TikTok, the video streaming social network, was already gaining traction around the world before the Covid pandemic. The aftermath of the global lockdown, for this platform, was quite literally an explosion in adoption around the world, including Africa.
In January 2018, TikTok had about 54 million monthly active users. By January 2021, there were about 689 million TikTok users [Source]. Also, TikTok users spend an average of 850+ minutes per month on the app [Source].
When one of our leading clients in Ghana was looking to connect with the Gen-Z demographic, we had been thinking about TikTok for a while already, but now we were sure.
One major rule of inbound marketing is distribution, and for a Gen Z-focused brand, being where the audience was, meant making a move to TikTok.
And oh, what a move it was.
TikTok is new grounds – new in the sense that there was no way of predicting how the response would be, how to hyper-target as we would on Facebook and the likes, or even generally, how to go about it.
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube will use words like ‘connect’, ‘community’, ‘communicate’, ‘listen’, ‘share’ which is an idealistic vision for most social media platforms. But with TikTok, their mission statement is clear – to exploit an unadulterated and shameless goal to entertain.
So, what did we learn?
You can read all the articles that tout “how to do TikTok” for brands, but you can’t be ready for how to do TikTok for brands in the West African context. You have to take a deep dive and apply everything you know.
And as I would put it, it’s “either you drink deep or you taste not” on TikTok – a half-baked approach will surely mean wasted efforts and investments.
The massive Gen Z demographic on TikTok, grew up being exposed to hundreds of ads a day (and influencer marketing) and therefore are almost immune to them. This is a generation that will engage with content that aligns with their personal interests, and their personal interests alone. The new generation cannot be wooed by fancy videos or sales-y displays. They have a strong radar for almost immediately knowing when they’re being sold to. And if they think they are, they’ll leave.
We learned this the hard way. Our initial foray in the space saw us using “verified” influencers, but the impact was not as strong as it was when we decided to use a “loved creator” to tell our brand story.
On TikTok, users are going to do things differently with your brand. Things you didn’t know could be done with your brand. If you’re a condom brand, your content using the condom as balloons might be your best-performing, if you’re a rice brand, putting a phone in rice might be the break to go viral.
We’ve found that brand-sponsored content typically performs worse, even on popular creators’ profiles, because this particular audience is more aware and unfazed by ads. The aim here would be to create content that is very relatable to your target audience, and somehow find a way to communicate in the story the usefulness of your brand, while entertaining the audience. If you create a TikTok video, collaborating with a creator, and slap your logo at the end, you will get some views. Just don’t expect massive engagement and/or conversion.
Find your little pockets of highly engaged people on TikTok. This is the way to go on a platform that doesn’t promote the mass-communication that you’d see on other popular platforms.
Normally, one would expect this to mean less reach but a higher engagement rate, but the reach and impression statistics of niche content are phenomenal on TikTok compared to any other platform.
TikTok is the place where Gen Z goes to play (right now), so if you have a brand or product focused on this group, that’s a hot tip for you. But remember it’s not easy to keep the attention of the group of people with the shortest attention spans (the average Gen-Z attention span is eight seconds, four seconds less than Millennials. – Sparks & Honey). They are interested in multicultural and diverse subject areas more than any other generation. You have to dig deep. But they are also the most important target group for most brands to engage today. Gen Z is always changing their consumer habits. They soak up the latest and greatest apps, trends, and social platforms making it a consistent race for brands to keep up and innovate first.
As a business in Africa getting into the world of TikTok, understand that it’s not business as usual. On TikTok, you’re not a C-suite marketing executive. You’re a niche creator, deeply passionate about using media to change the world. TikTok says of its platform:
“Our user-generated content environment creates an atmosphere of authentic discovery. The constantly refreshed For your feed is algorithmically tailored to personal preference, allowing users to spontaneously discover new products – so a new favourite brand or a beloved purchase is only a swipe away.” You can find more insights into how to navigate TikTok as a business in this newly released business guide by TikTok.
Want to find out how TikTok could work for your brand? Let’s get talking here.