SofaSessions July 2021: TikTok has taken social media by storm but is it really a place for brands?

SofaSessions July 2021: TikTok has taken social media by storm but is it really a place for brands?

Welcome back for our second SofaSession of the year – bringing the hottest new insights from the world of social straight to your virtual door.

Joining Engine’s Head of Influencer, Gemma Glover, to talk all things TikTok was Dr. Martens Global Consumer Marketing Manager, Sarah Whelan, TikTok’s Fashion & Retail Brand Partnerships Manager, Holly Harrison, and Content Creators Ola Pelovangu and Ben James.

As TikTok takes the world by storm at the cutting edge of short form video, we took a deep dive into the platform exploring why it is the ‘place to be’ for both creators and brands.

Creativity at the core

Gemma opened by asking our panellists the all-important question of “why TikTok?” New research from Clear M&C Saatchi on the mindset of the TikTok user base unveiled that 75% of users come to the app to be entertained[1]. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising, that ‘creativity’ was the buzzword of the discussion.

Holly touched on TikTok’s standout ‘For You Page’, the feed algorithm which sets it apart from competing platforms; she said, “our For You feed is geared towards content and actually creativity is rewarded, not necessarily following.”

This was seconded by both Sarah and Ben who echoed self-expression is the key to success on the platform. Ben explained, “you focus on the creative element and the rest will take care of itself.”

Ola remarked one of TikTok’s unique nature as ‘sound-on’ whilst most other platforms are predominantly led by photo sharing, enabling creators to add another layer on their content. She referenced the importance of utilising the sounds and music library: “that's when a few brands might be missing the mark, not using audio.”

Brand best practice

The conversation turned towards how brands can work alongside TikTokers, using them as “creative directors” as the experts on the platform.

Ola explained the need for partnerships, to start with a two-way conversation between the brand and the creator. Ben explained: “The platform thrives off authenticity, they (his audience) can smell a deal a mile off and they know when they’ve been sold to.”

Ben referenced his previous sponsored content with Gymshark, with the brand providing him flexibility to produce authentic fitness and style content that resonated with his male following.

The discussion moved towards brands creating successful TikTok videos for their own channels, with the panel agreeing Ryanair’s videos - which picks up thousands, if not millions of views - as an example of best practice on the platform.

Sarah also described Dr. Martens recent campaign for new apprentices, utilising their current apprentices to create engaging TikToks that sing the story of life in the company. She said whilst it acted as an incredibly effective recruitment drive, it also allowed their audience a “sneak peek behind the curtain of what we do as a brand.” Dr. Martens now has 217k followers on TikTok, demonstrating their ability to reach and engage with Generation TikTok, as it’s been named.

Clock TikTok-ing for Instagram?

The session wouldn’t have been complete without discussing TikTok’s biggest competitor, Instagram. After the launch of Reels last year and recent announcement from Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, that it is “no longer a photo sharing app”, it is evident the race to dominate short form video is on.

Both Ben and Ola have strong TikTok and Instagram audiences. When comparing the two, Ben highlighted the deeper post penetration of TikTok. Whilst on Instagram you need to click into a reel to watch the full video, TikTok by its nature is a constant full-screen experience. TikTok also feels, as he mentioned, inherently more shareable and creators can access ‘share’ stats on the platform whereas Instagram doesn’t provide creators with this stat.

Ola also alluded to the trends that move from TikTok to Instagram, she said her highest performing brand partnerships on Instagram have mirrored dances, transitions or sounds popular on the app: “The ones that have done really well on Instagram is because it's been popping on TikTok.”

Thank you to our brilliant panel and those who tuned in! Keep your eyes peeled for our third SofaSession of the year delving into the power of audio.


[1] https://www.tiktokforbusinesseurope.com/news/new-research-from-tiktok-lifts-the-lid-on-new-consumer-mindsets