According to HubSpot’s social media team, the video-based social app TikTok is “leaking” with brand opportunities.
The one-year-old platform, which allows users to make short, looping videos with special effects and musical overlays, is booming with more than 500 million monthly active users — most of them young= adults.
While Gen-Z has begun using the platform to show their creative side, some brands are also beginning to experiment. But, because TikTok is still such a young app, many marketers might be wondering, “Is getting on this app even worth it?”
However, TikTok’s current big brands have done a great job of using it for brand awareness rather than generating traffic or leads. They’re also using it to engage younger audiences and show off a lighter side of themselves through funny videos, challenges, and other strategies that you’d only see on the platform specifically.
Since TikTok is so quirky by nature, brands need to be creative to truly gain attention from their audience. A simple ad or sponsored influencer endorsement might not cut it on this creative and fast-paced app.
While it’s too early to create a list of best practices around TikTok marketing, it’s a great time to start getting inspired by the brands who’ve already thought outside the box and succeeded on the app.
In this post, we’ll discuss seven companies and organizations that have already gone viral or achieved success on TikTok. We’ll also offer takeaways that even smaller companies can use to build a scalable, fun, and creative strategy.
Chipotle, a popular Mexican restaurant chain, has over 55,000 fans on TikTok. They publish a variety of posts that use music, memes, and other references to highlight menu items. Here are two examples:
Here, to celebrate #oneyearofTikTok, a video shows tortilla chips propped around a bowl of guac with the Adele song, “Someone Like You” overlaying the clip. Because the sound bite features Adele’s audience singing back to her, it feels like the chips are actually singing to the guac.
This is a funny way to work a well-known song into a video that creatively shows off menu items.
In this next video, posted on National Avocado Day, Chipotle nails a popular meme reference by posting The Guacamole Song’s music video with the caption, “TFW guac is free. Online/in-app only 7/31 #GuacDance Terms: chip.tl/avoday.”
Not only was the video fitting for the meme-friendly app, but it also sparked a viral #GuacDance Challenge. In just a week, it became the highest-performing branded challenge on TikTok to date.
As part of the challenge, people posted videos of themselves dancing with avocados. Here’s just one:
Although the original video is a pretty obvious plug for free guacamole, the content feels perfect for TikTok because it is musical, silly, and embraces pop culture. This is a great example of how a brand can use a beloved song or reference to promote their own product.
While it can be hard to get a challenge to go viral, posting or encouraging one — especially if it involves one of your products — can help your company spread brand awareness. It also allows you to engage with potential new fans in an interesting way.
People who didn’t know much about the restaurant deals or menu might follow this challenge, participate in it, and learn more about the brand indirectly in the process. If you need a creative way to spread brand awareness quickly, taking a note from Chipotle, and starting a challenge on any social media platform might be a great experiment.
With a whopping 5.1 million fans, the NBA’s account mixes game highlights with music montages and inspirational quotes.
Unlike its Instagram channel, which focuses purely on basketball games and highlights, the NBA’s TikTok posts show a lighter side of the organization. For example, they’ll often post videos of players working out dramatically to music, dancing on the court, or adventures of team mascots.
In this video, the NBA shows off a highlight reel of a gorilla mascot doing tricks and slam dunks:
Occasionally the NBA will post motivational posts, like this one where basketball player RJ Barrett talks about being drafted by the New York Knicks:
While you might expect the NBA to focus more seriously on stats and games, it uses the app’s musical features to lighten up the branding and make its athletes look more relatable. While the videos still promote basketball, they also fit in well with other funny or musical posts on TikTok feeds.
When a brand or company shows off a more personal side, audiences might start to relate to it a bit more. Even if a viewer isn’t a basketball fan, they might still consider following NBA players or rooting for certain teams if they saw a funny or motivational video about them.
In other business settings, making your brand feel more personal can have the same effect. For example, if your restaurant’s TikTok account posts funny videos of waiters dancing, viewers might think the restaurant has a pleasant and happy staff. This might make them want to eat there because they think they’ll have a dining experience with a fun waiter and positive vibes.
When you think of how agriculture or government groups market themselves, the last place you’d expect them to be is on an app like TikTok.
But the United Nations’ IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) is challenging that misconception with its fascinating account.
The group, which aims to fight world hunger by promoting rural agriculture, is using TikTok to spread awareness of their cause to new audiences. While most accounts on this list are using humor to engage fans, IFAD has taken an approach that embraces informative posts and motivational videos that optimistically encourage viewers to change the world.
In the more informative posts, IFAD publishes high-quality short films of people farming around the world. This allows viewers to learn how agriculture works and why supporting it might solve world hunger.
Recently, IFAD got creative by launching the #danceforchange challenge. As part of the challenge, the organization encouraged audiences to film themselves dancing while using the #danceforchange hashtag in captions.
Here’s the post that IFAD published to launch the challenge:
This is a great example of how getting creative can help you or your brand spread awareness about dryer topics, like agriculture or world hunger. Although the organization is trying to spread knowledge about a serious topic, it uses beautifully shot videos, peppy music, and challenges to engage, motivate, and entertain audiences at the same time.
Looking at IFAD’s strategy could be helpful for companies or organizations with a serious mission, like those in government, legal, or financial industries. While it might feel inappropriate or unnatural to make funny videos about a tough topic.
You can take a more informative route, like IFAD, by filming short narratives or starting a challenge that encourages people to learn about something related to your mission.
The Washington Post was one of TikTok’s earliest brand adopters. Those who haven’t seen their videos, but follow them on other social networks, might be anticipating investigative or serious content. But in reality, The Washington Post operates differently on TikTok.
Surprisingly, the newspaper actually uses its account to post comedic behind-the-scenes videos and skits about the newsroom. These videos fit in perfectly with the platform because they;re funny, musical, and embrace some of TikTok’s weirdest special effects.
Here’s one great example where the news team discusses The Bachelorette instead of the Democratic Debates:
While this account is far from a breaking news page, posts occasionally infuse news and quotes into their videos. Here’s an example where they hilariously highlight a slip up made by Sen. Kamala Harris during a recent debate:
The Washington Post displays how brands can succeed on a given social platform by talking directly to its specific audience.
The prestigious newspaper is not trying to pose itself as that on the platform. Most people already know and respect the publication. Its marketers are also not trying to post investigative videos that might be more interesting for older crowds.
Instead, the team is tailoring content to the young viewers who want to laugh and be entertained.
And although they post edgy content, it isn’t totally off-brand. Their posts are still pleasant, appropriately funny, and show you the real people behind the hard journalism.
Young viewers might see these cheeky videos and trust the journalists in them because they seem like relatable people. For that reason, fans might go to The Washington Post as a trusted news source when they want to read something written by sources they identify with.
Because The Post has a long history of groundbreaking, award-winning, and intellectual journalism, this humble and comedic social media approach might also attract young readers who want to follow the news but used to worry that content from a newspaper would be too advanced or out of touch for them.
If your brand is in publishing, academia, or similar industries, testing out a video strategy that shows off your lighter side could be an interesting experiment. It might make your content and brand feel less intimidating and help you gain attention from newer audiences.
While Guess only has 35,000 fans and just three posts, the high-fashion company is included on this list because they were the first to launch a challenge on TikTok.
Shortly after the app launched, TikTok partnered with Guess for the #InMyDenim challenge, which encouraged users to film themselves in interesting places while wearing Guess’ new denim line. They also had to overlay Bebe Rexha’s “I’m A Mess.”
This is was the first branded challenge to go viral on TikTok. Here’s a clip of one of the responses:
While they haven’t done much experimentation with videos, Guess demonstrated how a challenge on a highly-visual platform like TikTok could quickly spread product-based awareness.
A challenge like this, that directly shows off clothing worn by real people, could also entice customers who might see an outfit and want to buy it for themselves.
This is a strategy that could easily be used by other fashion companies or businesses that sell visually interesting products.
For example, say an ecommerce company wants to sell a new line of spinning chairs. It might launch a challenge called “#SpinnyChairChallenge” where participants have to spin in one of the brand’s chairs to a specific song.
People who watch these videos might want to learn more about a brand that started such an odd challenge, or they might see the chairs and want to buy one for their office.
Everyone loves a cute animal video once in a while. And the San Diego Zoo’s TikTok account pleasantly takes advantage of this well-known fact.
The zoo’s strategy is simple: Post videos of cute animals with fun music. And with over 50,000 fans, it seems to be working. How could anyone not want to follow them after seeing this video of a lounging meerkat?
If that cuteness wasn’t enough, the zoo has also dueted with other animal-friendly accounts, like the Monterey Aquarium:
Not only is this appealing to penguin lovers, but it’s also a great example of how two similar brands can cross-promote using TikTok features. Because of the zoo’s tagging strategy, this video might be seen by fans of the aquarium and the zoo. This way, zoo followers might gain more interest in the aquarium and vice versa.
Sometimes, your brand might be a perfect fit for a new social media app. When that happens, it can be important to get yourself on it and start experimenting. The San Diego Zoo is a great example of a brand that quickly identified a fitting platform and fully embraced it. At the end of the day, this can be much more productive than spending valuable time on platforms that make no sense for your industry or fan-base.
Stay Tuned was originally an NBC-produced Snapchat news show targeted at Gen-Z. After gaining success on that platform, the network started making content for TikTok. The account, which has nearly one million fans, offers a mix of behind-the-scenes videos and quick news bites that touch on weird events and pop culture.
In this example, they report on a survey of the top fast-food chains:
In another post, a Stay Tuned host does a good job of explaining complicated AI news in a short amount of time:
Like The Washington Post, Stay Tuned creates content that is much lighter than NBC News’ usual journalistic work. When they report on stories, their videos are quickly paced, well-edited and focused on stories that might seem more interesting to the younger audiences on the app.
Although Stay Tuned has had huge success on Snapchat, they aren’t repurposing content or putting similar content on both channels. The news team tailors each piece of content to the app it will be published on.
While smaller companies may need to repurpose content to save resources, Stay Tuned demonstrates how creating specific content for different platforms can give you big wins for brand awareness and engagement.
Because they’ve done so well at curating and tailoring news stories for emerging platforms, Stay Tuned’s strategy might be helpful to publishers, entertainers, bloggers, or academics who are looking to post about news, studies, or other interesting topics on different platforms.
Tips for Brands on TikTok
While it might be challenging to get your content to go viral like the bigger brands, TikTok could be a great tool for getting into sync with younger audiences. And since the app is so new, you can pretty much experiment with any strategy you want to see if it works.
If you think TikTok might be part of your marketing strategy soon or in the future, now would be a great time to get ahead of your competitors by downloading the app and investigating what similar brands or potential audiences are doing there.
If you’re raring to go on a TikTok strategy, here are a few tips and takeaways that we’ve gained from looking at the brands who have already done well on the app.
- Show a different side of your company. The app is a hub for creativity and humor. Embracing a more personal tone or a behind-the-scenes approach could make your company appear more relatable or trustworthy to potential customers.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. As mentioned above, the app is incredibly new. Unlike platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, there aren’t as many norms, best practices, or rules about what works and what doesn’t. If you think something might be interesting or funny, try it and see if it gets any likes, comments, or shares.
- Engage with your audience. Between challenges, duets, likes, comments, and shares, there are plenty of ways to engage with other TikTok users — even if you don’t know them. Try to come up with videos, challenges, or duets that aim to interact with others. As with other platforms, the more you engage with people, the more your fan base could grow.
Even if you aren’t interested in TikTok right now, we highly recommend checking out the app. Although it might be too niche for you right now, its branded videos could help your brainstorm content ideas for your current social platforms, or give you insight on how other companies are experimenting with new platforms.