Some TikTok videos become overnight sensations, some continue to sensate for months. Still, others never take off. Whatever the case, TikTok videos flood all our social media platforms.

TikTok has grown exponentially over the past few years. Within the first year of launch in 2016 they managed to garner 100 million users. In 2017 it acquired and today its parent company Bytedance claims that it has 1 billion active users.

With numbers like this, marketers, especially to brands appealing to Gen Z and beyond,  realize that they have to be on the platform. Unfortunately though they are approaching TikTok  using the same strategy and approach as they do with Instagram or other social networking platforms.

Marshall McLuhan famously declared that the medium is the message. TikTok is not a medium that rewards slickly curated images and posts as in Instagram or, for Boomers, Facebook. Rather it is a content distribution channel for entertaining videos that rewards creativity and authenticity.

This is why TikTok creates a FYP (For You Page) for its users, where it uses powerful algorithms to give the users only what they are interested in. It ends up serving a highly personalized and unique experience for its users. TikTok also cleverly makes all of its content highly shareable to all other platforms. This often results in TikTok videos trending on those platforms and attracts plenty of earned coverage because of this.

Combined with the fact that TikTok audiences are more participative and active than their counterparts in other platforms, TikTok users  encourage action and make others join in on creating trendy videos. This behavior allows for audiences to become co-creators for any sort of trend or campaign, rather than just passive consumers. 

So how should marketers approach TikTok?  They should first realize that there is no formula for overnight success and virality. There are no tricks for instant viral videos, and being agile on TikTok is not a foolproof way to stay relevant.  TikTok works best when it stays true to a raw and authentic feel. User behavior on the app shows that they are more receptive toward content that is amateurish, funny, and entertaining. In short, videos that their generation can relate to.

What TikTok users eschew is content that is contrived, in short any content that looks too slick and sophisticated as you would see in professionally produced advertisements. This is not to say that TikTok is against commercialism. On the contrary, TikTok has a range of advertising products that are designed to blend in with the user’s FYP. Even then your content matters. 

All this means is that TikTok is here to stay for the foreseeable future and will be more important as a marketing medium as Gen Z increasingly grows into the generation with spending power.

It can be a very powerful marketing tool, but it also demands that marketers pay attention to the demands and references of a younger generation who will grant you their attention only if you have authentic content that can entertain them.  If you are willing to free yourself of old marketing paradigms then TikTok can be your next playground. If not, you’d be confined to sitting on the sidelines.