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TikTok for business: Success stories of brands using short videos to reach new audiences

Published December 22, 2020

The average person will spend up to 100 minutes a day watching videos by 2021, according to Zenith. That’s the equivalent of 25 consecutive days a year. And TikTok is uniquely poised to capitalize on our affinity.

TikTok, for the uninitiated, is a social media platform that combines the best qualities of Instagram and YouTube: scrollable content and video, respectively. It’s more popular than Facebook and Instagram and has become the king of the three Vs—vertical viral video—a feature that every social platform has tried to copy in the shadow of TikTok’s success. 

Video is the world’s most-consumed media, and TikTok has a growing worldwide presence. TikTok—known as Douyin in China—is particularly popular in South America, Mexico, the US, Russia and Pakistan, according to data from Q3 2020.

With its 800 million active global users and proven success for brands already, TikTok is set to become the most influential social platform to date. And with a mere one out of 10 video marketers currently taking advantage, businesses that do connect with the video platform’s user base have the opportunity to capture some of its $500 million advertising revenue. Not to mention that businesses can become trendsetters in their industry or niche.

In this article, we’ll cover five ways businesses effectively use TikTok to achieve goals and raise revenue.

Chipotle accelerates its digital sales

Chipotle has always been about its authentic ingredients, and it uses TikTok to show the authentic side of its business with humor and viral-worthy challenges. Chipotle’s #GuacDance challenge holds the title of highest-performing branded challenge in TikTok history to date. The restaurant sold over 802,000 sides of guac as a result—the most in its history.


4 ways to get FREE GUAC. Link in bio to sign up for Chipotle Rewards ##chipotle ##guac ##avocado ##fyp

♬ original sound - Chipotle

Chipotle was an early adopter of TikTok. The fast-casual chain not only uses TikTok to bring its brand to life but to further its digital efforts, as well. Chipotle’s Q2 2020 earnings saw a digital sales lift of 216 percent, accounting for about 61 percent of sales. The restaurant uses TikTok to encourage users to participate in its reward program, which accounts for 70 percent of current digital orders, according to CEO Brian Niccol.

Chipotle sold over 802,000 sides of guac as a result of a single TikTok campaign.

In an article in QSR Magazine, Tressie Lieberman, Chipotle’s VP of digital and off-premises, said, “Chipotle’s goal for its presence on TikTok is to establish a genuine, real personality.” Lieberman added that the brand’s TikTok strategy is often based on everyday trends, noting in an interview with Business Insider that you have to be willing to try new things every day. “You just have to be really flexible to try new things, reach out to people, experiment,” Lieberman said, “because there’s not really a defined process here.”

The Washington Post extends its reach to a younger audience

The Washington Post uses TikTok to build trust and awareness with a young, powerful audience.

The 142-year-old newspaper’s main audience consists of readers over 40, according to Dave Jorgenson, The Post’s video producer. And although its TikTok account has fewer followers than its Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, the audience it serves there speaks to a brand new demographic: teens and 20-somethings, which make up over 60 percent of the platform’s user base. Don’t let their age fool you—Gen Zers are already some of the world’s most powerful consumers.

Over 60 percent of TikTok’s user base are consumers in their teens and 20s.

The Post uses the platform to give viewers a peek inside its newsroom. In an interview with CNN, Jorgenson said the organization’s humor shines through in its videos. “I’ve always found our newsroom is filled with a lot of really funny people, even if they’re kind of dorky and sort of nerdy,” he said. “That’s our humor. And so I sort of sought to reflect that humor on TikTok within all of our videos that we publish each day.”

English Heritage provides short history lessons

UK-based charity English Heritage uses TikTok to share short history lessons with its audience, bolstering TikTok’s 2020 mission to offer learning opportunities to its users.

Over the summer, TikTok launched #LearnOnTikTok, which encourages its users to learn something new on its platform. The campaign simultaneously aims to help businesses, creatives and institutions that have been directly impacted by the pandemic. Social Media Today reports that “all of these lessons are being provided by businesses that have [been] impacted (or affected) by COVID-19, so the clips serve as both educational resources to help people at home, and promotional vehicles for these professionals to share their expertise.”

We want people to turn to TikTok, not just for entertainment, but to learn something new.

In an interview with The Drum, Julien Wettstein, TikTok’s head of creator solutions in Europe, said, “We want people to turn to TikTok, not just for entertainment, but to learn something new, to acquire a new skill or simply get inspired to do something they’ve never done before. People were already doing this, and it’s a trend we wanted to get behind and accelerate.”

English Heritage joined in on the movement and launched its “#LearnOnTikTok initiative, which is part of an £11.5 million investment to be shared across Europe,” as reported by The Independent. The charity, which manages historic sites in the UK, aims to take an entertaining and informative approach to education on the platform, and it already has close to 100,000 followers who are invested in that approach.

Small businesses gain audiences away from home

What makes TikTok such an opportunity for small businesses? The popular platform has an impressive 52.1 percent engagement rate and saw $78 million in in-app purchases during global lockdowns alone, signaling high buyer intent within the platform.

TikTok also has over 800 million active users, exists in 150 markets around the world, and operates in 39 languages. Its massive reach may seem daunting—but small businesses have used the platform to reach audiences outside of their local customer pool.

The Verge reports that small businesses like Danny Wang’s design-build firm and Erika Thompson’s beekeeping business have seen a lift in sales and engagement on the platform. In Wang’s case, TikTok has helped expand his business internationally—“far beyond the 30-mile radius his company initially operated in.”

TikTok is authentic—and consumers buy authenticity

Now that more consumers put their dollars where their values are, the opportunity to give a brand’s values a place to shine is invaluable. “88 percent of video marketers reported that video gives them a positive ROI,” according to 2020 data from HubSpot, and 66 percent of marketers report seeing success with their TikTok strategies specifically.

Despite the bad rap social media gets for being more of a “highlight reel” than real life, brands and consumers alike turn to TikTok to showcase their values.

As demonstrated by the brands and businesses above, TikTok marketing isn’t something to be feared. With its rising user base and plentiful opportunities worldwide, TikTok for business is just getting started.

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