TikTok has firmly cemented its place in our daily lives as one of the fastest growing social media networks.
It’s quickly become the go-to place for short-form video content and ruffles enough feathers at Meta for Instagram to roll out changes to compete.
But there’s more to TikTok than cats on robot vacuum cleaners or trending dance moves.
Global brands have quickly realized the power of the TikTok algorithm as a way to engage with audiences of all ages and leverage sales with influencer partnerships.
And with the average user spending more than 90 minutes on the app a day, finding community through other creators has become an important part of TikTok’s appeal to its target audience.
How does it work for digital marketers?
We’ll take a look.
How TikTok knows what you’re looking for
Like any good search algorithm, TikTok collects data about you to personalize your experience on the app.
The more you interact with videos by liking, commenting, sharing, or following, the more content you’ll start to see relevant to your interests.
Sounds and hashtags on videos, as well as device and account settings like language, are also considered in the algorithm.
All of this data is put together to generate a personalized “For You” (FYP) page.
Typically, the videos you see here are a mix of people you follow and new creators TikTok thinks you’ll like, based on what it knows about your past activity on the app.
Topical content guides the algorithm, and the more content you see and interact with (including watch time), the more related and adjacent content the app will show you.
The search bar is the place to go if you’re looking to find content around a certain topic.
Here you can be as specific as you want, whether searching for a creator by username or sticking to a broader topic like a city name.
The most relevant results will show up first, along with some suggestions of other searches you could do around that topic (similar to Google’s suggested search with the flair of “People Also Ask”).
For example, someone looking for recipe ideas using Trader Joe’s products can simply search for “Trader Joe’s” and have a whole list of options to sift through, such as:
- Trader Joe’s recipes.
- Trader Joe’s essentials.
- Trader Joe’s hash browns.
- Trader Joe’s meals.
From there, you’ll make your selection and be taken to the “top” feed first – these are the most popular videos under that particular search.
To appear in this section, creators usually use the search phrase as a hashtag in their video captions to increase their chances of being found and the text in the video while being thematically relevant.
Once they gain popularity, TikTok will list them in the “top” results.
You can scroll down to “users” to find anyone with similar usernames to the query you searched for, “sounds” related to that search, any “live” content, or related “hashtags” – all have a presence in the filter tabs.
In the “hashtags” section, videos that launched the tag will be displayed first, followed by the most popular videos under that hashtag.
Using the search option on TikTok is one of the best ways to find content creators and communities around the topics that interest you the most.
The more specific your search is, the more targeted the content presented to you will be.
What does this mean for digital marketers?
The search function is ideal for finding communities centered around your personal interests and/or brand affinity categories.
But it’s also a tool that savvy digital marketers can easily leverage to position their brands in front of new and established audiences.
Thanks to the work of the algorithm, accounts with very few followers can gain traction more easily on TikTok than on more established platforms like Instagram or YouTube.
Jumping to trending songs or hashtags is a great way for brands to capitalize on already popular content and increase their social reach (just beware of copyrighted music and be sure to follow FTC guidelines!).
Think of new ways to reuse existing content you have on other platforms and incorporate them into your TikTok strategy.
Do your research to see what trending songs people are using and how they are using them in their videos.
Do you have something that could hold or be adapted in a new video using the same sound?
Educational content does well on TikTok, but entertaining videos are still the most viewed, commented on and shared, especially in verticals like fashion and retail.
In fact, according to TikTok analytics data, “40% of fashion-traveling TikTok millennial users prefer fun and entertaining branded content.”
If you’re ready to invest some money in your TikTok marketing, the search function is a useful way to help you find trending content that you can replicate for a paid campaign.
(Although trends often create better organic content because they move so quickly on this platform)!
As a still relatively new advertising channel, impressions, clicks, and conversions are still more affordable for most markets than on other platforms, so it’s time to start experimenting.
In-app ads work similarly to Instagram Stories, taking over the user’s screen before they move on to their next video.
Creating ads that look like unpaid TikTok content is ideal, especially since users may not initially realize they are looking at an ad.
This means longer watch times and a better chance of clicks to your site or store. The slogan of TikTok’s advertising platform is: “Don’t advertise, create TikToks”.
Note that now is not the time to try to reuse your pre-roll or other highly produced ad spots. Even your social content from other channels will likely fall flat.
TikTok is a unique ecosystem and a type of content worth investing in.
These tools are also useful for finding influencers to work with on brand collaborations.
Thinking about your business is helpful here.
There might not be hundreds of influencers waiting to work with a dentist office, but if you offer teeth whitening procedures or cosmetics, beauty or wellness content creators are a good starting point.
Finding influencers to work with through search tools is also a good way to find user-generated content (UGC) about your brand or topics related to what your brand offers.
UGC works well on almost all social platforms, especially TikTok.
There’s also a Creator Marketplace that you can access if you’re just trying to get your program off the ground.
There is no doubt that TikTok is increasingly being used as a search engine by many people.
Despite having a reputation as a “young” app, TikTok is increasingly the go-to app for many demographics to find creators, communities, new brands and products, and content that they like.
This may seem like a departure from the social marketing we’re used to, and in some ways it is.
But there are opportunities for smart marketers to pitch their content to new people, and the sooner we start treating TikTok as a search engine, the more your brand will be ahead.
Feature image: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock