The past few years have added so many channels to your marketing priorities that tracking a young audience feels like playing Whack-a-Mole.
Look at all the young people on Instagram, posting Reels of their activities and influencing your would-be customers. No, wait, sorry — they’re on YouTube watching videos about products like yours. Whups, TikTok is where all your target customers now spend their time. Haven’t you heard? You better get something posted this instant if you want to compete.
But the more swings your brand takes for these targets, the faster everyone ducks out of the way. Will a channel-specific agency, one who’s dedicated to TikTok all day, every day, have the answers you need?
First: Put down the mallet and take a breath. You need more than the hot channel to make a difference for your brand — you need to understand your audience. Without the right plan, a misguided attempt on a new channel may actually do more harm than good.
Are you sure your brand needs a TikTok strategy?
TikTok is just the latest channel to capture the imagination of every marketer. With more than a billion active users, half of whom are under 30, it’s no wonder.
That said, a channel’s popularity is not enough to justify a mad rush to TikTok. You need to first understand the channel and its relationship with your customers before attempting to produce content. Then, you need to know what constitutes success for your brand.
Neglecting these critical details to create a rapid TikTok strategy limits your ability to create a real connection with your audience. Even if you approach an agency whose speciality is social media, Gen Z, and short-form video, you can’t know whether their efforts will generate results. You just know you’re chasing a trend.
Any agency focused on one channel will ultimately take too narrow an approach for your brand. After all, if someone is in the business of selling hammers, everything they see looks like a nail.
3 critical steps before creating a new social channel strategy
TikTok may be the trendy favorite, but the social media landscape is in constant motion. By the time we finish this sentence, Discord or BeReal may offer a more immediate connection with your fans. If your brand is pivoting to a young audience, you need to be prepared to adapt quickly as tastes and technologies change.
But before you start thinking how to capitalize on the latest channel, you need to follow 3 steps:
1. Gather insights through audience research
As popular as TikTok is, your brand doesn’t need to establish a presence for it to influence your marketing. But if your audience uses the channel, you need to understand what they’re doing. And, just as importantly, you should consider the reasons behind their behavior.
For example, one recent study determined that close to 40% of TikTok users spend between one and two hours a week on the platform. What are they looking for? Why do they spend so much time there? The answers offer impressions of the right approach to promote your brand.
Learning the motivations of your audience simply comes down to research. At We The Collective, we develop an understanding of user behavior by putting in the time and going where they are.
When we worked on a gaming company’s social campaign, we looked at the Instagram channels that appealed to our target demographic of 18- to 35-year-old women to understand what they liked. Then, we dug deeper with customer interviews to discover where those interests overlapped to target the brand’s fans.
Ultimately, it comes down to expertise. You can’t expect success on a new channel by converting someone on your team into a TikTok specialist. You need to work with an agency partner who are already experts in determining what audiences want from a channel.
2. Tailor the content plan to your brand’s audience
On platforms like TikTok, the old rules don’t apply. At one time, your brand could drop millions of dollars on a 30-second ad spot or single big activation and call it a day. Maybe the right audience sees it, maybe not, but YOLO, right?
Once you’ve learned your audience’s habits and how they relate to your brand, you can determine whether your brand even belongs on a channel. Then, you can work with other voices and produce your own content once you’re accepted as part of the community. Channels like TikTok don’t care that you’re posting simply because you’re a brand. You have to create content that’s authentic, has value, and responds to what people like.
For example, one client video we created attracted a strong audience on YouTube because it offered kids tips on how to carve pumpkins. The clip was full of the brand’s familiar characters, but it didn’t promote a specific title. And it performed better than a typical game trailer because the brand’s video was helpful to the community.
Young audiences on platforms like TikTok develop their own nomenclature and culture that’s outside of your brand’s usual reach. For example, fans started using the term “Cozy Games” to refer to titles like Animal Crossing. The term has since crossed over to Instagram and Twitch.
Paying attention to how your fans talk about your products allows you to respond in a way that elevates your brand. But if you don’t speak the language of a given channel, whatever you contribute will be lost in translation.
3. Refine brand content through data loops
Another key difference between social channels like TikTok and conventional marketing models is the idea that your content remains a work in progress. Your brand can’t expect to move the needle with one splashy video. You have to put yourself out there and post 12, maybe 15 pieces of content a month.
Even with a wealth of research to support your audience insights, responding to psychological needs expressed on social media involves more art than science. Consequently, the more data you can gather about the content that performs well, the more you can hone its approach.
For example, imagine you begin with the hypothesis that your audience enjoys challenge videos. You can then work with an agency to create and post a bunch of these videos and see how they do. By evaluating what videos do well, you may learn your audience most likes watching other people their age reacting to challenge videos.
Responding to data enables your brand to understand the nuances behind what does well on TikTok. Ultimately, harnessing these channels to reach the audience you need requires effort and attention, but it’s not something you need to tackle alone. If you’re curious what your fans are looking for from your brand, we should talk.