During the last 12 months in particular, the popularity of TikTok has exploded.

Working in a similar way to Snapchat and the Vine platform that recently look Twitter by storm (before being acquired by the social network), TikTok is a video-sharing app that allows users to create and share a variety of short-form clips.

The clips tend to vary in length between 15 seconds to one minute, although some accounts are able to produce videos that run up to three minutes.

First developed in China in 2016, TikTok’s merger with Musical.ly two years later saw the service expand its reach globally.

And despite facing some obstacles, particularly in the USA, where some Government officials expressed user privacy concerns, TikTok now has more than 800 million active users worldwide.

The platform’s main demographic is younger people, with just under a third users aged between 10 and 19-years-old. A further 30% are aged 20 to 29.

And though the majority of social media platforms engage with a young audience, TikTok’s reach among teenagers in particular is unrivalled, with more established names like Facebook seeing the age of its average user gradually increase.

But what does all of this mean for business? Are there opportunities for brands to engage with current and prospective customers using TikTok?

Should my business be on TikTok?

Alongside a uniquely young demographic, one of the key factors behind TikTok’s rise in popularity is the ease with which users can connect with one another.

The platform utilises hashtags in a similar way to Twitter, allowing people to start and join conversations by connecting to a particular phrase or topic, and business can also take advantage of this to lead a particular conversation.

For example, by launching a hashtag challenge, you can set an idea or theme and encourage your followers and other users to create their own content relating to it.

It’s possible to incentivise participation by creating a competition element and establishing a simple and accessible framework for users to engage with you, beyond simple comments and Retweets.

The international nature of TikTok means that businesses with global ambitions should absolutely consider the platform. Used by citizens of more than 150 countries, TikTok enables you to hit potential customers all over the world.

And if your content goes viral, then the reach potential is almost limitless.

What kind of thing should I post?

TikTok is designed for the creation and sharing of video content, and this provides a great opportunity for consumer-facing brands yet to experiment with output beyond text and images.

Recent research shows that the majority of people wish to see more video from brands, and its potential to engage should not be underestimated.

For the majority of business already utilising video as part of their marketing output, TikTok provides the perfect platform to engage with audiences in a much deeper way and build a loyal following.

Those yet to experiment with video will discover a platform that rewards originality and entertainment over production values, so time and money spent on editing, which may be prohibitive to some brands, can be saved.

In fact, the vast majority of video content published on TikTok is created using a phone.

How do I know that my customers are there?

For many brands, TikTok’s young audience is a perfect match for their brand, while for others the picture may not be as clear.

As is the case across digital marketing, there’s little point investing money and resource into a channel that won’t connect you with prospective customers.

But brands should consider how the landscape is changing and what the picture might look like three, five and ten years from now.

Remember that Facebook was first established as a platform to be used exclusively by university students, while Twitter and Instagram have also seen the average age of their audience rise during the last ten years.

And as TikTok continues to grow in popularity, it’s extremely likely that we’ll witness a similar trend and see a broader cross-section of age groups join the platform.

By establishing your presence early, you can steal a march on your competitors and be in a much stronger position in terms of your content library and established audience.

So, whilst your target audience may not be in situ just yet, it may be wise to consider taking your first steps towards ensuring you’re ready to say ‘hello’ when they do start to use the platform.

Can I advertise on TikTok?

In terms of its use as a marketing channel, TikTok is still largely under-developed, although new features for brands and influencers are in constant development.

Without established ‘paid for’ routes, many brands work with influencers to market themselves to a large audience of individual users, with many of the top influencers on the platform already commanding followings in the millions.

More traditional advertising routes are available, with five formats to select from, including in-feed ads that work in a similar way to Instagram ads, alongside other formats like branded effects that use AR filters, lenses and stickers.

At present, the minimum spend for advertising on TikTok is still quite high, so unless you have a large budget, it may be better to focus on collaborations with influencers rather than seeking to spend directly with the platform.

How can TikTok work with my other channels?

By its nature, TikTok offers something different to the rest of social media and you should consider whether the platform is aligned with the tone of your brand’s messaging.

If your output across other channels is quite serious and corporate then TikTok may not be the right outlet for your brand, or at least not at this stage.

Equally, if your marketing is built around longer-form story-telling and data-driven insight then it may be more effective to focus resource on the more established channels.

But if engaging with customers in a playful way and delivering short-form, entertaining experiences is a consideration for your brand, then TikTok could serve as an excellent additional outlet.

You may find that video content produced for existing channels can easily be adapted for use on TikTok, while content created for TikTok may also be compatible with your other channels.

And although there is still plenty of development in TikTok, and while the channel may not be the perfect match for every brand in 2021, it’s certainly worth exploring the possibilities that this fast-growing platform could offer your brand.