Oh no. Oh no. Oh no no no.
How iteration is the key to TikTok.
A newsletter about branding, startups, and mission-driven companies aiming to make the world a better place.
👋 Welcome to For The Love, so happy to have you all here!
Today we’ll be discussing:
How an Instagram-famous brand is using TikTok
A roundup of new launches this week, including a pair of shoes that *spawned* some controversy (and a lawsuit).
A new product to help you multitask?
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💣 For The Love of Startups
TikTok has over 100 million active users in the US, 50 million of which are using the app daily.
It has been downloaded over 2 billion times worldwide.
Given the size of its audience, it’s no wonder brands are trying to get involved — some more effectively than others.
Take, for instance, JLo’s #LoveDontCostAThing challenge where she encouraged fans to head to the beach and fling off their clothes and jewelry to the tune of her 2000 hit of the same name. Unsurprisingly, people were not clamoring to travel to a beach and throw away their precious belongings during a global pandemic and mass unemployment.
Conversely, the brand Aerie launched the #AerieREALPositivity challenge, encouraging people to post something they’re grateful for, and it currently has 2.2 billion views.
But you don’t have to start a hashtag challenge to have success as a brand on TikTok. I spoke to Serria Thomas, Senior PR Manager at Winky Lux, a line of cruelty-free makeup and skincare, to understand how they’re now approaching TikTok, after massive success on Instagram (over 420k followers and counting).
“Winky Lux blew up because of social media, not TikTok because we didn't have it five and a half years ago, but we have all of these really beautiful products…and they just resonated well on social.”
THE SPAGHETTI TEST
“There are so many different forms that do well on TikTok, and yet, you never really know what's going to do well. We're kind of just throwing a bunch at the wall to see how it does...just testing to see what works,” Serria told me.
After years on the platform, the team has a pretty good understanding of what works on Instagram, but TikTok? Not quite yet. While some elements transfer over from Instagram, TikTok is a unique platform with a distinct audience, format, and aesthetic, so the most important thing is to test...a lot.
“Everything that we think could be interesting, we're trying on TikTok at this point...sometimes they perform super well and sometimes they kind of fall flat, and we're like ‘alright, next video.’”
KEEP EXPERIMENTING (EVEN AFTER IT STICKS)
The nature of TikTok (unlike Instagram) is that there are so many different types of video that perform well, so when something works, run with it, but don’t forget to keep trying new things.
They discovered early on that ASMR (translation: “Autonomous sensory meridian response. ASMR signifies the subjective experience of low-grade euphoria characterized by a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin".) videos performed really well.
“We do a lot of ASMR content. It's like a whole demographic on TikTok, so a lot of unwrapping packaging, all of our textures are jelly, and creamy and beautiful, and fun to look at. And so a lot of those do really well just because ASMR is so niche.”
ASMR was a natural place to start, given how aesthetically pleasing their products are, and ASMR content is already hugely popular on TikTok — the hashtag has over 94 billion views.
But it was a variation on this content that really went viral. They started creating BTS (behind the scenes) videos of their products being produced, and those were immediately popular (the one below has over 5 million views) — they’re the perfect combination of ASMR and an insider look at the brand.
And most important? Just keep producing content…a lot of it.
“We post at least three times a day, if not more, because that is how you keep ending up on people's ‘for you’ pages and explore...that is how you get followers and interest of any kind. I think consistency, that's the way TikTok works.”
One benefit of all this content is that unlike content designed for other platforms, video created for TikTok also performs well on other platforms, so it can be repurposed and used in multiple ways.
COLLABORATE, DON’T DICTATE
“Influencer content is a big thing for us,” Serria told me. “The biggest thing we're working on now is getting influencers to get our product and use it however their followers on TikTok think is interesting. And then we repurpose a lot of that content for Facebook, for Twitter, and for Instagram.”
According to Serria, the key to great influencer content is letting them take the lead. They’ve grown a following for a reason — they understand what their fans want to see, so as a brand you’ll get the most out of a partnership if you let them do what they do best.
“There's always ‘we need you to mention XYZ.’ And these are some buzzwords we use, but a lot of the time we let influencers decide. I mean, they know what works for their followers...so sometimes that's them showing a lot of the texture, sometimes it's them literally just putting it on, sometimes it's a before and after. In terms of what the content looks like, it's helpful for us to have breadth. And then we just have a few key points that are important about the actual product to include.”
And for each partnership, it’s important to keep goals in mind, when determining its success.
“If we chose the influencer because we want to tap into her/his audience, then reach and engagement are the #1 tell of if the campaign was a success. However if the influencer was chosen because we love the way they create content and want to share it on our own platforms, then the actual content made is the tell of success (and in turn, how and where we can use it on our side).”
A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS
On TikTok, like any social channel, ideally, your customers are creating UGC (user-generated content) which has two major benefits — 1. More content to use 2. Forming connections with customers and highlighting them.
“That's always the goal with beauty, right? You love this, you should use it, and then show us how good you look in it...We're lucky that a lot of our products, because the brand ethos is fun, you want to get them and you want to try them, so that drives a lot of the UGC.”
Sharing UGC also has the added benefit of encouraging customers to produce more.
“We do share UGC, a ton on Instagram Stories and TikTok...We use a lot of it, and I think that's why people keep tagging us in it.”
Brands can also use UGC campaigns to encourage specific consumer behavior.
While Winky Lux started as a DTC brand, it’s now available in a number of retailers including Target, where they recently moved their display from an end cap to in-aisle, and they’ve designed a TikTok challenge to raise awareness about the move.
“We're doing a giveaway right now with Target called ‘Where's Winky?’ to encourage customers to go into Target and see the new section of Winky in the aisle, it looks very different than before. And so we are using it as a moment to steer people into the aisle.”
The result? UGC for the brand to repurpose and increased awareness around where to find Winky Lux in your local Target.
STAY ON BRAND
Luckily for the social team at Winky Lux, the brand easily lends itself to social platforms. The branding is vibrant and their products are photogenic and fun — including sparkles and even embedded flowers.
“Our whole mission is to bring joy, that's the point of the brand and so luckily a lot of our products lend to video — they're visually appealing they're fun to open it's fun to unpackage them, it's fun to show them off.”
But they’re also very aware of what they’re not. While it makes sense for some brands to create videos for viral challenges, it’s not for every brand, most importantly, especially for TikTok, it needs to feel authentic.
“We haven't yet done any of the trending style videos corresponding with our products. We use all trending music, obviously, like any of the songs that are popular. We haven't found one that makes a ton of sense and we don't want to just make one to make one. We don't want to seem not authentic.”
HAVE A PURPOSE
While experimentation is necessary, it’s also important to understand what you’re trying to accomplish with TikTok, and how it can best serve your brand and your customers. Serria explained:
“I think it's both education and fun inspiration. On a website, for the most part, people are just browsing the pictures and deciding if they're going to buy it. Whereas on TikTok they’re watching people tell them what it does, why it works, how it feels on your skin? And I think that's what a lot of people on TikTok are looking for.”
🔥 For The Love of Newness
In case you missed the controversy, Lil Nas X and MSCHF released ‘Satan Shoes’ (blood and pentagram included), and, in return, received a lawsuit from Nike.
Leaning hard into its “French girl” identity, Violette_FR is a new skincare and beauty brand to “cultivate your je ne sais quoi.”
Youthforia is a new clean, cruelty-free makeup brand that’s “so safe, you can sleep in it.”
Sugarbreak expanded its product offering to kids, to help them beat sugar cravings and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
While KFC awaits the day that “finger lickin’ good” becomes appropriate again, they’re borrowing other brands’ taglines.
🔍 For The Love of the Details
Why take a supplement that does just one thing for you — when you can have it do several unrelated things across clashing branding.
Because there’s nothing else that I associate more with sleep than the fire emoji and the word “shred”. If you have trouble sleeping, it may because you’re not taking a thermogenic that creates a *fire* in your *belly*.
Honestly, the idea of night shredding does stress me out, so I’m glad it also helps lower my stress level.
At least it’s gluten-free. I don’t need *two* fires in my belly.
Also, if those Z’s made out of nine pills are meant to signify the recommended dose, I think the weight loss might be due to the fact that you’ve been asleep for several days and have missed all your meals, like a grizzly in winter.
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Written by Aja Singer, a brand and creative strategy consultant interested in all things startup, mission-driven, and community. Born in Canada. Based in Brooklyn. You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter.