One of our joys as marketing experts is to jump into new social media trends and check them out! We investigate what’s hype, what’s useful, and how (or if) you can make a positive impact for your business. Today we are deep diving into what TikTok is and how to utilize it for your adventure business. We share insights from someone who has already been using the app to virally grow her own outdoor brand.
What is TikTok?
TikTok launched in the US in 2017, and by 2020 it was the most downloaded app overall. Built for videos from 15 seconds – 3 minutes long, the platform is known for more casual, off-the-cuff content, compared to Instagram and Facebook. With many editing features, countless songs and sound clips to place videos to, and an advanced algorithm that shows content to an audience that’s most likely to enjoy it, TikTok is an excellent platform to use to produce organic and original content.
Blake Chandlee, TikTok’s VP of global business solutions and head of ad sales, discussed why lockdown conditions during the pandemic led to a rise in the app’s popularity in a podcast for Variety in January of 2021: “Diversity in content, and the kinds of creators that were creating content on the platform went from pretty simple offerings to diversity around cooking and DIY and education,” Chandlee says. “And we had these amazing creators just tell inspiring stories all year long and that just continued, which then led to the adoption of the platform for a variety of audiences.”
The platform estimates about 80-100 million American users are active on the app on a monthly basis. 80% of those users are between the ages of 16 and 34, so keep that in mind when deciding if TikTok is the right tool for you and your customer demographic.
- Facebook has 2.7 billion monthly active global users and 302 million US users
- Instagram has 1 billion monthly active global users and 138 million US users
- YouTube has 2 billion monthly active global users and 197 million US users
(Data from Statista and Pew Research)
TikTok is full of Gen Z users. The oldest members of Gen Z are 24. Part of this generation has come into young adult buying power age; it’s time to pay special attention to marketing to them. According to research, this age group responds to short, authentic, story-driven campaigns. Consider this when brainstorming content creation for your own videos. [Note: Gen Z was born 1997-2010. Millennials are 1980-1996.]
TikTok’s algorithm deserves special attention as it’s different from FB and IG.
There are three feeds a user can scroll through:
- The “Following” page, that shows content only from creators said user has already followed.
- The “For You” page, which is where the algorithm comes in.
- The “Live” page, where you can scroll through current live streams of creators the algorithm thinks you’d enjoy.
According to TikTok: “The system recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors — starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in, too.” These factors include things like: user interactions (such as the videos you like or share, accounts you follow, comments you post, and content you create), video information (includes details like captions, sounds, and hashtags), and device and account settings (language preference, country setting, and device type). The nicheness is a huge benefit to brands, as organic content is already being pushed to likely customers before promoted ads.
How To Make a TikTok Account and Videos
Creating an account is pretty straightforward and similar to other social media platforms. Either via app or from a desktop browser, you can manually create one, or you can log in with Facebook, Gmail, or Twitter to keep connected with your other accounts.
- Within the app, click “…” on the top right of the “Me” page.
- Then click “Manage account” and select “Switch to Business Account.” You have the option to choose a category that best describes your account for the algorithm – “Sports, Fitness & Outdoors” or “Travel & Tourism” are probably the best bet for Adventure Brands.
- Now, add your eye-catching logo for your profile photo, a short bio, and a link to your Instagram or YouTube account. Finally, include your website and contact information.
*By adding other info like other social media accounts and your website to your bio, a prospective customer can click from your video on their For You Page, to your profile, to your website easily. Adding a LinkTree is another way to point video viewers to various pages within your website (i.e, different tours, different adventure interests, e-news sign up forms, etc).
The entirety of content creation can happen within the app if you prefer.
- To start, click the “+” button at the bottom of your screen.
- Add a “sound” (either a song or a sound bite)
- Then press record.
- You can also upload videos you’ve already taken and add a sound after the fact.
- You can play around with stickers, filters, and text on the screen.
- There’s an easy option to add captions, which we highly recommend for the sake of those who are hard-of-hearing or who happen to watch in public with the sound off.
- Caption and hashtag your video, press post, and you’ve created your first video!
As a business account, you can schedule a post up to 10 days in advance.
Keep it simple and have fun with it as you get to learn the app, and then experiment with more complicated production and see what hits home with viewers.
Content examples from adventure brands using TikTok:
3 Reasons Why Adventure Brands Benefit From Organic TikTok
Because TikTok is still relatively new, it has a much more casual culture than other platforms like Instagram and Facebook, where brands now interact with carefully planned posts and crafted content.
Here are three reasons why we think adventure brands have a significant opportunity to benefit their business by starting their own TikTok channel.
- It’s easier to gain visibility on a new platform. You have the chance to get in on the action as the app is still rising in popularity, while it’s still somewhat easy to go viral and build a following, and the culture is still lighthearted and off-the-cuff.
- Introduce & cultivate future customers. The app is still growing for long-term marketing strategy. Sure, the demographics might be a little lower in age than your usual audience, but this could be in your favor. Start cultivating fans of your brand now, and let them continue to engage with you as they grow older. You’re planting seeds of social proof for a bumper crop harvest in the future!
- Inspired recruiting channel for totally new staff. Another way to take advantage of TikTok’s younger audience is to recruit employees. Have a ranch that needs wranglers in the summer? Or a rafting outfitter that needs guides? TikTok is full of college-aged kids wanting an adventure for the summer who have never heard of you before. For example, check out this video and comment section from user @Kyahprobst, who spent her summer working for Xanterra at Yellowstone:
Remember, authenticity is a huge factor of a brand’s success on this specific platform. Try telling a story with your videos – keep an eye on current trends and think about how your product or service is applicable. Trends change constantly, so you’ll always have new inspiration for a video! Or, keep it simple with a walk-through or how-to post that answers FAQs you often receive. If your customers in real life want this information, chances are viewers on TikTok will appreciate it as well.
TikTok Business – 3 Pillars for a Successful Brand Account
TikTok Business calls out three pillars for a successful brand account: Organic Beat, Paid Peaks, and Creator Partnerships. Once you create a business profile, you have a few tools available to optimize your presence on the platform.
TikTok defines organic beats as “a steady stream of TikToks that keep users primed, engaged and familiar with your brand and offerings.” This is your opportunity to create authentic, engaging content that meets consumers where they are. At this stage, a video that pops up on someone’s For You page is not delineated between a brand or a person. So, your main goal here is to entertain and grab the audience’s attention. Think of your regularly posted, organic content as part of your Top of Funnel strategy.
One of the coolest tools for brands to use on TikTok is their Creator Marketplace. The platform describes it as “an easy-to-use discovery platform where marketers can find the best, most relevant TikTok creators, a convenient analytics tool providing key insights about all listed creators, and a matchmaking service for marketers to connect directly with the creators they like.” The Creator Marketplace takes the guesswork out of finding influencers to work with – all the information you need is in one place, making it easier than ever to build social proof by pairing up with a creator that fits perfectly with your niche.
TikTok is unique in the sense that it has a Creator Fund. This is separate from brand partnerships, where a company pays a creator for promotional Work. This fund is paid directly by TikTok, who has committed 200 million over the next three years. To be eligible, creators need at least 100K authentic video views in the prior 30 days. The platform says that funds creators earn are determined by “a combination of factors;
- The number of views and the authenticity of those views
- The level of engagement on the content
- Making sure content is in line with our Community Guidelines and Terms of Service.”
According to this Mashable article, top influencers have reported receiving between two and four cents per 1,000 views.
Like other social media platforms, TikTok also allows for paid promotional campaigns. This is a great option for when you want to get your product or service in front of a lot of eyes without having to put a ton of effort into organic posting. Within the app, TikTok offers four promotional appearances a brand can choose from.
- Brand Takeover Ads appear upon opening the app, presenting a full-screen video to your targeted audience. Not only do these ads show up as soon as users open TikTok, but they can also appear on the For You page as still images, GIFs, or videos.
- TopView is “a video first format that presents your brand on the best and unmissable placement of TikTok, capturing full user attention with sight, sound and narrative.” This ad is similar to a brand takeover in that it will be seen by the user shortly after opening the app, but it does not take up the entire screen and does look like in-feed posts.
- Conversely, In-Feed Ads are videos slipped into a user’s “For You” page, giving the chance to be embraced like native and authentic content.
- You can also promote in the form of a Branded Hashtag Challenge: invite all users to participate and create content around your campaign theme, with all UGC aggregating in the hashtag challenge page.
- Finally, create Branded Effects like stickers, filters, and special effects.
You have two targeting options for building your audiences for your paid TikTok placements.
- First, you can just leave the targeting options blank and the intelligent algorithm will help you find potential customers that you are unaware of. Remember how we said the algorithm is extremely niche? This is when it comes in handy and saves time.
- You can also create custom audiences, either through uploaded lists, look-a-likes of those lists, or by setting parameters much like you would on Facebook Ads (interests, demographics, etc).
Reporting and TikTok Pixel Code
Similar to Facebook, you will have to insert the TikTok Pixel code into your website in order to receive the most complete data and track events like actions taken, behaviors, etc.
- Analytics come under the “Report” tab of TikTok Ads Manager (a separate website you will log into outside of the app, most conveniently on desktop). Here, you have the option to create reports from a template or customize your own.
- You’ll see Dimensions, which are related to groupings of your data, for example – campaigns, ad groups, ads, placements, etc. Dimensions appear as rows in your report.
- Metrics, on the other hand, are related to ad performance data, for example – cost per thousand impressions, cost per click, click through rate, and conversion rate. Metrics appear as columns in your report.
You can even schedule your reports to be sent to your inbox on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. From within the app itself, you can quickly check views and follow count from the home page.
Outdoorsy Gals on TikTok – A Case Study in Viral Success
We interviewed Lindsay Stevens, creator of Outdoorsy Gals. The hashtag #outdoorsygals now has over 14 million views on TikTok, and has led to massive growth on both Instagram and Facebook. Lindsay’s experience is a case study on what TikTok can do for outdoor brands, so check out the video above that started it all, then read our interview to see how it’s changed her brand marketing (and entire life!).
What first got you to join TikTok?
My younger sister has marketing savvy and she told me to make a TikTok account! I had been trying to grow my brand on Instagram for a while and felt slow and tedious. My sister noticed people building businesses and communities from posting content on TikTok and convinced me to try it. Honestly, if she didn’t push me to join, I probably never would have! I joined at the start of quarantine, so since I had a lot of time on my hands, I committed to posting 1 video/day. I figured it would either go really well or be a huge flop, but I had so much time on my hands that it didn’t feel like a waste of time either way.
Then in December 2020, I was hired on by TikTok. They consulted me directly while I was on contract to post 4-5 videos/week for 3 months. Being on contract to create quality content for 3 months straight kept me disciplined, and the consistency in posting ultimately enabled me to grow an engaged audience.
How has Outdoorsy Gals grown since starting your account?
Outdoorsy Gals began because I made a TikTok looking for outdoorsy women to backpack with, and there were so many people who commented that I decided to create a community out of it! Since then, I’ve used my TikTok platform to spread the word about the Outdoorsy Gals community. A few of the videos about Outdoorsy Gals went viral since there is such a genuine need for community in the outdoors, and each time a video has gone viral, the group has grown by 15,000-30,000 members. I created the group about a year ago, and we’ve grown to around 82,000 members mostly thanks to TikTok!
What sort of content have you noticed most seems to connect and inspire audiences?
I notice that people love videos that either provide value or have an empowering message. For example, value is ‘here’s how to pick the perfect hiking boots!’ or ‘here’s a must-try road trip itinerary’ and an empowering message is ‘I solo hike all the time and you can too.’ There is so much content out there so it can be intimidating at times, but if your content is genuinely helping people reach their goals, that’s what ultimately builds a solid foundation for a community.
What are some negative aspects of TikTok marketing you’ve encountered?
To be completely honest, I haven’t encountered any negative aspects of TikTok marketing that I can think of. They compensate creators directly, and they make it easy for creators and brands to collaborate through their partnership portal! We’re in a really unique time where TikTok is still in its beginning stages and it’ll only continue to grow as a platform and marketing tool. It’s the equivalent of being ahead of the curve by marketing on Instagram 10 years ago. Now is the time to grow an audience, market your brand/product, and create engaging content.
What would you say is the most important thing to remember when posting on TikTok as an outdoor adventure/travel brand?
It’s so important to keep it authentic. There is a duality to the outdoors and adventure – sometimes it’s incredible and perfect, and other times you’re covered in mosquito bites or stuck on an airport floor overnight. Real is relatable, and on TikTok, people want to see it all – the good, the bad, the honest. In fact, some of my best-performing videos have been about my travel mishaps. I love that I feel like I can come exactly as I am when I post on TikTok, and I think that’s important for every adventure/travel brand to remember.
Another thing that’s important to remember when posting as an outdoor adventure brand is to make sure to mention Leave No Trace as often as possible. TikTok has a way of inspiring large audiences to do things, which is incredible, but if a hiking trail or travel destination goes viral, it’s our responsibility as creators to make sure that people understand leave no trace principles.
Want more tips specific to adventure companies during this period of disruption?
5 Easy Ways to Jumpstart 2023 Marketing
These 5 easy marketing wins will give your 2023 the jumpstart it deserves. And help you capitalize on what's left in 2022. With Q4 in full swing, it's time for tour operators, adventure brands, and destination management organizations alike to capitalize on the time left [...]