Maintaining a corporate presence on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn is already table stakes for financial services companies today. We’re all used to seeing organic posts and paid ads from insurance providers, up and coming fintechs, and our local bank. But what about that newfangled, hip disruptor named TikTok?
It’s a platform that can no longer be ignored by companies in any industry, let alone players in the financial world. Its growth is undeniable and well-documented. The platform reported 55 million monthly users back in January 2018, and that number skyrocketed to 1 billion by last September. And not only has the total number of active users dramatically increased, so has their time spent on the app. To top it all off, TikTok was the most popular domain in the world last year, eclipsing Google’s dominant empire of domains for the first time (that includes Maps, Translate, Photos, etc.).
On the advertising front, TikTok is surging, and expects to triple its advertising revenue this year (with more than half of that total expected to be spent in the United States). That would eclipse the advertising revenue of Twitter and Snapchat combined. In a concerted push for more ad dollars, TikTok has doubled its ads tech and products teams, and continues to expand its offerings significantly.
So what’s stopping major financial players from formulating their own organic TikTok strategies? Like any other social media platform, effective participation as a brand on TikTok requires a coherent strategy, diligent execution, and consistent analytics, not to mention the resources to create compelling content that’s right for the channel and target audience.
One of the main differences for TikTok is that, well, it’s just new. In most cases, there isn’t a known track record of success for your bank’s or payment platform’s CMO to point to. Therefore, trust in the platform, though it’s climbing, has a way to go before it’s seen as an integral part of the marketing mix. And as we here at Vested know from working with our clients on a daily basis, financial services can tend to be a more conservative group when it comes to marketing and communications. Oftentimes rightfully so, as many try to responsibly consider both innovative marketing and brand safety while juggling their media spend.
It’s also a social network that behaves and curates wholly uniquely than its competitors (at least for now…imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?). Unlike the social feeds of Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, which largely consist of people you already know and channels you already follow, TikTok prioritizes videos from creators you’ve never seen before. To put the very complicated TikTok algorithm very simply, it’s based on each individual’s preferences and activity, including new accounts they follow, as well as hashtags, sounds, effects and trending topics they explore.
This ties marketers and communicators into knots as they think about how to actually reach the audiences they care about. And it brings us to an age-old question: how does my brand break through all the noise? Here’s some advice to start:
- Get to know your niche: Take a look at what’s working for other brands on TikTok now, whether it’s your industry or similar ones. Creating a hashtag library during your research is a good first step.
- Be authentic: TikTok is all about being human, so lean into simplicity and imperfection, rather than the polish that’s demanded by other social networks. It’ll make you more relatable and not stand out like a sore thumb in someone’s more casual and fun For You feed.
- Keep the community in mind: TikTok creates a sense of community like few other platforms, and brands should play to that strength. Consider teaching the audience something rather than selling them on it. In other words, think about why users are on the platform in the first place and work it into your content.
- Stick to organic first: With the right content, reaching a large audience can be especially easy as TikTok gives any video an equal chance at virality. Before you dive into paid ads, test creative and build a base of organic content for users to be able to click back to when they eventually see your perfectly placed ad.
It may feel daunting, but the audience is undeniably there for the taking (and no, it’s not just teens). TikTok as a global cultural obsession is likely here to stay, so it may be time to consider it in your marketing and communications mix. Let’s see who wades in first.