How to Use TikTok Ads: The Ultimate Guide for Small Businesses
TikTok's 800 million user platform has become a cornucopia of advertisement opportunities with its video-only content and your small business now has a leg up with TikTok’s new self-serve marketing platform.
Whether you’re trying to drive traffic to your website, increase sales or launch a new product, a well-targeted and creative campaign can produce tremendous results. But, it can be daunting to figure out how to maneuver such a unique marketing platform. That’s where we come in.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about TikTok Ads, the different types of TikTok ads, and how to use them for your small business.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a video-sharing social network that allows users to create and share short videos—owned by ByteMedia. However, it initially launched as the Chinese version, Douyin, in September 2016. It is now available in 155 countries around the world via Google Play Services and the App Store.
TikTok showed us all an alternative version of online sharing. We have all seen them - the funny videos that are constantly shared or the super informative videos that made you wonder what you even learned in high school.
Who Uses TikTok?
If your buyer persona is a well-funded Gen Z audience, your brand will do well with TikTok ads. The majority of TikTok users in the United States are between 10 and 39 years old (78.4%). But the active users aren’t limited to that age group. The remaining 21.6% are between 40 and 50+!
Tiktok users vary because there’s a subculture for everyone - from #dogtok to #businesstok. With their targeting techniques, TikTok ads can help you find your niche, design your ad content, and meet your goals.
In early 2019, TikTok launched a beta version of its ad platform. Since then, big brands like Grubhub, Nike, Fenty Beauty, and Apple music have started advertising on TikTok, promoting unique campaigns.
What are TikTok Ads?
TikTok ads are sponsored short-form mobile videos posted to the TikTok ads platform to reach a larger audience. You can use these ads to increase your brand’s exposure, increase website traffic and generate new leads.
Strictly dedicated to short-form videos, TikTok does not allow you to post text or still image ads. A video ad ranging between 9 to 60 seconds has proven to be a successful length.
These feed ads are integrated into the users’ For You page with call-to-action buttons or text overlays and come in many forms, making them barely recognizable as ads.
TikTok offers advanced targeting and unique ad creation features. It can help you tap into one of the most lucrative pools of active users when used effectively.
How to Create a TikTok Ads Account?
To create a TikTok ads account, you’ll need to open a TikTok account specifically for your business. The process is pretty simple but is only for customers in regions where TikTok supports self-service advertisers. Follow the steps below to set up your account after you've downloaded and installed the TikTok app on your device.
Step 1: Create a Login
Go to the Sign Up page and create a login using an email address or phone number to verify your login information, agree to the terms and conditions, and click “Sign Up.”
Step 2: Create Your Account
Fill out all the information required:
- The “Country/Region” your business is located in
- Select the “Time Zone” of your business’s location. Be sure that this is correct because you can’t change it afterward.
- Enter your “Business Name.” Your business name and your business’s actual name have to be the same, or TikTok will reject your account upon review.
- If you plan to use TikTok for Business products such as their Creator Marketplace or apply for their ad credit programs, the Business name has to be the same as the one on your official documents, like a business license or the IRS SS-4 EIN Assignment Letter.
- Select the “Currency” you want to use for billing.
- Once you’ve filled out all the data, accept the Terms and Conditions and click “Register.”
Step 3: Access Your Account Setup
To access your “Account Info,” go to your TikTok ads dashboard by clicking “Dashboard” under “Account Settings.”
Step 4: Fill In Your Business Information
On the “Account Setup” page, complete the “Business Information” section with the following:
- Enter your "Company Website" using the format “https://www.yourdomain.com/” for your URL, or it will be rejected during the account review. Your company’s website must work properly, have your contact information, clearly promote your products or services, and be relevant to the product or service you want to promote.
- Select the “Industry” that best matches your product or service.
- Fill out the “Street Address,” ”State/Province,” and “Postal Code” of your headquarters or where your business is registered.
- You also have the option to upload some form of “Business Verification.” You can upload a government-issued number that you use to pay taxes, such as your Tin. This step is not required.
Step 5: Choose Your Payment Method
You can choose whether you want to use Manual Payment or Automatic Payment. However, Automatic Payment is not available in all markets at the moment.
Step 6: Submit Your Account Information
Once you’ve completed the required fields in the form, click “Submit” at the bottom of the page. This will automatically trigger an account review where TikTok will check all the information you provided to ensure everything is compliant with their policies. It can take up to 24 hours.
You’ll receive confirmation that your account is approved and then you’re all set. Your account is ready to use.
How Do You Use Tik Tok Ads Manager?
There’s a hierarchy of sorts when using TikTok's ad platform. To advertise on TikTok, you’ll first need to create a new campaign, then an Ad group, and then your new ad.
So glad we can spend less and smile more this holiday season thanks to Amazon ? ❤️ @wilkingsister♬ original sound - Amazon
Step 1: Create your TikTok Ad Campaign
Go to the Campaign Tab at the top of Ads Manager and click “Create.”
Choose your objective. Depending on your marketing goals, you’ll choose from conversion, awareness, or consideration.
Once completed, you will automatically get redirected to the ad group section.
Step 2: Create an Ad Group
To create an ad group, choose your ad placement (it’s easier to use auto-placement for your first ad).
Then choose your URL, display name, promotion type, profile image, and how you want users to engage with your content.
Decide whether or not you want to use TikTok’s automated creative optimization. TikTok created this tool specifically for small businesses. It pretty much builds TikTok ads using your videos, copy, and images and then continually tests them for you.
Choose your audience targets. You can choose them based on interests and demographics. You also have the option of creating a custom audience from your data. You’ll need to install the TikTok pixel on your website to do this, but we’ll get into that soon.
Under “Budget & Schedule,” you can choose between lifetime and daily budget. The lifetime budget is the total you’ll spend during the TikTok ad campaign, while the daily budget is your limit for 24 hours.
Then, click “Next,” and you’re ready to create your first TikTok ad.
Step 3: Create a TikTok Ad
To create a TikTok ad, upload your ad content, which can either be images or video. The TikTok app will turn the stills into a video. Ensure you’re following TikTok's ad creative guidelines.
Add your text and call to action.
Then click “Submit,” and the app will send your TikTok ad campaign for review.
After you’ve created your campaign, you’re going to want to track your ad’s performance. The TikTok pixel was designed explicitly for this. It’s a small piece of code that you put on your website’s backend to help you optimize your campaigns. Learn how to set it up here.
Its common uses are:
Measuring Campaign Performance:
You choose what events by which to measure your TikTok ads' performance. For example, when TikTok users click on your CTA button and purchase from your website.
Optimizing Ad Delivery:
Selecting an optimization goal allows the system to target users who are more likely to perform a specific action. For example, you can target TikTok users who are more likely to add items to their cart or complete a purchase.
The big game just got BIGGER. Count the exact number of bottles in our ad on Sunday and you could win a million dollars ?♬ original sound - Mountain Dew
Building Audiences Based on Behavior:
You can track users on your site and, based on their behavior, create Custom Audiences based on how they engaged and figure out where they dropped off in your funnel.
TikTok Campaign Objectives
Your campaign objective is whatever actions you want users to do when they see your TikTok ads.
For example, if your goal is to get as many people as possible to see your ad, you’d need to choose the specific objective for reach. If your goal were to increase the number of unique website visitors, you’d select the goal specifically for traffic.
All objectives fall under three categories:
This objective gets people familiar with your company. If you’re launching a new product or even a new company and want as many people to know as possible, you’d choose the reach objective so you can increase recognition, awareness and build trust with your brand.
This objective gets people to think about your brand and seek more information. For example, you’ve finally launched a website for your business, and you’d like to start taking orders through and having more potential customers view your products this way. You’d choose the traffic objective to drive more visitors to your website where they can learn more about your brand and products.
This objective gets people who are interested in your business to use or buy your products or service. For example, you’ve recently created a newsletter after a surge of traffic to your website. You’d select the conversion objective so that the TikTok users who see your feed ads are the ones most likely to sign up for your newsletter.
a punt that falls at the 1-yard line is ?? chef’s kiss ##coreybojorquez @buffalobills♬ original sound - djb_renn
How To measure TikTok Campaigns?
With TikTok's built-in analytics feature, it has become significantly easier to measure the performance of your TikTok advertising campaign. Analytics gives you insight into what to post and when based on your previous campaign’s performance. To activate the Analytics feature, you’ll need to switch to a Pro account (it’s free). Here’s how:
- Open the “Privacy and Settings” tab from your profile page
- Click “Manage My Account.”
- Click “Switch to Pro Account” and follow the prompted steps from there.
- Select your business industry.
- Click “Done”
TikTok’s Analytics tool tells you all you need to know to target the right audience. The best metrics to track are:
Here you can see whether TikTok users are watching your videos, if the content is engaging, and if your strategy is sound.
This section shows how many times per day your profile was viewed by TikTok users. It gives you an idea of how much your content leads users to look for more on your profile.
Here you can see how many followers you have lost or gained in the past 7 days. If you’re losing followers, it means you need to change your strategy.
View the breakdown of your followers by gender here. You can produce different content depending on the people who follow you to ensure you’re appealing to your audience.
Here you can view what times of the day your followers are most active and when they’re not, allowing you to determine the best time to post content.
View in which countries your followers live in here. It gives an idea of whether or not you’re reaching your target country’s population.
Sounds Your Followers Listened to
You can create a trending video using the top sounds your followers are also using or listening to.
Videos Your Followers Watched
Here the app will show you videos popular with your followers and their performance metrics (comments, likes, and shares) for the three top posts each week.
Likes, Shares, and Comments
Likes can be a validation for your posts and tell you more about the content that engages your followers. Comments help you to understand what your followers are thinking and further increase engagement. Shares help your content reach a wider audience.
TikTok Ad Formats
There are two main types of TikTok advertising offered on the app, biddable ads and native ads. Figuring out which is best for your brand is essential.
Biddable ads allow you to bid on ad slots available on the For You page. They are open to self-service customers through the Ad Manager.
Here you target your ads by gender, age, behavior, and location and employ the custom audience feature we mentioned earlier.
An example of Biddable ads is In-feed ads. These are short-form video ads blended organically into your target audience’s feed on the For You page.
Gushers’ use of this form of TikTok advertising is a great example of how to take advantage of feed ads, with the humor and editing echoing the platform's organic content.
Native ads come in many forms. These tend to be a more costly form of TikTok advertising and require a larger ad budget. They are managed through the TikTok Account manager. The campaign options are:
Brand takeovers are ads that appear when TikTok launches. This means that if you use TikTok advertising strategy, you can be sure your target audience is seeing your ad. A brand takeover is limited to one advertiser per day and appears when users open the app.
Mercedes Benz used this ad format in order to promote its #MBStarChallenge hashtag challenge which encouraged the TikTok community to share their version of the iconic Mercedes Benz star.
Branded Hashtag Challenges
Your aim with a hashtag challenge is to create user-generated content that goes viral. The subtle or straightforward call to action encourages users to participate by attempting a dance challenge or whatever activity you choose.
Branded hashtag challenges make you responsible for creating a trend that results in more engagement and increased brand awareness. With a bit of creativity, you'll be able to use a hashtag challenge to start something that'll get your brand top of mind.
Elf Cosmetics’ #eyelipsface hashtag challenge is a great example of a brand successfully using this strategy. They commissioned a song specifically for the TikTok campaign, believed to be the first original song commissioned for a TikTok campaign.
The brand then worked with influencers to kick off their, and the results from there have been mind-blowing. To date, the hashtag has gotten over 7 billion views.
Similar to Instagram and Snapchat, TikTok allows you to design custom augmented reality filters through which you can get users to engage with and generate content for your brand.
Ray-Ban was the first brand in Europe to take advantage of this new feature, overlaying a variety of their sunglasses onto participant’s faces along with a pinball machine that they controlled with their eyes.
Influencer marketing is a popular form of advertising on TikTok. Choose an influencer relevant to your brand that will create sponsored content showcasing your products. In some countries, you will need to connect with these influencers through the app itself.
Top TikTok influencer Addison Rae’s partnership with brands such as ITEM Beauty is an example of such a partnership.
Topview ads are similar to a brand takeover in that they appear when TikTok launches. The difference is that, unlike brand takeovers, topview ads are a video ad that plays with the sound on for 60 seconds. This also means that you can use in-feed video ads as topview ads, increasing views and engagement.
Is TikTok Advertising Worth It?
There is the misconception that only Gen Z creators use the app, that it’s just another social media platform, and there’s no place for business on the forum. But truthfully, TikTok is a great advertising platform! Here’s why:
Your Ads Can Reach a Diverse Audience.
While it is true that most content creators are GenZ, 59% of the social media platform consists of GenX, Millennial, and even Baby Boomer generations. The number of US adult users grew 5.5 times, receiving more downloads within the first quarter of 2020 than any other app (possibly due to COVID-19).
Most of the ads you’ll see on TikTok are for e-commerce, app downloads, and streaming services with subtle CTA cues. With the targeting feature, each generation will see ads in line with the lifestyle of their age, making it easy to reach your target audience. So, while advertising on TikTok to the GenZ demographic is an endless opportunity, there is also the opportunity for your TikTok ads to reach a target audience in several other niches, demographics, and age groups.
You Can Achieve Increased Brand Exposure.
The rich trend culture on TikTok encourages everyone to participate. Influencers can drive trends, but anyone can join in a trend (including your ads) and go viral on the For You Page! Creating video ads based on daily trends will increase their relevance and likelihood of appearing on others’ feeds, allowing for continual discovery, content rhythm, and instant relevance.
You’re Reaching Engaged Consumers.
On average, users spent up to 442.9 minutes per month on TikTok between October 2019 to March 2020. The benefit is that the app’s usage is on an upward trend, an excellent opportunity for advertisers like yourself to reach a group of engaged customers.
Your Products Will be Showcased Authentically.
TikTok encourages users to be their authentic selves. Your business can showcase your products and services and increase awareness in users who have never heard of you before. Showcasing your authentic self can drive your business to success.
You Can Achieve More Effective Video Marketing on TikTok.
While you can do video marketing on other social media platforms such as Facebook or even on Instagram, TikTok’s video-only structure gives you the ability to connect with users through sound. This is something that other social media platforms usually limit, resulting in fewer users turning on the sound when viewing an ad on these platforms.
How Much Does it Cost to Advertise on TikTok?
TikTok ad manager has two options: daily or lifetime budgeting options. You can change your budget anytime throughout your campaign, and the system will not spend more than the budget you set.
Your TikTok ads cost is based on your ad format, but a good rule of thumb is to budget a minimum of $50 at the ad group level and $500 at the campaign level for ads with a focus on the target audience you’re trying to reach.
There are different pricing options for biddable ads, according to Jungletopp:
- CPM- Cost Per Mille (per 100 impressions) $1.82
- CPV- Cost Per View $0.010
- CPC- Cost Per Click $0.19
TikTok Targeting Examples
Interest targeting works by choosing relevant interests for your audience.
For example, Ralph Lauren used the branded hashtag challenge #WinningRL featuring a video of the model, actress, and influencer Diana Silvers to challenge users to share a time they’d won a challenge in real life which coincided with the US Open tennis event. Three top challenge winners received Polo Ralph Lauren US Op apparel. This ad targeted persons interested in sports and clothing.
This type of targeting allows you to target users based on their in-app behaviors from the last 7 to 15 days. When using this targeting method, select a specific behavior and then a relevant video category.
For example, e.l.f. Cosmetics made a short ad that featured actresses using and wearing their makeup products in different settings. It would have targeted persons who recently watched many makeup videos or clicked on other makeup ads from another brand.
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TikTok has become one of the most popular apps over the last four years. Its trend culture and participatory nature will drive more engaged users to your business with a well-placed ad on their social media network. While TikTok can be costly for larger brands, they’ve opened the door for small businesses to have the opportunity to reach even more customers and become the next sensation. It is well worth your ad dollars.