What’s the buzz about TikTok? Well, with a billion active users every month, the video-sharing app is the fastest-growing platform in social media history.

And contrary to some opinion, it’s not just for teenagers. According to the MIT Technology Review, the TikTok app has been downloaded more than 2.6 billion times globally, and is now available in 154 countries. That’s a lot of reach and marketing potential for travel brands to exploit. 

Meet the ‘TikTokers’

Since it was launched in 2016, it’s been the social media app of choice among Millennials and Generation Z thanks to entertaining content like dance routines, gags and hilarious pet videos. However, young people have brought their Baby Boomer and Gen X relatives onboard. The COVID-19 pandemic increased the platform’s popularity among older housebound users as they too tried to bust their boredom by sharing their expertise in DIY videos, and enjoying a laugh. 

The Digital Marketing Institute has suggested that users spend an average 52 minutes per day on TikTok, with 90% of them accessing the app every single day. Many simply scroll for hours searching for trend updates and entertainment. Others actively use the platform to share their own content and engage with like-minded communities. 

The nature of the content has become increasingly more substantial – it’s now also instructive with tutorials on all sorts of things, it addresses social issues and movements, and provides support to communities. Younger TikTokers will likely begin searching for travel inspiration here, before moving onto Instagram and other social media platforms.

What makes TikTok tick

Getting started requires little budget for content creation. Users prefer authentic, raw footage over polished video. All you need to publish on TikTok is a smartphone and some creativity. 

Every user has a ‘For You’ page where they can potentially view content from just about anyone in the world, famous or unknown. The way it works is that relevant content is pushed out via an algorithm, based on what users might like to see, their individual account settings, location, language, type of device they use, as well as the genre of content they tend to consume, accounts they follow and with whom they like to engage.

TikTok’s algorithms have proved especially adept at plugging creators into niche communities that share interests, hobbies, or a particular identity. – MIT Technology Review

The high-volume, organic sharing formula makes this platform probably the best-suited among its social media rivals for helping content go viral. Interestingly, having hordes of followers isn’t prerequisite to a successful post – anyone with ‘good content’ can become famous or have their video go viral. TikTok logarithms reward the use of native video media, supported by a good caption, sound or music, and strategic hashtags. You don’t need a ‘viral history’ to earn your three (to ten) minutes of fame. 

There’s also an opportunity for digital talk triggers, which can be a useful addition to the integrated marketing strategy we recommend to travel brands.

Add TikTok to your marketing mix

Video content makes this an ideal platform for brand discovery and awareness – just by posting – while advertising can catch users who are actively searching for travel ideas. Drive conversations on TikTok, earn commentary, follows, likes and shares; then drive conversions by linking back to your website and other sales channels.  

Tips for travel brands 

  • Register an account for your brand if you haven’t already, and spend time trawling through ‘For You’ feed to see what other travel brands are doing, and look for a gap in the market to help define the kind of content you could create. 
  • Search #travel, #tiktoktravel, #wanderlust, and #traveldiaries for your own inspiration to see what people are posting and viewing – these hashtags have resulted in billions of views. A Skift study found that travel videos fare well on TikTok when accompanied by relevant hashtags. 
  • Ensure your content looks like TikTok video – strike the balance between retaining your brand integrity and trying to push content that looks too much like your company website. 
  • Contract local influencers who are active on TikTok to promote your brand on their accounts, remembering that your Gen Z and Millennial audience are following their feed and example keenly.
  • Take a leaf out of Marriot Bonvoy’s playbook: the hotel brand has been creating its own influencers by sourcing travellers to function as TikTok brand ambassadors documenting their experiences during their stays. 
  • Reach out to past and existing customers to share their User Generated Content (UGC) and brand or product reviews – set them a hashtag challenge, with or without prizes, just as a bit of fun and to build your community. 
  • Don’t shy away from creating content targeted to your older audience nor from eliciting their UGC too, given that they’re becoming more interested in TikTok content. Their UGC provides social proof that your brand does indeed provide relief for the wanderlust and bucket list-yearnings demonstrated by their searches.
  • Check out the range of advertising options available to business users here. Ad options include the likes of interactive in-feed add-ons with pop-ups, stickers and filters that boost engagement and brand awareness.

Video media is compelling, emotive, marketing gold. By using TikTok to demo your product, launch events or special offers, and engage with your target audience, you’ll be able to amplify your message in a way that people love to consume and share. 

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