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How Brands are Using TikTok to Reach Gen Z and Millennial Audiences 

May 31, 2023

The sound a clock makes. A way to let someone know they’re taking too long. The name of the 2009 solo debut single from Ke$ha. And now, one of the most popular social media apps in existence.

That’s right folks, we’re talking about TikTok.

What Is TikTok?

Frankly, if you’ve made it this long without knowing what the app is…I commend you!

TikTok—aka the clock app—is a short-form video sharing app that allows users to create and share video content on any topic. Dances, cooking recipes, makeup tutorials, teaching American sign language, clips of the popular Australian kids show Bluey. If you think of a topic, chances are you’ll find it on there.

What first started out as a competitor to another short-form video platform, Vine, back in 2016, has now taken the digital world by storm, with a substantial rise in popularity over 2020.

I wonder what was going on that year…

How Does It Work?

Similar to other social media platforms, TikTok is mainly a mobile-based app with limited desktop functionality.

The app has truly simplified the video creation and sharing process. Using background music, sounds, voiceovers, stickers, and filters, users can let their creative juices flow and connect with other users on topics they find enjoyable.

Hashtags are utilized to categorize videos and put them in front of users on the “For You” page based on their algorithm.

Popular hashtags on Tiktok

And the algorithm is so specifically tailored to each user’s likes and interests that once you engage with a topic (whether you spend time watching a longer video about the topic or liking the actual video), that topic will appear in your feed for the foreseeable future.

Virtual trends and challenges often emerge on the app, which encourages people to participate and make their own videos to share about the topic. These often tend to be fleeting, meaning if you don’t participate within a week, you’re probably going to miss that trend’s window entirely because something new is emerging.

TikTok has an impressive user base of over 1.6 billion people worldwide, and that base is constantly growing every day. The most targeted demographics on the platform? Gen-Z at a whopping 60% of users, with millennials next at 31% of users.

How Brands Can Use TikTok

Social media marketing has been a part of brands’ digital strategies for years now. However, TikTok marketing feels like a different beast entirely. In fact, only 18% of marketers are using the app to promote their products.

Due to the quick turnaround time of trends and a complex algorithm, businesses can’t re-use the same social strategy they’re executing on other platforms.

Sure, companies can use digital ads on TikTok to appeal to users like other social platforms. But the brands that are finding success on this app are taking a different approach.

The ones that are playing in the space have become instantly recognizable to Gen-Z and millennials because they’re simply having fun with it! They’re not always taking themselves seriously, showing off their humorous side as opposed to a buttoned-up, professional feel.

Brands That Are Killing It on TikTok

  • Duolingo – Rather than making informational videos or ads about their service, the mobile language learning app chose to have their mascot, Duo the owl, participate in the app’s latest trends. Their comedic, relatable approach to their videos—pushed for by their 23-year-old social media manager at the time—made them one of the most sensationalized brands on the platform, with 6.7 million followers and counting.
@duolingoStop reading this caption and go do your lesson. 👹👹👹👹

♬ original sound – Duolingo

  • Detroit Lions I’m from Michigan, I have to mention them! The Lions always seemed to be the laughingstock of the NFL over the last few decades. Last season, they really turned that around and boosted their credibility on and off the field. By showcasing their team in new, hilarious ways, such as mic’ing up their players during a game, they’ve gotten people (1.9 million and counting) to care about and root for them like never before.
@detroitlions Jamaal on the 🎙 You’re welcome. #DetroitLions #OnePride #nfl #JamaalWilliams ♬ JAMAAL WILLIAMS MICD UP BEARS – Detroit Lions

  • GameChanger – CollegeHumor is an internet comedy company based in Los Angeles, and they were known for producing video content for YouTube when the platform began as well as on their former website. When they made their own subscription streaming service, they began sharing clips from their improv comedy show, GameChanger, on TikTok and YouTube. These clips have regularly gone viral, and while they don’t advertise their subscriber numbers, their followership of 1.3 million on TikTok alone speaks to how they’re capturing the attention of their intended audiences.
@gamechangershow this gave me PTSD #comedy #funny #gamechanger #makesomenoose #zoom #videocall ♬ original sound – Game Changer 🤹‍♂️

Ready to Get on the “For You” Page?

Like other social platforms before it, you have unlimited possibilities of how to leverage TikTok to strengthen your brand. Being on the app involves regularly publishing content and encouraging employee engagement, ultimately finding the balance between work and play.

Mix in some humorous videos along with the informational ones to show users what you do all while showing your company’s personality. By taking a risk and creating content that’s slightly out of your comfort zone or typical content schedule, you may end up finding success and an audience where you least expect it.

At Element 47, social media marketing is one of our specialties. Looking to kick your brand’s social marketing up a notch? Let’s chat!