Here we go again. Marketers are circling around a hot new social media property heralded to be the next big thing. One representative FOMO headline — “Brands not on TikTok in 2019 will be left behind.”

From a marketing perspective, TikTok promises a perfect storm of big numbers (500 million monthly active numbers and record app downloads), a hard to reach young demographic (Generation Z), and high engagement. The New York Times wrote a fascinating article on the impact of TikTok on social media at large: “How TikTok Is Rewriting the World.”

“If marketing kept a diary, this would be it.”

– Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs

There are also brand safety concerns in the wake of the FTC issuing a record fine in February to TikTok for child data privacy violations.

Brands are already starting to experiment with the platform. Guess ran the first branded content campaign on TikTok last fall with an #InMyDenim fashion challenge. Grubhub ran the first brand takeover ad in a test in January. Apparently, TikTok is now selling hashtag challenges for $150,000 and brand takeover ads between $50,000 and $100,000. A biddable platform with advanced targeting and measurement tools are on the way.

Yet, in the marketing stampede surely to come, I think it’s important not to put the technology cart before the strategy horse. TikTok may make sense as a tactic within a marketing strategy, but it’s not a strategy in and of itself. TikTok is not going to be right for every brand.

We should always be open to experimentation, but also try not to get distracted by the shiny new thing.

Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years:

“Snapchat Marketing” June 2016

“Social Network Adoption” December 2013

“Instagram Advertising” August 2015

“Social Fatigue” July 2011


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