There is no question that COVID-19 has pushed the world online. According to Statistics Canada, over 75 per cent of Canadians over the age of 15 now spend more time doing internet activities than they did pre-pandemic. The social media landscape has changed drastically, and TikTok in particular has become a hub for entertainment and marketing.  

“I used TikTok more frequently during the pandemic as a way to help pass all the extra time from lockdowns,” says Julia Mauti, an avid TikTok user who says she uses the app for about three hours a day. 

In September, 2021, Forbes reported that TikTok had hit one billion monthly users. By December, their web domain was the most popular of the year – beating both Google and Facebook. Whether consumers use it to find new bands, relatable influencers, tasty recipes, the latest news, or trending products, there is a niche for all. But TikTok’s rise in popularity was not only among content consumers: businesses and organizations also recognized its marketing potential. 

“It gives more creators and brands a much vaster opportunity to grow immensely, reach new audiences, make sales, build brand awareness, and create engaging content,” says Gemma Mastroianni, an influencer relations associate for children’s entertainment company Spin Master, who works with several TikTok influencers.

More and more brands are realizing that TikTok offers the potential for unique marketing campaigns and getting on the app themselves. Today we can see almost every type of organization, company, service, and business on the app: luxury brands, esthetic services, sports teams, streaming services, fast food restaurants, news outlets and many more. 

“TikTok helps me with marketing my cooking services by making it easier to reach a mass audience that I can then redirect to my cooking website,” says Toronto-based TikTok food blogger Sabrina Bilotta. 

According to Forbes, TikTok’s superior algorithm makes the difference by promoting content highly attuned to consumers’ interests. Unlike other social media apps, TikTok doesn’t require its users to follow content producers for it to tailor a feed specific to their interests. “It’s the easiest platform algorithm for users to train to feed them content they love,” writes Michelle Greenwald.

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Image Credit: Eyestetix Studio – Unsplash

Canadian pop band Crash Adams agrees that the mechanics make a difference. “TikTok’s algorithm is great at pushing content specific to the users’ interests, and if we want to target a music audience all we have to do is make our video about music,” they said.

“TikTok is great because every single video has a chance of going viral,” they added. “No matter what you do, if you do it well you have a chance to reach people in bigger ways than ever before.”

The app’s user-friendliness, though, is what has allowed for and pushed so many small business TikTok creators into the spotlight.

“Anyone and everyone can go viral by playing into trends and creating eye-catching content,” says Mastroianni. “If you’re looking to reach a mass audience, especially with a low or non-existent ad budget, TikTok is the spot.”

In 2021, TikTok announced that the company will be taking their dedication to helping small business creators a step further through “Small Wins”, an initiative focused on promoting its videos. The year before that, TikTok provided small businesses with $100 million in ad credits. 

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Image Credit: Solen Feyissa – Unsplash

For Bilotta, who began her TikTok journey at the onset of the pandemic, popular posts have proved profitable in the long run. 

The app’s reach is not only beneficial for businesses: it’s also been a great way for news outlets to reach the new generation. Traditional media, once capturing the public’s attention through newspapers, radio, and television, has been on the decline for years. Today, according to Forbes, Tiktok’s popularity demonstrates the ways that young people are fluid in their media consumption.

“I started because I just realized there was a gap between the younger generation and traditional news outlets. And I’m like, ‘I’ll reach them on TikTok,’” says Shibani Gokhale, a freelance video journalist and TikTok news creator based in Vancouver.

Journalists are now turning their practice into a form of entertainment. For example, British journalist Sophia Smith Galer’s The Sea Suez Shanty, a TikTok video of Galer singing a song about the 400-meter vessel that got stuck last March, got over 400,000 likes. Just like influencers on the platform, journalists are creating a brand for themselves. Their goal, though, is marketing their content in a new and innovative way to make watching the news popular among the younger generations – without oversight from the higher-ups.

TikTok’s enormous capabilities are just starting to be recognized by all types of organizations from large to small – and the nature of the app has shifted greatly with the pandemic.

“Before the lockdown, when I scrolled through TikTok it was mostly people dancing or music videos,” says Gokhale. Not only are there more people on TikTok post lockdown, she says, but people are creating content for all niches.

TikTok’s virtual culture makes videos seem authentic, crossing the line between advertising and entertainment. Today, marketing is all about meeting the audience’s needs and creating a sense of authenticity between the consumer and the business.   

For Mauti, that authenticity is what it all comes down to.“TikTok markets to me best compared to other platforms,” says Mauti. “Not only because videos provide more information, but because I feel I can trust the creators in the video, and that’s better persuasion than what a photo advertisement can provide.” 

Featured image credit: HelloImNik – UnSplash

CategoriesSocial Media
Samantha Cardona

Samantha Cardona is a graduate of Guelph-Humber's Media Communications Program and specializes in Public Relations. She was a Social Media and Marketing Coordinator of the 2022 Emerge Conference. She began her education with a passion for digital design. Through the years, she grew to love writing and advertising. She found that PR combines her three passions and is the best fit for her.