TikTok started out of the gate as just “another” social media platform, but with more than 3 billion downloads, the short-form video app has proven to be a leader. Its most dominant user, Gen Z, uses it interchangeably with Google or Yelp; looking for a niche restaurant in a city abroad or which shop is the best? TikTok has you covered. Beyond that, the app has become the one-stop shop for entertainment, news, product reviews, and more. It’s not a stretch to say the app actually knows users better than they know themselves, due to the platform’s effective algorithms.
TikTok’s expansive reach has given people the opportunity to transform from small creators to stars. It has had the same impact on businesses, a small-town shop can go viral overnight and the next day have a line out its door. With such a high engagement rate, people wonder what is the secret sauce to this addictive app. Psychologists say as you mindlessly scroll between videos users are bound to see something joyful, triggering a dopamine hit in the pleasure center of the brain, making it hard to put your phone down.
Quick, catchy video content has been adopted by most social platforms beyond TikTok. Instagram, which used to be primarily pictures, integrated reels in 2019, and even YouTube has transitioned from long-form content to YouTube Shorts. Many companies know their audience can be found behind their computer, tablet, and mobile phone screens and it has been proven that they are watching with their wallets by their sides. In fact, research from iStock’s VisualGPS shows that 69% of consumers are using their mobile phones more now as a way to transact and pay for things than ever before.
Given the current economic climate, marketing budgets have been cut for a lot of businesses, especially for SMBs that often have smaller funds in the first place. In response, they have pivoted to organic forums, such as TikTok, reaping impressive and quick results. A recent survey found that, 78% of SMB owners say they’ve realized a positive ROI—the majority within 6 months– after integrating TikTok.
Why is video content resonating so well with consumers? Why is SMB’s ad spend going to TikTok and away from popular platforms like Instagram and Facebook? Here are my thoughts on why and how to get started.
Video has the power of motion that creates narratives that have the ability to make people smile, especially when it’s consumed through a digestible platform like TikTok. Research from VisualGPS shows that 80% of people say watching video content over social media makes them laugh or smile, providing a serotonin boost to a spend-happy audience.
Video provides a platform for brands to entertain which actively engages users. Small businesses typically wouldn’t have the resources to connect with larger groups outside of their local communities, but with access to platforms like TikTok, they now have the wingspan to reach a new demographic and can interact in real time. Video provides a platform for businesses to personally engage and physically show off a new product through a short clip or a live stream. While videos are informative, they also humanize a business, showing personality and humor, helping a small business connect with its audience. The impact is noticeable, according to our VisualGPS global research — in 2021, 93% of businesses won a new customer after sharing video content on their social media channels.
Your dollar goes farther on TikTok
Small business budgets are limited, and more often than not when they have to make budget cuts, ad spend gets retracted first. This past holiday season, SMBs pulled ad dollars from Facebook and Instagram, and instead favored TikTok since the app has proven its organic reach has increasingly grown sales for much less. The small company Constructive Eating used to boost one to five posts on Facebook and Instagram a month for about $30 a post and instead recently turned efforts to TikTok. They found for every 1,000 views on TikTok, at least one person makes a purchase converting to a stronger ROI than before.
Constructive Eating is just one of the thousands of small businesses pivoting their budgets to TikTok. Trendy mochi ball company, Little Moon, also shifted marketing strategies due to the app’s impressive track record. After going viral on the platform, Little Moon’s sales shot up by 700 percent in a single week at UK supermarket Tesco, changing the trajectory of the business forever.
In a time when a lot of companies are cutting back on ad spending, TikTok’s organic reach can’t be beaten. The top 1,000 advertisers in the US increased their spending on the video platform by 66%, taking away funds they would typically put into Facebook and Google ads.
How to get started?
Half the battle for small businesses to switch to new strategies is accepting change. The only way to pivot to new methods is by embracing the positive change it can bring. SMB owners who may only be familiar with stock imagery can feel the transition to a new type of visual marketing strategy, like video, is daunting.
There has been a steady increase in usage of video by our customers over the past five years and we know SMB owners who are new to these tactics will need guidance and support to start confidently. Here are a few effective ways to begin when it comes to promoting your business on TikTok:
- Different types of videos, such as fun backgrounds and loopable designs make video exciting to try and easier to integrate into social media campaigns
- Videos that look hand-held resonate better with audiences, making the content more organic and adds a humorous approach
- 70% of users watch ads on the platform with sound on, according to data from the Influencer Marketing Hub. Sound is an important aspect of TikTok, often serving as the meme itself. When searching for the right video content – don’t shy away from a video that performs better with the volume up
With TikTok and short-form video content still scratching the surface of its potential, we know that this medium is likely here for the long haul. As the momentum continues, more SMBs will gravitate towards this method yielding results that have the power to change their business. Video content gives a small business a voice that is larger than their local market, helping reach new audiences, and grow deeper connections with a wider range of customers.
Dr. Rebecca Swift is the VP, Global Head of Creative Insights at iStock and Getty Images.