Is it time to embrace TikTok as the next B2B social media platform?
Updated on 27th February 2020.
It achieved over 1.5 billion downloads from the App Store and Google Play in 2019 and is more popular than LinkedIn, Twitter and Snapchat. It’s active in 155 countries around the world and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Its name is TikTok and it bills itself as the “destination for short-form mobile videos”.
But should B2B marketers be taking note? Especially following the monumental success experienced by outlets such as the World Economic Forum, who recently garnered over 3.5 billion views of one of their TikTok hashtags at this year’s Annual Meeting in Davos.
What is TikTok?
Beginning life in Asia and then launched in 2017 by ByteDance for markets outside China, TikTok is the way for primarily teens and Generation Z to engage with each other through music, dances and videos lasting between 15 and 60 seconds.
Now though, global news organisations such as The Washington Post and NBC News have joined the platform. Consumer brands such as Burberry and Calvin Klein are on board and even sports teams such as Liverpool Football Club are using TikTok to generate content aimed at raising brand awareness amongst a younger audience, in a way that resonates with them.
The question is: how can B2B brands harness TikTok’s power? Is it just a brand awareness tool? Or is there more to it?
Not everybody seems to be convinced. According to some, B2B marketers were safe to ignore TikTok in 2019 and possibly forever. This is unsurprisingly down to the young audience, clique-like nature and time restrictions on message delivery.
Whilst the demographic at the moment sits in the 16-24 range, the older generation is expected to arrive in due course, as happened with Facebook. So arguably, now is the time for businesses to invest in TikTok and establish a following through expressive and compelling content that explores what makes them fun and interesting.
Think of it in the same way many B2B businesses conduct themselves on Instagram – using the network to share captivating, cultural content. Instagram began as just a way to share pictures with friends, and now there are more than 25 million brand accounts that regularly connect with and, most crucially, sell to their audience.
TikTok has a long way to go, though.
With its young userbase, the decision makers just aren’t there yet, so there’s not much for B2B brands to market to – and there really is no way to tell when they’ll show up.
By the time they’re in senior level roles, will TikTok still be around? Just look at the demise of MySpace and Bebo.
There’s also a pertinent question B2B brands will have to ask themselves – do they want to create a new innovative side to the business, without jeopardising their authenticity and integrity? Do they want to completely shift their tone of voice?
If the answer’s yes then brands have got to be willing to experiment and test new ideas fully knowing they may fail. This could put off a lot of well-established corporate players.
So why, then, has The Washington Post taken the gamble and joined in the first place?
Dave Jorgenson, the driving force behind the Post’s TikTok page, said: “The long-term plan has always been that we’d use this as we use any other platform. [Someday we will] post news in the way that reflects the platform. [Right now the plan is to] jump in and be part of the fun.”
Jorgenson, who primarily serves the newspaper as a producer and editor in the Creative Video team developed a seven-page proposal for his bosses – and they approved his plans.
Clearly, The Washington Post is confident in TikTok’s future. But it does have the advantage of being able to wait a decade or so to see if it brings in readers in the future.
TikTok is also currently in the very primitive stages of allowing brands to advertise on the platform, so this could be another route in. However, it circles back around to that key factor of who the brands would be advertising to.
It seems that, for the short term at least, TikTok might not be the best place for B2B brands to be advertising. Building brand awareness is apparently the strategy for those already there, but any selling is going to have to wait a while.
It’s likely that we won’t see a flood of B2B activity on the platform until one of the key players takes the plunge and joins the game, giving onlookers the chance to analyse their performance. Who, if anyone, will be the first to take a step into the unknown?
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About the author: Seb Budd is the Social Media Executive for Formative Content. He is responsible for planning, executing and driving the social media and blog content for the company. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.
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