January 15, 2020

By: 
Alex West

West With What’s Next: What’s Up With TikTok?

TikTok

TikTok, a video-sharing social networking platform, seems to have taken over out of absolutely nowhere. With TikTok catering to Gen Z and Millennials primarily, it has left many marketers stumped as they try to find their groove and appeal to the platform’s users.

Why TikTok Is an Enigma to Marketers

As a Gen Z individual, I can candidly say the majority of advertisers don’t have a clue about how to successfully infiltrate TikTok.

Promotional content on the network is easily identifiable as advertising—and therefore, it’s easily skippable. This is not because of the way TikTok portrays paid content on users’ “For You Page” (the page that users see when they open the TikTok app). In fact, videos (including those that are ads) are embedded seamlessly in the feed. What makes ads detectable is that the content does not blend well with other content. Whereas platforms like Instagram have a lot of high resolution and curated content, TikTok is self-proclaimed to be made by “Real People.” Therefore, any marketing content that is “too perfect” immediately sets off bells to users that it’s advertising. Of course, that makes it more likely that the audience will tune it out and continue scrolling.

I can say first-hand that it has almost become a game to swipe away from ads before seeing what they have to say. Unlike other platforms like Snapchat, TikTok doesn’t force users to watch ads for a set amount of time.

What Your Brand Needs to Know About the Gen Z Factor and TikTok

Something for all marketers and brands to keep in mind is that Gen Z is sensitive to branding gone wrong. Since Gen Z has a lack of trust in institutions, corporations, and brands, they aren’t afraid to call out and avoid out-of-touch brands on social media. For example, the “begone brand” meme has become iconic among the Gen Z population. With Gen Z’s sensitivity to brands’ activity on social media, advertisers must approach their presence on TikTok wisely or stay away.

Keep in mind that content is not always transferable across platforms. There is not a one size fits all way to approach content creation, especially when it comes to TikTok. If you generate too-perfect content on a platform meant for imperfections and humor, you’ll turn off potential customers and possibly damage your company’s reputation. Even content that is totally politically correct and socially sensitive in every way, if it seems forced, will leave you on the outside looking in.

My recommendation is to make raw and real content for TikTok with an iPhone or other smartphone and a ring light—or don’t do it at all. Studio-produced content that’s overly polished won’t cut it there. Gen Z dominates TikTok, and they hate it when you try too hard.

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