blog post | marketing

How to create an effective TikTok Ad: The 2023 Ultimate Guide

TikTok isn’t just an app people use for fun. According to Statista, global user spending on TikTok reached a total of $824 million by the end of last year

So while Facebook and Instagram can encourage conversion, it’s clear that TikTok Ads can be just as, if not more, effective at getting people to buy something.

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But the creative strategy behind TikTok Ads differs significantly from Facebook and Instagram. It’s a far more casual, upbeat, funny environment. To get a great return, your team needs to make a mindset shift and be open to experimentation.

Luckily, I’ve done a lot of experimenting myself and have a formula for making TikTok ads that people actually want to watch. Below, I share the exact steps I take to create a TikTok Ad, what angles work best on TikTok, and how to prepare your marketing team for the differences between TikTok and other ad platforms.

What makes TikTok different from other ad platforms?

TikTok differs from other advertising platforms in terms of how it’s structured, who it attracts, and the type of content it favors.

It’s an entertainment platform

On Facebook and Instagram, users are mainly looking at what their friends post or what celebrities post, and maybe they check out events in their area.

On TikTok, users are there to be entertained. They’re watching crazy stunt videos, news videos, funny videos – it runs the gamut.

And that means TikTok ads need to be entertaining, too. So entertaining that they blend in. Ideally, people watch your ad thinking it’s just another video.

It’s educational

Another aspect of TikTok that’s unique is that it’s more educational than you might think. 40% of Gen Z folks now use TikTok as a search engine. In other words, they’re no longer heading to Google for advice, they’re using TikTok.

Making your ads somewhat informative – in addition to making them entertaining – is a good way to draw your audience in. And it usually produces better results than shoving a sales pitch in their face.

It’s got a unique user base

Even though TikTok has a reputation for being a Gen Z app, that population isn’t the only one using the platform.

In fact, 29% of TikTok users are between the ages of 20 to 29, and 16% are between 30 and 39. So it’s starting to be a good play for not only Gen Z buyers but Millennial buyers, too.

How to create an effective TikTok Ad

Creating a TikTok ad can sound daunting if you’ve not done it before, but it breaks down into just a few steps:

  1. Know your audience – Before you start working on creative, you need to know your audience. You may think you know your audience, but because the age breakdown on TikTok is a little different, it requires more research.

Take advantage of the TikTok Creative Center. It allows you to search any hashtag, topic, or industry and drill into what’s working. You can steal or modify the hooks other companies are using and see how they work for your ads.

  1. Sign up for TikTok – I encourage people to become TikTok users and poke around. See what somebody in your demographic might think is interesting or could be searching for. For instance, if you’re working in the finance space, go on Finance Talk and scroll through some videos to figure out how to work your ad into content that’s already there. That way, your ads aren’t disruptive.
  1. Get experimental – The beauty of TikTok is that it doesn’t require expensive shooting equipment. Just put an MVP ad out there and how it goes. Keep tinkering and learning, and you’ll figure out what resonates with your audience. It’s fun!
  1. Refresh your content – Content fatigue on TikTok is very real. You need to constantly update your content so that it doesn’t get stale to the point people ignore it. For optimal performance, aim to publish one to two new ads per week.

Angles that work on TikTok

There are a few ad concepts that work particularly well on TikTok.

  1. Humor – Humor is big on TikTok. Getting people to laugh will make them want to keep watching your videos.
  1. Current trends – Keeping your finger on the pulse of new sounds, dances, or challenges is key. You’re much more likely to hook people using an audio clip they’ve heard 50 times because they know what format you’re using and want to see your unique spin on it. But keeping up with these trends is tough unless you’re a TikTok user. So again, I recommend signing up yourself.

Note: Importing songs from Spotify and using them on TikTok is copyright infringement, but TikTok prevets all other sounds.

  1. Keeping it real – TikTok doesn’t have a lot of highly-produced content. So when developing ads, think about shooting on an iPhone and not using professional actors. Your ads should feel as authentic to the platform as possible.
  1. Use hashtags – On TikTok, you don’t need to run many hashtags in the actual ad copy, but you can leave four to six tags for your videos. Start with one in your primary video and then add other trending tags. For example, #TikTokmademebuyit was a hashtag we took advantage of for some of our clients.

What about look and feel?

Two stylistic elements work well on TikTok: user-generated content (UGC) and well-known creator content.

UGC content feels like someone picked up their phone and filmed something on a whim. It’s pretty low fidelity, definitely not commercial quality. It looks less polished than a Facebook ad.

Creator content allows you to tap into the audiences creators have already built. You can find influencers on TikTok’s Creative Marketplace and filter based on audience or other attributes. You can also negotiate with creators to have them post the ad they create on their profile to boost your reach.

Even if that’s not possible, you can run Spark ads using that creator’s profile so that it says “paid sponsorship” rather than “sponsored ad” and looks like the ad is coming straight from the creator’s profile.

I’ve found success leveraging UGC and creator content that plays on stylistic elements that are unique to TikTok. Things like duets, stitches, and comment replies are extremely popular and are a great way to hook people in.

For example, you can stitch onto a trending video and end by promoting your service. Dueting takes a bit more cleverness and forethought – you have to play on what someone has already done and weave in your promotional message.

Commenting also gives you a chance to be smart or snarky, all while actively engaging with your audience. And you don’t have to use a comment from a real follower. You can just type something in the comment box and use it to address a pain point that your product solves.

4 examples of great TikTok Ads

There are so many examples of stellar TikTok Ads, but I’ve compiled a few of my favorites to give you insight and inspiration.

1. Jif peanut butter

Jif peanut butter recently did a collaboration with Ludacris. It was a duet campaign, so Ludacris ate a huge spoonful of peanut butter, rapped with it in his mouth, and then passed the mic to anyone who wanted to try to do the same thing.

This campaign went super viral – it was really entertaining. They did a wonderful job combining a stylistic element of TikTok (duets) and creator-led content. And it made people feel almost like they were collaborating with Ludacris.

2. A local company, FOSS Swim School

We talked about recruiting earlier, so I wanted to show another example. FOSS Swim School wanted to try using TikTok as a recruiting channel, so they tested to see if it would work.

These videos worked so well that TikTok became 95% of their recruiting strategy. You can see that FOSS leans very heavily into music and humor. And the best part is these videos cost them virtually nothing to make.

3. Chili Piper

Even B2B companies use TikTok as a recruiting tool, showcasing young employees having fun at work. A great example of this is Chili Piper, a B2B software company.

They exclusively post about how awesome it is to work at Chili Piper and are killing it with this recruiting strategy. Recently, made a video detailing how they got 7,000 applicants for new roles.

4. DoorDash

Doordash is running a massive campaign to recruit drivers. In videos like this one and this one, they use humor to hone in on the flexibility of driving and highlight how much Dashers can make in a day. And again, these videos cost almost nothing for them to make.

3 TikTok metrics to pay attention to

You should always be tracking ad performance – TikTok is no different. And there are some telltale signs of when something is working and when it’s not.

  1. You see engagement – An ad resonates with your audience if they engage with it. Liking and commenting are great, but stitching is the holy grail.
  1. Low cost per result – TikTok has a robust backend that allows you to track early indicators of lead generation. Try to aim for a CTR of over 1%.
  1. High video watch time – If most people watch at least 75% of each video, you’re in a good spot with your audience.

Preparing your marketing team for TikTok

Branded ads generally don’t do well on TikTok, and that’s challenging to communicate to internal brand teams who aren’t used to producing such informal content.

To soften the blow, sit down with them and explain each decision you’re making. Use stats to back up how TikTok advertising differs from Facebook or Instagram, and be sure to share metrics regularly so they see the ROI.

It’ll take time for them to release control, but once they see good performance, they’ll be happy your TikTok strategy is working. You can also remind them that while the ad may look different, it takes users to a landing page or your website that is fully branded.

Leverage TikTok to the fullest

TikTok is quickly setting itself apart from Facebook and Instagram as a fun, innovative digital ads platform. Getting to know your TikTok audience, keeping up with trends, and weaving in your messaging in an entertaining way can get you an extremely high return on your investment.

But venturing into the TikTok world is a big adjustment for most marketing professionals, and it can take time to find your sweet spot. So if you want some guidance and need a team to help you accelerate TikTok growth, book a call with one of our WebMechanix experts.

Or, if you want to get fresh, instructional insights on digital marketing every week, sign up for our Growth Clinics. You can also watch past episodes on our YouTube channel.

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