By Kelly Ehlers, president of Ideas That Evoke

2019 has been marked by the draw of short-form video. From Stories to IGTV and more, it’s obvious the direction digital content is headed. However, one tool that many marketers have failed to take advantage of holds huge potential for engagement: TikTok. This short-form video app that hosts up to 60 seconds’ worth of karaoke, lip-dubs, challenges and memes is the newest social media phenomenon.

At first scroll, it’s easy to dismiss TikTok as a black hole of Gen Z inside jokes. However, according to Sensor Tower data reported by CBS, the app had more downloads in 2018 than Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, with Facebook being its only contender.

In the first quarter of 2019 alone, TikTok had more than 188 million downloads. And although TikTok was once territory reserved for consumers and influencers, huge opportunities have opened over the last six months to make the app more business-friendly.

Unreal engagement and a loyal following is waiting for marketers on the app, and it doesn’t take recreating the #boychallenge or #haribochallenge to get in on it. A few features define TikTok’s unique environment for digital content creation. Here’s how marketers can leverage them for success on the platform.

Can’t Get Enough

Binge watching is practically a given on TikTok. When users first open the app, they’re greeted by the “For You” page. Although similar to Instagram’s “Explore” page, TikTok provides a single post at a time to focus on, as well as autoplay to keep the content going.

The app is quick to learn users’ tastes via their view histories, likes and shares. It then tailors their feeds accordingly. The idea isn’t to collect views on a single post; it’s to draw in users and create a captivating experience while engaging with a mass of creative content.

Before inviting consumers to follow your brand, remember to have a landing page ready that is filled with funny, unique content that engages users and motivates them to subscribe. Then, share on other social media platforms to develop your following.

Bonus points if you promote a “challenge” for users to participate in once they arrive on your page. Once businesses get on users’ radars, the engagement grows itself: Likes, shares and views bump you to more “For You” pages.

You’ve Got To See This

Brands can keep this initial momentum going by inviting users to engage beyond likes and comments. One way is via hashtag. TikTok’s signature “challenges” make tags commonplace on the app. Although similar to the way brands craft and attach hashtags for general social media campaigns, the best results come from a tag that is more than a signifier like #makeup or #tech.

TikTok hashtags are meant to inspire creation and serve more as prompts for video content than simply explanations. These hashtags allow users to build off an original post, while offering an attribution and staking a claim to the community developing around the content.

Another way for audiences to get involved with their favorite accounts is through the unique “Dueting” feature that allows for direct recreations or responses to a post. By selecting the “Duet” option, users can post a split-screen video that includes their take, as well as the original clip. This can increase engagement and result in double exposure for brands able to motivate this behavior in their audiences.

Always Something New

Brands that take advantage of TikTok early have a first mover’s advantage, just as with any new marketing tool. Because the precedent for branded content is low and the creative possibilities are high, the opportunities are endless.

One key to developing engaging content is the use of the app’s extensive editing features. Users can utilize a huge number of filters that alter appearance, play with augmented reality, add audio and offer a variety of interactive experiences.

Beyond the humorous user content that fills the app, some brands are already finding ways to craft elevated posts for TikTok, from awareness-building campaigns such as Conservation International’s #SaveOurOceans to brand-related challenges such as the NFL’s #WeReady promotion.

Another option is to post behind-the-scenes content and interview snippets. Jimmy Fallon has mastered this by highlighting the funniest or most shocking moments from his shows. Another option for brands is to produce videos showing new product launches or how-to tutorials for their products.

No matter which avenue your brand takes, keep in mind TikTok’s specific production style. Posting, say, a highly edited and polished trailer onto the platform will likely seem awkward and out of place for the current culture. Instead, engage with the current editing styles and in-app features to create relatable, on-trend posts.

Brands that are willing to show their relaxed side are sure to benefit from the immense potential of this emerging social media giant.

?Kelly Ehlers is the president of Ideas That Evoke, a social media and PR agency, the 24th Fastest Growing Agency in 2016, Inc Magazine.