Tiktok is the Most Creative Place Online…How Can Your Company Best Join the Fun?

Justin Caldbeck
5 min readMay 8, 2020

Over the last few months, I’ve found myself, my wife and kids, and many of our friends laughing and experiencing true joy on the Tiktok platform in a way we haven’t often experienced online. For those of you that don’t know what Tiktok is, it’s the fastest-growing media platform in the world and a place where you can find tons of silly, playful, and fun short-form videos. It’s also the go-to platform for millennial and Gen Z consumers right now.

I can still recall the first time I met Musical.ly CEO Alex Zhu as he was raising his Series A financing in 2015, and the magic of their early product experience. It looked and felt different from anything I had seen, and I immediately fell in love with the creativity it unlocked among their early users.

While my firm, Binary Capital, unfortunately, decided not to pursue an investment, it was incredible to watch the magic its product created among so many, its growth and eventual acquisition by Bytedance (the parent company of Tiktok) in 2017. It was, for all intents and purposes, the foundation of what TikTok is today.

What has been even more special is to watch the once in a generation success that Tiktok has had since that point. Today, it has been downloaded over 2 Billion times across 150 countries and has been downloaded more than 165 million times in the United States alone.

It’s also become the platform that any brand or company targeting users between 13–30 has to be on right now. It’s been fun to watch some brands extend beyond their core demographics and leverage Tiktok in some very creative ways. Walmart is one that has been very creative across multiple campaigns and now has >150K fans on its Tiktok account.

For those startups or brands that aren’t as familiar with Tiktok, it’s a platform whose primary mission is to inspire joy and creativity. Tiktok calls itself the “destination for short-form mobile videos”. It’s essentially a bite-sized (and more playful) version of YouTube with videos ranging between five and 60 seconds in length. Creators have access to an assortment of filters and effects, as well as a massive music library.

One question I’ve gotten repeatedly from companies I work with is how they can best leverage the Tiktok platform to reach potential customers. I’ve been curious about how large and small brands would engage with the platform and was fortunate this week to be able to attend a Masterclass with three executives from Tiktok: Jonathan Koptiko, US Agency Development, Amol Shah, Revenue Partnerships and Matty Lin, Global Business Solutions to better understand how advertisers can best connect with consumers on Tiktok.

The creativity of the videos posted can be both entertaining and intimidating for newcomers, so it can feel like a high barrier to create content but once you’ve done it once or twice, it becomes easy. It is a platform largely designed around discovery and here is a brief overview of the 4 environments users can find themselves in:

  1. For You Page: This is the personalized recommendation feed based on how that user interacts with other videos. This is the page most users spend the majority of time on as it’s the videos you love or are likely to love.
  2. Discover Page: The discover page is a page that lays out what is trending and is a good summary of the most popular content on the platform. This is the starting point to create content. It allows a user to see what others are creating and start to mimic that experience.
  3. Challenge Page: This page is always linked to trending content. It is also a page that brands can own to customize the experience.
  4. Song/Sound page: This is a page that allows the user to search for a specific song or sound, see what content has been made which incorporates that sound and begin to make their own content with it.

The question for many brands and companies though is “How can we use this platform to reach our target customers?” Here are a few ways that brands can engage with Tiktok and have seen success to date:

  • Topview: The Topview is the opportunity for a brand to own a specific moment and get in front of users for a full day as the first piece of content all users see that day. It’s ideal for 15–30 second content that can go viral but is less suited for early-stage companies given the upfront cost associated with a full takeover.
  • Brand Takeover: The brand takeover is a more traditional 5-second ad unit that is showed to a user when they first open Tiktok. It tends to be the place to start for most advertisers but offers less room to be creative than the other channels.
  • #Hasthtag challenge: This is a great opportunity for creativity and a number of big brands have seen some real success here. The key is to make it as easy and playful for your users as you can in trying to get them to play along with fun dances or games. One good example was the #ChipotleLidFlip, in which participants had to show off their abilities to flip the lid onto the bowl without using their hands. The company launched this challenge as a way to promote their Cinco de Mayo deal-free delivery.
  • In Feed Video is described as the most “natural” ad unit as branded content gets served into users’ feeds. As a user navigates the app, they will see the brand’s ad alongside all other content that they would otherwise see.
  • Branded Effects: This allows companies to create stickers or leverage AR for overlays that go over videos that users have created. Its meant to be a fun way to put branding on top of user-generated videos and allows for multiple types of user targeting.

Beyond these multiple ways to target users, there are plenty of opportunities for early-stage startups to work with influencers or passionate customers of theirs to reach their target demographic. I recently saw a Tiktok user post about custom wedding dress startup Anomalie which was very successful in driving users and awareness for the company.

For all of its success, Tiktok is still relatively nascent in its advertising platform and there are a ton of ways for large and small brands to leverage the platform to reach their target demographic. I’m excited to watch how the platform evolves and most excited to continue to see fun, entertaining videos on the platform and find ones for my family and I to try to emulate!