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How small businesses reach new audiences by marketing on TikTok

Posted by Kanika Sinha

December 1, 2021    |     4-minute read (761 words)

Around the globe, many small businesses are reporting surprising returns on their TikTok marketing efforts. A presence on the video-sharing app has dramatically boosted their brand awareness and customer acquisition, these proprietors say. Some business owners even report the platform has helped them turn their side gigs into full-time ventures by connecting with a much wider audience.

For instance, one candlemaker went viral, seemingly without even trying, after appearing on TikTok, while a bakery owner managed to turn his initial 3,000 followers into 2 million by leveraging the platform. These are just two examples of a multitude of businesses worldwide who have generated significant brand awareness in a short period, with some expanding the size of their audience sixfold seemingly overnight with their TikTok clips.

Read on to learn how small businesses are connecting with new audiences and growing their brands at an unprecedented pace with viral videos on TikTok.

Creating authentic content 

Despite the absence of a big marketing budget, a celebrity spokesperson or a slickly produced ad, a number of small businesses have found great success on TikTok by simply being authentic and matching their content to the brand’s identity in a personal way. 

For example, the founder of Connecticut-based soy candle company Natural Annie Essentials, Annya Brown, shares candid videos about her life and business on TikTok. Just being real and showing the fun, crazy stuff that happens behind the scenes at her studio has helped her find new customers.

Meanwhile, San Francisco Bay Area-based Carpet Repair Guys managed to turn the easily overlooked art of carpet repair into a true TikTok phenomenon — to the tune of 764,000 followers and 19.7 million likes at the time of publication. Through trial and error, founder Josh Nolan found a style that fit his brand’s personality with humorous and oddly satisfying clips.  

Tapping into a younger customer base

With TikTok recently breaking 1 billion active global users, of whom about 60% are Gen-Zers (born from 1997-2012), some brands are leveraging the video-sharing app to engage more users from this younger demographic.

For natural soap and men’s grooming brand Dr. Squatch, TikTok has become the firm’s second-biggest advertising channel behind Facebook. The Los Angeles-based company credits TikTok with driving nearly 15% of its new customer acquisition. 

Dr. Squatch invests in TikTok’s paid advertising, which it blends with the brand’s own humorous content in a bid to appeal to a younger demographic, particularly men in their mid-20s. To continually pique the interest of TikTok’s young users, the brand also regularly drops limited-edition soap bars, with the latest being a collaboration with video game franchise Halo.

Leaning into quirkiness

After a TikTok video post of Arrae co-founder Nish Samantray printing shipping labels at his New York City apartment fetched millions of views and nearly 500,000 likes, the wellness brand did not hesitate to ditch traditional ads and embrace the app’s quirkiness. Arrae uses TikTok to show employees performing daily menial tasks, like packing customer orders, and to take customers behind the scenes — which customers seem to love to watch. 

This type of content has not only been driving the brand’s highest engagement, but it is also boosting Arrae’s sales. To personally connect with viewers, Arrae recently began adding introductory videos that feature individual team members and their roles.

Separately, Tokyo-based chicken joint Yakitori Don has also found success by offering unconventional content. Most of the restaurant's TikTok clips feature owner Hiroaki Higaki performing funny skits that poke fun at the restaurant industry. 

Kicking off a challenge

Some small businesses create TikTok campaigns that challenge users to create and upload their own TikTok videos related to the challenge, using the hashtag #HashtagChallenge and tagging three of their friends to also partake. 

Video game Fortnite’s #EmoteRoyaleContest challenge campaign was a resounding success, used over 250 million times. The contest invited TikTok users to create dances that could then be turned into official emotes with Fortnite game characters.

Leveraging the power of virality 

Unable to get into stores until late 2020, Culver City, California-based spiked seltzer brand Nectar turned to TikTok to get retailers’ attention. 

Nectar posted a TikTok video inviting people to try the Asian-inspired seltzer by texting their phone number to the company’s founders. Within a few days, the TikTok post went viral, receiving thousands of views and hundreds of comments requesting the seltzer. 

The result? Nectar was able to immediately ink brand partnerships with BevMo and GoPuff, as well as secure orders from local mom and pop stores. 

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