Video marketing

TikTok Marketing: Your Ultimate Creative Guide

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 brand’s stand out on other platforms, from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and Snapchat.

When we look back at social media in 2020, it’ll be remembered as the year TikTok took the world by storm. Catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing orders, the video-first platform was adopted in record rates as users sought connection through new forms of entertainment.

What makes TikTok so fun is that it 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, users can seamlessly integrate music directly into their original videos. This makes the user-generated content feel slick and professional.

What may stop brands from leveraging TikTok as a marketing tool is the notion that the platform isn’t conducive to your campaign goals or target demographics. But even if the TikTok marketing applications aren’t immediately apparent, there’s a wealth of opportunities for your team to lean in to the rising social platform to build community and awareness for your brand. 

You may not be as fortunate as Ocean Spray, who saw a surge in visibility when the brand was organically featured in a wildly popular TikTok video, but it’s a success story that proves the power of the platform. With one simple video, you can make an impact that 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 you start exploring what opportunity TikTok marketing holds, and how the platform can help you achieve your video marketing goals.

This guide will give you an overview of TikTok, the suite of ad placements that 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: Platform Overview
TikTok Ad Placements and Specs
TikTok Marketing Creative Best Practices


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, a lip-syncing app with many of the same social video features that typify the TikTok experience. When Douyin integrated’s functionality into their app, the global version of the social platform, TikTok, was born. 

Flashforward to today and the app has boomed, growing to almost 700 million monthly active users across 150 countries, with some forecasts showing TikTok breaching 1 billion users by the end of 2021. Even more intriguing than these staggering numbers is that TikTok’s base audience is unique to the platform, with 1 in 4 users not found on any other social channel.

A large part of this rapid adoption is how easy TikTok makes it for users to create and share original content natively on the platform. As TikTok states in their mission statement, “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.” 

TikTok is more than accomplishing their mission. The app has been downloaded over two billion times, with 83% of users having 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 fluent in the tools of visual storytelling and brands should be aware that they’re advertising to an audience of content aficionados.

The sheer amount of videos produced daily means that the platform is saturated with content, mostly from–and targeted to–younger demographics like Gen-Z and Millenials. While we think of TikTok as a social channel geared towards younger audiences, there is actually a healthy representation of users across all demographics, including Baby Boomers. As older generations tap into the fun of the youthful social platform, brands have an opportunity to connect with their target audience in new, innovative ways. 

The potential for brands to drive sales with TikTok marketing will only grow more apparent as the platform pivots to meet the demands for social commerce. In 2020, TikTok’s Chinese equivalent Douyin brought in over $122 million in revenue from social commerce integrations. As the platform continues to embrace the emerging eCommerce trend, TikTok is setting itself up to become a true full-funnel marketing channel.


TikTok Ad Placements and Specs

As the social platform’s audience grows more diverse by the day, TikTok is an attractive buy for advertisers looking to target a wide array of demographics. With the unveiling of TikTok for Business in 2020, the platform has eased the barriers to entry for competitors of all sizes who want to get in on the TikTok game. Here are the three main ad types you need to know about.


In-Feed Video

TikTok In-Feed Video ads appear in the For You feed. For You 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 may look like. 

Users can engage with and share the ads natively on the platform. This ad placement can be further supported through Call to Actions (CTAs) that drive traffic to internal landing pages, your website, or an eComm store.

In-Feed Video: Video Specs
  • Aspect Ratio: 9:16 is recommended
  • Max File Size: 500 MB
  • Video length: Can support 5 to 60 second videos. We recommend 9 to 15 second videos for optimal performance. 
  • File types: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .avi
  • Description: 12 to 100 characters are supported
  • TikTok ads should be supported with sound and/or music as the app defaults to a sound-on experience.

Keep in mind that since these are in-feed ads are quick bursts of content, they can be easily swiped, so make sure you are grabbing users’ attention in the first few seconds. 

Out-of-the-box creative ideas like animation and stop-motion can make a TikTok marketing video really pop on this platform. 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.


Brand Takeover

This full-screen placement makes sure that your ad is the first thing users see when opening TikTok. Users are not able to engage with the ad, so this placement is optimal for awareness campaigns. 

Takeovers can also appear in the For You feed, giving brands a broader ability to drive traffic to targeted landing pages. They are also a great way to direct users to trends you set yourself, like branded hashtag challenges. 

TikTok guarantees that these ads will receive 5,000,000 impressions per day.

Brand Takeover: Video Specs
  • Aspect Ratio: 9:16
  • Max File Size: 500 MB
  • Video length: 3 to 5 seconds
  • File Type: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .avi
  • Unlike other placements on the app, Branded Takeovers do not play with sound and do not have accompanying description copy.

Brand Takeovers are great options to grow awareness if you have a budget that can support it. What makes Brand Takeovers so enticing for marketers is that TikTok limits the ad type to one brand per day. This means you get eyes on your product without having to vie for attention from other brands.



TopView ads work similarly to Brand Takeovers in that they are one of the first ads a user will see when opening the app. Where Brand Takeovers appear before you see your personalized streams, TopView ads show up after 3-seconds of opening the app before fading seamlessly into your in-feed videos. 

There, users can like, comment, share, or follow your brand. If you want to raise brand awareness or drive immediate conversions (by featuring a promo, for example), TopView can be a great way to immediately make an impact. 

Optimized for full screen, TopView ads can also run up to 60-seconds long, allowing more room for your creative to sparkle. You can further engage your target audience with CTAs that direct users to websites and eComm landing pages. 

Like Takeovers, users are limited to seeing one TopView advertiser per day, which means your brand gets all the traffic, with none of the competition.

TopView: Video Specs
  • Aspect Ratio: 9:16
  • Max File Size: 500 MB
  • Video Length: 5 to 60 seconds, though 15 seconds is optimal for TopView ads
  • File Type: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .avi
  • TikTok ads should be supported with sound and/or music as the app defaults to a sound-on experience.

Keep in mind that TopView, along with Brand Takeovers, are managed on TikTok through reserved media placements and have certain location and budget requirements.


TikTok Marketing Creative Best Practices

The best way to get a firm grasp on what content performs best on TikTok is by immersing yourself in the platform. 

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

Diving deep into what makes TikTok, well, tick can provide you with a framework for how the platform’s creativity can be used to your advantage.


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 and evolving a story (or meme or dance) that is built collectively.

With on-trend creative, your brand can participate in the social conversation with content. This could be through a stylistic approach, like the way text and audio is used, or a narrative arc that can be repeated and built on over time.

Keep your ear to the ground as new features trend on TikTok like Q&A, which allows users to designate their comments as Q&A questions. Creators can then quickly find those questions and respond with a comment or video reply, streamlining community conversations.

Trends can be short-lived, however, so always stay on the pulse of what’s happening and act fast to produce content that feels relevant.


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 have been conditioned to 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

UGC doesn’t always mean that talent needs to be visible on screen to be effective. 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 of the unique ways you can use post-production editing to add filters and text to give your videos a native feel.


Surprise with Sound and Video

The world of TikTok is based in audio, so plan to 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 tend to spend a lot of time on the platform consuming a stream of content, think of ways your TikTok marketing videos can visually and sonically delight your audience with an unexpected twist.


Narrative Arc

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.

Grabbing attention early is important, but you need to make sure your creative is following through and delivering a payoff. Chart a narrative arc that will take your audience on a journey for every single 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; it can also be a video that teaches your audience something new. Leverage 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. That fact couldn’t be truer on TikTok. With new videos being posted every minute, regularly publishing new and relevant video content 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 the cringiest of content is by lacking the authenticity that users crave on the platform.
  • Track Performance: Like any marketing campaign, video or otherwise, you want to make sure you’re keeping track of how your videos are performing. TikTok has an analytics dashboard that makes it easy for you to track your entire campaign, from total number of views and average time watched, to specific traffic sources and user locations. This data can surface insights into ways you can better target audiences, which will be a boon for marketers on the eve of iOS14 privacy changes and the phase-out of third-party cookies.
  • Work the Algorithm: According to TikTok, every new interaction on the platform helps the system learn about user’s interests so they can suggest more relevant content. If your objective is to drive engagement, you need to have a revolving door of fresh video content that users can interact with daily or weekly. The more videos you produce increases the opportunity for user interaction, driving even more relevant content from your brand to their feed. The algorithm can also dictate your creative as well. TikTok states that the For You feed won’t show two videos in a row made with the same sound, and won’t recommend duplicated content or videos users have already seen before. This means you need to diversify your creative. You want to ensure that your videos remain unique and engaging so a user doesn’t feel the need to swipe away at the first sight of your video.


Marketing on TikTok: The Takeaway

The future of advertising on TikTok is limitless. Alongside the ad placements listed above, keep your eCommerce eye towards the horizon as TikTok plans to launch a fleet of new social commerce features in 2021. 

Soon, brands will be able to showcase their entire catalogue natively on the app, host live stream shopping events, and TikTokers can even try their hands at affiliate marketing. Users are expected to be able to share links to eComm stores and receive automatic commissions when a sale is made. We predict these new social commerce experiences growing in popularity as retailers look for out-of-the-box ways to innovate and drive sales.

2020 was a year marked by socio-political unrest against the backdrop of a global pandemic. We kept our sanity thanks in part to the short-form video content of TikTok. The platform provided the world with a serotonin-inducing stream of video content that inspired community, connection, and a whole lot of silly dance moves. As the app’s young user base continues to grow and diversify across demographics, now is the perfect time for your brand to capitalize on TikTok’s insatiable trend-setting spirit.

KEEP READING: Performance Marketing Multivariate Testing in 7 Steps


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