Want to harness the chaos? Give us a shout@bornsocial.com

Our Guide to TikTok

The platform is scaling hard and fast. With over 500 million users and counting, TikTok is now even bigger than Snapchat and Twitter. But how can brands best utilise the platform? Here's our advice.


Essi Nurminen

26 Feb 2020

We need to talk about TikTok. It’s got 500 million users, which is now bigger than both Snapchat and Twitter. Its app downloads have even taken over Instagram, Youtube, Facebook and Snapchat. And it’s incredibly addictive; 9 out of 10 people who have TikTok use it every day, averaging 52 minutes. (We can attest to this - you do get easily sucked in). The question is, how can brands utilise this shiny, new platform? In short; you can’t just dive in and create content for it without understanding it. It’s an amazing platform that’s really teaching us about the direction social is heading in. So to help you out, we’ve put together a TikTok guide, covering five thoughts we have on what you should be doing if you’re a brand looking to approach TikTok.

1. It's beyond a fad.

A year ago, we had a social briefing at Born Social where we explored this new, shiny platform and what people were using it for. Fast forward to today, and it’s evident that it’s not just a spike in the graph, but something to seriously look at as part of your social strategy if you believe your brand can work on the platform. Take Adidas China, for example, a well-known brand launching a campaign on TikTok; that’s no ‘fad’, and certainly not if they’re doing it well and getting a positive reaction. We'll eat our hats if other brands can’t see the benefit in that.

2. Sound leads content.

“If Instagram Stories and Vine had a baby and then infused it with music, that’s TikTok.”

-Ryan Fiore, Vice President of Marketing at Manscaped.

When you think about the way in which we make content for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, you’re likely to start with the piece of content first and then you might apply music later on, as an afterthought. Essentially, sound isn’t usually considered a priority. For TikTok, the rules have changed; music comes first. Content starts with sound and users create a piece of content that fits around that. How should you approach content for TikTok? You can’t produce content without sound. Sound is always on for users. (Which goes completely against the social best practice whitepaper we just published… cheers for that TikTok).

3. Copycat culture.

99% of the content you see on the platform is inspired by other pieces of content that already exists on the platform. You could say it’s the platform that currently has the biggest ‘meme culture’. It’s not just users putting out random things and hoping that it sticks, it’s very much creating content based on a ‘running theme’ that’s derived from other user content that’s being posted and shared on the platform. Essentially, it’s about fitting in with the trends that already exist.

4. Silence, brand.

One thing you have to consider when creating content for TikTok is that it has a young demographic. Whilst you may want to jump on a trend curated by teenagers, a classic case of ‘Silence, Brand’ is likely to occur if you decide to shoehorn your brand into a theme that doesn’t ‘fit’ quite right. Before you post your content, think; What are you rewarding the community with? If it’s original, is it something that can be easily shared and replicated across the platform? Is it something that can exist on its own? Or, is this a trend that we can jump on that welcomes us and won’t make us look silly? I can’t reiterate this enough; TikTok is not just another platform for putting out content, much like you can get away with on the other platforms. Successful content on TikTok is genuinely funny, warm and authentic and putting out branded content without understanding that will land you flat on your face. That being said, it’s also our responsibility to make suitable content, given the younger audience. Of course, there will be different restrictions for different brands; you can read more about their community guidelines here.

5. The Golden Era

Cast your mind back to when Instagram and Facebook first started; those were the days you could put up a piece of content, it would get loads of organic reach and your brand could build a community without investing loads of money. This is where TikTok currently sits. Organic reach is huge on TikTok right now; you don’t have to invest in ads to get the reach you want. It’s genuinely about making funny and authentic content in order to take off. And I think this is the biggest reason why we should be thinking about TikTok as a ‘plausible’ social platform; if brands get it right, build an audience and gain a presence on the platform, these are the ones that are going to be big on the platform in years to come. Remember, this ‘Golden Era’ won’t last forever…

So, with that in mind, let's take a look at some examples of Tik Tok campaigns.

Adidas China

Strategy: Show how the ZNE “Fast Release” hoodie unleashes your Born Ready spirit.

Execution: Social campaign with athletes + TikTok ZNE challenge combo.

A fully-fledged social campaign launched by Adidas China, partnering with various influencers across all social platforms, including David Beckham, on the release of the ZNE “Fast Release” hoodie. On TikTok, the ZNE challenge (featured below) was spread across other platforms too, turning it into a very efficient and effective campaign.

ELF Cosmetics

Strategy: Show that makeup can be transformative for anyone.

Execution: #EyesLipsFace challenge (original song)

This is actually the first campaign by a brand that created an original song for TikTok. ELF actually stands for Eyes, Lips and Face, so using this theme they created a song to help showcase the transformative nature of the make-up in a super creative way. Not only did the clip gain millions of impressions, the challenge caught on and users took part in creating their own versions too.

Aussie - Miracle Curls Collection

Strategy: Show that your curls make you magical.

Execution: #CurlMagic challenge

Using sound as the foundation for the campaign, the song featured in the clip is ‘Curly Girl Anthem’ by rising star Madison Wakins. The investment here was actually the creation of the song, as well as getting the talent and influencers on board to help spread the challenge. And it worked!

Nike Italy

Strategy: Show that women are welcome on courts and fields by generating a new generation of female athlete role models.

Execution: 3 challenges with 3 local influencers: #BasketBeat, #ShadowBoxer, #LightningFeet.

Tying in nicely with the copycat trend, this campaign from Nike was executed with the intention of going viral amongst other TikTok users attempting the same dance routine as the girls in the clip. Apparently 85% of women in Milan do not participate in any sporting activities, so the strategy here was to show how women are welcome to play sports by creating a new generation of female athletes and role models. They partnered with three local influencers to drive three different hashtag challenges. The most successful challenge was #BasketBeat (below) which was driven by influencers Kessy&Mely, who wanted to take part in the campaign as basketball was a sport they participated in as children and felt like the field was too male-dominated.

Fenty Beauty

Strategy: Show that Fenty Beauty is inclusive, inside out.

Execution: Employees taking part in challenges.

A great example of a brand partaking in a TikTok challenge in an inoffensive and non-abruptive way whilst also showcasing the fact that Fenty Beauty is a company that celebrates fun and inclusivity. Employees are seen taking part in a challenge; they haven’t hired outside talent to do this. A simple yet effective way of a brand joining in on a trend without trying too hard.


Strategy: Show that Netflix shows are the content.

Execution: Short-form clips of shows and junket content with talent.

Netflix has a global account on TikTok, showcasing iconic scenes from Netflix shows organically. The difference between Netflix and the other examples we’ve looked at in this guide is that they’re not asking users to take part in anything, or replicate a challenge, they’re simply posting content onto the platform because they know they’ll receive plenty of engagement (1.4 million followers and counting...). Simply knowing that their audience will like and share the content is enough for them, making the most of this ‘Golden Era’ to gain interest and build a community on the platform.


We believe that there are serious opportunities for the right brands to make content that is genuinely funny and valuable for audiences on TikTok. However, there are always a few ‘buts’.

The main thing is we can’t just use this as an extension platform like we do with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and think ‘Oh we might as well pop this on TikTok as well.’ It needs proper listening; anyone making content for TikTok needs to have spent a lot of time on the platform to understand how it works. And it needs proper thinking, too; we should be thinking about what trends we naturally fit into, not shoehorning to gain interest and definitely not ‘put something out there and wait and see what happens.’ It also requires a really healthy appetite for risk, and the willingness to self-deprecate; to take the mick out of your own brand. Surprisingly, it’s the mistakes that often do very well and brands who aren’t prepared to be cool with that just aren’t going to be right for TikTok.

So, can you make it work for your brand?