What is TikTok? The New Social Media Kid On The Block

TikTok is one of the newest social media apps that is rising in popularity. Learn what TikTok actually is and see how brands are promoting themselves on it.

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Just when you think you’ve mastered one social media platform for your brand, another one suddenly becomes hottest social media platform to be a part off. And that is what we are seeing with TikTok.

TikTok was first launched in China under the name Douyin (which it still runs under in the Chinese market) in September 2016. It then went on to become available worldwide a year later in 2017. Since then, the platform has attain over 500 million users worldwide, and has consistently beaten competitors to being the most downloaded app.

Image source: Oberlo
But what exactly is TikTok? And with this many active users, is there a way to use this hot new app for marketing purposes? If these are the questions you need to know the answer to, we’ve got you covered.

What is TikTok?

The best way to start to understand TikTok is to know what the app does. TikTok allows users to upload videos, usually around 15 seconds long, of comedy sketches or lip-syncing to songs or other sounds. If this lip-syncing selling point sounds familiar, that could be due to the fact that before TikTok, Musical.ly had a similar app available. This was then purchased by TikTok’s parent company ByteDance in November 2017, before eventually merging the two apps together in August 2018. This opened TikTok up to a wider western market.

While 15 seconds is the typical video length on TikTok, it is possible to put a number of clips together to form a video of up to 60 seconds. This is an option only available to users with over 1000 followers.
Sounds used in the videos can be chosen from various categories, including everything from currently charting hits to sounds that other TikTok users have made viral. This system helps to create a community on the app, as well as give it a connection to the real world and current events.
TikTok also offers its own in-app currency of ‘coins’ which can be used to purchase extra stickers and emojis to be used throughout the app.

Who Uses TikTok?

With this strong digital theme and the sheer amount of pop culture references littered throughout, it may be unsurprising for you to learn that the majority of TikTok users are in their teens, or early twenties.

Oberlo reported that over 40% of those using the app are between 16 to 24 years old, and the app was actually targeted towards that audience from the start. This differs slightly from other popular social media platforms, which have a slightly older demographic, and therefore could be advantageous if you’re a brand looking to target the younger generation.

Image source: Oberlo
The app is currently most popular in China (under the name Douyin) but is now active in over 100 countries.

How Are Brands Using TikTok?

Now you know who you can reach using TikTok, and to what level, it is likely you want to jump in and get some campaigns running. But how?

If you need some inspiration, a good place to start would be to look at the brands who are already using the app for marketing campaigns. So without further ado, here is how TikTok is currently being used to these brands’ advantages…


Guess were the first brand to use the US TikTok as part of their marketing regime, utilizing influencers who had gained a large following on the app to start the campaign #InMyDenim.

The campaign experience began the second users opened the app, as they were immediately directed to an advert promoting them to take part in the #InMyDenim challenge.

To help get the challenge off the ground, Guess partnered with TikTok influencers who had already gained a large following on the app, such as @ourfire (over 2 million followers) and @madison_willow (over 1 million followers.)

Doing this gave the hashtag credibility, as well as making the brand more relatable to a younger audience and promoting it to anyone following these huge accounts. Using an app with such a large visual element also meant that Guess were able to promote their products, alongside raising brand awareness with the campaign.


Sticking with the challenge theme, which does so well on the app due to the interactive nature of it, McDonalds launched the #BigMacTikTok challenge in Malaysia.

The challenge involved McDonalds themselves publishing music clips which could then be used as the sounds for users to create their own personal videos on the app, using the challenge hashtag. As an incentive to complete the challenge, McDonalds even offered real world prizes, including a free Big Mac for every participant and cash prizes for a lucky few.

Using TikTok this way helped to realign McDonalds with the younger generation, and get people talking about a classic product as if it were brand new!


As with the previous two brands, Nike chose to promote themselves on TikTok with a hashtag challenge.

As part of the ‘You’re It’ campaign, Nike roped in help from different athletes and influencers to help encourage younger girls to get involved with sports and exercise, all with a game of virtual ‘tag.’

The campaign utilised TikTok’s ‘duet’ feature, which allows users to record their own video side by side with another user’s video. This gave users the chance to showcase a talent or skill of theirs, all while taking part with a trend on their favourite social network.

If you’re wondering if this method of advertising works, Contagious have reported that this particular campaign got a total of 46,000 responses. Alongside this, it triggered 150,000 social media mentions, and a combined 100m views and 540,000 likes were given to the three dance challenge videos that Nike produced. Plus, it helped align Nike with a positive message, which given the younger demographic on TikTok, can only be a good thing.

Is It Worth Joining In?

As with any social media, creating a strong presence and following on TikTok can be a lot of work.

However, with the number of users growing at a rapid pace, and showing no signs of stopping, getting involved sooner – rather than later – could help to solidify that presence while the app is still young.

This, of course, depends on your industry though. If you are a B2B, or any form of business-based brand, with an older demographic, then TikTok may not be the place for you and it might be more worthwhile for you to focus your efforts on Facebook or Instagram.

If you’re targeting a younger audience though, we say, go right ahead. The most important thing to remember when trying to implement a successful TikTok campaign, is the more interactive the better. Plus, with the app being so new, it has a lot less rigid guidelines than other social networks, meaning you are free to let your creativity loose!

The IIEPD provide a diverse range of CPD accredited digital marketing courses. Unlike other digital marketing training programs, IIEPD provides learners with a host of different digital marketing training resources including access to the IIEPD Influencer Affiliate Program, the IIEPD Influencer Network and subsidised digital marketing services from Pie Analysis.
For more information, get in contact with IIEPD today.

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