“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a social media network in possession of a good audience, must be in want of marketing.”
Chances are, you’ve heard of TikTok. It’s only the seventh most popular social media network in the world, with 689 million active users as of January 2021. And when it comes to a popular social media network, it’s pretty much inevitable that someone is going to ask “can we do marketing on that?”. And usually, a little bit later once B2C marketers have been doing their thing for a while, someone will ask “can we do B2B marketing on that?”.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at the second question for two reasons. Firstly, because we know B2C marketing works on it (AdAge named TikTok its no.1 marketer of the year for 2020). And secondly, this is a community for B2B marketers so it makes sense.
To answer that question, we’re going to take a look at the demographics that make up the majority of TikTok’s users, the types of marketing content they respond best to, and finally, take a look at some of the B2B brands already trying to make things work on this new(ish, it’s been around since 2016) channel.
Who is using TikTok?
Despite some high-profile bans and attempted bans in certain countries, TikTok is available in 144 countries worldwide (as of June 2021). In terms of demographics, we’re going to focus on the US, as that’s where we can get the most complete data: 48% of adults between 18 and 29 use TikTok, with it being slightly higher in the 18-24 category at 55%, with slightly more female users than male. Things drop off pretty significantly in older age demographics.
So all those reports of TikTok being the social media of choice for Gen-Z hold up well.
But what does that mean for B2B?
Who is B2B social media marketing targeting?
Social media makes for a pretty effective B2B lead generation and nurturing tool: 75% of B2B buyers use social media to help make buying decisions, and B2B buyers are who you’re going to devote your resources towards targeting.
But who are those buyers? Well, rather than being crusty old white dudes, they’re shockingly youthful: 73% of millennials influence B2B purchasing decisions.
The social media channels used most by millennials are Facebook (90.4%), Instagram (59%), Youtube (44% check Youtube daily), and Twitter (38%). Meanwhile, on LinkedIn, 60% of the total user base are millennials.
This is reflected in the current social media channels most popular with B2B marketers: 96% of them use LinkedIn, 82% Facebook and Twitter, 69% Youtube, and 49% Instagram. While that doesn’t exactly mirror the user breakdown stats we shared above, it does show that, for a large part, B2B marketers are targeting millennials with their social media strategies.
So despite the fact only 1% of B2B marketers currently use TikTok, it’s likely we’ll see a lot more B2B marketers engaging with the platform as the amount of Gen-Z in the workforce increases.
But could it be the right time to start dipping your toe into the TikTok space?
Is now the right time to do B2B marketing on TikTok?
Until recently, social media was seen as a largely free way to effectively build a community and distribute content organically. Then big social media giants pulled the rug out from under us marketers by changing up their algorithms to massively reduce the reach of branded organic content.
The writing’s on the wall: if you want reach on the major social media platforms, it’s gonna cost you and this can be a problem in a crowded marketplace.
The way social media ads work is you bid on placement, and the more you spend, the better your reach. So if all your competitors are all on the same platform, it basically becomes a race to see who can spend the most effectively.
Could it be time to start establishing yourself on some untrod ground? Some untrod ground like TikTok?
It’s a gamble, to be sure, as there won’t necessarily be much short-term benefit. But in the long-term, it could be huge. By getting into TikTok ahead of your competitors, you have an opportunity to build a community and familiarize yourself with how things work, putting you in a strong position if/when TikTok does emerge as a major B2B social media network.
However, if your company produces products that favor entrepreneurs or start-ups, TikTok might be the perfect platform for you right now. 54% of Gen-Z have said they aspire to be entrepreneurs. So if a large percentage of a generation that aspires to entrepreneurship is on a particular platform, and you make products that help entrepreneurs, it’s a no-brainer to get involved.
But what type of B2B marketing content do TikTok users respond to?
B2B TikTok content that works
The nature of TikTok, with its emphasis on short, low-budget videos means it’s both cheap to produce content for, and the ideal platform for brands to build personal, emotional connections with an audience. The videos are a great way to show quick hacks related to your products and services, show clips of behind-the-scenes/development, and the fun, personal side of your company.
TikTok, like Instagram, is also a popular platform for influencers, so if you’re looking to get into the burgeoning world of B2B influencer marketing, it’s the perfect vehicle to find influencers who can connect your brand to the right audience.
Best of all, TikTok makes it relatively easy to get your content in front of the right audience. Each TikTok user has an algorithmically curated “For You” page, which generates an endless stream of content based on their prior interactions with other videos. Basically, if you produce a video in a certain format on a certain topic, TikTok makes it easy to organically access users who have favored content like that in the past.
So which B2B brands are already doing well on TikTok?
We’ve previously talked about how good Adobe is at communicating the fun side of its brand while remaining informative about the strength of its products. This makes them the perfect fit for TikTok!
Admittedly, Adobe does have a partnership with TikTok to provide production tools for its creators, but their success can’t just be chalked up to that. As of June 2021, they have 110,900+ followers, with their most successful video having over 2.5 million views!
This success is down to two things: understanding their audience and understanding the platform.
Firstly, their videos are helpful and informative about how to use their products. Secondly, they communicate in clear methods of interaction that are popular with the TikTok audience.
Their first video (1.3M views) encouraged audience interactions with the popular “put a finger down if you…” CTA, while highlighting specific aspects of being creative through their products.
Their most popular video (2.5M views) was a call for TikTokers to highlight and tag creatives on the platform, making for an extremely effective way to extend their reach and engage with the right customers for their products.
They’ve also dived headfirst into the realms of TikTok influencers. Their partnership with TikTok includes the #LevelUpWithAdobe challenge to work directly with 33 up-and-coming creatives to help them improve their video production skills using the app. It’s influencer marketing at its finest: every single creator produces better work through Adobe’s services, increasing their audience, which in turn enhances Adobe’s brand and standing on the app.
Lesson learned: Find methods that are unique to TikTok that highlight the strengths of your brand.
Remember what we said about Gen-Z being a generation of aspiring entrepreneurs? Well, it’s no wonder Shopify, as an e-commerce platform for independent businesses, has found great success there.
Once again, Shopify might have a bit of a leg up, as they have partnered with TikTok to provide e-commerce services on the platform.
The popularity of influencers on TikTok shows how important personalities are on the platform, which is something Shopify has embraced wholeheartedly, by building their TikTok presence around a sole personality. This gives the videos a consistent tone and a personal connection for their audiences.
From this position with a central figure, they’re able to show detailed tips on how to use their services and highlight success stories through partnered videos. They don’t just have a guest-made post, they have their representative connect directly with those people, allowing for much more authentic and emotive content.
The result is 45,700 followers, and videos that get as much as 223,800 views.
Lesson learned: Build a strong, distinct personality for your TikTok channel.
The UK-based software company aimed at small businesses (noticing a pattern?), has over 32,500 followers on TikTok, which puts it at the low end of the scale of the brands we’re discussing here. But in terms of views, they’re killing it: four of their videos have over 17 million views, while their most popular one has a humongous 27.7 million views!
How have they managed this? Well, they were the first UK B2B company to utilize TikTok’s branded hashtags feature, starting with their #BossIt2021 challenge. They asked small business owners and entrepreneurs to show how they’re planning on “bossing it” in 2021, with the most creative getting the chance to win everything they need to set up a killer home workspace.
The results were huge (that’s the one that wracked up 27.7 million views), and they’ve had continued success with other similar campaigns.
Lesson learned: Find a way to engage the right audience through UGC-driven campaigns.
So should all B2B brands be on TikTok right now? Heck no! But if you have the right products for its community of entrepreneurs and creatives, then it could be an absolute goldmine.
Furthermore, it could be wise to get in while it’s accessible and easier to grow an audience, so when it does emerge as a truly viable B2B marketing platform, you’re there with an established community while your competitors are scrambling for space. Just don’t expect huge returns in the short term.
Got some questions about the viability of B2B marketing on TikTok? Maybe you've had some great successes there. Share them on the B2B Marketing Alliance Community!