You are not alone. A lot of brand managers are asking themselves these questions. And we are here to help! 

Couple housekeeping notes before we begin:

  1. If you already have a solid understanding of Tik Tok (who’s on it, what’s popular), skip down to “What brands are on TikTok?”
  2. Check out this leaked pitch deck from TikTok itself to see how the company is positioning itself to marketers. 

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media platform for short-form mobile videos. Users are able to create, edit, and share videos between 15-60 seconds. 

On TikTok, users are seen as creators, and they are given simple and user-friendly tools to make great video content. The platform includes an editing toolkit, filters, a music library (integrated with Apple Music), AR face filters, recording timers, Giphy stickers, and more. 

Users navigate by scrolling up and down within the app (not like the tapping on Instagram stories). 


The unique platform and newsfeed allows content to move in trends. On Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, your newsfeed is curated based on the people, brands, and accounts you follow. On TikTok, the platform’s algorithm serves content based on what you have interacted with in the past. 

TikTok’s US Director of Marketing Stefan Heinrich explains the difference as “content-driven, not connection-driven.” Unlike other social platforms that are based on your friends or “network,” you are connected to creators through content.

Who uses TikTok?

TikTok was the most downloaded app in the world in 2018, and has over 800M global monthly active users, including 30M+ in the US and 500M in China. The audience skews younger, with 69% of users between the ages of 16-24. 

What is popular on TikTok? How is it used?

TikTok is set up as an exploratory platform. The “For You” home feed showcases the platform’s most viewable content. It is similar to Vine but with more room for creativity, both in time and tools. The content ranges from dance routines and lip-syncing to reaction videos and pranks. 

Music is an integral part of the app. In 2018, TikTok absorbed – the popular lip syncing app – and accelerated growth. Since then, the platform has made songs go viral and landed them at the top of the Billboard charts (h/t to Lil Nas X). With app content driven by memes set to music, some younger creators have started to turn to the platform as a way to discover the latest hits. 

Challenges are a popular part of TikTok. A “challenge” includes a format of a video (normally including a song and a dance move / challenge) for people to recreate with their own artistic flair. Challenges are marked with a hashtag, and will appear on the “For You” homepage as they rise in popularity. (Check out some of the best challenges of 2018). The ability to participate in challenges allows anyone to feel like they are part of a community or a movement.  

TikTok strikes a stark contrast to Twitter, which can be full of news and negativity, and YouTube and Facebook, which have been under scrutiny for misinformation and data collection. TikTok is fun, fleeting, and full of music.

Worth checking out: 

What brands are on TikTok?

Companies are exploring activations on TikTok. They offer brands in feed video ads, branded hashtag challenges, and brand takeovers. The takeover ads range from $50,000-$100,000 while the branded hashtag challenges are $150,000 for a six day run. 

Some brands that have already dipped their toes into the TikTok pool are: 

The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

As an early adopter of internet trends, it makes sense Jimmy Fallon has incorporated TikTok into the show’s social media challenges. On the show Fallon would issue a call to action to his audience for things like the #tumbleweedchallenge or the #sharpiechallenge and include the best submissions on air. 

Ralph Lauren 

Ralph Lauren sponsored a hashtag challenge in conjunction with the US Open. He then partnered with celebrity Diana Silvers and asked fans to show off a time when they won a real life challenge with the hashtag #WinningIRL. The challenge included a commerce component, where consumers could shop US Open branded Ralph Lauren products. 


Kroger launched a back to school sponsored hashtag challenge encouraging creators to make videos with the hashtag #TransformUrDorm. They spread awareness with four TikTok influencers and encouraged users to view and buy products through the discover tab. 


Chipotle launched a sponsored hashtag campaign titled #ChipotleLidFlip calling users to flip burrito bowl lids. They used influencer David Dobrik to gain 100,000 submissions and 230 million views. 


Hollister ran in feed ads with a call to action to “shop now” directing creators to a microsite to shop for Hollister without ever leaving the app. 

The Washington Post

The Washington Post has become a great example of a brand posting content and gaining validity as a creator without relying on a large advertising spend. Check out this Pro Rata podcast for an explanation. This TikTok video also sums it up nicely. 

Does TikTok make sense for your brand?

If you are wondering if TikTok makes sense for your brand and/or your team, consider the following questions: 

Is your brand creative?

Do you seek to be culturally relevant?

Are you structured to create content in the moment of a trend?

Will you fit into a community of creators?

Does your brand value fun?

Are you looking to reach a teenage-driven audience?


Check out the rest of the ISL blog to learn more about your social strategy!