your TikTok marketing videos a native feel.

Surprise with Sound and Video

Audio is a critical part of TikTok, so plan to the forefront the auditory experience in your creative concept and storytelling. Audio can quickly grab audience attention (which you’ll need to do to prevent a user from swiping your ad away), but you should also employ off-beat, bright, or interesting visual content to retain interest and spark curiosity in your viewer.

The element of surprise performs well on TikTok. Since users spend a lot of time on the platform consuming a stream of content, think of ways your advertisements can visually and sonically delight your audience with an unexpected twist.

Use Creative Storytelling

TikTok users are telling stories in short timeframes. Unlike other platforms, TikTok serves up one full-screen video at a time, so viewers are engrossed in the world of a single TikTok before swiping to the next.

Quickly grabbing user attention is important, but you need to make sure your creative follows through and delivers a payoff. Chart a narrative arc that will take your audience on a journey for every TikTok marketing video you run. Human psychology craves narrative, so a clear story is a surefire way to make a memorable mark.

Narrative arcs don’t always have to be a stereotypical story; they can also be videos that teach your audience something new. Leverage various types of videos, such as how-to videos, to take your audience on a journey of education and discovery.

This QuickFrame-created ad from Sodastream shows viewers how to craft a delicious drink while promoting the products underlying eco-friendliness.

Other TikTok Best Practices to Add to Your Creative Arsenal

  • Find a niche. Really establishing what is unique about your brand will allow you to attract audiences within your niche. By identifying your brand’s niche, you can drive your content directly to a core base of consumers who want it the most.
  • Publish often. You need to produce a steady stream of video content to compete in a saturated digital advertising world — especially on TikTok. With new videos being posted every minute, regularly publishing new and relevant video content, not just paid advertisements, will ensure your brand doesn’t get lost in a sea of emerging dances and hashtag challenges.
  • Prioritize authenticity. TikTok is an unfiltered environment that celebrates individuality and being your true self. Your brand will be rewarded by embodying the platform’s ethos of authenticity. Marketers have a clear picture of their brand’s identity, so try and be as genuine about that identity as possible. The quickest way to create cringey content is by lacking the authenticity that users crave on the platform.
  • Track performance. Like any marketing campaign, video, or otherwise, you want to ensure you’re keeping track of how your videos perform. TikTok has an analytics dashboard that makes it easy to track your entire campaign, from the total number of views and average time watched to specific traffic sources and user locations. This data can surface insights into how you can more effectively target your audiences, which will be a boon for marketers as privacy and data rules evolve.
  • Work the algorithm. According to TikTok, every new interaction on the platform helps the system learn about user interests so they can suggest more relevant content. If your objective is to drive engagement, you need to consistently share fresh video content. The more videos you produce increases the opportunity for user interaction, driving even more relevant content from your brand to their feed. Use the TikTok algorithm insights to inform your creative strategy. Since TikTok states the For You feed won’t show two similar videos in a row, you need to diversify your creative. Ensure your videos remain unique and engaging so users don’t feel the need to swipe away — even if they do see a few of your videos in a row.

Marketing on TikTok: The Takeaway

The future of TikTok marketing is limitless. 

And the best way to understand what’s popular now is to do your homework and scroll through the app. One of the first trends you’ll notice is the challenges. Many TikTok users create challenges, which is a call to action to other users to do something in a video.  In 2019, the Haribo Challenge took over the platform. In the initial video that inspired the challenge, a user set up gummy bears throughout their home and played a live version of Adele’s “Someone Like You.” In this video, gummy bears served as the audience singing Adele’s song back to her. 

Others jumped on the hashtag, making videos featuring smartphones, pets, marshmallows, Funko Pop figurines, and multiple other products. Viral videos can bring thousands of views to your brand. While your brand may not immediately inspire a challenge, you can use TikTok’s creative features to connect with users and inspire them to learn more about you. 

Whether you’re taking part in challenges, using branded hashtags, or sharing Spark Ads of UGC (or all three!), TikTok is an effective way to reach your audience in an engaging and creative way. As the app’s user base grows and diversifies across demographics, now is the perfect time for your brand to capitalize on TikTok’s insatiable trend-setting spirit. Learn more about TikTok video production.

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