Come for the funny dance moves, stay for the branding boost! Contrary to what you might think, it’s not just nimble teenagers who can draw a following on TikTok.
Originally conceived as a way for users to share clips of themselves lip-syncing songs, the app marries the shareability of a social network with tools such as filters and sound effects for filming and editing short-form mobile videos right from your phone.
Marketing experts say key to the app’s success are its intuitive layout and viral appeal, and the short video-snippet style it popularized is perfect for a culture conditioned to enjoy bite-size entertainment—all attributes savvy jewelry designers and retailers can use to boost brand awareness and sales, and forge a deeper level of engagement with customers.
What Exactly Is It?
“TikTok is a unique channel—it’s almost like skits or clips,” says Shane O’Neill, vice president at Fruchtman Marketing in Toledo, Ohio. “There’s really no rule with what type of content you can post on TikTok, but generally speaking, they’re short clips, and generally speaking, they tend to be humorous, almost like a performance.”
While the user base of TikTok skews young—as is the case with most new social platforms—the app has more than 1 billion users, and companies as diverse as Red Bull, Chipotle, and Amazon have embraced it. TikTok has an option for business owners to create a business account and in-app advertising, but adherents say a big part of the draw is creating content that has the potential to go viral organically.
“The primary goal is staying connected,” O’Neill says, adding that the interactive nature of TikTok’s videos, plus the audio component it incorporates, offers a more visceral entertainment experience than still photos alone can provide.
“I view TikTok as an opportunity to engage with our customers and followers,” says Jess Velke, photographer and digital marketer at Lancaster, Pa.–based Maejean Vintage, an online store that sells vintage jewelry and apparel. “I’m not afraid to get casual and a little silly on TikTok, because that’s the general atmosphere on the app anyway.”
How To Use TikTok
After downloading the free app for iOS or Android, you can film videos, anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes, on a smartphone held in portrait mode (i.e., upright). You can also save recorded audio to use in a later recording or tap the in-app music library to create a soundtrack that syncs up with your visuals. (TikTok has license agreements with the copyright holders of the music in its library, so users can incorporate it legally.)
Matthew A. Perosi, chief thinker at Jeweler Websites Inc., an internet marketing consultancy for the jewelry industry, suggests TikTok neophytes spend some time browsing the app. Seeing what catches your eye will give you a feel for how to edit your own recordings. “It’s not that difficult to develop that skill once you see other people doing it,” he says.
Jewelry retailers and designers on the platform say popular video topics are style guides, educational snippets, and—believe it or not—recordings of them at work. “Customers and our peers in the industry love to see our takes on popular trends, and it definitely gets our name out there through jewelry education, showcases of particularly cool and unique pieces, and just plain fun and goofy TikTok trends,” Velke says.
Miranda Harris Hamlin, owner and creator at Seattle-based And Arlen, says she often uses TikTok, where she has 65,000 followers, to film herself performing tasks like unpacking supplies or preparing customer orders for mailing. “Giving customers and potential customers a behind-the-scenes glimpse builds a better bond with them,” she says.
To grow your reach on TikTok, experts advise you to:
Use relevant hashtags and audio.
More so than other social platforms, the use of hashtags can help expand the reach of your TikTok content, since the default “home page” users see when they open the app is populated with algorithmically selected content that reflects their browsing interests. “A good hashtag is one that relates directly to what your video is about,” Hamlin says. “Be as specific as possible, but you have limited space—so be smart about your choices.”
In addition, choosing audio that aligns with your video topic can help give it a visibility boost. “Audios are a great way to hop on trends and potentially rack up a lot of views,” Hamlin says. “You need to use more creativity to relate the audio to your brand, but it’s worth it.”
Start a dialogue.
As you build an audience, responding to comments and questions gives you the chance to turn good feedback into de facto brand ambassadorship as TikTok’s algorithm selects new content to show viewers.
Velke says she uses customer feedback for inspiration. “We get requests from followers on TikTok who want to see specific content, and we love to honor those requests to the best of our ability,” she says. “Listening to our audience has given us endless ideas for new content to create.”
Add new content frequently.
TikTok influencers who have become celebrities in their own right post multiple times a day. While this is probably an unrealistic goal for busy retailers and designers, users say consistent engagement—say, one to a few times per week—is critical.
“Overall, videos are all about volume and connection,” says Madison Wright, founder and designer at Chicago-based fine jeweler Madberet. After posting “dozens and dozens” of clips since joining the platform in December 2020, Wright went viral in early January, when more than a million people watched a video of her opining on whether an engagement ring design should be a surprise (she says no).
“It was exciting to spark such a big discussion about the topic,” she says, adding that the exposure will help her business expand. “Over 1 million people saw my face and associated that with jewelry expertise. Small pockets of exposure like that will continue to grow Madberet over time.”
(Top: Getty Images)