Overseas Social Media Marketing | What Can TikTok Do for Cross-Border Brands?

TikTok's role in cross-border brand marketing

TikTok is the fastest-growing social media platform to date, reaching one billion monthly active users worldwide in just four years of its international release. (As a point of comparison, Facebook took nearly nine years and Instagram took nearly eight years to reach this milestone.)

There are many speculations about the reasons for TikTok’s skyrocketing popularity, but the general consensus is:

People enjoy short videos and it creates an environment where they can be themselves. TikTok uses complex algorithms to accurately display content that users want to see.

TikTok has proven to be successful for creators and brands, but creating content that the algorithm loves is now an art form in itself.

Let’s take a look at why brands should invest in TikTok, how brands can successfully use the platform, and how the algorithm works.

What investing in TikTok can do for your brand

With TikTok’s popularity – especially among the younger generation – it’s no surprise that brands are adding it to their social media advertising strategies. It’s also no surprise that brands are seeing amazing results from this platform.

As TikTok wants to reassure advertisers that their ad spend is going to the right place, the platform recently launched the “TikTok Works” series, showcasing how various partners have achieved success through their advertising. Let’s take a look at some of the victories that advertisers and brands can strive for through their TikTok ads.

1. Improve the return on advertising spending

ROAS (or return on advertising spending) measures the sales generated by advertising spending. While many ads have awareness or preference goals, ads with conversion goals hope to see this return – which TikTok provides.

According to TikTok’s research, the app can increase paid media ROAS by 56%-96%, depending on the region.

TikTok also found that compared to TV advertising, ROAS almost doubled (from $2.1 for TV ads to $4.1 for TikTok ads).

2. Increase Awareness and Product Discovery

TikTok is a great channel for discovering new products. According to a TikTok partner, a post-purchase analysis found that when consumers were asked where they first heard about the product, 15% of consumers listed TikTok as the discovery platform – up from 4% the previous year.

Due to the popularity of the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag on the platform, this is not surprising. Brands and creators can showcase products and their use cases to demonstrate why the audience needs the product. In many cases, this can lead to some extra purchases.

3. Build brand assets

The format of TikTok videos and the features provided within the app can create attention-grabbing creative ads that help build brand assets and strengthen the brand’s position in customers’ minds. When brands use “TikTok’s unique features such as music, frequent scene changes, off-screen sound, and text overlay”, the results are even better.

This helps TikTok perform better than other similar digital and TV ads, generating 15-20% better results in persuasive and enjoyable metrics.

4. Creating Engagement

Although not included in TikTok’s series of works, other research has found that TikTok has the highest engagement rate of all social media platforms. TikTok’s average engagement rate is 4.25%, while Instagram is 0.60%, Facebook is 0.15%, and Twitter is 0.05%.

If a brand chooses to collaborate with TikTok creators, the engagement rate will increase even more. The engagement rate of global influencers is about 15.86%, while that of American TikTok influencers is as high as 17.99%.

How TikTok Algorithm Works

If you talk to any regular TikTok user, you’ll hear the same thing: TikTok’s ability to present highly relevant content in front of every audience is surprisingly accurate. In fact, a TikTok user wrote that the TikTok algorithm even knew she was bisexual before she did.

But how does the algorithm do this? Is it in our minds, or is it just incredibly complex and extremely accurate?

Obviously, we know it’s the latter – but the fact that it’s even a question proves the ability of the TikTok algorithm. A document sharing some trade secrets about the TikTok algorithm was leaked to the New York Times at the end of 2021, telling us what the algorithm’s main goals are and what it uses as its biggest ranking factor.

The document, called “TikTok Algo 101,” explains that the algorithm has four primary goals:

User value, long-term user value, creator value, and platform value.

The company’s ultimate goal is to increase more and more daily active users and hopes that the 100+ million monthly active users it receives will return to the application time and time again. To achieve this, it optimizes two metrics: retention rate and time spent.

Algorithm analyst Guillaume Chaslot describes the function of algorithms as follows: “Within a few hours, algorithms can detect [someone’s] music taste, their physical attractiveness, whether they are depressed, whether they use drugs, and many other sensitive information.” (It’s a bit creepy).

As described in the document, this information is collected based on users’ preferences, comments, and game time. These three indicators are the biggest ranking factors, as shown in the calculation provided:

Plike X Vlike + Pcomment X Vcomment + Eplaytime X Vplaytime + Pplay X Vplay

Although we do not provide information about what P, V, and E may represent in the document, it is helpful to know which factors will affect whether your video will enter the “For You” page.

Your main goal should be to generate as many likes and comments as possible, and create engaging content that keeps people watching your videos for longer.

How to create and optimize content for the TikTok algorithm

The next challenge is to explore how to create content that can increase likes, comments, and game time. Follow these eight tips to get on the right track.

1. Find your TikTok subculture

TikTok has many subcultures, usually represented by subculture types and -Tok. There are #BookTok, #FitTok, and #SkinTok (although some still use other tag formats, such as #Cottagecore and #WaterCult).

According to YPulse, some of these subcultures are even promoting sales of related businesses. That’s why, if possible, try to find a TikTok subculture that seamlessly integrates with your business.

For example, #BookTok is perfect for monthly book clubs, and water bottle companies like HydroFlask can seamlessly integrate their content into #WaterCult.

2. Attract your audience as soon as possible

Playtime is an important part of TikTok’s algorithm, so you need to make sure more people stay on your video before scrolling away. You need to start with a hook. TikTok is not a place for slow introductions. Jump straight into your video content, even including CTAs such as “stick around to the end” or “listen to me” to attract and grab attention.

3. Keep your video around 30 seconds

Data shows that the best playtime on TikTok is between 21-34 seconds, and many TikTok users say that videos longer than one minute make them feel pressured. Whether TikTok continues to extend its maximum video length or not, make your video short and interesting to maximize playtime and engagement.

4. Use popular audio clips

To create good TikTok content, you also need to regularly consume a lot of TikTok content. This way, you can keep up with new trends and audio clips that brands and creators are using. TikTok trends change rapidly, so you need to master them to use them while popular audio clips are still trending.

If you find an audio clip you like, you can easily click on it at the bottom of the screen and let it play in the background while recording your own TikTok video.

5. Accept popular challenges

TikTok is also known for its challenges. The same advice as the previous point – keep up with trends and challenges so that you can incorporate them into your TikTok strategy as soon as they appear.

6. Combine relevant topic tags

Your subculture may have one or two tags. If you manage to find relevant content, always include these topic tags in your captions – they will help you reach the audience in that subculture.

Otherwise, make sure to include other relevant topic tags related to your business and video content. Additionally, although it hasn’t been proven to be beneficial, many people swear by including #fyp in their titles in an effort to make it onto the “For You Page”.

7. Use concise video captions

Just as TikTok’s audience wants to watch short videos, they want to read short captions. Use your title to provide more context. If you need to add more information, it can easily be added in the comments or created as a “part two” video.

8. Consistency is key

This is an experience rule that stands out on any algorithm – you must consistently post. If you only share a new video once a month, TikTok’s algorithm won’t showcase your content to viewers. It wants to promote creators through consistent, fresh, novel, and engaging content.

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