Back in 2018, we predicted TikTok was about to blow up in the UK– and call us ‘driving in France’, because we were right. With 1bn monthly active users, A-list fans, and bonkers new dance crazes sweeping across the feed practically every other day, the 15-second short-form video phenomenon has been hitting the headlines for reasons both good (a London teenager using TikTok to raise awareness of domestic violence), and bad (the platform is alleged to have censored content from vulnerable groups in a misguided attempt to curb online bullying). Brands of all shapes and sizes are rushing to get involved, and we’re seeing some really fresh creative surfacing as a result.

On the flip side, as TikTok continues to grow at roughly the same pace as the Stranger Things monster, it seems many brands are unsure of how to proceed– or if they should be planning a TikTok launch at all. 

We believe that the time to TikTok is NOW. With uncertainty surrounding the platform and how to use it, we’ve sifted through all the information out there to answer your burning questions, deliver the facts most relevant to brands, and arm you with all the knowledge you need to crack this new and exciting market.

1. What makes it different?

Owned by Beijing-based company Bytedance, TikTok has roughly 1 billion monthly users worldwide; 5 million of them in the UK. At the time of writing it has just overtaken Facebook as the world’s second most downloaded app after Whatsapp. Users create 15-second videos, often lip-syncing, performing comedy routines or making creative use of editing tricks and transitions. Unlike Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, TikTok users don’t need to follow anyone or even search (although they can if they want) – simply open the app and you’ll be launched into endless scrollable content curated by an algorithm that learns what kind of content you like pretty darn quickly. Because you don’t have to follow a creator to view their videos, anyone has the chance to go viral if the content they create is entertaining enough. It’s light-hearted, it’s creative, and it’s vertical (very important, more on that next time). Users are mostly – but by no means exclusively – the under-25 crowd. This has led to a few questions…

2. Is it safe?

To state the obvious, there are certain differences in how companies operate inside and outside of China. Key issues among critics include personal data, censorship, and safety concerns surrounding TikTok’s famously-young user base. In response to growing concern from regulators, TikTok has pledged to work towards greatly improved safety and transparency. Earlier this month it published a revised set of community guidelines with ten categories of new rules covering everything from hate speech to sexual content:

Seven key points from new guidelines include:

  • TikTok claims to remove all expressions of abuse including bullying and sexual harassment
  • No sexually-explicit content
  • Zero tolerance for predatory behaviour towards minors
  • No illegal acts
  • No “underage delinquent behaviour”, i.e. kids smoking, drinking or even vaping
  • No hate speech (TikTok actually takes legislation further than some of its peers, defining “hate speech” as not just words that incite violence, but any act that “promotes or justifies exclusion, segregation or discrimination against certain groups”.)
  • Different rules apply to different countries (due to local laws, cultural differences etc.) 

It’s one thing to have rules; it’s another to enforce them. What you choose to make of all this is up to you; many of the world’s biggest brands are satisfied with the guidelines in place and are already making a name for themselves on TikTok…

3. What makes a great TikTok video?

Just ask Will Smith. Already a bonafide Instagram darling, Smith has taken to TikTok like a cleverly-edited duck to water, getting creative with various formats and transitions to hilarious effect. Having joined TikTok just three months ago (October 2019), he has already amassed 13.1m followers.

“Will Smith’s videos look insane, but they’re actually really simple to produce if you know the right video person or editor. It’s all about being smart with your video – it doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to be different.” – Paul Phengsiri, Head of Video.

A sort of new-age Vine (remember Vine?), TikTok is all about being as funny/entertaining as possible in an extremely limited time-frame. Experimenting with music, mediums, effects, augmented reality as well as various locations can all be seriously effective. With 31 million followers and over 280 million video views, @zachking’s TikTok content is some of the best video content you’re likely to find anywhere on any platform – check it out for inspo.

4. How are brands using TikTok?

Brands have a number of options marketing on TikTok, from user-generated content and hashtag challenges to glossy influencer campaigns and traditional ads. As with any platform, the key to creating great brand content on TikTok is tailoring it to the platform. A couple of excellent examples; Samsung launched its profile one week ago and have already racked up 260 million video views and early adopters the NBA just scored 5.5m fans on the app. Elf Cosmetics is another brand nailing it; their #EyesLipsFace hashtag campaign has 3.8bn views and counting.

10 Brands we’ve been following on the platform so far include:

  • ASOS
  • River Island
  • Burberry
  • Guess
  • H&M
  • Primark
  • Rayban
  • Crocs
  • Calvin Klein
  • Gymshark

“Outlandish boundless creativity meets pure, unfiltered entertainment… a game-changer of a platform” – George Guildford, Executive Creative Director

5. Is it worth brands and creators investing time in yet another social media platform?

We hear you. You only just convinced the Marketing Director and Head of Brand to move your latest campaign budget onto Instagram Stories and now there’s ANOTHER channel to engage on? When will this end?

Here at Punch, we became seriously worried about social towards the middle of 2019. We started to feel like the rate of change, innovation and updates on existing platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram was slowing down. Don’t get us wrong, Instagram Stories is awesome and still the place we’d place most emphasis in 2020, but that aside, TikTok is EXACTLY what social needed. Whether its tagline, “Real people. Real videos.” is a direct dig at its competitors or not, it speaks to a huge need in the wider social space. Brands and creators now have a platform to balance out the photoshopped perfection of their Instagram feeds with raw creativity, fun and entertainment. There’s absolutely a place for both.

In 2019 – TikTok was announced as the 7th most downloaded app of the entire decade. For brands looking to engage consumers on social, stats like that simply can’t be ignored. Gen Z are the consumers of the future; reach them now and you have the potential for lifetime brand affinity.

The clock is Tik-king…

Shout out to one of our awesome friends @Harrievans25 who posted this video on the train last week and racked up 220k video views. #TikTokFamous.and making it look easy!