There was no version of the sophomore slump for e.l.f Cosmetics after its branded #eyeslipface hashtag challenge on TikTok in 2019 not only became the first to feature an original song, but also became the most viral campaign in TikTok U.S. history. If that set the bar high, the cosmetics company’s second challenge in July 2020 maintained e.l.f’s trajectory. The campaign invited TikTokers to post videos of their makeup transformations using the brand’s Poreless Putty Primer under the hashtag #elfMagicAct and it accrued one billion views over several days.
“We are moved by the incredible engagement that we continue to receive from the TikTok community that has pushed us past one billion views, twice, in two separate campaigns,” said Kory Marchisotto, chief marketing officer of e.l.f. Beauty.
It is one of the more stunning examples of how many brands are building a presence on TikTok to leverage its popularity. The platform is now poised to take on the likes of Google and Meta as the premier social media outlet — and all signs point to its potential for boosting product visibility and expanding a brand’s reach.
The Rise and Rise of TikTok
TikTok is the fastest-growing social media network. The platform has 1 billion active users and even surpassed the average watch time of video giant YouTube on Android devices. It has reached 3 billion app downloads, a feat that only Facebook could claim in the past.
Turned off by the passivity of broadcast TV, Generation Z comprises the bulk of TikTok’s audience. They gravitate to the platform because it provides a fully immersive experience. Gen Zers prefer active participation, so brands seeking to reach a younger demographic have the perfect avenue in the video-sharing app.
There are three main ways to promote brands on TikTok — paid ads, organic traffic, and partnering with TikTok influencers — and all three have their place in a strategic marketing campaign. One of the takeaways for businesses from the platform’s popularity among younger generations is to encourage users to create videos that show them using their products or services to achieve a high buy-in rate.
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Giving the Audience What They Want
The beauty of TikTok for brands is the opportunity it provides to showcase their products differently than on other social media outlets. Savvy businesses are utilizing TikTok’s multi-faceted platform for ad campaigns that can significantly increase their ROI by connecting with potential customers.
Language-learning platform and app Duolingo found a new audience by integrating popular TikTok trends with their marketing efforts. Duolingo fashions organic content that is both entertaining and informative, and uses its green-owl logo in videos as a running inside-joke. It has also leveraged the Flicker, Flash, Flare method to create viral TikToks and gain more than 5 million followers.
This symbiotic relationship between salesmanship and quality content on TikTok is appropriate for almost any business. Showing audiences how to solve their problems in an engaging and entertaining manner keeps them coming back for more. It’s also a good idea to integrate influencers whenever possible. If you have a product that aligns with a particular influencer’s followers, the ad campaign is simply more likely to be successful.
It is important to step back and allow the TikTok influencers to create the actual content for the brand. They know what does and does not fly with their audience, and how to hold their attention. With influencers working hard to retain their followers’ trust and loyalty, they can help a business establish credibility.
The Winning Formula
According to The New York Times, users spend an average of 96 minutes a day on TikTok, outstripping their time spent on Snapchat and Twitter, and almost doubling their engagement on Facebook and Instagram. Rich Greenfield, a technology analyst at LightShed Partners, told the newspaper: “TikTok is eating the world. The only thing that matters in the world of entertainment is time spent. If you have less time spent because TikTok is taking share, that’s negative for your advertising business.”
The success of e.l.f. Cosmetics — which paired with TikTok marketing partner Tinuiti — shows what an effective TikTok advertising campaign can accomplish. Patrick O’Keefe, the company’s VP of integrated marketing communications, said of the partnership: “Together we have been able to test and learn on the platform and create a winning formula.”
That formula was a multi-pronged strategy of engaging TikTok’s audience with in-feed ads while increasing sales with dynamic showcase ads. This full-funnel approach saved the makeup and skincare company 56% in acquisition costs, and its #eyeslipsface ad campaign racked up over four billion views.
Partnerships the Key to Success
TikTok content creators and aficionados tend to be on the youngish side. If your goods or services are mainly geared toward older people, it may be harder to gain traction on the platform. However, it appears that TikTok is retaining its audience as they grow older. Baby Boomers and Generation X are flocking to TikTok in increasing numbers, expanding its sphere of influence even wider.
Most businesses can tie their brand’s wagon to TikTok with positive results. Engaging with other brands, liking and commenting on other TikTok users’ videos, and creating collaborative duet content are all great beginning strategies that can then lead to converting a passive audience into engaged customers.