How Small Businesses Can Spur Growth Through TikTok

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The margins for most small businesses today are tighter than ever, and the options for reaching a consumer base can be downright head-spinning for an owner accustomed to hanging a shingle, taking out an ad in the local paper and calling it a day. Even someone a bit more savvy in modern marketing and social media channels may have trouble identifying the optimal strategy for a given business or industry.

Thankfully, there is a cost-effective, easy-to-use marketing platform available to all: TikTok. If you think TikTok is all teenage “challenges” and aspirational influencers dispensing pearls of wisdom, well… there’s plenty of that. But there is more—lots more, in fact—and both TikTok’s engine and supporting features make it well worth the time for any small business owner to take it out for a spin to learn it for themselves.

Why TikTok Beats Other Platforms for Small Businesses

Other social media channels and marketing tactics can provide value to small business owners, and I encourage you to do some research, ask around and, if you have time, maybe give them a try. But many small business owners are too busy with everything else and lack the bandwidth to optimize, A/B test, analyze the data feedback and adjust across multiple channels. If your time and energy are limited, I suggest focusing on TikTok for two main reasons:

Organic reach. You don’t need tens of thousands of followers on TikTok for your marketing campaign—or even less-coordinated efforts on the platform—to deliver a tidy return on investment. An account with 50 followers can theoretically feature a video that receives millions of views. In the early days, when Instagram was TikTok’s main platform, its algorithm served users only content based on the accounts they followed. With TikTok’s “For You” page, users are pointed to the type of content they are interested in—but from accounts they may have never seen before. This free, organic reach amounts to a huge advantage for small businesses.

Built-in video editor. For small business owners—or any creators—just making content can be costly and time-consuming. That’s why TikTok has prioritized giving its users the power to easily create awesome videos. The platform’s built-in video editor is simple and intuitive while containing all the effects and features a user needs to make compelling professional videos in seconds.

Organic vs. Paid TikTok Content for Small Businesses

Start by creating organic content. Your first few videos may not go viral, but stay consistent and you’ll eventually break through. When an organic video performs well compared to the others, you now have a strong piece of content to test in paid ads. Paid advertising is all about A/B testing, and one of the most important tests is the creative content an audience actually sees. You’ve already tested your content for free. Now consider using TikTok spark ads to boost that organic post.

Tap Into Audio and Trending Formats

When you’re browsing TikTok—or any social platform—consider the audio and formatting of other videos and how they might apply to your own brand. If it isn’t obvious, it probably isn’t worth using. Rather than hopping on every trend, strategically target those that relate to your business. For many trending videos, you can even use the template from CapCut and literally just add your own parts of the video—the editing, audio and effects are already done for you.

Marketing to Local Consumers

Small businesses have a lot of options when it comes to targeting their audience on social media. Advertisers can get as granular as a postal code or city when targeting local consumers with TikTok ads. Hashtags, which reach users who have engaged with organic videos that include your tags, are another effective targeting tool.

But the best option on TikTok recently has been to leave targeting settings wide open and let the algorithm find your audience. This strategy can help in terms of intent, which is missing on some other social platforms. For example, if you own a local shoe company, targeting people interested in men’s shoes will include that entire TikTok audience—including users who just purchased shoes and may not be in the market for a new pair. Leaving targeting open leaves it to the algorithm to perform its magic.

Create Compelling Content on a Budget

Some clients spend $20,000 or more for production video ads, but the most relatable and best-performing content is low-budget ads. Real and raw are all the rage, which makes it affordable for anyone to create winning ads. If you choose to commit some resources to a social ad, the metric most worth paying attention to is likely your cost per conversion/lead/customer—the cost to acquire one purchaser. If you can drive this number low enough, you can start scaling your ad spend in small increments over time. Just make it a slow increase. Pouring all your money in at once may throw off the algorithm and increase your cost per customer.

Is TikTok Really the Best Advertising Option for My Small Business?

If you’re a local service provider (say, a roofer or power-washing service), your best advertising option will likely be Google—specifically Google Local Service ads and Google Search ads—and Facebook Ads. Consumers typically look for services via internet searches (e.g., “carpet cleaning near me”). Ecommerce companies, on the other hand, will find TikTok to be a far better fit.

Still, at the end of the day, TikTok is, in my opinion, the best organic posting option for all business types. Potential customers for every business type can be found on TikTok, and the platform’s organic reach is one of the best of its kind. And its usability and low cost make it an excellent option for any small business hoping to connect with in-market customers.

Logan Welbaum is the founder of Plai, a digital marketing ad platform.

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