My relationship with TikTok started in June 2020.
Fresh out of the first lockdown in Portugal, I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in months. She was raving about TikTok. I’d heard of it, of course, but deemed it age-inappropriate for a nearly 30-year-old. But my friend showed me her feed, we watched a few videos that made me giggle, and she convinced me to download the app and create my own account.
When I first signed up for the app, I was flooded with videos that had nothing to do with the ones my friend showed me. You see, her feed was already perfectly curated for her, and since we have similar interests and sense of humor, I enjoyed it, too. But one thing about the TikTok algorithm is that it works hard. So after a bit of scrolling, and my friend sharing videos with me directly on the app’s messages, TikTok got me. My feed is now a perfect pool of content filled with millennials suffering from anxiety and reminiscing about better days, dog training tips, Harry Styles, vegetarian recipes, and Taylor Swift album release theories.
However, no matter how hooked I am to the content that TikTok presents me every day, there’s one thing I won’t be caught doing — creating TikTok content. I remain a faithful observer, since, almost two years later, I’m still not sure what kind of content I could create to share specifically on that platform.
And this is exactly how I feel when it comes to creating TikTok content for Landbot. We’ve been debating for months whether or not we should create a business TikTok account and, if we did, what we would post there. There are some things we know we could do, like jumping in on trends that are, forgive the repetition, trending.
Yet the question remains — do we even need a TikTok account? Does any B2B business?
Keep reading as I try to come to a conclusion that can possibly change my career forever.
TikTok Facts and Stats
While TikTok is still a non-consensual platform among B2B marketers, the numbers don’t lie about its relevance in the social media context.
Back in September 2021, TikTok announced that it had reached the mark of 1 billion monthly active users on the app. That is still less than other social media platforms, but it represents a growth of forty-five percent compared to the previously reported number, which was 689 million monthly active users in July 2020.
Who are these users, you might ask?
Forty-seven percent of them are people aged from 10 to 29, which represents a decrease in the number of users in that age group. In fact, it’s followed closely by the age group from 30 to 49 with forty-two percent of users. This is something to consider, since the common assumption is that TikTok is mostly targeted at and used by Gen Zers. While they are still the majority, older Millennials are now also a big presence on the app. This, in turn, is something businesses (and marketers) can no longer ignore, because more and more audiences, including B2B audiences, are increasingly becoming TikTok users.
Additionally, sixty-one percent of TikTok’s audience is female, and the majority of users — 80 million of them — are based in the US.
Now, when it comes to TikTok usage, people spend a lot of time there. I can attest to that. I’ve recently seen my screen time rise to up to 4-5 hours daily, and this includes workdays (I probably shouldn’t have said that, but moving on). TikTok, you might have guessed, was taking up most of that screen time.
Like me, other users scroll and scroll on their For You pages, amounting to 24 monthly hours of watched content on TikTok. This might not seem like a lot; it doesn’t even add up to 1 hour each day. However, if you consider that most TikTok videos are under one minute long — the app’s recommended video length is 21 to 34 seconds — that is a lot of videos watched. For brands, it means there’s a lot of potential to squeeze into that time and show up in users’ feeds.
The time users spend on TikTok can, in part, be attributed to the type of content they seek out on the app. Admittedly, thirty percent of Gen Zers are already using TikTok for product research, as opposed to Millennials and older audiences who display the same behaviour on Instagram or Youtube. Be that as it may, over half of TikTok users go there seeking funny and entertaining videos that tickle their funny bone.
So, even if you’re in B2B, if you wish to succeed on TikTok, you need to find a way to be entertaining and give users the content they want.
B2B Marketers Against TikTok
It’s hard to argue with the numbers. One billion users is an impressive figure and, paired with the growth TikTok has been seeing in the last couple of years, it’s almost impossible to ignore.
Still, a lot of B2B marketers, us over at Landbot included, are weary of giving TikTok a go. That’s not to say we don’t see the platform’s value, it’s just that getting a jump start on it can be tricky.
Throughout the first season of the Ungated Marketing podcast, we interviewed a lot of marketing professionals from several different fields and areas of expertise — including B2B, social media, and even TikTok. And while some of these B2B marketing experts have been successfully running experiments on TikTok and finding a way to leverage the platform for business, they still admit it’s a difficult one to master. Those difficulties, in turn, might explain why other marketers still steer away from it, or give the platform up after an unsuccessful first try at it.
Failure to Launch
Even though TikTok has been working well for Semrush, an online SEO and visibility management tool (it doesn’t get more B2B than that), Olga Andrienko, the company’s VP of Brand Marketing, admits she was reluctant to go down the TikTok road.
Despite that, the team went ahead and experimented with it, and found both success and learnings along the way.
One of the main things they realized was that your TikTok account needs to be visible from the start, or else it will never find traction. “What we learned is that if the account doesn't pick up within three weeks or so, then you need to create a new one. Because the algorithm already thinks that that account is irrelevant.”
I already mentioned that the TikTok algorithm very accurately knows what kind of content it should present in your feed. It works by looking at your user interactions, video information and device and account settings. Those user interactions include the accounts you follow, the videos you like and/or share, the ones you add to your favorites, and the content you create on your own account.
What this mean for you, a B2B marketer just beginning your TikTok experience, is that the content you post on your business account will need to find its way into users For You pages right from the start. If it fails to match with a specific niche or audience from the get go, it will most likely fall through the cracks of the TikTok algorithm. And if that happens, it’s enough to make you frustrated, deem the experiment a failure, and set TikTok aside altogether.
Consumers > Creators
The technology behind the TikTok algorithm helps explain the second learning Olga and the Semrush team got from their TikTok trials — that it is the channel of consumers, not creators.
Olga explains that “98% of people who are in TikTok never even published one video. [...] We realized that most of the audience that TikTok has, they're consuming content; they’re not creating it. And this means that they want to be entertained, or they want something educational, but at the end of the day, they're there to discover something.”
That being said, if the platform is tailor-made for consumers, it’s not wonder some creators struggle to find their place among the crowd, especially those in the B2B landscape.
If consumers open their TikTok apps looking for entertainment, what kind of content are B2B marketers to create? You can create educational, even sales-y content, but if you really want to tap into TikTok audiences, you’re going to have to create content that’s specific for TikTok — funny and entertaining.
And that’s an added workload on a marketing team’s job. While on other platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, content is easily repurposed from one channel to another, the same is not to be said for TikTok. Not just that, but being video-based, TikTok almost always requires someone to stand in front of the camera. So not only do you need to create specific content for it, you need to find someone in your team who is not camera-shy and is willing to show up, showcase their sense of humor and possibly do the Lizzo dance.
Not For You (Page)
That being said, TikTok might just not be the channel for you.
Let’s not forget that any social media efforts you take on should somehow be beneficial for business, whether that’s bringing in leads or contributing to your brand’s online reputation.
Sometimes, certain tactics just don’t work. SparkToro’s Rand Fishkin recalls an experiment they ran with a TikTok influencer. “We had a video that was viewed several 100,000 times that was essentially [about] just using SparkToro and it was from a TikTok influencer in the marketing universe.” Looking just at the views, it seems like a successful video. And yet, it made Rand realize that TikTok was not the right channel for SpartToko to allocate resources to. “It did phenomenally well in terms of numbers of views and level of engagement and it did drive a massive amount of traffic. [But] that traffic was worthless.”
In this case, it really does depend on the expectations and goals you set for your social media channels. You need to go in with a clear purpose in mind and work towards that, and if you see that a channel is not the right one to reach your objectives, then just let it go. No hard feelings.
B2B Marketers For TikTok
Okay, but what about the B2B marketers I mentioned who are successfully using TikTok? Who are they? What have they been doing and how?
I’m getting to that, but first, let me tease you with the following statement by one of our podcast guests, Refine Labs’ Todd Clouser, who goes as far as saying that TikTok for B2B is definitely worth it because, in a year, everyone, and he means everyone, will be on there.
Now that I’ve hopefully sparked your curiosity, let’s have a look at the different TikTok approaches and the benefits these experts have been reaping from them.
Repurposed Content on Other Platforms
I know I said repurposed content doesn’t work on TikTok. Fortunately, content that is created specifically for TikTok can work really well on other platforms.
Sharing TikTok videos on LinkedIn is precisely Todd Clouser’s main strategy to make the best use of the platform. He’s seen such good results, in fact, that his goal has become to “[demonstrate] how well TikTok works on LinkedIn, so I can show the B2B community that this platform has a real use case, even if your customers aren’t creating content on [there] right now.”
What results exactly are we talking about?
Well, Todd has seen a massive increase in his LinkedIn following ever since implementing this strategy. Up until he decided to do that, in January 2022, he focused exclusively on sharing text posts, which got him to around 1500 followers. When he decided to start posting TikTok content on LinkedIn, he went “from 1600 [followers] to almost 7000 in the course of two months, which, most people on LinkedIn will agree with me, is pretty rare growth on that platform.”
The question is, why TikTok videos work so well on LinkedIn. And the simple answer is: vertical videos.
If you think about your own experience scrolling through LinkedIn, you’ll most likely see text posts about job updates, every now and then you come across a poll, but the content is all very similar. A vertical video is already a good break from this, but once you notice the TikTok watermark on it, you almost immediately think you might be in for a treat due to TikTok’s entertaining nature. Todd explains that “people's stereotype of TikTok is that it's like 100% entertainment, like funny content. So it makes you stop.” He adds that “you’re in this dry, boring environment most of the time,” so the expectation you create just from seeing the TikTok watermark is enough of a breath of fresh air to make that type of content work well.
Leveraging Employees’ Social Profiles
Todd is a Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Refine Labs, where there is a consolidated culture of leveraging employees’ social media profiles to sell the business’s products. On one of the earliest podcast episodes, Chris Walker, the company’s founder and CEO, explained the reasoning behind this strategy, that includes “a multiple hour training on how to optimize their LinkedIn profile, how to create new connections, how to comment on people's posts, and how to post their own content. And then we give them the freedom and flexibility to do whatever they want.” After successfully implementing this strategy on LinkedIn, the RefineLabs team is now transposing it to TikTok.
Refine Labs’ TikTok page showcases content uploaded directly to the business page, but very often also content created by its employees on their TikTok pages, including Todd:
When asked about the need for Refine Labs to have a TikTok presence, Chris says that following that direction was very clear, since he saw in the platform the same pattern that made for Facebook’s or Instagram’s success. As he recalls, when Instagram first started, it was a platform for photographers to post their pictures; cue to a few years later, and it was the most dominant social platform in the world for all things, including B2B consumer information. As for TikTok, he doesn’t shy away from stating: “What people don't see is that now Instagram is Facebook and TikTok is Instagram.”
Catering to Younger Audiences
As a B2B company, it may very well be that your audience is not and never will be on TikTok. That’s fair. Although, that doesn’t mean there is no one interesting for you in the platform.
Who’s to say that one of the Gen Zers who stumble upon your TikTok content aren’t your future marketer of the month?
One of the other things Semrush’s Olga Andrienko learned along her team’s journey through TikTok is that, in the platform, they found a way to make Semrush people’s “gateway drug” to marketing. What she means by that is that, on TikTok, they want to “[reach] people who are not marketing savvy, who’ve had zero experience in marketing. These are students, these are people who are willing to change their career and then start something they haven't started before.” Being used still mostly by younger generations, TikTok is the perfect entry point for people starting or wanting to kickstart their careers in marketing or social media.
Todd Clouser takes it one step further. For him, younger people who already master all these new channels might apply that knowledge to other roles. He specifically sees a shift in the SDR role. Today, an SDR spends most of their time cold calling, but for Todd, that is likely to change soon. “As Gen Z comes into these roles, the more forward-thinking companies are going to add content creation as a heavy part of that SDR role. So instead of spending 80% of [their] time cold calling, [they’re] going to spend 80% of time creating content and the other 20% maybe calling people and doing more customer research from a marketing perspective.”
So don’t be surprised if one day you get a cold call from your favorite TikTok influencer.
The Only Possible Conclusion
After all this, do I know if you’re going to see Landbot TikTok videos in your For You page anytime soon?
Sorry, I still don’t.
If there’s one thing we know for sure is that, if we ever decide to jump on board the TikTok train, we need to have a very clear view of what we’re going to create, which trends are relevant for us, and have a consistent plan and schedule to back it up. It might happen sooner rather than later, or not at all, or I might swallow my words that I’d never show my face on that app.
Until then, there’s a rumor that Taylor Swift is releasing 1989 (Taylor’s Version) tomorrow, so excuse me while I go check out what new theories came out while I was writing this article.