TikTok: overrated hype or promising advertising platform?

TikTok: overrated hype or promising advertising platform?

Caro Falsett
Caro Falsett
published at January 27, 2020   
updated at March 21, 2022

The app TikTok from China, launched in 2016, breaks all records: in less than three years, the app operated by the Chinese company ByteDance reached the 500 million active users mark – a mark that took Facebook over four years and Instagram even six years to achieve. But one fact that puts most TikTok marketers off is the demographic distribution. Two-thirds of TikTok users are under 30, so they are not a particularly solvent target group. But what’s really going on with the TikTok hype?


What is TikTok?


TikTok is a short content platform known for 15-second videos in which young people move their lips to the lyrics or soundtrack of a film clip. Meanwhile, the app is being used more widely: They sing songs themselves, film duets or simply share the best dance moves. What is striking is that when the app is launched, the user is forwarded directly to a feed – the “For You” page. Here, videos are displayed which the TikTok algorithm suggests for the individual user based on the collected data ( like-willingness, commitment, length of preferred videos).

As soon as a video has ended, it is played again from the beginning. By wiping up and down, the next or previous video can be reached and played directly without having to tap. If you like the video, you can give it a heart and comment, forward the video or follow the publisher. Next to the “For You” page, the user can click on the “Following” page and will then only see videos of the users he or she is following.


How does TikTok compare to Facebook, Instagram and the others?


Looking at the download numbers, TikTok has already left Facebook and Instagram behind. In Q4 2019, the app ranked second with nearly 220 million downloads worldwide – only WhatsApp was able to record even more downloads. TikTok is also ahead in terms of the time users spend on the platform every day: With 50 minutes (Facebook: 35, Instagram: 28), the app secures almost one hour of time per day within its target group. Only the number of monthly active users in Germany reveals the still comparatively small audience. While Facebook and Instagram have 32 and 15 million active users, respectively, TikTok still has growth potential with 5.5 million users.


Is online marketing on TikTok worthwhile for my company?


Basically you can say: It depends. If you run a corner shop in a village with 100 inhabitants, we would not recommend it for now. In this case, you can assume that your personnel costs for the maintenance of the account will exceed the profit achieved through TikTok marketing (unless one of your videos goes viral and hundreds of young people make the pilgrimage to your village – but we rule that out for the time being).

However, it may be worth trying if you are already relatively widespread in your market but lack brand loyalty to teenagers and young adults. 

A good example of the image change with the young target group is the TikTok channel of the “Tagesschau” (a popular news show in Germany). Here, humorous, short videos are posted in alternation, in which the “Tagesschau” presenters can be seen in private, answer questions while rapping or give viewers a look behind the scenes of the news show. But longer, informative videos about current world events in politics, business and panorama are also posted on the channel. The channel, which has only existed since mid-November 2019, has 200,000 subscribers just two months later. And the feedback from the young target group is consistently positive.


Which content is demanded on TikTok and supports online marketing?

TikTok trends

TikTok lives on trends – hashtag trends. Many of these trends are marketed as challenges. For example, the brand Guess created the hashtag #Inmydenim in 2018 as part of the first paid advertising campaign. As soon as users launched the app, they saw a clip showing a well-known TikTok influencer wearing the jeans advertised. Many of the users imitated the video (in products of the new denim line, of course) and placed the same hashtag underneath – which generated reach. Today (as of January 2019), the videos marked with this hashtag have a total of almost 40 million views.

German companies have also already discovered the potential behind TikTok: In June 2019, for example, BMW published an advertising campaign using the hashtag #The1challenge for the launch of the new 1 Series – even though a large proportion of users do not even have a driving licence. It is precisely here that the hopes of many larger corporations are visible that the brand loyalty that has now been built up will be able to influence today’s young people when they buy a car in a few years’ time.

TikTok without a budget

But you don’t necessarily have to start with an advertising campaign, with good content you can achieve a high reach even without the use of advertising budgets. The channel of the Edeka branch Stiegler in Hassloch, for example, has already reached over 38,000 views on one of its videos – with not even 7,000 followers. Good, humorous content is always well received by users of TikTok.


Outlook for 2020

It is undisputed that TikTok will continue to grow. 2019 was a big year in which investments were made, especially in the expansion into India. Today, seven of the 20 largest accounts worldwide already come from India. But the boom is not stopping in Germany either. If your company either has a young target group or wants to strengthen its brand loyalty with this target group, TikTok can be an extremely helpful tool in your marketing strategy.


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