Developing a winning TikTok ad strategy

TikTok is a platform unlike any other – where the right type of ads can generate huge returns. Here are some tips on developing a winning TikTok ad strategy.

In the brilliant book Storynomics, authors Robert McKee and Thomas Gerace are quick to highlight the dwindling efficacy of traditional advertising. Consumer scepticism is high. Attention is thin. Engagement is low.

Paid media can buck the trend. And there’s one platform in particular where the trend-bucking is starting to become especially eye catching: TikTok.

In brain imaging studies, In-Feed Ads achieved 23% higher detail memory than TV ads. TopView ads outperformed TV by 40%.

Yet TikTok can be unpredictable.

Results can be erratic.

How do you get on the right side of the metrics?

That’s where a good TikTok ad strategy comes in.

Before we dive in…

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Aqib Hassan, CCO, CPIC | Gwadar Click

How do TikTok ads work?

If you’ve ever advertised on either of the Meta platforms, TikTok will feel pleasingly familiar. The interface is slick and comes with clear options for ad types, campaign objectives and budget control. But the real strength in TikTok’s ad interface comes in the audience profiling tools.

With TikTok, you can target users with laser-like precision, tailoring your audience based on criteria such as age, interests, hobbies, or even the type of mobile device they use. With TikTok, you can target users with laser-like precision, tailoring your audience based on criteria such as age, interests, hobbies, or even the type of mobile device they use. Moreover, you can dive deeper into audience segmentation by targeting users based on household & disposable income (depending on the location you’re targeting), and their propensity to convert on TikTok. In a nutshell, the vast array of profiling options available allows you to make your ad spend as accountable as possible, pinpointing exactly the audience you aim to reach.

We’ve written a step-by-step guide to publishing a TikTok lead generation ad here.

>> Is TikTok good for lead generation?

Campaign objectives

What are you aiming for?

Firing out ads on social media can be exciting – especially once the performance stats start rolling in. But hold fire. Resist the urge to dive in. Before anything, sit down and figure out what you want to achieve with your TikTok ads. More followers? More traffic to your website? Cold, hard revenue? Define an objective, then plot a roadmap backwards. TikTok’s ad interface can help – and will give you options for defining your campaign target.

How it ties into wider marketing strategy

It’s fun to experiment on TikTok, given the uniqueness of the platform. But never lose sight of your wider marketing strategy. There should be a sense of cohesion with your broader marketing activities and long-term business ambitions – whether that’s greater brand awareness, more sales or something else.

If you are running cross-channel campaigns, make sure your other marketing channels are optimised and aligned. E.g. if your TikTok ad is pushing users to a specific landing page, make sure it’s optimised and the journey is cohesive and streamlined.

What type of ads work best on TikTok?

There are six different types 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 typically gets good engagement. Ads are skippable and can include a CTA button to a form or webpage.
  • 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 (make sure you ask the original creator for permission). Again, these ads appear in the feed and can be skipped.
  • 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 immediately after a user opens the app. Only one brand can be showcased in this space per day. That means zero competition. Your ad will be displayed to everyone who opens the app that day. 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 get creative with. Ideal for encouraging user generated content (UGC).
  • Branded hashtag challenges: Create a hashtag and encourage TikTokers to get creative. Tapping a branded hashtag will take the user to a page describing the rules of the challenge. It’s a good mechanism for building noise around your brand and generating a stack of UGC. Though keep in mind that branded hashtags can be hijacked by people creating unrelated content.

Which type of ad is right for your brand? For many the answer is based on budget. Unless your CFO has very deep pockets, the most cost-effective way to advertise on TikTok is with in-feed ads. These have a time limit of 60 seconds, though TikTok recommend a sweet spot of 9-15 seconds.

In terms of content strategy? The key thing to keep in mind is that polished content is not the norm on TikTok. You shouldn’t simply reuse the content you have produced for other campaigns on different platforms. TikTok users are accustomed to seeing the human side of brands. So aim for content that’s more lo-fi and light-hearted.

  • 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).

Take users behind the curtain. Show your product being made. Run Q&A’s with staff. Just don’t take yourself too seriously. This is not the place for a solemn recital of your USPs. Want some tried and tested inspiration for nailing your ads? There’s a stack of content ideas for successful TikTok ads in the article below.

>> What type of ads work best on TikTok?

Measuring success: dive in to your data

Keeping a keen eye on your ad performance is a no brainer. You may identify certain trends that allow you to double down on the stuff that works (while ditching the stuff that doesn’t). Even if you don’t want to tweak your campaign while it’s live, you can still learn important lessons for future campaigns.

TikTok has a user-friendly analytics interface. And the data you gather from lead generation campaigns can be synced directly with your marketing tech stack using tools like Zapier or a custom API. (Here’s how.)

How much do TikTok ads cost?

A simple enough question. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a simple answer. Not least because TikTok keep their precise pricing policy something of a secret. What we do know is that premium advertising real estate – such as brand takeover ads – on TikTok will set you back tens of thousands of pounds.

For in-feed ads, research suggests that cost-per-click is around $1, and cost-per-view can be as low as $0.03. It all depends on the type of audience you are targeting, the size of the audience you are targeting, the duration of your campaign and a host of other variables.

That may seem like you don’t have much control of your budget. But TikTok provides plenty of tools to ensure that’s not the case. Set a daily budget and TikTok will give you an estimate of the number of accounts your campaign will reach. You can set limits of daily spend and pause your campaign any time.

Of course there are secondary costs to factor in too. Such as the cost of actually creating your video content. That’s especially true if you are working with external agencies or influencers. Aim to get all of the necessary numbers at the planning stage so you can make smart use of your budget.

What are the cons to TikTok advertising?

TikTok has vast potential for returns when it comes to ad spend. But it’s not quite the advertising utopia many would have you believe. As is so often the case, getting big results tends to require a lot of work.

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. Both the user base and the algorithm have a voracious appetite for the new. Keeping it fed can be a significant demand on your time.

Working with content creators is hard. If you are outsourcing your content creation, there’s a lot to think about: finding creators, briefing them, agreeing rates, editing content and more.

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. It’s primed to overtake other social platforms sooner rather than later. Therefore the sooner you begin experimenting with what works for your brand, the sooner you can outmanoeuvre your competitors.

More from us:

>> TikTok vs Instagram: which is best for paid media advertising?

How Adbetter can help

Advertising isn’t dying. But it’s evolving fast. We help brands stay ahead of the curve – and generate big returns by excelling with paid media. That’s not just lip service. We challenge you to read a case study or two. If we don’t think we can generate the same type of returns for your brand, we won’t work with you. But if we can? The sky is the limit. Ask the question. It’s free.