How small companies are utilizing TikTok to construct model consciousness and gross sales
Ritika and Niki Shamdasani, sisters and founders of Sani, a South Asian-inspired clothing brand, joined TikTok in early 2020 and in March their sixth video went viral, garnering around 3 million views. It was the first video they made with TikTok in mind — showing the creation process of a garment from start to finish, from idea to finished product — rather than re-posting content from other platforms.
While the timing wasn’t good, as this was the start of the pandemic and Sani was focusing on formal wear for weddings at the time, it allowed the co-founders to maintain brand awareness — and see what TikTok could do for the company.
Other small business owners have had similar experiences with the platform, posting organic content that goes viral and boosts their business. Back in February 2021, Bruce Graybill, founder of Sider’s Woodcrafting, had a video that “went insanely viral at a time when I was thinking about closing my shop,” Graybill said. “Financially it didn’t make sense anymore. Then this video went viral on TikTok and we had gains[ed traffic] to our website by 4,000%. We sold everything we had on our website within 24 hours.”
As TikTok has continued to grow in recent years, marketers and businesses have focused on the platform, often as a way to diversify their social media mix, using organic and paid strategies to get in front of the more than 29 million to provide monthly active users on the platform platform. At the same time, small businesses have started doing the same, according to Danielle Johnson, Head of SMB Account Management, North America at TikTok.
Johnson’s team is working to develop more educational content for small and medium-sized businesses on the platform. “We have holistic conversations with SMBs,” Johnson said. “We’re spending as much time as we can, not just talking one-on-one [small and medium-sized businesses] but to host a series for SMBs and help them hear from other developers to find out how they can be successful on the platform.”
It’s unclear how much of TikTok’s ad revenue comes from SMEs, as the platform refused to share those numbers. However, the platform wants to continue to expand its offering for SMBs with educational series and work closely with brands as they start spending on the platform to further enhance their TikTok experience.
Since early viral success in March 2020, the Sani co-founders have continued to post videos on TikTok, where they have more than 145,000 followers, to support the growth of their small business and credit TikTok for around 60% of their monthly revenue. While they’ve focused on an organic versus paid approach, the co-founders recently began testing paid media behind their posts.
The success on TikTok is also due to organic posts, noted Sider Woodworking’s Graybill, who has made $30,000 in sales from TikTok alone, Graybill said, adding that he’s spoken at TikTok’s SMB events. “I’ve shared my story with other companies about what works. What works for me may not work for others. But if you’re a small business owner and you’re not on TikTok, you’re missing out.”
Duane Brown, founder of performance marketing agency Take Some Risk, is currently working on getting a few SMBs on TikTok. “TikTok is observant and eager to bring e-commerce and DTC brands onto the platform,” Brown said, adding that “both prospects are seeing increases[ive clients] and current customers [as] everyone is trying to move money beyond Facebook.” (Brown usually works with DTC brands, and said apparel brands have tried to get on TikTok.)
Nevertheless, Brown warns SMEs against putting everything on one card with TikTok. “TikTok is hot and trendy… so everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. We only recommend if clients have built a stable paid ads revenue stream on Google and maybe Facebook. It’s difficult to test a new platform without money coming in.”