In the world of social media marketing, TikTok has quickly become one of the best places to showcase your business.
The short video app announced in 2021 it had surpassed one billion monthly active users and was the most downloaded app of 2020.
TikTok is known for memes, dance challenges, and viral moments, and it’s also attracted both top brands and small businesses. In fact you’d be hard pressed to find top sellers who aren’t at least experimenting on the app.
If you’re new to TikTok, it might be intimidating to start on a whole new platform with its own quirks, filters, and trends. But fear not: we’ve enlisted the help of a small business TikTok pro to give you some ideas to get started. And if you’re already on TikTok, you might pick up some new ideas.
Why businesses should be posting on TikTok
We’ve already established that TikTok is popular, but does that mean it will actually help people discover your brand?
The answer is a strong yes. Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok doesn’t just show you videos from people you already follow. The app’s home page, known as the For You page, is a never-ending stream of content that mixes in a healthy dose of videos from people you don’t follow but that the app thinks you might like. That means there’s a high likelihood of potential customers finding your videos without having to go directly to your profile.
TikTok wants to keep people on the app for as long as possible by continuously feeding you new videos. That means if you sell makeup, for example, TikTok wants to get your content in front of the eyes of people it has already identified as beauty enthusiasts.
TikTok can do wonders for your brand, but the trick is making content people actually want to watch, favorite, and share.
This unique take on discoverability has allowed accounts to become overnight viral sensations and has let brands putting out content grow at an exponential rate.
There’s even a #smallbusiness community on the app for entrepreneurs, sharing and boosting content with their own trends, sounds, and hashtags.
With a free TikTok business account, you can put your shop’s website in your profile bio, leading customers directly to your store. This is just one way you can attribute Tik Tok as a monetization tool.
TikTok can do wonders for your brand, but the trick is making content people actually want to watch, favorite, and share.
Meet your TikTok expert
Erin Dubs is the owner of Azur Fit, a fitness clothing brand that she started in August 2018. She initially started with tank tops, but demand has expanded her collection to include leggings, bras, sweats, and swimsuits.
Erin has amassed 126,000 followers on her TikTok account, @erinndubs, where she promotes her business and offers a glimpse behind the scenes.
“TikTok is not something that can be ignored,” Erin says. “It definitely gives you a step up if you do have it.”
She said that when she has a popular TikTok, the effect is immediate.
“When that happens, there's consistently always 300 people on the website all day long. It'll bring in 60,000 views over the course of just a few days,” she says.
The first time Erin went viral on TikTok, her inventory was wiped out.
Even TikToks with smaller views are valuable, she said, because it still drives so much traffic to her website and Instagram. Other founders have seen similar results, using Tik Tok for business as a way to bring awareness to their shops.
“It's eyes on your website, and it works really well. So sometimes I just need that reminder, like, oh yeah, make a TikTok today.”
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On TikTok, authenticity is key
Erin stumbled on her TikTok strategy accidentally, but it’s an important lesson in authenticity. Audiences on TikTok don’t just want to be sold something, they want to be educated, inspired, or entertained by a real person.
It actually took Erin two tries to find her sweet spot on TikTok. She originally launched @AzurFit, showing off her products and behind the scenes at photoshoots. But she realized, despite gaining some followers and views, that it wasn’t translating to sales. The people watching were not actually becoming customers.
She abandoned the account for some time before picking the app up again, switching the account to her name. This time, she took a more personal approach, showing her personality or participating in challenges. Then one day, a commenter asked her about running her business and something clicked. She began posting TikToks about her business and giving advice. This opened her up to a whole new audience.
Since then, she’s had multiple viral TikToks, gained followers, and seen an increase in sales.
“It was really cool. I wasn’t talking directly about my product, I was giving business tips, and that was turning into sales,” she says.
She realized that taking a more human approach, as opposed to simply pushing product, is what actually sold her clothes.
She also uses @AzurFit for more product-focused TikToks.
8 TikTok ideas you can use for your small business
So how do you actually be authentic on TikTok? We talked to Erin about proven formats she’s used that you can try for yourself.
1. Behind the scenes
Showing the inner workings of your business is one of the most popular types of videos that companies post on TikTok.
These TikToks show the real side of running a business and give customers a look at how their orders come together.
“I always tell people to be transparent on TikTok,” Erin says. “People want to see proof of what you’re doing, whether you’re shipping out your very first order or you’re talking about your sales on a launch day.”
That doesn’t mean you have to get into all the nitty-gritty details, but showing how you run your business gives a human touch and satisfies curiosity. You’d be surprised what people find interesting that you may just see as part of your day.
“You always have something to talk about, no matter what stage you’re at,” Erin says.
Erin, for example, has posted videos showing her stockroom, setting up for a pop-up event, and showing how she receives inventory through a window in the office. These ideas not only offer transparency, but show your products are in demand.
When the warehouse sends you videos of all your racks 😍 #ecommerce #inventory #business #viralbusiness #businessgrowth #boss♬ We Can't Be Friends - Dream Koala
You can also try filming a TikTok of:
- Organizing your products or office space
- Celebrating milestones like your 100th sale or an anniversary
- Preparing for a new product launch
- Showing how you design and select products
2. Pack an order
Packing an order in a video is a fun way to show what happens behind the scenes while also showing the care you put into each order.
This is your chance to show potential customers what to expect when their package arrives. It’s an especially great idea if you include things like freebies, thank-you notes, or special packaging.
Some businesses on TikTok even have customers request to see their order package in a video, which is a special bonus for them if you have time. Just remember to never reveal a customer’s personal information, such as their full name or address.
Erin has done this idea by shooting a timelapse of her and her staff packing many orders.
@azurfit 🇨🇦♬ Chinese New Year - SALES
3. Business tips and advice
This format has been a winner for Erin and has drawn in many followers.
There are many other small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs on TikTok who love to hear advice, and you can provide that. While they may be drawn in by that advice, they can also become customers and help grow your following so even more people see your TikToks.
Again, you don’t have to reveal all your secrets, but transparency lends itself to authenticity. In the process, you’ll also build your personal brand as a business leader and inspiration to others.
Erin, for example, has shared:
- How to launch a new product successfully
- How to find a manufacturer
- What you do (and don’t!) need to start a fitness apparel company
- The best marketing channels
##entrepreneur ##shopify ##business♬ original sound - Armando
She also has fun with these TikToks. Some are longer series of tips, some are just quick videos with snappy music and tidbits of inspiration. Remember: TikTok isn’t LinkedIn. There should be an element of entertainment.
“I think what works best is just whatever you can do to get eyes on you, whether it’s information, tips, something educational, or something fun and different,” Erin says.
4. Show how your products are used
You don’t want this to be the only type of TikTok you’re posting, but you should absolutely show off your products or services.
The best way to do this is to show your products actually being used. For Erin, that means showing herself, employees, or models wearing the clothing. That can be as simple as a quick change, or something more complex, like showing how to style her clothing.
AZUR FIT LEGGING/SWEAT SET COMBOS😍 #leggings #smallbusiness #shoplocal #activewear #clothingline #onlinestore #shop♬ Kontrol - Maleek Berry
What you show will depend on your product, but here are some ideas:
- Showing a product resisting water or weather
- Showing off the stretch of your fabric
- How to use a skin care product
- A timelapse of the burn time of a candle
- Pairing jewelry with an outfit
- Creating a makeup look
- Sipping from a handmade mug
- Cooking with your cookware or utensils
People want to see and understand how your product will fit into their lives, and this format will show them.
5. New product launches
You can build up hype for new products before even launching them by teasing them on TikTok. This gets customers ready to buy when the product is available and also shows that you’re able to grow your brand.
Erin did this when she launched her swimsuit collection. She started with a model wearing a new bikini on a beach, followed it up with wearing one herself and showing off the details, and then posted a third TikTok using a trending dance and sound.
do y’all like my hair!? Also I’m wearing a size medium! ##entrepreneur ##businessowner ##smallbusiness ##shopify ##bossbitch♬ Baby - Instrumental - Dibyo
This is a great way to showcase what makes your products unique, build demand for them, and talk about how you’re responding to what your customers want.
You could even post these in a countdown series coming up to launch day, building excitement.
6. Get to know you or your employees
TikTok is an app driven by people and personalities. TikToks of people simply talking to the camera are the bread and butter of the app, but you don’t need to have the sparkling charisma of a full-time influencer to make this format work for you.
People love to get to know the person behind a brand to add the human element. It’s also far more engaging to see a face rather than a steady stream of products.
This can understandably be challenging if you’re not used to being on camera, but it’ll get easier over time as you become more comfortable on the app.
##office ##mascot ##frenchbulldog♬ I look like this - Kéria Lové
Erin is in many of her TikToks, whether she’s giving advice or modelling a product, and her employees (and office mascot!) show up as well.
To ease in, try posting a simple “get to know me” TikTok and talk about why you started your business.
7. Interact with customers
TikTok’s tools lend themselves to interaction in a few ways.
The first is duets. If this option is on, you can create a TikTok that includes someone else's video beside it. This is a fun way to react to customers that create videos showing off their orders or reviewing your products. You can even encourage people to post these types of videos by offering discount codes.
The other option is creating a video from a comment. If a customer asks a question or gives you a compliment, you can click Reply and film a video that includes an overlay of their comment.
In this TikTok, for example, Erin responds to someone who asked how she packs an order by filming a video demonstrating the whole process.
Reply to @harjanbadesha #ecommerce #shopify #businesstiktok #entrepreneur #business #smallbusiness #businesshacks♬ Buttercup - Jack Stauber
Either way, interacting with customers makes them feel seen and appreciated, and gives you another option for posting content.
8. Find a trend
If you’re really stuck for an idea, TikTok is never short on trending sounds, memes, or challenges.
This does require some time investment to scroll through TikTok and see what’s trending at the moment. Following other businesses and seeing what they’re posting is a good way to get inspiration.
In this post, Erin used a trending sound to make a joke about her expenses.
#businessowner #expensive #amex #businessexpense #writeoff #q4 #finances♬ original sound - 𝔯𝔲𝔫𝔴𝔞𝔶 𝔞𝔡𝔡𝔦𝔠𝔱
“If I'm gonna have some downtime on my own, I’ll just scroll TikTok for an hour,” Erin says. “I’ll just listen to the sounds and think, How can I apply this to my office? How can we put together a skit or apply it to something funny that happened the other day, even if it’s not necessarily business related?”
Hopping on a trend is also a good way to get traction for a video, because people will be looking for that particular sound or meme.
“They get a lot of views if you can get on them early,” Erin says. “You can definitely pop off with those.”
Get out there and make some TikTok magic
By now you should have a few ideas for getting started on TikTok, or for reviving your account. Each format can be used in different ways, so even just using these eight ideas you’re well on your way to posting on a regular basis.
TikTok can be fickle. Some videos will work, and some won’t—you just need to keep trying new ideas and experimenting. You never know when you’ll make it big. Erin says there’s always a chance something simple and unassuming will go viral.
“It’s amazing. It’s free advertising that would otherwise be literally hundreds or thousands of dollars to get that kind of exposure. So why not take a chance?”