How TikTok Could be Your Best Way of Reaching Millenials in 2020

The Hottest Social Network You’ve never heard of.

Ryan Byrne
Mar 25, 2019 · 9 min read

emember Vine? The video sharing platform that was a hit with young people — spawning countless compilations and thousands of innocent victims being shamed for their choice of footwear? Despite the platform reaching an untimely demise in 2017, the popularity of short-form videos continued to live on. Now, a new platform is starting to get its rhythm — rising (and dancing) from Vine’s grave like a zombie straight out of Thriller.

TikTok is the latest social platform to be gaining traction and although you might not have heard of it, your 14-year-old niece definitely has.

At this point, you’re probably saying to yourself, “great — another social media platform I have to start pouring time and resources into.” Rest assured, in this article the expert marketers at GenM will walk you through the ins-and-outs of TikTok, from what it is, who is using it, and how you can be at the forefront of marketing on one of the hottest and fastest growing platforms out there.

What is TikTok?

As you probably guessed by now, it’s a video-sharing platform focused on sharing short-form videos. The twist is the focus on music. Users are able to create content ranging from 15–60 seconds in length and attach filters, lenses, stickers, and songs.

What originally started with users lip-syncing along to their favorite tracks has since taken on a life of its own with users creating content that more closely resembles that which you would have seen on Vine. To put it simply, TikTok content is short, often comedic, and meme-worthy.

In a leaked European pitch deck, TikTok described themselves as:

“A destination for short-form mobile videos. Our mission is to capture and present the world’s creativity, knowledge, and moments that matter, directly from the mobile phone. TikTok enables everyone to be a creator, and encourages users to share their passion and creative expression through their videos.”

Here are some examples of the types of content you will find on TikTok:

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Where did it come from?

Originally known as, TikTok is owned by the Bejing based company ByteDance. The app was launched in China under the name Douyin, and keeps that name in the region to this day. After finding success in Asia, ByteDance purchased their competitor in November of 2017, with hopes of capturing greater Western market share.

Since then, TikTok has expanded to over 150 different markets and 75 different languages. With more than 104 million downloads in the first half of 2018, TikTok managed to claim and hold on to the ‘most downloaded app’ position in the App Store during that time period. As of June 2018, the app boasted 500 million monthly active users globally.

Who’s using it?

So who’s using the app? Simply put — teens. According to data obtained by App Ape Labs, just under 40% of TikTok’s users are between the ages of 10–19, followed closely by 20–29 year-olds with 26% of the userbase. Surprisingly, the majority of the apps users are male (55.6% vs 44.4%).

Marketing on TikTok

So how exactly does one go about marketing on TikTok? Well, like any other content channel, there is a clear distinction between organic vs. paid methods. TikTok has just begun experimenting with paid media, and TikTok influencers are quickly on the rise so there is huge potential for your brand to carve out a place on the platform if you strike while the iron is hot.

Organic Content

Content creation

One of the most straightforward ways to start marketing on TikTok is to begin creating content for yourself. Now before you start warming up your vocal cords and practicing scales — relax it’s not as complicated as you might think. Sure the platform is chock-full of memes, funny videos, and perfectly choreographed lip-syncers and if you have the talent and creativity to start making content like that for your brand, great, but not everyone has to follow the TikTok playbook.

Check out Gary Vaynerchuk’s TikTok profile. Not only is there not a meme for miles, but he is also repurposing content he used on other channels. He uses TikTok as a more personal way to connect with fans, titillating them with intros to longer form content or just checking in with some everyday wisdom that he can squeeze into 60 seconds.

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UGC/Hashtag Challenge

If you don’t have the time to start regularly creating your own content, consider trying to generate some earned media. Make a hashtag as part of your campaign and encourage your followers to start creating content and posting it with that hashtag for others to see. To encourage followers to post, try turning it into a contest with the best content being selected to win a prize or be featured on your owned channels.

A successful example of this is Dreamwork’s #SpirtRidingFree campaign. Back when TikTok was still Dreamworks Pictures paired up with the marketing agency, Digital Media Management to promote their new Netflix series, Spirt Riding Free. Recognizing that their core demographic for the show aligned with that of the platform, they encouraged users to create a dance video using the theme song for the show and post it using #spiritridingfree. To get the ball rolling, they enlisted the help of a few influencers on the platform to make their own video for the campaign.

The campaign reached over 34.4 million viewers with over 2.6 million engagements and over 4.3 million combined video views, with over 700 user videos created.

Paid Content

Paid marketing on TikTok is still in its infancy. The platform is still testing the waters with paid media and is slowly letting larger brands take advantage of what’s in store for the rest of us in the future. Nonetheless, understanding how paid advertising will look on TikTok can give your brand a competitive edge when it launches for all. In a European pitch deck leaked by Digiday, TickTok showed off some of the features that brands will be able to leverage in the future.


Brand Takeover

With the Brand Takeover sponsorship, brands will be able to sponsor a select category on TikTok for a fixed amount of time. Their logo and content will be featured prominently for a fixed period of time in the category and they will be able to upload their own fixed images or gifs to brand the category to their liking.

Users will be able to click through to a landing page, or, in conjunction with a hashtag challenge, to the TikTok page for that particular challenge.


Native Video

Native Video will allow brands to insert their ads directly into a users feed. Videos can be 9–15 seconds in length, are fullscreen, skippable, and support a CTA for things like landing pages or app downloads. The video engulfs the entirety of the screen on the app and was initially displayed to the user as part of the app’s launch flow, but TikTok has since moved away from this method to show the ads to users directly in their feed.


GrubHub was among one of the first brands to start experimenting with in-feed native video on the platform

Sponsored Hashtag Challenge

If your hashtag challenge is having some trouble getting off the ground, you can try doing a sponsored hashtag challenge. This will place your campaign’s hashtag at the top of the trending hashtag challenge, along with a banner ad for your campaign.


Last year, Guess saw success with their #inmydenim sponsored hashtag challenge, encouraging users to post a ‘before & after’ video of them in their Guess jeans using a particular song for the campaign. In addition to the sponsored hashtag challenge, Guess also partnered with TikTok influencers to help launch the campaign.

Branded Lens

Branded Lens for “Shazam!”

AR lenses are huge right now. Gaining popularity on Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram are now getting into the game, trying to capture their own version of the infamous dog face filter. TikTok is no exception. TikTok has a plethora of lenses on their platform for users to take advantage of and now brands are able to get in on the action. Branded lenses can live on the platform for a maximum of 10-days; ranking in the top 5 spots of the ‘hot’ or ‘trending’ tab for the first 5 days, before falling to the 6–10 ranking the following 5 days. Branded lenses are a great way to get followers interacting with your content and encourages playful engagement between TikTok users and your brand. For the time being, TikTok only supports 2D and 3D lenses, with AR lenses coming later this year.



If you’re on a tight budget or don’t want to wait around for TikTok to release their in-app paid content features, you can always try pairing with an influencer on the platform. After reading our article last month on how to find and partner with your first micro-influencer, then you should be an expert on the subject already. Rules of engagement are the same on TikTok as they are on other channels.

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Key Takeaways

TikTok is a hot new emerging social platform. It caters mostly to a younger demographic with memes and funny videos dominating the space. Creating content that will get follows on the platform can be tricky but if you’re quick to adopt TikTok, the payoff for your brand could be huge. If you’re having trouble thinking of content ideas for TikTok, consider bringing on an apprentice who knows their demographic more than you might.

The platform is still experimenting with paid advertising but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay informed with the direction it will head when it’s fully launched to stay ahead of the curve. If you’re eager to try out some paid media on the platform, try pairing with an influencer.

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