Why brands fail on TikTok

If you’re one of the billion TikTok users out there, you’ll know it’s a social media app like no other. But like most other social media, there are winners, losers, and rules of the game. As the Storyteller who spends the most time on TikTok (maybe too much time), I thought I’d take you through a few of the biggest cardinal sins of TikTok and how to avoid them.

Keen to avoid the relegation zone (second only to the irrelevant zone)? Here’s everything you need to know about brands that fail on TikTok.

TikTok is more trend-led than any other social media at the moment. Often, there are jokes and trends off of the back of trends that can race through the cycle gaining traction at breakneck speed. If you’re not fast – you’re last!

In fact, if you’re not fast – you might as well have not bothered. Your garden variety social media content won’t fly on Tik Tok. It’s great to work some into short-form video content so your page looks suitably official and like you have a presence, but you’ll never grow your TikTok following with belt and braces content alone. To do that, you’ll need an eye on the trends and be ready to pounce on the next audio, dance move, or prank. 

Who does it right? 

Gtech. You know, the people who make good hoovers? They also make great brand TikToks. When this audio was trending, they jumped straight on it with content that’s relevant, irreverent, and funny (a TikTok triple threat!) 

Not only do they realise that not everything has to be a brand message you’d include in an investor deck, but they’ve also given their social media team free reign to draw attention to the brand – and they’re succeeding. 

They don’t spend time on the app

TikTok is the perfect web of niche sects, odd corners and has a freakily precise algorithm – all of this surrounds the spirit of the app which must be respected at all costs. How do you learn about the spirit of the app? You just spend time on the app. That means you’ll go from, ‘this is rubbish – teenagers have lost it’ to having berries and cream stuck in your head all day long in a short space of time. How short is up to you. 

It’s worth scrolling through what’s trending each day or every couple of days and making content based on that rather than coming up with ideas and bowing to trends afterward.

Who does it right?

Duolingo. He might be just an owl tryna’ vibe (or a Duolingo employee in a bird suit) but he has taken TikTok by storm recently. Why? 

Because he makes content that’s absurd. He makes content that fits in with very niche TikTok bits (mostly memes and occasionally communism.) He makes content that’s so not on-brand – it is the brand. It’s silly, irreverent, and the absolute antidote to corporate bore fests.

They don’t have a face

You’re posting regularly – you’re following all the rules but your account just isn’t growing? 

TikTok accounts that grow are those with a face and voice. Nice content can only do so well – but to build a community and audience – TikTok needs a face to get behind. 

Who does it right?

Ryanair & M&S Romford. They are huge corporate brands – but they let loose and allow their staff (their biggest and most relatable assets) to do the Tokking. You get to know them, you feel in on the joke.

They can’t laugh at themselves

If Instagram is for glossy, polished, content – TikTok is your private story. Not everything has to be polished – and it often does better if it’s not. Brands who know when to make fun of themselves or get a bit TikTok meta. 

Who does it right?

Take Hollister for example. In the past, they’ve been slammed for missing the mark with their marketing in the past – but TikTok has allowed them to claw back a bit of humour. They know their way around marketing without actually marketing. By paying cool creators and funneling money into ads from other accounts which literally say, ‘Wait, Hollister is cool again?’ they’re owning the narrative and starting to laugh at themselves so that we can all join in. 

They use it as a marketing tool

Brands that understand that TikTok is all about brand awareness are brands that take off. It’s about getting noticed, standing out, and nailing the message – not about direct sales. The like, the share, the lasting impression, the 10 seconds of attention – that’s the seed of your sale later.

The creators are key and they know their niche audience and what will work best. For instance, a funny TikTokker doing ‘their thing’ with your product will go further than a formula ever will. The average TikTok user is acutely attuned to marketing (which isn’t a bad thing) but the message has to be just right. 

Go forth, TikTok, and go viral for the weirdest thing you can think of. Don’t forget to tag us when you’re famous!

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