Will TikTok Work for B2B?

Author: 
Jake Rheude

Getting in early on a good idea can play a big part in future success. Ask the people whose families sailed on the Mayflower or those who bought Bitcoin when it was valued at $8 (at least the ones who held it rather than spending it on pizza).

There are two dovetailing arguments for using TikTok, the fastest-growing social media platform, as a B2B marketing tool: Its generous algorithm and its lack of polish.

Good Content Gets Rewarded

Anyone who has used TikTok for more than 10 minutes knows the app’s algorithm is shockingly astute. Without it, the platform wouldn’t be as addicting as it is. The exact formula is proprietary, but we have a pretty good idea of how TikTok’s algorithm works:

•   Tracks user interactions such as shares, follows, comments and even content users create that borrows from existing content. The number of times a user replays the same video is also a heavy indicator of interest.

•   Tracks information in the video itself such as captions, audio and hashtags.

•   Use of a highly personalized “For You” page that, like Google’s search results, is tailored to each individual user based on their interests and viewing history.

Third-party reports show that companies advertising on TikTok are getting significantly higher ROI than legacy social media advertising. If you get more engagement for your money, why wouldn’t you go with the more cost-effective option?

As TikTok matures into a legacy platform, the algorithm could change and force commercial accounts into the pay-to-play position that is the norm for other social media platforms. Even if the algorithm remains unchanged, an increase in the number of companies bidding for limited ad space may push costs higher. But there’s a long way to go between now and then, and there’s no reason why good B2B content won’t find its way to people interested in seeing it on TikTok.

There is one feature of TikTok’s algorithm that sets it apart from other social media. It’s commonplace to find wildly popular videos with millions of views posted by creators with nearly new accounts or a handful of previously created videos that garnered only a few hundred views. In other words, TikTok’s algorithm takes a “what have you done for me lately?” approach to promoting videos, rewarding good content without concern for track record or how long you’ve been on board. Contrast this with Facebook, which is notorious for throttling visibility of new posts in an effort to force creators to buy ads to gain exposure.

The TikTok Look and Feel

What does compelling B2B content look like on TikTok? Many marketers have expressed skepticism about the app’s viability as a B2B marketing tool. Almost all of them agreed that if you did post a B2B campaign on the platform, the content would have to be suited to the predominant demographic as well as the medium itself.

“I see the medium of TikTok being used for B2B like any other mature social channel,” says Jonathan Simon of the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa. “When Instagram first came out, most of the content was pictures with bad filters by wannabe photographers. Today, you can find everything from videos on finance to comedy sketches. No one denies that Instagram is a perfectly viable platform for B2B. It’s early in the evolution of TikTok’s audience and material, but we’ve already seen a similar transition away from it being a platform solely focused on lip-syncing to covering a broad spectrum of content.”

The Future Will Be Here Soon Enough

Shopify’s TikTok channel is one of the earliest forays by a major B2B force on the app. The contrast between its TikTok content and the company’s blog cannot be clearer. The focus is on young entre­preneurs who are looking for ideas on how to start their own online business. They’re not going to offer deep dives into more technical or fundamental aspects of running a Shopify store because the vast majority of their TikTok audience is at the top of the marketing funnel, or may not even be at that stage yet.

If you want sleek, well-made content on TikTok you can find it. Among millennials, however, there is a general desire for authenticity — or a lack of authenticity. It’s clear that content doesn’t have to be polished or even exciting to do well among this cohort, which is increasingly filling B2B buying roles.

Unlike legacy social media, where a large following is a necessary part of audience capture, you may not be penalized as much for being late to the TikTok party so long as the content you create is engaging yet informal enough
to go viral — or as viral as B2B content can go.  

Jake Rheude is vice president of marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce order fulfillment provider with warehouses in Tennessee and Utah. Red Stag has created a TikTok account, and the team is perfecting its dance moves for a first post.


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