The birthplace of Lil Nas X’s hit “Old Town Road,” major stars such as Addison Rae and Charli D’Amelio, and the DuoLingo green owl, TikTok is booming and arguably the hottest social media platform. More and more DTC brands are leveraging the platform to reach its ripe, active audience and achieve virality.
The platform promises infinite opportunities. TikTok was the most downloaded app in Q1 2022, and according to eMarketer, “more US marketers now use TikTok than YouTube for influencer marketing.” Among Gen Z, TikTok is more popular than Instagram.
Why is TikTok the best social media platform for emerging, DTC brands? It’s free. It’s easy to use. And, anyone can make a TikTok. (We’re even making TikToks, here at Tydo.)
In January, we surveyed Tydo’s audience and asked what you wanted to see us write about next, and 80% of you said TikTok. So, we sat down with JT Barnett—former Vancouver Giants hockey player and now TikTok advisor, creator, and strategist—to answer the most commonly asked questions about the platform and discuss the creator economy.
As the cofounder of Honey House, an adult TikTok house in Los Angeles and brand that amassed one million followers, JT knows the ins and outs of TikTok. His personal TikTok, where he shares best practices, has 249.2K followers, and his agency partners with all-star brands such as Poppi, Whoop, We’re Not Really Strangers, Spotify, and Tonal.
In our conversation with JT, he shares:
- How TikTok is all about output
- Why going viral isn’t the goal
- His thoughts on influencer content
Why Brands Should Be On TikTok
Every DTC brand wants to know: Should we be on TikTok?
The answer is yes and most definitely yes.
It’s free. It costs zero dollars to post. And, it’s the best platform for organic content.
“TikTok is all about output. Your videos have the chance to be seen by a million people, and it costs zero dollars,” explains JT.
Plus, anybody can do it and make it big. TikTok rewards authentic, scrappy, raw videos whereas Instagram is all about filters and aesthetically pleasing content.
So, how do brands get started on the platform?
Before JT dives into the content creation process, he recommends answering the following set of questions:
- As a brand, what do you want to be known as?
- What are your brand values?
- What’s your brand voice?
- Are you in an office? Can you film there?
- Do you need to bring in an outside creator?
- What are you selling? What’s your hero product?
“Transparency is one of the best ways to build a relationship with the consumer. The people crushing it on TikTok are not afraid to show everything, even the unglorified parts of the business.”
Reaching Virality: How to Go Viral on TikTok
“Virality isn’t something you can concoct. It just happens,” says JT Barnett.
What can brands do to put themselves in the best position possible, knowing they can’t reach virality every time?
Be consistent. And, that doesn’t mean going from zero to one hundred. Brands can ease into the content creation process and learn with time.
As a TikTok creator himself, JT recommends posting as much as possible, as long as the brand’s content meets the “good enough” threshold, which he defines as “content that catches your eye and makes you stop if it comes across your For You Page.”
The reality: No one knows what’s going to stick on TikTok because no one knows the algorithm.
JT admits, “There’s no perfect formula to what works and what doesn’t work. Post a ton, look at the data, and then go from there.”
To start pumping out content, JT first looks at what the brand is selling. Then, he thinks about what’s tangential to the product.
For example, if he’s partnering with a coffee brand, he’ll shoot content around the beans and also explore the larger subject of coffee. That might look like creating TikToks around productivity culture or work-life balance.
One of the best ways to achieve consistency is with an original series that’s unique to a brand—not a series of trend videos.
JT suggests optimizing for 75% series or episodic content and 25% trends and new material.
To unlock that original series, JT asks the following questions:
- Who are we?
- What is our brand?
- What do we want to be known for?
To achieve virality from a more technical lens, every video needs a strong hook.
What a viewer sees in the first three seconds can make or break a TikTok.
The visual aspect matters as much as the text and audio. So, brands need to overlay text in a readable, clear way and add audio that’s easy to understand.
“There’s no perfect formula for virality. There’s no way to figure out the formula unless you’re the person building the algorithms.”
Should I Hire A TikTok Influencer?
Posting influencer content will not grow a brand’s page.
The audience is trying to build a relationship with the human being running that account.
“You have to remember that everyone’s coming through the FYP. If they see a different person every single time, they’re not going to go and follow the page. They’re going to think they’re getting spammed by different accounts,” explains JT.
The person behind a brand’s account could be a team member, a founder, or a full-time creator. It needs to be someone relatable and comfortable behind the camera. It can’t be a hodgepodge of ambassadors or influencers.
“People relate to people more than they relate to a product.”
How to Optimize Organic (and Paid)
As brands post organic content, they should be closely monitoring performance while also recognizing that analytics aren’t the end-all-be-all.
“A video that gets 5,000 views and all 5,000 of those people are impacted is a lot more important than a video that gets 1,000,000 views but everybody is watching it because it’s funny and they don’t really care about you and it doesn’t do anything for you,” says JT.
JT Barnett’s perspective is aligned with Kevin Kelly’s theory of 1,000 true fans (one of JT’s favorite thought leadership pieces).
Some major brands are built with only 1,000 followers—at least at the start. If all one thousand followers buy a product, that’s still meaningful.
Even more important than followers is engagement.
Comments are incredibly valuable for brands. A video with 100 comments can tell a brand what customers care about, what content resonates, and what products are fan favorites. Each comment is a piece of feedback.
As mentioned, organic should be the number one priority in a TikTok strategy. Once a brand nails that, they can turn on paid.
JT has seen multiple brands take off from TikTok ads. The key is to boost organic TikToks or upload TikTok-first content. Repurposing Instagram and Facebook ads isn’t going to work for brands. It’s about leaning into TikTok’s style.
To get in touch, you can reach JT at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Organic is the fire. Paid is the gasoline.”
- What to pledge
- How to improve
- Which tools will set you up for success
I think the most important thing brands can do in 2023 is to better manage their customer data—both ethically and effectively. There’s an opportunity for brands to know their customers better than ever before—a clear benefit for both the customer and the brand. When you manage your data correctly, you’ll create stronger and more personalized ads, creative, site experiences, and so much more.
This is a classic: Let the data guide you. Go where the buyers for your products are and communicate with them on a personal level (i.e. by persona and funnel position) and nurture those relationships (past, present, and future customers). It’s possible—all through data.
We recommend that Shopify brands analyze and update their websites using data-driven decisions. Using analytics tools such as heatmaps and scrollmaps can help brands better understand how customers are interacting with their store.
Store owners tend to make assumptions about the way customers interact with their website. Most never go back and analyze their design choices to find pain points or areas of opportunity. By using heatmaps and scrollmaps, they can see where real customers are clicking and concentrating their attention. Leveraging this data, brands can start to iterate on design and make their online store experience streamlined and intuitive.
Hotjar provides a simple way to implement heatmaps, scrollmaps, and recorded user sessions on your site, helping you acquire incredibly informative user data. Additionally, it gives you the ability to create on-site surveys, which allows you to obtain direct and often critical feedback from users about their experience.
Test various attribution models and analyze the impact on your business. At Fifty Six, we are always here to help our clients identify and optimize their approach—a critical step in any successful marketing strategy.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times–Customer Lifetime Value. And even more importantly, Future Lifetime Value (FLTV). With the ever-growing importance of first-party data, it is crucial that brands take a good look at their CRM and FLTV metrics.
Stop allocating budgets to low-hanging fruit that doesn’t move the needle on conversion. Think about what’s really going to improve your CX and the return of undertaking different initiatives—not just on what’s top on your list of bugbears on the site!
One of the best ways to understand your customer behavior is by using HotJar. Their heat-mapping and screen recording tools shine a light on where customers are navigating to and from on your site, where they're rage clicking and experiencing frustration, and where conversion is dropping off within real life customer journeys and flows!
Understanding your customers’ pain points via data and analytics , will allow you to work with your CRO/CX Agency to solve customer frustrations and improve conversion.
Rewind backs up all product, customer, and order data for Shopify sites—essential since Shopify itself doesn’t provide this solution. It's saved so many of our clients time and money from administrative accidents.
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33% of customer service inquiries are pre-sale questions. What does this mean? If you’re not investing in customer service, you’re missing out on revenue-generating opportunities.
The benefits of elevating your customer experience:
- 10% to 25% increase in AOV for customers who engage with live chat pre-purchase
- 21x higher conversion rate for customers who reach out via Live Chat or SMS compared to other site visitors
- 87% of customers who have a great customer experience will make another purchase
- 72% of customers share positive experiences with 6 or more individuals
Gorgias is our favorite Helpdesk platform. They can reduce costs by 35%, primarily by decreasing the average ticket handle time. Their machine learning algorithms are trained on millions of ecommerce-related interactions across Gorgias’ customer base and provide accurate, automated replies for the most common ecommerce inquiries. This helps our agents resolve tickets faster, which provides the customer a seamless experience.
Trust your agency! Agencies do the same things across multiple brands and niches, so we see the trends and have the practice and experience!
Don't be afraid of data and insights. If customers aren't clicking on your emails, try a new CTA. If your ads are driving good metrics at a small spend, start scaling. If your customers are complaining about a product, look into QA! If the data tells you something isn't working, let it go and try something else!
I'm supposed to say Tydo, right? 😉
Double down on differentiation. There will be a lot of headwinds this year and standing out from the crowd will set you apart.
A picture is worth 1,000 words. A video? Probably millions. In ecommerce that value translates into engagement, acquisition, and retention—everything you need to impact your bottom line.
At soona, we've seen the we've seen the impact of creative and the continuous split testing of it yield results. Our resolution is to challenge ourselves and double down on innovation and creative optionality so that each brand we work with can distinguish themselves in a crowded sea of D2C ecomm. We'd love to see our brands share this resolution and keep pushing the creative limits.
Klaviyo. We're using it to power our email and newsletter at soona too!
Optimize your returns strategy! This can lead to valuable customer insights, enhanced user experiences, and increased revenue and customer loyalty.
Brands need to dive deeper into understanding their customers to set themselves up for success. Conduct research to gain insights into customer needs, preferences, and behaviors. By doing so, you can develop targeted strategies that will enhance customer experience and boost overall retention.
Right now I would say Gorgias. Having a good customer service tool is crucial to building strong customer relationships.
Start paying heavy attention to data, specifically around retention. We see a lot of effort put towards acquisition with the assumption that once someone buys, they are your customer forever. Instead, get to know your customer, understand their needs, and analyze their behaviors once they are on-site and judge their sentiment after they have visited. Work with a retention focused and data-driven agency to implement tools that contribute to repeat business and customer delight. It will pay dividends.
When surveyed, about 80% of ecommerce merchants think that they are delivering a great experience to their customers. However, when the same customers are surveyed, only 8% of those customers think that they are getting a great experience from the merchant. Now, more than ever, retaining loyal customers is an essential part of any online business and you should spend time with your customers to judge their experience with your website and products and offer improvements based on that feedback.
Tydo's report cards are an essential tool, along with Klaviyo for email and SMS, Recharge for subscriptions and memberships, Okendo for reviews and surveys, Rebuy for AI driven collections and upsells, Loop for self service returns... each tool is great on their own, but their strength as the ultimate tool comes from when they are used together!
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