“TikTok Made Me Buy It:” How to Promote Your Ecommerce Brand and Sell on TikTok


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Amid a whirlwind of meticulously edited and polished content, TikTok has paved the way for a new style of social media — one that truly embraces the concept of #NoFilter.

Overflowing with dance challenges, life hacks, tutorials and daily vlogs, TikTok offers a dose of rawness that’s both refreshing and engaging, and people love it. 

As the most downloaded social media app in January 2020, TikTok skyrocketed in popularity especially during the pandemic, as users turned to the platform for online shopping and entertainment purposes. In fact, according to a 2020 report, US consumers spent more time on TikTok than other video-streaming services including Amazon Prime Video. And as of September 2021, TikTok reported 1 billion active users, making it one of the top 10 social networks worldwide. 

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media platform that allows users to create, watch and share short videos (up to 3 minutes in length) about anything and everything — from sports highlights to lip-sync battles to memes. Users can personalize their videos with music, sound effects, texts and filters, and they can collaborate with other users by split-screen “dueting” a video or responding with a “stitch.” 

While TikTok is wildly unique compared to other social platforms, it also holds several similarities. After the infamous Vine, a short-form video-sharing app, shut down in 2016, TikTok took over as the platform known for its humorous, quirky and sometimes plain weird content. And similar to Snapchat and Instagram, TikTok offers features like video filters and stickers, as well as user communities that form around hashtags and influencers. 

As a platform that revolves around trends, dance challenges or songs, it’s no surprise that 60% of TikTok users are Gen Z-ers, and engagement rates are through the roof compared to platforms like Twitter and Facebook. 

But TikTok isn’t just about funny memes and lip-sync videos. As of recently, many businesses have discovered the huge potential TikTok has for advertising and selling products

In 2020, the platform launched TikTok For Business, giving merchants the ability to connect their ecommerce stores to TikTok to reach new audiences and drive more sales. With a TikTok Business account, you can run TikTok ads, sync your product catalog and create a seamless shopping experience for your customers. 

If you’re trying to reach a younger audience and think your business could benefit from the exposure, keep reading to learn all about how to sell and advertise your products on TikTok.

Build a Marketing Strategy for Your TikTok Account

The beauty of marketing on TikTok is that you don’t have to have the most followers or the most pristine content to go viral. In fact, it’s often the complete opposite.

Unlike feeds on other social media platforms, which prioritize content from people and channels that are already popular, TikTok explains that “neither follower count nor whether the account has had previous high-performing videos are direct factors in the recommendation system.” 

Instead, TikTok breaks the status quo and prioritizes content from lesser known creators, giving all users the chance to be seen, and this goes for businesses, as well.

According to a press release by TikTok, the Discovery algorithm recommends content based on a number of factors, including:

  • User interactions (videos you like/share/comment on and accounts you already follow).

  • Video information (i.e. captions, sounds, hashtags).

  • Device and account settings (language preferences, location, whether you’re on a mobile or desktop device, etc.).

While much of TikTok’s unique algorithm still remains a mystery, grasping onto the factors that you do know will be key to building an effective marketing strategy. If you can succeed in getting your content on your target audience’s For You page, you’ll be able to drive brand awareness and increase conversions in no time.  

But to do this, you first have to define who your audience actually is. Although TikTok users are largely a younger demographic, there are so many niche audiences within this user base. To help define the best target audience for your brand, try identifying key traits based on the following criteria: 

  • Age.

  • Gender.

  • Location.

  • Occupation/Industry.

  • Hobbies/Interests.

  • Favorite websites/brands.

  • Motivation to buy.

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How To Sell On TikTok

Now that you’ve identified your ideal audience, it’s time to promote your brand and start selling. Luckily, BigCommerce has partnered with TikTok so that you can easily connect your BigCommerce store to your TikTok account. Here are 8 steps to get you on your way:

1. Create your account.

First things first, download the TikTok app, create an account and start to get familiar with it. If you already have a personal account, you’ll likely want to create a separate one for your business, but luckily, you’ll be able to switch between multiple accounts with the same login information.

Next, you’ll need to come up with a username for your page. Feel free to get creative with it, but also make sure that your handles are consistent across your social platforms so that customers can easily find and recognize you. 

Finally, add a profile picture and a bio with a punchy description of your brand, and connect to your Instagram and YouTube accounts for easy navigation between channels.  

2. Switch your account to “Pro”.

By default, you’ll begin with a “Personal” account when you first join TikTok. However, to better market your brand and access analytics features, you’ll need to switch to “Pro,” which offers two types: a Creator and a Business account. Of course, if you’re promoting your business, you’ll want to select Business.

With this type of account, you can access detailed analytics and track your page’s performance to understand which videos are working and which ones you should drop. Plus, you’ll be able to add a link in your bio to your online store, Amazon storefront or Facebook Business page, as well as contact information. 

3. Create content.

Once your account is up and running, it’s time for the fun part: filming TikTok videos!

This is where you can really let your brand personality shine. While edited and curated content has its place on Instagram and other visual platforms, TikTok users favor authentic, raw content — so don’t be afraid to have a little fun with it! 

If you’re in a creative rut, scroll through your For You feed for a little bit of inspiration, and then do some brainstorming. Grab a pen and paper and jot down every idea you have, both good and bad — even if one idea isn’t great, it will likely help guide you to the best one. 

Even though the goal is to promote your product and drive sales, try not to sound too salesy. TikTok users can see right through this and will likely scroll right past your video. 

Instead, aim to keep the user engaged — so much so that they’ll want to rewatch your video and share it with their friends. The more views that your video gets, the more likely that TikTok will prioritize it on other users’ For You pages. 

Try incorporating content that’s funny or entertaining, whether it be a trending sound effect or a visually compelling how-to video. Keep in mind that you only have 3 minutes max to grab your viewer’s attention, but if you can do so in even less time, that’s even better.  Still need some creative inspiration? Check out the TikTok for Business Inspiration Center.

4. Engage with your audience.

The whole point of a social media app is to be, well, social. So don’t isolate your TikTok business from your viewers! 

As users engage with your content through likes, shares and comments, make sure you’re actively and consistently communicating with them in the comment section. This will show your viewers that you’re not just there to make a quick sale, but you’re there to interact with your customers and form a community around your brand. 

5. Utilize influencer marketing.

If you’ve ever scrolled through Instagram or YouTube, you’re likely already familiar with influencer marketing. Influencers, especially those who match your target audience, can help you reach new customers and grow your brand awareness dramatically. And considering 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations to purchase, this is one marketing tactic that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

To find a TikTok creator who falls into your niche, try searching for keywords or phrases that relate to your product, and browse through the top videos to see if there are any influencers who might be a good fit.

6. Promote user-generated content.

There’s a reason “TikTok Made Me Buy It” is practically a household phrase. 

So many brands go viral on TikTok solely because an ordinary user posted a video of themselves raving about a specific product. And many of these viral videos aren’t even paid ads — they’re simply organic content that gets circulated on the platform until, before you know it, practically every TikTok user owns the product. 

Create your own hashtag or challenge to encourage your audience to share videos of themselves using your products. Not only is this free advertising for your business, but it’s also an effective way to get your name out there and get people familiar with your products. 

7. Explore other selling options on TikTok.

On top of organic and user-generated content, you also have the option to incorporate paid ads into your marketing campaign. Luckily, TikTok offers a variety of different ad types and tools for targeting specific audiences. There are two different types of ads you can choose from: 

  1. Self-Service Ads: These types of ads appear in a user’s For You page just like any other TikTok video, so they blend in and don’t feel too salesy.

  2. Ad Manager: These ads include branded hashtag challenges, brand takeovers, branded filters and Top View ads — aka videos that show up 5 seconds after a user opens the app.

  3. Keep your audience engaged: Leverage TikTok’s Video Creation Kit and create your video ads easily. Access a variety of video templates and even create videos by using your existing images, without needing to be a pro editor.

8. Take advantage of TikTok’s resource center.

Especially if you’re just getting started with selling on TikTok, the “Small Business Resource Center” will be your best friend. The tool allows merchants to access templates for advertising, watch webinars led by industry experts and learn from other brands who have led successful ad campaigns on TikTok. 

Plus, the resource center offers TikTok Pixel, which collects data about customers who have interacted with your content and helps users to track and analyze ad performance.

Types of Ads on TikTok

Speaking of ads, let’s dive deeper into what kinds of advertisements you can run on TikTok. All of them are unique and beneficial in their own ways, so feel free to play around with each of them to see which one works best for your business. 

And if you want to go even further, here’s a helpful article from TikTok all about optimizing your ad campaigns

1. In-feed native video.

In-feed native video ads are a seamless integration of branded content into existing content. So, if you’re casually scrolling through TikTok, an in-feed ad would show up somewhere in the mix, perhaps without you even realizing it’s an ad. However, TikTok users do have the option to skip the video if they so desire. 

These ads can be up to 60 seconds in length, however you should aim to keep them under 15 seconds, because, let’s be real, most of us don’t have the patience to sit through a minute-long TikTok ad. 

The format of in-feed ads, just like a normal TikTok video, takes up the full screen, and the recommended file size is less than 500 MB. Plus, you can create shoppable posts by embedding links in the ad that lead to your online store, making it as seamless as possible for the viewer to navigate between channels. 

Finally, here are some data points to look at when measuring the performance of your in-feed native video ads:

  • Number of clicks.

  • Impressions.

  • Total views.

  • Click-through rate.

  • Average view time.

  • Number of likes, comments, shares.

2. Brand takeover.

When a user first logs on to their TikTok app, brand takeover ads are the first thing they see. These ads immediately show up at the top of their For You feed, similar to how an ad pops up before a YouTube video begins.

Typically, these ads are animations or videos with embedded links to an online store or other external site, and they’re a great opportunity to start a hashtag challenge. 

However, because only one brand can host a brand takeover per category and country each day, these types of ads are highly exclusive and expensive, costing anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000. However, if you have the budget for it, brand takeovers are a sure way to get your business seen and bring traffic to your online store.

3. Hashtag challenge.

Similar to other social platforms like Instagram and Twitter, TikTok offers its own hashtag feature, which allows users to search for relevant content and form communities around similar interests. 

But hashtags can be extremely beneficial for TikTok businesses, too, as they create interest around a specific topic or product and encourage users to share content with the hashtag. As popularity and content grows around your hashtag, this will build familiarity and trust around your brand, making TikTok users more apt to test out your products. 

Try searching for hashtags like #smallbusiness or #entrepreneur to discover how other brands are creating content, or try creating your own unique hashtag that highlights your product and promotes your brand. Better yet, you can create a challenge that goes along with the hashtag, encouraging viewers to participate and join the community around your brand. 

In fact, as of August 2021, the fastest-growing TikTok hashtag was #IFeelWeightless — a challenge focused on a new foundation by beauty brand Bobbi Brown. Using the hashtag, customers created dance choreographies, reviews and makeup tutorials featuring the product.

4. Branded lenses.

Lastly, for brands who are on a smaller budget or don’t have the resources to create a full-fledged video ad, creating a branded lens is your best bet. 

Branded lenses are augmented reality filters, aka lenses, similar to those you see on Snapchat and Instagram, which users can overlay on their face or environment. This is a subtle yet effective way to build brand awareness and gather user-generated content. 

Tips on Creating Content for TikTok

People always say, “Content is king,” but this rings especially true for TikTok. Videos, images, music, captions — all of these things are what make TikTok TikTok

Creating top-quality TikTok content is key to running a successful marketing campaign. If you’re stuck on where to start or how to know if your content is up to par, here are five tips to point you in the right direction.

1. Watch your videos from beginning to end.

A strong determining factor of TikTok’s recommendation system is video completion rate — whether a user watches a video from beginning to end — so it’s super important that your viewers don’t drop off halfway through your video. If this happens too often, the algorithm might assume that your content isn’t worth watching and therefore won’t recommend it to other users.

If you think you can keep your viewers engaged throughout a 60-second video, then more power to you. But a safe bet is to keep your content around 15 seconds in length, making it more likely that your viewers will watch through the end.

Remember to loop your videos so that users can watch multiple times (this will increase the video’s performance rate), and get inspiration from other popular TikTok videos to see what content your audience is looking for.

TikTok thrives on trends — the latest music, fashion, memes, even sound effects — but the key is to make them your own.

And one of the best ways to put your creative spin on existing trends is by using popular songs in your videos. Just scrolling through your Discovery page, you’re bound to come across tons of these trending songs, so choose one and start building a piece of content around it, whether it be a lip sync, a dance choreography or simply a showcase of your products. Or, you can even add your own music and sound effects to your videos by uploading an audio file from your device.

But music isn’t the only way to embrace TikTok trends. Another unique feature of TikTok is the ability to co-create with other users through duets, stitches and reaction videos. So look out for trending songs and video formats, and try putting your own twist on them.

3. Find unique ways to feature your products.

If we’re being honest, most of us don’t get on social media with the sole intention to watch advertisements. We’re there to connect with friends, get inspired and be entertained

So even though the purpose of your TikTok business is to market and sell your products, don’t make them the center of attention. If you want to feature your products in your videos, make it subtle — not focusing so much on the products themselves but instead on the content surrounding them. 

This means putting thought into your music and effects, script and visuals, as well as leveraging your expertise in your field. For example, if you sell skincare products, post a video of a nighttime get-ready-for-bed routine using products from your line.  

4. Livestream to your followers.

Similar to streaming on Instagram, TikTok livestream allows you to engage with your viewers in real-time, responding to comments and even adding up to 20 moderators. However, if you want to go LIVE on TikTok, you first need to have at least 1,000 followers. 

When you’re ready to go LIVE, tap the “create” button and navigate to the LIVE screen. Then, choose an image and a title for your livestream, and you’re ready to go. 

The cool thing about livestreaming on TikTok is that you can actually earn money in the process. The LIVE gifting feature allows viewers to support creators by exchanging Virtual Coins for Gifts and sending those Gifts while a creator is livestreaming. 

As you, the creator, receive these Gifts, they’ll eventually accumulate into Diamonds, which can later be withdrawn in exchange for real money. 

While this feature was previously limited to select profiles, now any TikTok user can add a clickable link to their profile, connecting their account to Instagram, YouTube or an external website. 

This feature is especially useful for retailers with a TikTok Business account, since you can link directly to your ecommerce platform or third-party site such as Amazon or Walmart Marketplace.

How to Boost Your Sales on TikTok

While getting lots of comments, likes and shares on your videos is a huge achievement, the ultimate goal of marketing on TikTok is to actually make sales. Because, if we’re being honest, even if your engagement is through the roof but your sales aren’t increasing, then what’s the point?  

Here are two final tips on how to make money and earn more sales with TikTok.

1. Have affiliate partnerships with creators.

As of recently, there are now two ways to make sales on TikTok: via your brand’s product page  in their profile or through a TikTok affiliate.

Launching an affiliate program lets you partner with TikTok creators and influencers to promote your products and drive to your store. Using TikTok’s Selling Center, you can set up a promotion plan and collaborate with influencers who fall into your niche market. 

The creator then posts content with affiliate links to your website or marketplace, and each time a user clicks on their link and buys your product, the creator gets monetized. It’s a win-win for everyone!

2. Explore the TikTok Creator Marketplace to connect with TikTok influencers.

As mentioned before, influencer marketing is a highly effective way to boost brand awareness and reach new audiences on TikTok. 

Luckily, TikTok offers an incredible resource, the Creator Marketplace, which serves as the official collaboration platform to connect brands and TikTok creators_._ The tool houses thousands of influencer profiles that you can browse until you find a creator who best fits your target audience. 

Plus, the Creator Marketplace uses data-driven insights to give you the best recommendation and helpful tools to help you build out your marketing campaign. 

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The Final Word

Just like any popular social media platform, TikTok’s algorithm and trends are constantly changing, which can understandably be overwhelming as an online retailer. If your head is already spinning, just remember to stick to the basics: be authentic, post consistently and engage with your community. 

Sometimes it takes just one quality post to make a brand go viral, so don’t give up if your engagement starts out slow. TikTok is a no-judgment platform with a place for every voice, so don’t be afraid to free your creative side and have fun with it!

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