In recent years, nothing has sparked as much debate in the B2B marketing world as TikTok.
The video-focused social phenomenon most widely associated with Gen Z-ers performing short dance routines amounted to 1 billion users in 2021. However, B2B marketers are still wary of braving their way through this relatively unknown territory.
Is it worth it? What does it bring to the table? Are B2B audiences even scrolling through TikTok?
Todd Clouser wants to set the record straight — TikTok is definitely worth it. And in a year, everyone — yes, even B2B marketers — will be on there.
In the latest episode of Ungated Marketing, Todd Clouser, Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Refine Labs and unofficial B2B-Tok pioneer, walks us through how he got his start on TikTok and how he’s been using it to leverage his presence on other platforms.
Todd’s TikTok Tactics
Todd Clouser is no stranger to social media platforms and growing audience and communities on several channels, which he has been successfully doing for over ten years.
Maybe for that reason, he didn’t shy away from getting his hands on TikTok as well. His plan, he says, “is to basically be at the forefront of creating that B2B Marketing community on TikTok.” And his goal? “To use TikTok content to demonstrate how much better I can grow. And create demand on LinkedIn through that TikTok content.”
Repurposing Content on LinkedIn
Todd’s core strategy to make TikTok work for him lies in repurposing some of the videos he posts there on LinkedIn. It’s been working so well so far that his goal has become “[demonstrating] 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.”
For the better part of two years, he adds, he was using LinkedIn exclusively to share text posts, which got him to approximately 1500 followers. In January 2022, when he decided to start posting TikTok content to LinkedIn on a regular basis, 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.”
Once his audience started engaging with the content, Todd took this strategy one step further, by asking people what they wanted to see next on his profile. He explains: “Monday I put out a poll, which is like, ‘which video do you want to see tomorrow?’ And there are always two choices. [...] The goal behind it is [to] get the audience involved in the type of content that I'm going to put out.” Additionally, this tactic offers Todd weekly insights on what type of content his audience is more eager to consume, which enables him to tap into that to tailor his content creation process. After the votes are in, “whichever one of those videos wins on Monday, I put that up on Tuesday, and then whichever one loses comes out on Thursday. If, you know, it's a 60/40 split, the people that voted for the 40% loser, they still get the content. They [just] have to stick around a couple more days to get it.”
Consistency is very important on TikTok, which is why Todd sticks to a regular publication schedule there, creating and publishing the videos his audience wants to see twice a week, plus a mix of other videos in the days in between.
Pillars of Content
So, what kinds of videos exactly is Todd creating?
“I have these three pillars [of content] on TikTok. [...] I have a series called ‘The Remote Office’, [where] I kind of mock zoom culture or remote culture. Then I have one called ‘If B2B Marketing Did…’ and then it's just like XYZ, fill in the blank. I've done ‘If B2B Marketing did Documentaries’, ‘If B2B Marketing did the Five O'Clock News,’ just throw in whatever thing you want in there. [...] And then more recently I've been doing, I don't really have a name for it, but it's kind of like if movies were about B2B marketing. I take a classic movie clip or TV show clip, and I cut out one piece of one side of the dialogue, and then I will reframe that dialogue, so it makes sense for B2B and then the other person's reacting to that.”
Although the videos from these series Todd ends up sharing on LinkedIn are more produced than those that live only on TikTok, they’re still very entertainment-focused. Todd explains that there’s always an underlying message he wants to convey, but he prefers to keep the entertainment factor in the forefront. It makes his videos easier to watch and share while making the message more memorable.
Choosing three pillars of content was an idea he got from observing how TikTok content behaves.
Todd keeps a separate account where he doesn’t post anything or engage with any of the content he comes across. Instead, he just scrolls through the platform, and “this way, TikTok is constantly giving me the best of the best to see. By doing that, I have a constant feed of [...] [what the] people who have 40 million followers are doing to get the kind of reach that they’re getting.”
When he comes across one of these huge-following creators, he goes on their profiles and spends some time looking through their videos. Todd claims this was a game-changer in the way he approaches TikTok content creation because even if those creators have nothing to do with B2B Marketing, he says there are subtle things they do that can be applied to any person or business.
“That's the reason I've come out with these three content pillars. Because in doing that research, I've realized there are accounts that I get fed their content, and it's always the same series.” Todd gives an example of @kallmekris, a TikTok creator with 43 million followers and whose content would appear during his scrolling on the platform. He noticed he always saw the same kinds of videos, but when he checked out her profile, he saw two other series she does on a regular basis. However, Todd only sees the one because that’s what he engages with. This is due to the fact that TikTok’s algorithm works very well at “feeding you content at the content level and not the account level.”
This learning led him to create his three pillars of content, which cover the same topics but with different deliveries. That way, he’s able to cater to people’s preferences depending on how they engage with each content series.
How to Get Started on TikTok
Getting started on TikTok is often the bottleneck. People are not sure what they should be posting about, and since it’s a video-focused platform, they feel nervous about putting themselves out there and appearing in front of the camera.
Todd admits that even with his background of running a YouTube channel for ten years, TikTok forced him to step out of his comfort zone. In the beginning, he felt very camera shy, but once he found the content he loved creating, everything started flowing more smoothly.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before you even start thinking about posting content on TikTok, there’s a lot of groundwork to cover.
Get to Know the Platform
As already mentioned, Todd spends a lot of time scrolling through TikTok on his “scroll-only” account. And that’s precisely his number one tip.
“Before you start creating content, scroll the platform for a while. Because your first, I don't know an exact number, but we'll say like your first five to eight posts, will set the stage for how easily you gain growth moving forward,” Todd explains, which is why it’s crucial to get to know the platform first to see what works on there or not. In doing so, “you can be way more effective in those first couple of posts, and you’ll see that growth happens a lot faster.”
This reconnaissance process also allows you to identify popular trends on TikTok.
One of the most easily recognizable are dances or choreographies, but another big one is audio, either in the form of songs or voice clips that are often taken from movies, TV shows, and even viral YouTube or Vine videos.
Todd’s view on audio trends is that they can definitely be part of your content, but you shouldn’t put all your eggs in that basket.
“With trend strategy, what I do is I try to come up with super original content, which is the stuff I put out on LinkedIn. And then in-between, I’ll use trends.”
What this does is increase the chances of his content reaching a wider audience by using an audio clip TikTok is already loving. So, Todd clarifies, “when one of those original pieces of content come up [on a person’s feed] they’re like ‘I’ve seen this guy before, but this is really good, let me give him a follow.’”
Experiment with Content
From his TikTok experience so far, Todd has come to the conclusion that “there’s room for different types of content on the same channel, as long as they’re speaking to the same audience.”
And in order to find the type(s) of content you want to create and which resonates better with the people you’re trying to reach, there’s nothing like experimentation.
When he first started out, Todd was taking his LinkedIn text posts and turning those into vertical videos, by summarizing the post’s general idea and talking it out. Later, when he had worked up enough confidence to turn to a more entertainment-focused style, that’s what he did. And by experimenting with a new content format, he found what worked best for him. He says that “the first one got such good feedback that it was like ‘yeah, this is the way that I’m going to go with it.’”
TikTok and YouTube: Differences and Similarities
With over ten years of experience in running YouTube channels, Todd is well aware of the differences and similarities between YouTube and TikTok.
“[They’re] totally different in how people use the platform. TikTok is very much like a scrolling social feed, best compared to Instagram or LinkedIn or any of those. Whereas YouTube is – I hate calling it – a search engine. I follow people that I go specifically to YouTube just to watch their content, which you don't do on a search engine. But at its core, that’s what it is.”
Despite a huge difference in behavior from a users’ perspective, both platforms suggest content similarly.
Todd explains how they work: “Watch time is the number one indicator of if a [piece of] content is worthy of being shared. You can't trick TikTok or YouTube with stuffing keywords into a description or anything like that.” Additionally, they both look at clickthrough rates and time on the platform, which means that “if [you] can get a lot of people to click through [your] video, and then from there, if [you] can get them to watch the entire video and move on to another video, [your] content is going to do extremely well,” which Todd explains is the way TikTok also works.
However, one aspect of growing an audience where these platforms differ is community.
Because TikTok behaves more like a social media channel than YouTube, your content is more likely to be viewed by people, whether because you’re producing the content they engage with or tapping into a current trend. But on YouTube, you’ll need to rely much more on building a community. In Todd’s words, the most common mistake people make when starting a YouTube channel is “they create a piece of content that they think the market wants and they throw it out there, and maybe they'll chop it up and put it out on other channels, and they just kind of hope [that it] does well.” If you’re just starting out and have no other videos on your channel, that’s not going to cut it.
Instead, Todd suggests starting by looking for other channels that have already built the audience that you want. Then, stack rank their content from the past six months to a year, and finally, go through their comment section and pinpoint every comment that has a significant amount of reactions. And start creating your content from there. “If someone asks a question and 50 people respond to it, that comment becomes video number one. And when I do that, when I create that video, I specifically call out the person that asked that question, you know, so-and-so asked this question on whoever's channel, and these were some of the answers I saw, but here's my perspective and why.” By doing so, you’ll be creating videos and building your YouTube channel while, at the same time, connecting with people and building a community by offering them tailor-made content.
Are Influencers the Future of B2B Marketing?
Talking about social media channels is almost synonymous with talking about influencers. You can find them on all platforms, even on LinkedIn. Does that mean that we can expect influencers to be part of B2B marketing as well?
For Todd, the answer is yes and no.
He clarifies: “Yes, in the sense that there will be influencers. [But] don’t think it’s going to look the same as it is in B2C. I don’t think there’s going to be a point where it’s like ‘[Hey,] you have this great following, and I’m going to pay you a thousand dollars for a TikTok post saying how great my software is.’ I think people would see right through that.”
Rather than the future being about B2B influencers, it’s going to be about B2B content creators.
Todd foresees one of two things happening.
The first scenario is companies looking into people who are already creating content in their business niche and hiring them to create content in-house every day.
The second scenario is a shift in the SDR role. Todd shares his view on this by saying that “right now, 80% of [an SDR’s] time may be spent, dialling and cold calling,” but that’s likely to change soon “especially as Gen Z comes into these roles.” He believes 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.”
It’s impossible to say with all certainty what the future of B2B marketing will look like. But the present, it’s safe to say, is looking a lot like a TikTok video.
To hear more of Todd’s tips and tricks to succeed at video content creation and leveraging your TikTok channel, listen to the full episode below or tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Google Podcasts.