Paid Media

TikTok Advertising Guide

Update 2020-07-08: We got early access to TikTok's self-serve ad platform and have been playing around with it but didn't have anything to report. Today we just got notice that TikTok's self-serve ad platform is available to all US advertisers. You can sign up here.

Note: TikTok's self-serve ad platform is not yet available in the United States. They do have options besides self-serve right now with starting budgets at $500 per month and a fixed $10 CPM for in-stream ads. I've linked to the media kit at the bottom of this post.

Self-serve is not yet available in the US as of 2020-06-07

TikTok is absolutely blowing up. Every time I bring it up everybody asks the same question...

Isn't TikTok just for kids?

It definitely started that way. But every social network starts with a niche audience. Facebook started as a private network for Harvard students, then expanded to all college students, and now it's mostly just boomers arguing about politics ;-).

Before that it was MySpace or Friendster. After Facebook, all the kids moved to Instagram, then to Snapchat, then Vine was popular for a while, and now TikTok's blowing up.

The point is, social networks come and go, and the audiences shift over time. That's not a reason to ignore them.

A few stats really make TIkTok interesting to me right now...

TikTok stats (quantitative)

1. TikTok was BY FAR the fastest social network to get to 1 billion users

Image source

And that chart was published in Nov 2019. Now, I'm not sure I'd consider WeChat and WhatsApp to be social networks, but you get the point.

2.  Millennials and Gen Z are the fastest growing demos

TikTok doesn't release data, but third party measurement firm, Comscore reports that the 24-34 and 34-44 age groups are the fastest growing segments on TikTok. And the number of 18-24 year olds on the app is actually dropping.

Image source / Ad Week

3. 4th most downloaded iPhone app in 2019

TikTok was the fourth most downloaded iPhone app in 2019. Trailing only YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat.

4. Highest engagement per post

It appears Influencer Marketing Hub pulled data on 100,000 influencer profiles and measured the average engagement per post.

A word of caution here:  but my guess is they programmatically crawled user profiles on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter and compared the number of likes and comments on each post to the user's follower count.

I couldn't find any good info at all on their method or their data source or anything. So, like most of the "studies" online, This is about as far from reliable data as you can get, but it's all I could find and it aligns with my personal experience on these platforms so I'm including the chart below.

Two major factors I think area really important in determining where to put your money in digital ads are:

  1. Do you have to be logged in to use the app? (e.g. Facebook) This means a larger percentage of real users probably see your ads.
  2. Is there video and sound and is that video and sound on by default? This is one reason TV is so effective. Ads with video and sound are more engaging and improve recall.

You do NOT have to be logged in to use the app, so TikTok loses #1. This means there could be bots eating your ad impressions. That said, I'm not sure if TikTok shows ads to users who are not logged in so it may be a moot point. It's also an app, so it's better in this regard than, say, display ads on a website.

TikTok is video only and the nature of the platform is such that nobody's going to be flipping through with the sound off like they could on Facebook or Instagram. So that's a win for #2.

The main reason I think TikTok is so engaging and why I think it'll stick around for a long time is because of the audio. You can layer songs from major artists over your video, ads included, which is not something you can do on any platform right now.

People can also co-opt your audio for their own content. Which means if someone says something funny, literally millions of people can take that audio and repurpose it for their own use.

Here's a great example of that (make sure you unmute):

My opinion

Engagement per post is obviously going to depend on how you use the platform, your audience, etc. So it's hard to point to the numbers above and say TikTok is better. However, the fact that most users will have video and audio on by default is a major plus for advertisers.

The audience is massive and growing rapidly and the app is wildly entertaining. For better or worse, it'll hook you so fast that it's honestly a little scary.

And I don't think TikTok is going away anytime soon...there's almost no friction and it's FAR too engaging. ByteDance hit a home run with this.

Potential organic reach is higher than any other platform right now, so if you're looking to grow an organic following and your audience is anywhere from 18 - 44 you should seriously consider it.

Because of the max length of 60 seconds and the nature of the platform, I think you do have to spend some time on the app and get creative to figure out what works and how to align that with business goals. Because of that, it might be worth starting with TikTok ads while you figure out the organic piece.

If you're a company like P&G, where you need massive scale, and your audience skews older, TikTok is still worth testing and following to see where it goes, but my guess is it won't have the scale you need right now.

Another strike on TikTok is you can swipe past ads. I'm not sure if you still get charged for those impressions or if it functions more like shorter YouTube ads where you don't get billed for skipped impressions but that's definitely something to consider.

I DO think TikTok ads are worth exploring for most organizations. CPMs are fairly low, potential engagement is high, and you can target by age and location (among others).

And if your audience skews younger, TikTok's a no-brainer.

How to get started with TikTok advertising

First, check out the media kit here for more information about ad types and the platform itself. Also note that their self-serve ad platform is not yet available in the United States. Still, you can get started for as little as $500/month at $10 fixed CPMs for in-stream ads. You can request more info from TikTok here. And if you're looking for some agency help, contact us here.

Note: The self-serve ad platform is now available for all US advertisers:

John Crenshaw
John Crenshaw
UFO company founder. 15+ years experience in performance marketing.
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