The best way to advertise on TikTok

Here’s to you. By engaging with this article, you already realise that TikTok is one-of-a-kind when it comes to social media advertising. Here’s a rundown of the best ways to advertise on TikTok.

In an era where cultural trends seem to saturate and homogenise as quickly as they emerge, you get the feeling that TikTok is proud to be the black sheep of the social media flock. Proud to be different from the other platforms. Proud to have an algorithm that seems to recognise intuitively the things that make us unique.

Faced with such idiosyncrasy, your job as a marketer gets a little more complicated. You can’t simply reuse your branded content from other platforms, nor hope to replicate your successes. No, TikTok is a different ballgame. One that requires a marketing strategy and advertising strategy all of its own.

The question is: what’s the best way to advertise on TikTok?

Before we dive in…

Honest answer please. Why are you using TikTok? Cut through the maelstrom of metrics and you realise that all brands want one thing from social media. Revenue. We exist to fast track it. We only work with brands when we know we can generate big – really big – results. So, heads up: we might not be able to work with you. But if we can, the sky is the limit for your ROI from paid media. Really.

“Working with Adbetter, we’ve been able to maintain and grow both trial and paid subscriber numbers during an uncertain and choppy year. The team were able to integrate with our reporting workflow, which is invaluable for keeping track of our KPIs and having a central point of truth for measuring campaign performance.”

Tim Jarvis, CEO & Founder,

How do TikTok ads work?

For all that TikTok is unique among its rivals, the ad interface is pleasingly slick. Certainly if you have recently run campaigns on Instagram or Facebook, TikTok will feel like a home from home. Expect options for ad type, campaign objective, budget control and more. But where TikTok’s interface really empowers you is with the audience targeting options.

You can target TikTok users based on how they’ve interacted with your brand, or even find lookalikes of these users with similar qualities to these audience groups. You can target your ideal audience based on location, age, gender, hobbies, interests – even the type of mobile device they use. You can even target based on predicted willingness to convert on TikTok.

Bottom line: TikTok’s suite of targeting tools means you can make your ad spend as accountable as possible – targeting exactly the people you want to reach.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to publishing a lead gen ad on TikTok.

>> Is TikTok good for lead generation?

TikTok ad variants

You have six different styles of ad at your disposal on TikTok.

  • In-feed ads: In-feed ads appear as the user is scrolling through their For You Page. It’s the most organic way of displaying an ad, minimally disruptive and tends to receive good engagement. The ads can include a CTA to a form or landing page but are skippable.
  • Spark ads: With a Spark ad you can reuse existing organic content as your ad creative – whether it’s your own or someone else’s (remember to ask the creator for permission). Again, these ads appear in the feed and the user can skip them.
  • TopView ads: These ads appear right at the top of a user’s feed, before they begin scrolling. They are displayed full screen and autoplay with sound.
  • Brand takeover ads: A five-second, full screen video (or series of images) displayed the moment a user opens the app. Only one brand can be showcased in this space per day. That means no competition. Your ad will be served to literally every user who opens TikTok that day. It’s prime real estate, with a price tag to match.
  • Branded effects: Create your own shareable stickers, filters and special effects for the TikTok masses to add to their own TikTok content. Ideal for encouraging user generated content (UGC).
  • Branded hashtag challenges: Create a hashtag and invite TikTokers to unleash their creativity. When a user taps a branded hashtag they will be taken to a page describing the rules of the challenge. It’s a good mechanism for building buzz around your brand and generating a stack of UGC. Keep in mind that branded hashtags can be hijacked by people creating unrelated content.

So what type of ad works best on TikTok? Well that depends on your brand, your budget and your ambitions. But the short answer is that unless you have a large – very large – budget, in-feed ads are likely to be your best option. These ads have a time limit of 60 seconds, though TikTok recommend a sweet spot of 9-15 seconds.

What type of content is best for TikTok ads?

Not to labour the point, but it really is crucial to understand that content is different on TikTok. That includes heavily branded content. Branded ads that have been successful on other platforms are likely to stick out like the proverbial sore thumb on TikTok – and not in a good way.

It’s a platform where being in the moment matters. Carefully scripted, immaculately polished content just doesn’t tend to work. It’s about candid authenticity. Lo-fi spontaneity. It’s about revealing the human side of your brand and breaking down the traditional boundaries between company and customer.

  • TikTok users feel closer to brands that publish unpolished content featuring everyday people (source).
  • 74% of Gen Z and 72% of audiences over the age of 26 say that they most want to see funny content from brands (source).

You will find plenty of features within the app that will help you shoot, edit and publish your video straight from your smartphone. And that’s what you should be aiming to do, rather than calling in a ten-person production crew. It requires a leap of faith – especially when you are accustomed to making sure your marketing collateral is squeaky clean and just right.

But that’s TikTok.

So how does this translate to content strategy? Well TikTok lends itself naturally to very visual, visceral content.

Here are some ideas.

Product demonstrations: Among the best content for TikTok ads in terms of performance is the sort of content you might find on a shopping channel. Think infomercials of an air fryer being used. Except instead of the cloying sales shtick, you are sharing a mouthwatering guide to creating crispy chicken enchiladas that are super easy to make with the air fryer.

Tutorials and how tos: Tutorials and how to guides also work really well on TikTok. Think along the lines of make up demonstrations that showcase your new foundation. Or guides on how to propagate a cutting from a houseplant – showcasing not just your green-fingered expertise, but also your amazing hand-illustrated ceramic pots.

Customer stories: TikTok can work for service-based businesses too. Think in terms of before-and-after content that shows the impact your business has made with services such as landscape gardening or architecture. You could also run short, snappy and light-hearted Q&As with a previous customer or client where they explain in their own words how your business has helped them.

Behind the scenes: Audiences love being taken behind the scenes on TikTok. In an age of advertising when consumer scepticism is high, lifting the curtain on your production facilities or sharing a little about how your product is made can go a long way to building trust and legitimacy in your brand and inspiring customer loyalty.

TikTok advertising: 5 success stories

The buzz around TikTok advertising isn’t just lip service. Real brands are getting real results – and finding huge new audiences in the process.

  • Twig: 266,000 app installs after a campaign that achieved a 50% conversion rate (source).
  • healthxcel: 400% rise in sales after a campaign that received over two million impressions (source).
  • Bolt: Achieved a 1,977% uplift in app installs (source).
  • Underdays: TikTok campaign had a watch time that was 200% higher than on other platforms (source).
  • Bibit: Increased user registrations for mobile app by 414% (source).

What are the cons to TikTok advertising?

As you can see, TikTok has vast potential for returns when it comes to ad spend. But let’s be real. It’s not yet the advertising utopia some would have you believe. There are hurdles to overcome if you want results.

There’s a high barrier to entry. TikTok is home to a unique type of content. You can’t simply repurpose marketing collateral from other platforms if you are serious about ROI.

Ads fatigue quickly. TikTok content ages faster than on other platforms. The user base and the algorithm have a voracious appetite for the new. Keeping up can be a significant strain on your time.  

Working with content creators is hard. If you are outsourcing content creation, there’s a lot to think about: finding creators, briefing them, agreeing rates, editing content and more. That all takes time and some heavy lifting in terms of admin.

It doesn’t convert as well as other platforms. Yet. The truth is that – right now – your ad spend is probably better directed at other platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, in terms of generating returns. But – and it’s a big but – TikTok is growing fast, and ad revenue is growing with it. TikTok is primed to become the next kingpin in social advertising. And the sooner you begin experimenting with what works for your brand, the sooner you can outmanoeuvre your competitors.

More from us:

>> Is TikTok good for lead generation?
>> Developing a successful TikTok marketing strategy
>> TikTok vs Instagram: which is best for paid media advertising?

Our pitch to you…

When it comes to getting results on TikTok, there can be a lot of experimentation required. A lot of parameters to explore. But we already know what works. And we offer a one-stop-shop for brands who want to get big ­– really big – returns from their ad spend.

And sure, we get it. You’re probably thinking: “Okay, but how much do ad agencies charge for TikTok?” And perhaps you’d be right to be sceptical. Working with some agencies can be expensive – and results are far from guaranteed. But we do things differently.

We’re focused purely on performance. So much so that if we don’t think we can bring you transformative returns, we won’t work with you. If we do work together, we charge a flat fee for ad content and a commission on ad spend that decreases as you scale.

Take a look at our case studies and see what we’ve done for other clients. You could be next.