No matter where you sit on the spectrum of Gen Z to “boomer”, there’s a strong chance you’ve heard of the social media app TikTok and its meteoric rise.

Perhaps a viral video, watermarked with the app’s logo, made its way onto your Facebook or Instagram feed, or you overheard your [child/younger sibling/teen relative] obsessing over its most popular influencers.

If your job is within the PR or marketing realm, and it’s your job to pay attention to such things, you might’ve even tried TikTok yourself – emerging even more bemused than you were before.

Fear not, we’re here to demystify the platform and let you know why your brand should (or shouldn’t) be on it.

What is TikTok?

Essentially, TikTok is an app for creating and sharing short videos. The videos are vertical, like Instagram Stories, and you navigate the app by swiping up and down. Videos can be up to a minute in length but most are 15 seconds, and there’s a ton of creative tools and interactive filters by which to create them.

If all of this is inspiring a familiar sense of déjà vu (see: Vine, or – which TikTok acquired in 2016), that’s because what’s truly revolutionary about TikTok is under the hood. Unlike the traditional social behemoths – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – which are built around “following” people you know or like, TikTok is all about discovery.

Boot the app up and you’re immediately served an endless feed of content algorithmically recommended for you. Sure, you can follow people, but that’s not really the point. It’s like Instagram if the “Explore” tab was the app’s primary interface.

Should my brand be on it?

With over 1.5 billion users and counting, as well as global brands like Apple, Calvin Klein and Sephora already making waves with campaigns on the platform, it’s no surprise that TikTok is causing a stir in marketing circles.

However, this isn’t to say that all brands are suited to TikTok. For one, success on the platform demands embracing unpolished, imperfect content that fits the app’s style. Secondly, though all social content should be tailor-made for each platform, this is especially true for TikTok. Launching a profile requires significant investment to strategise and produce a pipeline of bespoke content. It’s also another channel for your community managers to maintain.

Then, most importantly, there’s audience – the vast majority of TikTok’s users fall into the 16 to 25-year-old age bracket. If this is already your brand’s target market, then TikTok may just be the ticket. But if you’re planning to use TikTok as a Gen Z brand building exercise, you may want to take pause – devoting considerable resource to speak to the audience with the least disposable income? The ROI just isn’t there.

I want in – how do I get started?

1. Hashtag challenges:
Engagement on TikTok goes much further than simply liking or commenting on your favourite videos – TikTok encourages users to create their own in the form of “responses”. This feature – an important contributor to the app’s success – gave rise to the platform’s strong challenge culture. Users love to create outlandish challenges, which they’ll post under a particular hashtag, and the community will respond with their own submissions. For brands willing to think a little bit outside the box (check out this example) it’s clear that the opportunities here are endless.

2. Influencer marketing:
TikTokers are the new Viners, or YouTubers, or Musers. This is all to say – TikTok influencers are huge and there’s plenty of them. They also have cross-platform appeal; international TikTok-born stars like Loren Gray and Jacob Sartorius boast 18.4M and 9.2M Instagram followers respectively.

On the local scene, you have well-known celebs like rugby pro Ardie Savea with 81.8k followers on TikTok and 268k on Instagram. While these are top-tier examples, the average influencer on the platform is also reportedly charging a fraction of the fees of their Instagram peers. While this will certainly change, influencer marketing on TikTok can generate phenomenal reach for those brands early to the party.

It’s not all about household names either. Young Kiwi mum Christine Philippa has 72.3k followers on Instagram and a whopping 462.9k on TikTok and 19-year-old Judaxx has 35.9k (Instagram) and 220.3k (TikTok).

And if your brand’s not ready to jump into TikTok influencer marketing just yet, one handy in-app feature is the ability to view their other social media profiles – ideal for your Instagram or YouTube research. You’re welcome.

3. Advertising:
TikTok rolled out a full suite of advertising products in 2019 – in-feed ads, branded stickers and entire category takeovers. It’s still early days, and CPMs are somewhat higher than traditional platforms, but brands like MAC Cosmetics and Ralph Lauren are already reporting record (albeit vague) results.


Now you’re all set to take your brand to TikTok fame, but are you yet to nail the staples (read: Instagram)? Check out our top spots for an Instagram shoot in Auckland.