TikTok is approaching its third birthday as a popular app. While it was technically founded in 2017, 2020 certainly marks its boom year and throughout these three years its reputation has grown from ‘teen app for silly dances’ to marketers growing far more confident in the short-form video app. 

This confidence has TikTok itself to thank as the app has gone to lengths to appease advertisers and win over their dollars. This year alone, the platform’s ad formats, personalization and bidding strategies have become far more sophisticated.

Granted, these brands are arguably still experimenting with what advertising on TikTok means for them, and don’t hold it to the same level of scrutiny as other platforms — yet. But this is clearly that period of discovery marketers go on before opting to go steady with a platform.

Marketers now have a wealth of ad formats and units to play with. Previously, advertisers would have had to pay for sponsored hashtags or to promote brand videos, said Tom Sweeney, head of strategy at Fanbytes by Brainlabs, who noted that he recently “saw a movie theater promote its film showtimes and enable customers to book in-app.” Progress. 

The ability for brands to personalise on the app has also grown. Previously, it stood as a broad-stroke demographic-based targeting. But now, the platform has — and is willing to share with advertisers — deep rooted psychological data about its users, based on what they’re consuming. TikTok is reported to be more based on user psychology than Instagram or Facebook, or any other platforms, which are largely now reliant on AI and machine learning to serve ads. 

Digital marketing agency Power Digital’s TikTok budgets have grown over 100% year-on-year on average since 2020, It was even more for advertising over Black Friday and Cyber Monday week, with spending over the period up 170% compared to a year ago. Rob Jewell, chief growth officer at Power Digital expanded on the point: “We anticipate a similar growth trajectory in 2023 as advertisers will continue to see ROI improve on the platform, especially in visual-first industries: beauty and fashion have seen 6x higher sales conversions on TikTok compared to Meta.”

2022 truly saw TikTok’s maturing from experimental platform to a more mature social app. According to Rhys Westwell, head of performance, performics at Zenith “from a digital perspective, if we’re working on awareness or brand campaigns, TikTok is the third platform after YouTube and Meta”.

Thomas Esposito, digital marketing leader in biddable at performance marketing agency Croud commented that much of the work for his clients on TikTok remains very experimental. As such, it’s not held to the same KPIs and expectations as other platforms. Essentially, TikTok prioritises native content, whereas you might have been able to get away with other more generic ads on other platforms. 

Just because the app has matured, however, isn’t to say that experimentation is a write off. If you really lean into trends and how people use the app, such as song or challenge of the month, you’ll get far more out of it. If anything, TikTok has forced marketers to rethink how social content and ads should be both created and consumed.

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