Small Business Advice

How TikTok changed the SMB landscape

Marketing on TikTok is a promising new avenue for driving brand awareness and engagement. In this post we talk about how businesses are using TikTok to target their customer bases effectively.

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With 1 billion monthly active users, it’s impossible to ignore the influence of TikTok. The short-form video sharing platform started as a lip-syncing app for Gen Z— now it’s a global hub where businesses can connect with their customers.

And not just a handful of customers, either. With a growth rate of 1157.76% between January 2018 and July 2020 (787.86% in the U.S. alone), TikTok offers a great opportunity for businesses to reach newer and larger audiences. You just need to have a clear marketing goal and a path to achieving it.

In this article we look at the impact of TikTok on business and how you can leverage this social media app to reach new customer bases.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media app for creating, sharing and viewing short videos. Popular among young people, TikTok supports videos of up to 60 seconds (and may soon allow 3-minute-long videos) on any topic.

For businesses, TikTok offers an excellent opportunity to connect with new and large audiences, with little to no competition. Why? Because all the other popular social media platforms are already saturated with marketers.

For example, 93% of marketers use Facebook, making it the most saturated social media platform for advertisers. Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube follow suite with 78%, 61% and 55% respectively.

With only 9% of marketers using it, TikTok is a distant sixth, behind Twitter which is home to 48% of advertisers. 

Despite its growing popularity, businesses are yet to saturate it, which provides you with a huge opportunity to reach a large audience free of competitors.

How do small businesses use Tik Tok?

The best way to use TikTok for business is to start by conducting research and then planning content. This will see your business record optimal conversion for little (to no) money.

Even better news for entrepreneurs is that now there’s TikTok for Business. The self-serve section is an ad platform where small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can create, publish and monitor content. TikTok allows your business to create and publish its own videos, lowering your production cost and time drastically relative to other social platforms. You don’t need to invest in high-end production and editing tools; you get them all for free on TikTok.

The Smart Video has two invaluable functions: the Smart Video Soundtrack and Smart Template. The latter helps you create ads from still images, while Smart Video Soundtrack lets you use mainstream music without having to purchase copyright. Approximately 88% of the app’s users say that sound is essential to their experience. This is a sharp contrast to other social media platforms like Facebook where 80% of users watch ads with the sound on mute.

TikTok lets you connect emotionally with your audience through sound that you get without paying a dime in copyright costs. This works to capture their attention and hold it for the entire video. Your small business can easily ride on trends to build brand awareness and authenticity, thus increasing discoverability and sales.

The Silk Labs: Case example of small business using TikTok to drive sales

Jenna Labiak, founder and CEO of The Silk Labs, started posting her company’s TikTok videos in 2019. In one of the very first posts, she hopped on the “small business check” trend, which proved to be the turning point for her company. The video quickly garnered 3.5 million views and 600,000 likes.

The Silk Lab gained 20,000 TikTok followers and over 200 customer orders of their products. This showed that TikTok presence and popularity can, in fact, translate into sales. And Jenna’s advice to small businesses? Post as much as you can on TikTok, and hop on trends that your business can relate to. That’s how to pull an audience towards your brand.

How do small businesses promote their business with TikTok?

SMBs essentially promote their businesses on TikTok by posting short, engaging video ads. The more users interact with the video, the more they recognize your brand and products. Alongside brand engagement, TikTok actually drives sales.

Compared to other social media platforms, TikTok ads promote users’ native experience. They allow the business to deliver the message in the video without using disruptive pop-up ads (like Facebook) or un-skippable video ads (like YouTube). Ads are integrated in the “For You” feeds section, allowing users to view ad content alongside other recommended content. 

Some small businesses are already leveraging TikTok’s ability to create brand impression through “For You” feeds. London-based company, Carb Club, took the platform by storm simply by displaying their awesomely-branded products in short TikTok clips. All the company’s colorful bowls were sold out within 17 minutes of their launch.

Showcasing your products is obviously a great way to market your business on TikTok. Beyond that, you can also do videos of behind the scenes like Indonesian-based dessert company, Bittersweet by Najla. This business amassed over 700,000 followers just by posting their behind-the-scenes content. Of course, such authentic and creative content will always pay off because a good TikTok following translates to sales.

What are some small business trends?

When it comes to marketing, the biggest small business trend is using social media to advertise brands. And TikTok is pretty much a part of that trend.

According to TikTok’s head of business marketing, Chew Wee Ng, TikTok users are never shy to amplify a brand’s message. They will willfully take part in a company’s activities, thus becoming its ambassadors and making the brand’s message trend.

After the unprecedented few years following the coronavirus pandemic, TikTok provides an avenue for brands to reconnect with their customers. As a small business owner, focus on authentic experiences that will make customers appreciate your brand. Here are a few more small business trends that you can combine with TikTok for a successful marketing campaign:

  • Use of tailored reels

Because of TikTok, the adoption and use of video reels is becoming a necessity in marketing. You’ll often find TikTok videos shared on other platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. But if you can, you may produce reels for each platform. 


  • Investing in social media talent

If small businesses learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that they must create digital content for marketing. Whether it’s video reels, webinars, or podcasts, they are increasingly growing more necessary. 


  • Driving sales with SEO

SEO increases brand discoverability through organic search traffic from search engines. Yet, most small businesses still don’t use it. According to The Manifest, only 30% of SMBs use SEO. 

Paid advertising on Tik Tok

In 2019, TikTok rolled out in-feed paid ads that allow brands to directly publish ad content on users’ For You page. These reels blend in with organic videos such that users don’t easily distinguish them from other content. 

The app’s algorithm will recommend your video based on the user’s preferred content. For example, if your business is a restaurant, then TikTok will recommend your ad to people who frequently engage with foodie posts and communities. This provides SMBs with new opportunities to showcase their brand and products to their target audience.

TikTok’s pricing for paid ads is pretty competitive, with the cost starting from $0.5 for every 1,000 views and $0.02 per click. There is, however, a minimum spend of $500 for a TikTok paid advertising campaign. In case you don’t have a budget for that yet, remember you can do it all organically by creating and posting videos traditionally.

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