Written by Emily Polner

While TikTok is still considered the wild west of social media, it’s proving to be the next frontier for brands and influencers alike. TikTok beats out LinkedIn, Reddit, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Twitter for monthly active users, who spend an average of 46 minutes per day on the platform.

TikTok currently offers four main forms of sponsored ads for brands, which is how most companies are advertising on the platform. Brands also have the option to scout for TikTok influencers on their own. To help your brand navigate TikTok advertising, we’ve explained each advertising option as well as TikTok ad format best practices.

In-feed native ads

Native ads are randomly sprinkled within a user’s For You feed. The most successful native ads are the ones that blend the most seamlessly with the rest of the organic content in the For You feed (i.e. it takes more than a split second for users to realize they’re viewing an ad). In-feed ads can drive traffic to your brand’s TikTok profile page or to an external link. TikTok users can engage with your ad just like an organic post by leaving likes and comments. Maybelline recently ran in-feed TikTok ads to promote the launch of their Hyper Curl mascara. After just one day, the ad amassed 48,700 likes and 709 reshares, resulting in an 80% increase in brand awareness and a 47.97% increase in brand favorability.

Hashtag challenges

Thought hashtag challenges were strictly organic? Any brand can create a hashtag challenge and boost it through TikTok’s advertiser platform. Most branded challenges involve a specific sound bite along with a set of coordinated movements. Challenges are best when they’re easy to replicate. Brands from all different verticals have advertised on TikTok this way, from Clean & Clear and NYX to TurboTax. To kick-off a hashtag challenge, brands employ relevant TikTok influencers to film videos that demonstrate the challenge in order to catapult it into virality.

In addition to seeing hashtag challenge videos appear in their For You feed, users can see sponsored hashtag challenges appear on the banner in their Discovery tab. Users can click on the banner to see a full explanation of the challenge and all the videos that have been created using the challenge’s hashtag. TikTok charges brands an additional fee to feature your challenge on the Discovery tab banner.

Brand takeover

Brand takeovers are special ads that appear when a user first opens their TikTok app. These ads will appear on screen before users can view any organic content in their For You feed. TikTok limits brand takeovers to one brand per category per day, which means on any given day, only one beauty brand’s ad will run, only one fashion brand’s ad will run, and so forth. A takeover can be a still image, a video, or a GIF, and can drive to an external landing page or a hashtag challenge page within the app.

Branded lenses and filters

Similar to AR (Augmented Reality) lenses and filters for Snapchat and Instagram Stories, brands can also create original lenses and filters for TikTok. These are most commonly used to promote new product launches. Branded lenses and filters can go live for up to 10 days. 64% of TikTok users have tried branded lenses or filters.

How to advertise on TikTok without TikTok’s ad platform

Not sure if you want to utilize any of the official advertising capabilities that TikTok offers? There may be another way to step away from traditional advertisements and opt into a new era of influencer marketing.

TikTok influencers

Brands use TikTok macro-influencers for sponsored hashtag challenges, but just like any other social media platform, brands can hire influencers to create any other content that feels natural, fun, and relevant. Brands like Target and Red Bull have already started working with TikTok influencers to create sponsored videos.

While TikTok may be a newer platform for brands to work with influencers on, the basic principles for creating excellent sponsored content remain the same:

  • Try to scout for influencers who have an audience similar to your own or the one you’re trying to target. That way, your product or brand will have a much better chance of resonating
  • Find influencers who really know their audience inside and out. Scope out engagement rates, view counts, and other key metrics to get a better idea of how attuned an influencer is with their audience.

TikTok advertising specs and best practices

Whether you’re working with influencers or creating your own sponsored videos for TikTok’s advertising platform, you’ll want to review the guidelines for specs and best practices before filming and editing.

Your TikTok ad should have:

  • A 9:16 aspect ratio (this is the same aspect ratio as Instagram Stories)
  • A resolution greater than 720 x 1080
  • A length of 9 to 15 seconds (with the exception of Brand Takeovers, which must be 3-5 seconds long)

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