phone with TikTok app visible
PHOTO: Kon Karampelas

We tend to be fickle in our love affairs with social media platforms. Typically, it runs its course before we turn to the next best thing. Why is this? Social media adoption usually starts with younger generations, then moves up the demographic age chart. When this happens, younger generations have historically jumped ship to the next up and coming platform.

Well the next big platform is here, and I predict it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. TikTok is your secret key to commerce for the next 10 years.

The Allure of TikTok

Originally launched in late 2016, TikTok is a social media app for sharing videos. It's been notoriously popular with Gen Zers and gained national spotlight last fall when then President Trump announced that Walmart and Oracle would be taking a stake in the company — a deal which was quickly shelved following Trump's election loss. 

TikTok is different than other, more familiar social media platforms in one key way: with TikTok, anyone and everyone could potentially go viral — regardless of how many followers they have. This is due to the algorithm that TikTok employs on any video published on its platform, which considers video content, number of shares, likes and follows. Essentially, if you make a high-quality video, the algorithm will boost its views and it has the potential to go viral. Here’s why this is important for the future of digital commerce.

Related Article: TikTok Marketing: Are You Ready to Flip the Switch?

TikTok Explores Affiliate Marketing

Earlier this year, TikTok announced it would be exploring affiliate links, which would potentially allow brands to put product links in posts to drive traffic to an ecommerce product landing page. The alternative today is to direct followers to a link in their profile bio, rather than keeping the experience native within the post.

TikTok ambassador Alex Ojeda has 6.5 million followers. He recently told me how excited he would be to use these new TikTok platform features to further his partnership with brands. "Being able to leverage new features like linking to products would be a game changer. Additionally, many brands I work with want to see insights from my posts — which today requires me to take a screen shot of my analytics dashboard and send it to the brands I work with. Having additional analytical sharing features, like other platforms such as Instagram, would allow me to give brands more access to the results of my content."

With TikTok investing in new features that allow influencers to better partner with brands, it makes the social media platform a viable option for any brand looking to leverage influencer power in a shopping experience. By creating content and product ads in segments where your customers are already consuming content, it will provide consumer experiences where ads don’t feel like ads, and will help your brand break down barriers to entry in a true native advertising-like approach.

Influencer marketing has been found to be highly effective. Seventy percent of teens trust influencers more than traditional celebrities and 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations before making a purchase. With numbers like these, brands need to be active on these social channels and need to start partnering with influencers to help accelerate their reach. And, by the very design of how TikTok's algorithm is built, event smaller brands have a shot at the big time.

Related Article: Social Media Influencers: Mega, Macro, Micro and Nano

How to Get Started With TikTok

So how should a brand get started? Here are some areas to consider as you explore this channel.

  • Business Overview: B2C brands likely will have more opportunity with TikTok initially. That’s not to say there's no room for B2B brands, but with most TikTok users ranging in age from 10-29, they're unlikely to be the B2B buyer for a business. That being said, if you’re a B2B distributor and you decide to post a video of your warehouse workers doing a TikTok dance, it could potentially go viral — and your brand would get exposure, it just may not be exposure to the demographic you’re interested in.
  • Customer Demographics: Take a long hard look at your customer demographics today. If you have any significant amount of Gen Zers, you should seriously consider having your brand join TikTok and start creating video content. It could be as simple as posting videos of your product in fun, creative ways that make viewers want to share, like and comment.
  • Product Mix: There are likely some products in your mix that would do better than others on TikTok. If you’re a B2C brand, try to dig deep into the data and see if there are any age demographical trends around different products. If so, try to align these trends to videos that you could post on TikTok. Additionally, keep a close eye on new TikTok platform features that are released that allow your brand to link to products that you sell.
  • Test, Test, Test: As with anything, you won’t know how effective TikTok could be until you try. I recommend running a test on TikTok. Start small and simple. Additionally, see if there are influencers that align with your brand. For example, Ojeda partners a lot with travel brands (hotels, cruise lines, etc.) and his followers expect that type of content. So, if you can partner with an influencer that’s in your space of business, you’ll yield better results as that influencer's followers are expecting the type of content that your brand can offer.

Commerce is always evolving. I like to say it’s a never-ending journey, and as commerce practitioners we must always have our finger on the pulse of what’s new and emerging. So, here I am telling you that TikTok could be the secret commerce weapon for the next 10 years of your business. The question is will you embrace this new, teenage-driven technology that you may not understand? As mixed martial artist Conor McGregor once said, “The more you seek the uncomfortable, the more you become comfortable.”