MxM Open Classroom: Day 3 of Digital Marketing by Bhuvi Gupta | 10 Commandments to Max TikTok

06 May,2020

By Bhuvi Gupta


Bhuvi GuptaTikTok is a short video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company founded in 2012. It is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos. Its mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy. It can also be described as a bite-size version of YouTube, with videos ranging between five and 60 seconds in length. Users have access to an assortment of filters and effects, as well as a massive sound library with dialogues, popular songs, and other sounds.


The app in the last one-year has seen massive growth in India. According to a report by data analytics firm App Annie, TikTok was the most engaging mobile application in India in 2019, and accounted for 44%, or 323 million, of Global TikTok downloads. As of December 2019, TikTok’s monthly active users were 81 million.


That the app has taken over India’s mindshare is no exaggeration. The App Annie report also states that Indians spent 5.5 billion hours on the app, as compared to the 900 million hours in 2018.


There are many reasons why TikTok has struck such a chord with people, across strata. Unlike other social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook, where you are expected to showcase your best self, TikTok encourages you to be whimsical and authentic. The content that is posted is short, and without possessing fancy video-editing skills, one can showcase their creativity due to the huge variety of augmented reality filters, and special effects. If being creative also takes too much effort, users can just lip-sync on a variety of trending videos to express themselves.


Because of the sheer ease of using the app, it has been an equalising social media platform unlike Instagram & Facebook, which remained bastions of the urban communities in India.


This stupendous growth which is a sign of things to come, means that brands should no longer ignore TikTok from their social media strategies. 10 Commandments to help brands navigate the platform are –


Commandment 1 – Optimise your profile

There are 6 key things to take care of when optimising your profile for a brand –


User Name– TikTok has two fields where one must fill their user names – the profile name at the top of the page and the unique user name. As profiles are searchable using both these names, they both should ideally be your brand name for better discoverability

Profile Pic– should be a bright logo or picture with high contrast. This is important as the profile pic, which is displayed in the middle of the right edge of every TikTok video, risks being missed unless it is eye-catching. The profile pic also has a small follow button on the post itself, so the more it stands out, the better it is.

Profile Bio– TikTok gives you 80 characters, for a bio. Bio should either be informative, entertaining or inspiring or a combination of the three, so as to inspire action.

Links– As TikTok allows direct links to Instagram & YouTube pages, hence these accounts should be linked. A robust YouTube or Instagram presence also gives credibility to brands new to TikTok.

Account Verification– TikTok doesn’t have any official application procedure for getting verified. Account verification happens organically when TikTok staff see a need or want to reward users

Pinned post– TikTok allows pages to pin upto 3 posts to their profile. These posts should be used to highlight videos that represent the brand or the latest brand campaign.


Commandment 2 – Optimise Settings

Ensure that in your profile settings (Go to Manage Your Account), the setting is for a ‘Pro’ account, as that will give you access to analytics.

Ensure that your account is not set to private so that people can discover your content organically (go to Privacy settings)

Ensure that all the languages of regions aligned to the brand’s business objectives are selected (go to Content preferences). This is an important so that consumers in those markets can discover and engage with the brand.


Commandment 3 – Engagement Hacking


TikTok uses Artificial intelligence & Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand the content and context of each post. This helps the platform to understand which users to serve the content to. Its algorithm has been lauded for its exceptional machine learning which has enabled its far-reaching success.


It is widely understood that every time a video is posted, TikTok will show the video to a sample set of 200-300 users. From this chosen audience, the algorithm uses the rewatch rate, completion rate, comments, shares & likes, new users gained as key factors among others, to evaluate every post’s engagement ranking. On the basis of this engagement ranking it will choose whether the video should be shown to how many other users or not. However, it must be noted that it is impossible to know the weights assigned to these and how best content can be optimised because that is proprietary to the TikTok algorithm.  Best practices to increase engagement, are as follows –


Completion rate & Rewatch rate are key metrics basis the current algorithm, and hence brands should create shorter but high quality videos, so that the completion rate metric is met and a viewer is motivated to rewatch the posted video, as it will barely take any time.

Engage with viewers interacting with your content – Turn on post notifications so that you can be responsive to your followers who engage with your content.  Engaging with people who react to the post, within the first few hours of posting it, will also help to increase the post’s engagement rate. In layman’s terms, the higher the engagement, the more the post will be shown to other users, which in turn creates a virtuous circle for more engagement

TikTok’s algorithm will down vote content which is extremely violent, dangerous, sexual, political or incendiary.  Accounts that frequently post such content also get shadow banned. In India, TikTok was banned for download, in early 2019, due to alleged pornographic content on it.


Commandment 4 – Leverage the USP’s of TikTok


Post frequently as on TikTok as accounts use compounded growth metrics (Likes & Views), and hence profile benefits from frequent posting.

Brands should participate in some viral trends aligned to their brand, rather than only follow their marketing calendar to keep their TikTok community engaged.

Make your content basis the analytics – this means its best to have a content strategy, which is responsive to the brand’s community, so as to create content, which will drive the most engagement. Hence, brands should post when their followers are active, in languages spoken by most followers, etc.

Never delete content – Unlike other social media platforms, content on TikTok often enjoy what is knows as a ‘Delayed explosion’. This means, content posted on the platform may not go viral when its posted but see an upswing in discovery after weeks or even months.

Follow popular trends – The short video format survives on content that is current. Hence, creating content around news stories, such as Covid, cultural events like festivals & current TikTok trending hashtags & sounds, helps in increasing discoverability

Ensuring that content you post follows conventional how–tos of content marketing to create content with stickiness.


Commandment 5 – Optimise Hashtags

Ensuring that you keep the below n mind while using hashtags can help to increase the discoverability of your content –


Use 5-6 hashtags per post – if too many hashtags are used on TikTok, then the caption moves up and the vertical frame looks crowded  & unaesthetic. If too few hashtags are used then it means decreased discoverability.

:: Use hashtags relevant  & popular to posted content

:: Use trending hashtags – TikTok shows the highest trending hashtags on its ‘Discover’ button. Hence, using relevant trending hashtags increases discoverability

:: Use hashtags related to popular keywords for which your brand is discovered.

:: Use long tail hashtags – a long tail keyword is a phrase that is longer and more specific to search queries. Long tail keywords get lesser traffic but have higher engagement, as they are so specific. For example #howtobakechocolatecake is a long tail keyword as compared to #baking, which is a general keyword

•  Add hashtags relevant to your brand, for e.g. competitor’s hashtags to ‘Favourites’ so that you can monitor them


Commandment 6 – Using TikTok Music


TikTok allows you to use a variety of sounds in videos. These sounds can be songs, dialogues, and variety of other sounds, which can be used as background music or audio tracks to lip-sync to.


Music is key to TikTok videos. The more times the algorithm sees people using a particular audio track, the more it’ll feed your song to new viewers, thereby creating a virtuous circle of virality.


This chain reaction has helped lots of otherwise overlooked songs go viral on TikTok. Music labels are now releasing snippets of songs on TikTok alongside their release, as it helps drive massive discovery and virality for original music. For example, the Baadshah and Jacqueline Fernandes song, Genda Phool, released in March 2020, amassed 250+ million views on YouTube, in a month of release, helped in part by its massive reach on TikTok. Brands can use music in the following ways


Use pre-existing and new audio tracks – As a brand, background scores, catchy brand jingles and witty repartee as dialogue form a key part of marketing communication. It is hence advisable to leveraging ads to create original content – Popular jingles & ads from the past, as well as new original audio tracks, when launching new campaigns. Creating engagement for the brand jingle can help to drive discovery for the campaign.

Use trending sounds  – they are a way to get your content discovered as they have a proven track record of getting engagement. As they use sounds which are already trending your content has a higher probability of being on the ‘For You’ page of users which have engaged with the sound


Commandment 8 – Be creative


Ideas are central to the TikTok experience. Videos can be uploaded or created in-app with stop and start recording, timers, and other tools. Live streaming is also an option. Users can add visual filters, time effects, split screens, green screens, transitions, stickers, GIFs, emoji, and much more.


TikTok which initially started as a lip-sync app has evolved to house content across industries – for fitness enthusiasts, bakers, photographers, salsa dancer et al


Hence brands should create content strategies accordingly.

Branded Hashtag Challenges 

These campaigns encourage users to create videos around a specific hashtag, often using a specific song or set of dance moves. in 2019, Pepsi used TikTok as their primary platform for promoting their new brand anthem with the tagline ‘Har Ghoont mein Swag’. The campaign anthem was sung by 2019’s most popular Bollywood Punjabi singer, ‘Baadshah’ and the music video starred popular Bollywood youth icons & social media influencers, Tiger Shroff & Disha Patani. The campaign required users to recreate the trademark dance move of the song which was called the  #SwagStepChallenge. The campaign was a huge success, with 240+ million views and over 15,000 user-generated videos within 24 hours of its launch. The campaign also naturally spilled over to Instagram, where it received 20+ million views. The campaign remains one of TikTok’s most successful brand campaigns in India.


Branded lenses

Brands can partner with TikTok to create 2D and 3D lenses for users to “try on” and share. Doing so also lands companies in the Trending section of the Discover tab for 10 days. Pepsi used branded lens in a followup campaign to the #SwagStepChallenge called #SwagSeSolo


Commandment 7 – Get inorganic reach via Ads & Influencers


As the TikTok platform is relatively new and nascent, both the popular modes of getting inorganic reach i.e. Advertising & Influencer Marketing give better ROI than more mature social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook & YouTube.


Influencer Marketing on TikTok

Ensure the influencer’s audience demographics is aligned to you brand

Use to assess profiles. Typically, a good engagement rate is upwards of 5%

Influencers are relatively underpriced basis influencers with similar reach and followers on YouTube & Instagram, as the platform is still nascent

Accounts which can be categorized as ‘Influencers’ differ basis social media platforms, i.e. an Influencer on Instagram may not enjoy similar reach on TikTok, and hence influencers should be defined basis the platform

Leverage your existing PR & social media agencies for influencer marketing as many have started to offer these services as well. Specialist Influencer marketing agencies have also sprung up, but the industry us still nascent

Beware of fake influencers –

Likes to Followers ratio – On TikTok, as organic reach of quality content is a key feature of the app, the average Likes should always be a multiple of the Followers.

Check for genuine followers – scan followers to check if they are genuine or bots (typically have with no profile pictures and followers, but will be following a lot of people)


Commandment 8 – Use developed social media communities from other platforms to drive growth


Most brands have been using social media on other platforms and have invested considerable energies in developing robust communities. Developing synergies across their content and community can help jumpstart reach on TikTok via –

Repurpose content posted on other platforms – Brand having presence across multiple different social media platforms will already have a robust marketing calendar, and multiple pieces of original and quality content per platform. Repurposing the content o create short videos will help build a brand’s community on TikTok and utilize resources, effectively.

Share original content created for TikTok on Instagram – TikTok allows accounts to share their posts on Instagram using TikTok’s built-in “Share to Instagram” feature. This moves the TikTok watermark and crops the frame of the video to make it suitable to the Instagram user interface. Resharing such posts can help make your community on Instagram also follow you on TikTok.


Commandment 9 – Don’t confuse TikTok for Instagram


• Content discovery is central – TikTok’s default screen is the ‘For You’ page of trending videos customized basis a users’ browsing habits. The platform is customized for discovery of ‘viral’ content. This is similar to Instagram’s second tab of ‘Search & Explore’

• Allows you to be whimsical – Mainstream platforms like Instagram & Facebook have focused on presenting a curated image of your brand persona. TikTok allows and celebrates brands, truly with #NoFilter, allowing the brand to showcase more whimsical content.

• TikTok helps to reach audiences in tier 3 and 4 cities – generating content and going viral is easier than other social media applications. Even if you’re a new user or an inexperienced video maker with a low-quality phone camera, the world of TikTok embraces you.

• As the platform is still at a nascent stage, it allows for easier and more organic discoverability and reach


Commandment 10 – Underused features of TikTok – Lives  & TikTok coins


TikTok like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube also offers pages the option of going ‘Live’. This feature is accessible only when an account gets 1000 followers. Brands will soon start to leverage TikTok Lives as well. Livestreams can be hosted by users are older than 16 years. Only those aged above 18 years can purchase, send, or receive virtual gifts.


Lives on TikTok, have an interesting feature, where viewers are allowed to give virtual gifts to the page. These gifts can be purchased using TikTok Coins. The price for these coins at the user’s end is approximately INR 100 for 80 coins.  Diamonds are a measurement of the popularity of the relevant. On the basis of the gifts, Content Provider receives, Diamonds get accrued to the content creator’s account at a rate of conversion determined by TikTok.  Users cannot purchase Diamonds. These ‘Diamonds’ are exchangeable for currency.


Pictures taken from public feeds of users on TikTok, TikTok Newsroom &


Bhuvi Gupta is a marketer with 10 years of work experience, of which the last 6 have been in the media & entertainment industry. She has been a part of many launch marketing campaigns with experiences at the Times of India group, Republic TV and the latest in marketing a Bollywood film.




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