Jeremiah Zinger
Jeremiah Zinger 5 July 2022
Categories B2B, Social Media

Why the Clock is Ticking for Brands to Adapt to the Age of TikTok

Social media is revving up for its next gearshift, and this one is all about video. With giants such as Meta planning significant platform re-routes — including Instagram’s move from photo-sharing app to video hub — predictions are growing that we’re heading into a third era where the content served by social platforms is becoming more video centric, and looking increasingly like TikTok.

Growing eagerness to emulate the app isn’t surprising. Despite still ranking sixth on the world’s most used social networks, TikTok is gaining ground fast; boasting 1 billion active monthly users worldwide, representing a 45 percent growth and supposedly gaining eight more each second.

As audiences swell, its advertising reach is also expanding at pace, with an estimated 885 million global users.

For brands, this latest change in content focus forms part of what’s becoming a familiar pattern. When user habits shift and new social kingpins emerge, major players evolve; as seen with the first two phases of social media platform development from news feeds to stories.

This time, however, foresight of the emerging next chapter will give marketers an opportunity to get ahead and start realigning strategies, if they are ready to adapt.

Playing to Human Nature

TikTok’s surge in popularity has often been attributed to the pandemic effect, and not without reason. Recent analysis shows its global user base roughly doubled between 2019 and 2021.

But the app alone also has a strong appeal to consumers as evidenced by its continued rapid growth: it was the most downloaded app overall last year, with 656 million downloads, and over 21 million UK users. It’s worth noting that these users are aged between 16 and 64, so the app isn’t exclusively popular among young people.  

Having grown into much more than just a space for posting dancing, singing, and lip-synching videos, it is now a powerful entertainment network. Underpinning that power is its ability to mimic and tap into the way human brains work.

Learning individual tastes and preferences through observation much as humans do, the TikTok recommendation algorithm is already recognised as its core asset for hooking user attention.

From the moment new users join, algorithms analyse their engagement with initial content from broad categories and can hone in on unique interests in just two hours.

Subsequently, it can begin serving up increasingly tailored content, using micro-targeting to ensure relevance and prolong use; gathering further insight it can harness to make experiences more immersive and relevant in a closed feedback loop.

In addition to its shareability across other networks, it’s clear why TikTok has such a huge ability to attract and keep users engaged, and why other platforms want to follow its lead.  

Harnessing Advertising Opportunities

TikTok’s wide reaching, devoted and delighted audience is also appealing to brands. While the highly targeted delivery of paid and organic advertising has potential, as well as vast reach, the understanding of how to leverage these opportunities is relatively nascent.

There is an increasing awareness of the need to cover creative basics, such as building ad content for vertical orientation, harnessing visual and audio effects to make content pop, and ensuring stories are fast paced. But while highly valuable for acing relevance and authenticity, this insight doesn’t go far enough for brands aiming to maximise exposure and impact.

With TikTok’s algorithm designed to consider signals of engagement such as video completion, ensuring ads make their way into content recommendations calls for deep understanding of what captures consumer attention. In other words, brands need granular intelligence about creative impact.

Working the TikTok Scene

Social media isn’t the only landscape undergoing evolution.

Creative evaluation tools are developing rapidly thanks to advances in artificial intelligence (AI). For example, computer vision systems can now automatically identify every element within a video, frame by frame, and assess its impact on consumer engagement, including the facial expression and eye gaze of models in ads, scenery, text, objects, and audio.

By pulling in multiple forms of data — including past and present media performance data from social platforms — and overlay performance metrics with creative data, AI and ML can produce a detailed picture of which creative elements impact core KPIs.

This granular analysis allows marketers to develop intelligent creative, optimised video content suited to best practices for their specific brand and get the best performance. The right approach for each brand will be unique, and application of intelligent creative has yielded useful insights about the big difference small creative elements make.

Mixed Feelings; Using Emotion Wisely

In an environment where ads have a few seconds to engage or lose users, it’s not unexpected that the portrayed emotions of featured models have a significant effect on viewers. But what’s interesting is the nuance.

Analysis of major brand campaigns has shown six-second view-through rates (VTRs) are up to 1.7 times higher when talent featured within ads emphasises strong emotions such as surprise in the opening seconds, compared to neutral expressions, while showing a range of emotions — four or more — can drive 3.3% higher conversions.

But users also draw the line at over-connection. Click-through rate (CTR) uplift is 31% higher when the face of featured models takes up less than 20% of the frame and CTRs are also higher when they look directly at users for less than half of the video. So, users prefer ads with feeling, but not too much intimacy.

Simple and Clear Wins User Favour

Similarly, different uses of audio drive varied responses; making it important for brands to consider what results they want to achieve and select audio elements accordingly.

This preference for clarity and minimal confusion is reflected in a 51% brand lift when an audition used only music or voiceover, according to analysis. Assessment has also shown CTR is up to 1.6 times higher when the same audio or voiceover approach is used.

Clearly, fast-scrolling users don’t have time for overly complicated, confusing adverts, so brands should keep their content simple and relevant.

TikTok may be seen to have a magic formula for success and giving users what they want, but this method is constantly changing based on what users are engaging with. As the wider social scene looks to follow its short-form footsteps, it will be vital for brands to gain accurate and continually refreshing insight into what works at an in-depth level.

Keeping close track of creative elements and their effect is key to ensure paid and organic brand efforts are going to strike the right chord and stand a chance of joining the TikTok loop.

This On-Demand Webinar by London Research and Territory Influence investigates the world of TikTok and turn the most valuable insights into concrete marketing tips for advertisers.

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