Founders' Collective: Embracing TikTok from strategy to activation

At Piper, we are continuously seeking out the top experts in every field of brand-building. When we find a particular expert, we ask them to speak at our long-running quarterly Founders’ Collective events to share their insights with our brand community.

This happened recently when Leon Hughes, our digital expert, met Young with Solutions, a specialist TikTok agency. TikTok isn’t a new topic for most brands in our network, but with the potential US ban, growth of TikTok shop, and the changing user demographics, it is a platform that is still approached with hesitation and misunderstanding. Young with Solutions’ experience on the platform made them the perfect choice to demystify TikTok from strategy to activation.

For the event, we took over the top floor and terrace of our partner brand, Turtle Bay, in  Hammersmith for the talks, a panel discussion, and of course, delicious Caribbean inspired food and cocktails. Turtle Bay’s offering of fun social experiential dining went viral on TikTok post covid, with users sharing their legendary bottomless brunches. We were joined by their Digital Marketing Manager, Emily Cooke, who shared a case study on how to embrace the platform.

For the panel we also welcomed Ning Cheah, founder of The Beauty Crop and Kerttu Inkeroinen, Marketing and E-Commerce Director at Lucky Saint. Their differing experiences rounded out the discussion, with Beauty Crop being a TikTok native brand with a strong focus on TikTok shop, and Lucky Saint experiencing the challenge of taking a beautifully constructed brand onto a platform that rewards content that seems candid and unplanned.

Here is what we learnt:

Who are the users?

  • It’s not all Gen-Z. Demographics are shifting – 30% of users are aged over 35
  • Unlike meta, users don’t expect to be advertised to on TikTok. 75% of users come to be entertained, not sold. Brands need engaging quality content rather than repurposing traditional advertising.
  • 88% of users enjoy discovering new things and 42% specifically use it discover new things rather than following brands or influencers, a key difference to Instagram.
  • Younger shoppers, Gen-Z and Gen Alpha are conscious that there are people behind the brands they buy from and respond well to it.

How are they using it?

  • Unlike the aspirational Instagram, TikTok users are looking for relatable niche demographics they can see themselves in, experiences they can have, and trends they can feel part of. Find where your customers are, and use this to learn more about them.
  • TikTok’s algorithm rewards reactions to content, not follower count, allowing unknown creators to reach millions. This means that even if you have followers, your videos may not be seen by them if the content isn’t engaging.
  • TikTok users don’t just scroll, they search. Many are leaving Google to find answers and recommendations from real people. Results can be # hashtags, but also locations where all the content from that location can be seen. Perfect for brands with physical sites or location-specific products.

How should brands be using it?

  • Brands face the challenge of connecting carefully crafted visuals and tone of voice, with what works on TikTok. Look at brands that you align with or aspire to that are doing well. A good example is Burberry, who have found a tone that suits both their prestige brand and the informal TikTok style.
  • You can sell on TikTok in four ways, shoppable videos, TikTok shop, affiliates and lives.
  • Shoppable videos are a way for you to sell by not selling, make content that brings your brand values to life in a way that is real and relatable.
  • TikTok shop can be a huge sales driver but does better for low ticket items and doesn’t provide thorough metrics, making it difficult to forecast and manage inventory.
  • Affiliate marketing works very well but must be strategic and content focused. An influencer is much less powerful on Tiktok, it’s about the video and content story not who’s in the video.
  • Lives are a reaction to traffic, not a way to create traffic. If a piece of content gets a good response, do a live to increase conversion by talking directly to users who have just discovered you.
  • Think about content as an infinity loop. Brand content can lead to user generated content which can then inspire new brand content.
  • Steal like an artist. Don’t just copy every trend, find trends that suit your tone of voice.
  • Younger generations use TikTok for reviews, which are seen as more trustworthy than written reviews because you can see the product. Encourage these, use them to understand customers, and don’t ignore bad reviews – respond and learn from them.

The main takeaway from the evening was that if brands want to capitalise on this new channel, dedicated resource and strategy is essential. Content can be repurposed from TikTok to other channels, but not the other way around. Getting it right can be really valuable, TikTok users are highly engaged – 91% of users take action after seeing TikTok content and 52% that have come across SME advertising content have gone on to make a purchase.

Thinking about your TikTok strategy and want to discuss with us or an expert from our network? Get in touch.