Illustration by CriDascalu on 99designs
It’s been a whole year since the world as we knew it was turned upside down and small businesses were forced to shut up physical shop. The resulting online migration caused a domino effect on both business and consumer behaviour. For small businesses, one of the most surprising was the roaring success of a social media app originally made famous by teenage dance challenges – TikTok, writes Shayne Tilley Head of Marketing at 99designs.
TikTok has quickly evolved into a go-to marketing tool, enabling even the smallest of businesses to create large followings: building and becoming a part of their communities, rather than just advertising to them.
Why TikTok is perfect for small business
While the opportunity for SMBs is significant, as with anything new, it can be difficult to know where to start. However, TikTok’s astronomical rise has also given way to an interesting collective of entrepreneurial experts who are not only building successful brands on the platform, but also using their own experience to show others how to do the same.
99designs spoke to 9 trailblazing entrepreneurs on TikTok right now that are providing invaluable advice for SMBs looking to build their brand on the platform.
Getting the right gear
While TikTok’s focus on authentic and unpolished content is what sets it apart, business coach, Elise Darma, say’s it’s important to get your equipment in order: “I have a flexible tripod and a phone clip that attaches to the tripod as well as a few ring lights. Having that additional light on your face makes the quality of your video that much better.”
Fireman-turned-entrepreneur Evan Van Auken agrees, saying: “Lighting is more important than any camera, angle, filter, or scene. And it’s 2021—get a microphone! Audio is more important than video on TikTok.”
Finding your niche
There’s a niche for everything on the internet. TikTok is no different, so finding yours is key to setting your business apart. TEDx speaker, best-selling author and business coach Terrance McMahon says business owners on the platform should hone in on one favorite idea which will help a small audience solve a common problem. “This offers the chance to create authority and a trusting space. Once that is truly established, you can expand your ideas.”
Evan also adds that once you’ve settled on your niche – stick to it! “TikTok needs to learn what you are so it can serve your content to the right viewer. Use hashtags that describe your ideal customer/viewer. Do not use hashtags that describe you or your brand.”
Golden rules for content creation
Once you’ve settled on what you want to say and who you want to say it to, there’s a few things to keep in mind when making your content.
While TikTok allows for shooting up to 60 seconds of video, marketing expert, Sam Ogborn, recommends keeping videos between 12-22 seconds: “That’s the sweet spot where most of my videos see success!” She also suggests businesses “have a smart hook at the beginning to get people to watch your videos all the way through.”
Jen Ruiz, a lawyer turned travel blogger recommends having a call to action at the end of most videos, whether it’s to follow you for more, comment with questions or click the link in bio. “Otherwise you could have a video go viral and lose out on gaining followers.”
When asked what her number one piece of advice for small businesses starting out on TikTok, Taylor Price, a Gen Z teaching financial literacy, said consistency was key. “I like to say that when it comes to posting, your followers are your friends. If you don’t show up on a consistent basis, you’re ghosting your friends!”
The reputation of TikTok’s algorithm precedes it and it’s not uncommon to hear of brands going ‘viral’ overnight. But how do you tap into this? The answer is by leveraging trends!
To do this, Elise recommends paying close attention to the “For You” page to learn about current trends and apply relevant ones to your niche: “TikTok is the place where trends start and then it will filter over to Instagram.”
Jen also suggests using both trending sounds AND hashtags to get even more reach. “If you see a trend doing well, think about how you can put a spin on it to make it specific to your niche and capitalise off the added boost in views for trending content.”
What sets TikTok content apart from other social media platforms is its ability to enable customers to connect with the human element of a brand. Taylor Price was first drawn to TikTok by the platform’s encouragement to be yourself and tap into the community feel. Her advice is to be authentic and vulnerable: “This is how you get people to trust you. Also, it is so much easier to make content you are authentically passionate about rather than pretending to be someone you are not”.
Similarly, Evan’s TikTok page is less about creating and more about inviting others on to his business’s journey. Rather than being taught hypothetical accounts, Evan’s users draw lessons from his own experiences as an entrepreneur. “If you are authentic, and real, you will be successful.”
Understandably, many of the entrepreneurs we spoke to were originally a little apprehensive about first getting started. Whether it was fear of the unknown, or fear of being ‘too old’, nearly all of them had put it off for a while before taking the plunge. However, their resounding feedback was simply to just start… now! And based on their journeys and success, who knows where you and your business could be in another 12 months.
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