Short-form video is no longer a social media format that marketers can ignore. TikTok is the fastest growing social channel, even recently surpassing YouTube in average watch time on Android devices. It has also become the first non-Facebook app on the app store to reach 3 billion downloads.
TikTok has an engagement rate that is five times higher than other platforms, and Reels are quickly becoming a core pillar of maximizing Instagram engagement. Short-form video is not just for Generation Z—its audience spans generations, and they have a high propensity to purchase products that they see on their feeds.
TikTok presents a game changing opportunity for the digital marketing landscape. The main challenges are that there is much to learn about the short-form, lo-fi video format, and many of the best practices marketers are familiar with from other social channels do not apply to TikTok. The good news is you can be prepared when getting started with TikTok marketing.
While each may have similar interfaces—short-form video, sound-on, customized discoverability—it’s important to understand that to truly succeed you need to build different strategies for Instagram and TikTok. These tips will set you on the right track to craft an impactful approach for growing your brand awareness on each channel.
1. Define Your Purpose and Excel at Branded Content.
How can brands use TikTok and Instagram Reels to grow their engagement? First and foremost, think about your “why” for showing up on these channels. Audiences are flocking to short-form video to see their favorite creators showcase content that is authentic, inspiring, educational, and funny. Leverage this channel to grow your brand voice through product reviews and user-generated content (UGC).
This is your opportunity to show your audience what goes into building your brand. Offer behind-the-scenes impressions of what it’s like to be a part of your brand, whether it’s from influencers or employees.
Top performing content includes footage of campaign shoots, influencers unboxing products, lip syncing to relatable sounds, and employees having fun on the job. People come to TikTok for lighthearted entertainment, not produced video. Luckily, lo-fi short video is easy to film—all you need is your phone.
2. Build Loyal Partnerships with TikTok Influencers.
Influencer marketing has evolved into a creator-driven space, and consumers are now looking for content on TikTok that entertains and educates. Your brand should look to reinvigorate your influencer strategy on both TikTok and Instagram by working with creators who are able to bring your brand message to life in meaningful ways. On Instagram, you are able to make use of the unified suite of tools to feature creators in a number of different ways, including your feed, Stories, video, and Instagram Reels.
Take your marketing strategy a step further by building your TikTok strategy with influencers. Content served by the algorithm on this platform is constantly changing, and creators of this kind are naturally in tune with what’s trending, potentially saving you hours in research. As they post videos, keep an eye on new trends that are emerging that your brand can take advantage of.
“We started contracting TikTok influencers to create content for us and then add it into our own team’s content plans.”
— Dana Nolan, Vital Proteins, Social Media Coordinator
Just as you would with any other channel, segment your content to see which creators drive results for your brand.
3. Understand Current TikTok Trends.
Jumping on trends and contributing to the conversation is one of the most important things to pay attention to when figuring out how to go viral on TikTok or Instagram and when building out your TikTok marketing strategy. Pay attention to what’s trending on the For You and Discovery pages to tailor content to fit your own brand voice. Develop a habit of watching the first ten videos on each platform and pay attention to consistencies among hashtags, sounds, special effects, and transitions.
Some of the biggest TikTok trends involve moving or dancing to popular songs. Like trending hashtags, the trending sounds on TikTok are always changing, and there is an opportunity for your brand to hop onto a trending sound early to hopefully go viral. It’s worthwhile to keep an ear out for new songs and create content as soon as you know a song is going viral.
There’s always something that your brand can take advantage of to grow reach. Figure out creative ways to include your brand in ongoing trends and stand out from the crowd.
4. Understand the Nuances of Short-Form Video Engagement.
TikTok is designed around scrolling from video to video, and you only have a few seconds to make a first impression on your viewer. If possible, you need to keep your content front-loaded on entertainment to stop people from scrolling, and keep them focused on your brand.
It’s natural to expect your Instagram and TikTok accounts to have some crossover in content. Be strategic when filming your content so that you can show up with original content in both places without spending a ton of extra time creating content for your cross-channel marketing strategy. Food52 shares the same recipes to each channel, but the team knows that on Reels, people will engage with visuals of food and recipes alone, while on TikTok, they can lean into their personalities a little more.
In order to continue to grow your following and engagement on each channel, you need to show up for Instagram and TikTok users with something (at least slightly) different in each social channel.
“We’ll do a couple different shots so that the Reel works for Reels and the TikTok works for TikTok. We don’t want each platform to feel the same.”
— Patrick Moynihan, Food52, Director of Social Media
When you find a pair of shoes you like, do you buy them in every color for variety, or do you buy 5 identical pairs? Think about Instagram and TikTok in the same way. In order to continue to grow your following and engagement on each channel, you need to show up for your audience with something (at least slightly) different, in each space.
5. Reels and TikTok Analytics Speak Volumes.
Creating beautiful content that gets you noticed is the goal, but it’s the data that lets you know how it landed. With the launch of Reels Insights in-app, brands now have all the metrics they need at their fingertips to output video that resonates.
Use the same approach when planning out your TikTok marketing strategy, by opening up your TikTok analytics and paying attention to the posts that are generating the highest reach, video views, and shares. You have the option to switch to a business account (pro account) to see even more analytics for your brand.
Look for similarities of top-performing posts within each individual app to help inform your strategy on how to continue curating a high-performing and visually pleasing feed.
Brands across all industries are shifting to include more video across their channels. Marketers may believe that creating for Reels and TikTok takes a lot of extra time, but the reality is that it doesn’t have to.
While it is important to approach each platform with a different perspective, at the end of the day remember that it unlocks the creativity and cost efficiency of creating content that doesn’t need a big production budget, and takes a phone-first approach.
6. Create Fun Video Content That Entertains Your Audience.
All things considered, short-form video is all about having fun. 74% of Gen Z and 72% of audiences over the age of 26 say that they most want to see funny content from brands. It’s a great opportunity to experiment, take risks, and have fun with types of content you’ve never made before, such as hashtag challenges or dance challenges. Take a look at what TikTok influencers are doing, and consider incorporating user-generated content into your strategy.
TikTok’s video editing tool has a plethora of native effects that you can use to enhance your content and make it more interesting to audiences. Have fun with stickers or emojis to create videos that are fun and trendy, or describe what’s going on with text. Experiment with the effects that drive the most engagement for your brand.
Reels and TikTok Marketing Strategy FAQs:
How long should a TikTok video be?
TikTok videos can be between 1 second and 3 minutes long, however they should typically be between 10 to 15 seconds long for optimal performance. Ideally, you want your videos to get to the point quickly to stop viewers from moving on to the next.
First, you should check your profile settings to see if you have access to the feature, and then click “edit” and add the link. You can leverage Dash Hudson’s TikTok Link in Bio Solution to create a standalone URL that you can customize for your feed.
How often should I post on TikTok?
TikTok recommends posting 3-5 times per week, similar to other social media platforms. Posting at a cadence less than that makes it difficult for your brand to be discovered in the TikTok algorithm, and on the other hand, posting more than 5 times per week may be too much for some of your followers. If you want your content to be seen by more people, consider investing in TikTok ads.
How many hashtags should I use on TikTok?
According to TikTok, sticking to 2-3 hashtags help your posts perform best—and no, using #fyp won’t up your chances of hitting the For You Page. The TikTok algorithm is difficult to predict, but you’re better off using hashtags that are more relevant to your post to find your ideal target audience.
What aspect ratio should TikTok videos be?
Your TikTok videos should have 9:16 dimensions and a full-screen, vertical, 1920 x 1080 crop. You can play around with the size, but your video will either not take up the full screen, or the top and bottom will get cut off, so it’s best to stick with the aspect ratio that’s native to the channel while video editing.