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There is no doubt that TikTok has evolved beyond the newcomer application that brands initially dismissed. TikTok has come a long way since its early 2020, deep-in-a-pandemic-lockdown days. Indeed, the platform started as an app for dancing teenagers, lipsyncs and pure entertainment — and this is the main reason many brands initially approached it with a healthy dose of skepticism.
But times have changed, the platform has evolved, and brands are learning to look at the platform in a new light.
The TikTok you see today is, in many ways, the same yet very different. The platform has become a channel of business opportunity for brands and a personal brand growth lever for many creators.
You’ve probably seen the same stats about TikTok’s explosive growth and accelerated trajectory compared to its counterpart social platforms. While the one billion-plus monthly active users on TikTok alone are enough reason to consider this platform, a few unique factors will make your investment in TikTok even more worthwhile.
1. TikTok has become a major cultural — and equalizing — force.
What sets TikTok apart from other platforms is that it has become the immediate place of origin for various cultural moments, movements and conversations. From the corn song to Harry Styles to “quiet quitting,” cultural conversations and trends are born on TikTok, are adopted by niche communities and spread through a ripple effect across other platforms and even traditional news and media.
For brands, this means keeping a close eye (and ear, of course) on what’s top of mind for their communities. Beyond being a social listening tool, TikTok also allows brands to join the conversation and hop on the trends and moments that unfold on the platform, increasing their relevance and timeliness.
Building on the idea of cultural movements, TikTok’s equalizing force shows how some of the most successful brands on TikTok could seamlessly join conversations with other users as equal participants. Another way of describing TikTok’s effect on brands is “humanizing,” — meaning that brands succeed by showcasing a human, imperfect, honest character on this platform. Whether that’s through a mascot, speaking products, or the team behind the camera — a participant’s mindset is an entirely new approach that brands need to embrace to succeed on TikTok.
2. TikTok has emerged as a strong competitor to Google in search.
Although TikTok is inherently an entertainment platform, it has grown to become a go-to search engine for users seeking community-verified answers. This is especially true for the younger demographic, who place value in search results based on authentic content validated by niche communities as helpful rather than engineered with ad spend to rank.
Over 40% of Gen Z users prefer TikTok and Instagram over Google search. This is very much in line with the major shifts we discussed about today’s users emphasizing authenticity in the content they consume as well as the platforms they consume the content on.
3. TikTok favors strong storytelling, original content, and longer-form videos.
The content taking over the app now leverages strong storytelling, authentic conversations, value sharing and a healthy dose of enthusiasm and passion for the discussed niche topic. The new age of brands and creators has built communities around honest conversations, on their enthusiasm for the niche topics they discuss in their videos, and serialized content that makes them immediately recognizable.
If initially, 15-second clips and purely trending content made up the bulk of TikTok’s content, the platform has pushed towards offering longer videos of up to 3 and now even ten minutes. This change has happened in light of the increase in time users spend on the app consuming content (currently at 95 minutes a day — that’s over 1 hour!). This marks a change in how creators and brands use TikTok for their content, which has become increasingly more conversational, storytelling-focused, educational, and entertaining.
4. TikTok is emerging as a powerful alternative paid media channel post-iOS 14.
While all ad channels are impacted by the iOS 14 updates, brands are moving towards diversifying their channel mix in order not to put all eggs in one (two) basket(s) (read: Google or Facebook). In this climate, TikTok has emerged as one of the strongest contenders for many brands’ budgets, especially as a top-of-funnel awareness and traffic driver.
As I’ve discussed above, the creative on TikTok is unlike any other platform — it’s driven by authenticity, a raw aesthetic, and a complete negation of the promotional feel that other ad formats across other channels share. In other words, ads are not like ads on TikTok — they mirror organic, user-generated content to stop the scroll and get the audience to pay attention. And next? They visit your website, so you capture, retarget and convert them into loyal customers.
5. TikTok can become a flywheel of content you can repurpose across multiple other channels.
Last but certainly not least, short-form video is short-form video — and it’s the leading content format on TikTok and beyond. When considering Instagram’s (and now also Facebook’s) Reels, YouTube’s Shorts, Pinterest’s push into videos, Snapchat’s Spotlight and more, there is more than enough proof that unpolished, organic, UGC-style videos are the highest-performing format right now.
Combined with the fact that most modern cultural conversations are starting on TikTok, it allows brands to create a vault of videos that are on trend, in tune with culture, and that can be repurposed across other platforms (paid and organic) for testing purposes.