A man holding a phone walks past a sign of Chinese company ByteDance’s TikTok app, known locally as Douyin, during the International Artificial Products Expo in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, 18 October 2019.
The explosion in popularity of TikTok has pushed the app into the focus of top tech companies. While geopolitical stakes remain heightened when it comes to data privacy and security, tech companies cannot ignore the platform’s influence on audiences.
– Advertising –
Google, Apple and Microsoft all have TikTok accounts, with over 8.5 million likes between the three. While Apple has over 1.3 million fans on the platform, Google and Microsoft have 403,000 and 143,000, respectively. But unlike Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or any social platform where these companies also have a presence, TikTok is used to showcase brands beyond traditional advertising.
“Young audiences are typically in ad-free environments, so where are they going to be exposed to things like Microsoft? said Hanna Kahlert, an analyst at research and analytics firm Midia Research, where she specializes in social media, cultural/consumer trends and marketing/advertising.
“The question becomes, ‘Where else are you going to reach these young consumers and generate a little bit of awareness?’ Kahlert said. “Tech companies are leaving [to TikTok] because it’s the best way to reach them.
The increase in big tech activity on TikTok reflects a broader cultural movement.
“Brands can no longer simply exist as brands,” Kahlert said. “They need to have an interface, something the audience can actually engage with. These big companies need to become more accessible and likable as audiences grow more accustomed to being able to interact with the creators they love. »
Being close to consumers is also important. “Social is a place where we need to be more personal, more relevant, more candid, because we’re literally in the same space that our audiences exist for themselves,” said Kelley Myers, director of social media for brands large. public at Microsoft.
Big tech companies find success on TikTok not only by creating enjoyable content, but also by creating content that follows trends already present on TikTok – often tied to corporate humor and professional advice.
This makes the content resonate with a younger audience, a demographic that doesn’t necessarily relate to specific products or services.
“A lot of tech companies are product-versus-message focused, which is great, but a lot of them are so into the weeds of the product,” said Brian Easter, co-founder of Nebo Agency, a marketing in Atlanta, Georgia.
“One of the challenges is to get [brands] from there, and saying, “Hey, if we go on TikTok, and we just brag about your technology, nobody will care,” Easter said. “What we have to do is find a way to tell stories and be human. »
When brands make human connections, that’s when videos drive engagement, he added.
” We are having a lot of fun. We’re out there, watching trends, listening to audio trends that are happening, and then finding ways that are super relevant for us to participate in this space,” Myers said.
TikTok became the third largest social network in the world last year, ranking behind Facebook and Instagram, according to Insider Intelligence. He estimates that TikTok will have 755 million monthly users worldwide in 2022 and its market share will exceed 20%.
As more users flock to TikTok, Easter said big tech companies could miss out if they don’t invest in content creation.
“Google, for example, would be remiss if it ignored an audience that skews younger people,” Easter said. “It’s not like, ‘Hey, I’m Google here. Please search.’ It’s about making sure your brand builds and wins hearts and minds, wherever users are. »
Users of products like Google’s search engine are dwindling. In 2021, TikTok.com was the most popular domain on the internet, outranking Google.com, Facebook.com, Microsoft.com and Apple.com, according to Cloudfare, an internet hosting provider, which also has its own TikTok account.
With big tech vying for audiences on TikTok similar to other brands, it’s actually easier for these big tech companies to rise above the noise.
“I think TikTok is a lot easier to run as a bigger brand,” said Hayley Filippone, social and public relations strategist at Nebo Agency.
“Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter have the time, money and resources to really commit to the platform, but you’ll find that for smaller brands video production can be very challenging. It takes time and can be expensive,” Filippone added.
Kahlert said TikTok’s algorithm is also demanding and requires frequent posts to be prominent on its feed. The algorithm forces brands to post at least one TikTok per day, which can lead to smaller creators spending more time marketing themselves than making their products.
“These big companies are competing for airspace on the same platforms as everyone else, but they are able to hire teams to produce content with speed and scale,” Kahlert said.
It is unclear how long TikTok will remain popular and influential.
“First of all, nothing is permanent, but as permanent as anything can be, TikTok has all the ingredients it needs to stay in power,” Easter said.
Kahlert said our digital society is past the point of a single platform completely disrupting the social media market. Facebook was the first social platform to shake up the game, followed by Instagram and Snapchat. She said each platform adds a new aspect or feature, but TikTok might just be another.
“It might be TikTok that stays, but it might as well be another company that comes out and does it. I don’t think we’ll exactly see one being everything,” Khalert said. “We will always see at least a handful of these apps being really important at the same time. »
While big tech should be on TikTok, Kahlert said that compared to traditional advertising, not all exposure and advertising on social media equates to positive awareness or increased sales.
“It’s a lot less reliable than that, so you’ll get one [social post] that goes viral for the right reasons, and then there’s one that goes viral for the wrong reasons,” Kahlert said. “So you must be [on TikTok]. But be careful what you wish for when it comes to that kind of popularity. »