The TikTok Revolution: How small companies are utilizing social media to increase
TikTok is a newer phenomenon compared to most mainstream social media outlets.
Facebook went global in 2004 when it was still TheFacebook. TikTok didn’t become an international app until 2017.
Three years later, TikTok had 800 million active users worldwide, a feat that cost Facebook over 7 years.
Dr. Ronnie Das, lecturer in digital marketing and data analysis at Newcastle University, discussed how social media has changed the way companies work.
He said that primarily social media is an inexpensive way to interact with customers.
Additionally, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the trends that started social media.
Ronnie said that in 2020 online engagement was driven 30 years over a nine month period.
While the global recession of 2008 fueled a new generation of startups, Das believes the current pandemic will accelerate the transition to online businesses and usher in a new era of business.
When asked about TikTok, Das explained that using augmented reality creates a sense of humor and escape that other social media don’t use.
He said TikTok created its own niche and recognized that people thrive on micro-moments.
He said, “TikTok is here to stay, it’s here to grow, and it’s investing in creators.”
I’ve spoken to five small business owners who use TikTok to promote their businesses.
Their brands are all very different and some have been established for more than a decade while others are only a few months old.
All of these business owners agree that TikTok has skyrocketed their brand’s reach.
ElleCreate – Graphic Designs – TikTok: @ellecreate_
Elle started her business ElleCreate in September 2019, which sells her funky prints, t-shirts, and sticker designs.
During the first national lockdown, she decided to use TikTok to promote her business.
She said, “It just started and I never looked back.”
Elle had a business page on Instagram for months before joining TikTok and she was fine, but her sales have grown significantly since joining TikTok.
Previously, most of the sales were made to order for people she knew, but now Elle can bring her print work to a wider audience, creating more demand and driving more traffic to her Etsy shop.
In a way, the pandemic helped Elle grow their business presence online as people flocked to TikTok to share videos from isolation and connect in a socially distant world.
Elle explained how different social media serve different purposes.
Their main target audience is under 30, and TikTok caters to that audience.
Under 30s made up more than 60% of TikTok users last year. However, their portrait jobs are generally more popular with the older generation, and they have a Facebook page to serve this market.
Elle’s advice to others looking to start a small business?
“Do some research.
“If you do your research and get excited about what you do, you will still succeed.”
Diddi Dance – Dance Classes for Toddlers – TikTok: @originaldiddidancer
Anne-Marie founded her dance company 17 years ago for children under five, when even Facebook would have been too young to take her classes.
She started promoting her business on TikTok in June 2020 after hearing from friends that parents and young adults were migrating to the app in large numbers during the lockdown.
She found that the main difference between TikTok and other social media is that users use the app to search for comedic content.
She said, “You can jump on different trends, be completely random and completely goofy, and the audience there gets it.”
This is a good sign for a company with young people at heart.
Many of Anne-Marie’s videos feature fun dances to current songs and sounds popular with TikTok.
She can create multiple 15-30 second videos in one evening, save them in her drafts, and upload the content over the week for thousands of people to see.
What amazed Anne-Marie about the app was the reach that her company was able to achieve without spending anything on advertising.
Some of their TikTok lives (a livestream that allows creators to connect with their followers in real time) reached 48,000 people.
The free engagement on TikTok is really unmatched by any other social media.
Blob Box – self-care boxes for women on their period – TikTok: @blobboxuk
Eniye decided to create Blob Box when her sister was getting her first period and her mother wasn’t sure how to feel better.
After searching for care boxes online, she found that these mostly contained products that could be bought in a corner store.
She decided to make her own care box, which contained teaching materials, a variety of historical products, and self care products.
Eniye named her product Blob Box after learning that “on the blob” was a derogatory way of saying that a woman was on her period.
She wanted to reclaim the word as it was something that most women went through and they shouldn’t be ashamed of it.
By promoting their product on TikTok, Eniye hoped it would help normalize talking about periods.
She said, “Hopefully my brand will do this for people because people are just so proud to receive a blob box.”
TikTok is an important platform for companies like Blob Box.
Eniye said that small businesses, which are often banned to the seventh page of Google search results, struggle to compete with big brands.
However, she can present her products more easily on TikTok.
In addition, she gives her audience the opportunity to get to know her and not just her brand.
Branding personalization is something TikTok users seem to be looking for in their content, and not something that is ever authentically expressed in advertising for big brands.
Alexander Clementine – sustainable underwear made from seaweed – TikTok: @alexanderclementine
Two years ago, Freya and Alex founded Alexander Clementine, a clothing brand that makes underwear from seaweed.
You’ve only been with TikTok since January but have already seen an increase in sales.
Freya said before they switched to TikTok they made a few daily sales, but after promoting through the app, they would make enough sales in a day to pay the rent for a month.
This drop in sales allowed the couple to run their business from an office much sooner than expected.
She explained that her Instagram followers also doubled as TikTok users followed her other social media pages.
Freya is a self-confessed TikTok addict and regularly checks out other small businesses on the app.
She enjoyed watching people unpack their orders and decided to produce content of herself that wrapped her customers’ orders.
Again, the personal aspect of small businesses and the behind-the-scenes insight that TikTok can provide to audiences is incredibly popular.
Freya’s videos had a staggering reach, one of which received over half a million views.
At first Alex wasn’t sure if switching to TikTok was a smart business move. He said, “I was careful it might make the brand cheaper, but it was actually amazing to them.”
Obviously, TikTok has taken a big boost and has grown in popularity during a global pandemic that saw so many of us stuck inside, leafing through their phones, looking for opportunities to buy.
Increasingly popular consumer trends include self-care, fitness, sustainability, and favoring small businesses.
TikTok provides the perfect platform for these types of brands to apply for free and reach an audience of thousands of potential consumers.