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There is no doubt that TikTok has evolved beyond the new platform that companies rejected in early 2020 and even 2021. But what is often overlooked is its strategic value for growing startups.
No surprise here – TikTok is still relatively quiet. It grows exponentially. It’s home to the industry’s greatest asset: creator talent. This means that TikTok is a powerful channel of experimentation that can take a startup from product-market fit to scale faster than ever before.
Here are four ways TikTok can become a growth engine for startups when traditional growth hacking models don’t work.
Related: TikTok is the new normal. 5 reasons to add TikTok to your content marketing strategy
1. TikTok is a fast test channel for product market testing
There are many frameworks for product-market fit. For the sake of simplicity, we follow Marc Andreessen’s “All That Matters” framework to make a case for TikTok. Product-market fit is the most important thing a startup needs to achieve – and it equates to the combination of a good team, a good market and an offering with the potential to satisfy the market.
This is where TikTok comes in: it’s the tool in a startup’s arsenal find the right market and its urgent need.
TikTok is inherently a platform for niche communities (or TikTok sides) that gather around specific values and needs. Organically, the platform’s algorithm ensures that the content gets to the right communities based on the value the content provides. On the paid side, TikTok offers a range of targeting options – from demographics to niche interests, hashtags and profiles of creators who follow the favorite audience – to position your content in front of your presumed “ideal” audience (market).
The creative medium that reaches the desired audience – short, unpolished video – is driven by organic storytelling – a more reliable format to convey the concept of the offering.
When you add it all up, you have a framework for experimentation that allows you to quickly determine if there is a symbiotic match between the startup’s offering (product) and the user’s need (market). Start by identifying:
- The “why”: which market need(s) or opportunity area(s) the product can meet;
- The “what”: the product and key benefits that set it apart from the competition;
- The “how”: the exact technology behind the product that meets the need.
Use the hypotheses around these questions and develop creative information that teaches potential users how the product will improve their lives. Be clear about the problem solving, the uniqueness of the product and the tangible results it helps users achieve.
When product-market fit is achieved on TikTok, it comes in the form of high engagement rates, which clearly indicates a strong resonance with the market.
Related: Using TikTok to Promote Your Business
2. Leverage TikTok as a driver of awareness at the top of the funnel
Building authority in the market can be a challenge for any startup, and TikTok solves this by making brands easily recognizable and known for their consistent added value.
An unspoken rule in startup growth is driving consumer confidence and early buy-in. High LTV and retention build on this confidence. This trust also fuels user loyalty and advocacy to drive the startup growth loop.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of tactics to consider when developing content for TikTok as a startup:
- Tactics: Learn and focus on being helpful to your end user.
- Includes how-tos, demos, explainer videos, etc.
- Tactics: Take your community on your growth journey to get buy-in. Share background stories, the founder’s passion for the market, and how you plan to grow.
- Involving videos of founders, team members, growth milestones, future releases/new features, etc.
- Tactics: Dive into the conversations your niche is already having to stay relevant and recognizable.
- Add trends (music, filters, references to bigger cultural moments and events)
And always try to provide value first and convert second.
3. Collect user feedback on TikTok to inform growth roadmap
TikTok can be a powerful tool to create a feedback loop between the startup and the public. The video commentary section can provide valuable feedback that will guide the team’s decisions, from roadmap planning to product posts. There are a few things to keep in mind when analyzing content engagement:
- Is there anything that the users are confused about? Is there anything that proves to be a roadblock to converting them?
- Solutions: improve user experience, improve landing page copy, add a feature to the product, create more content to provide clarity, etc.
- What particularly resonates with the audience and is there something specific they want to hear more about?
- Solutions: Build out the user experience, add more text on the landing page, add a feature to the product, create more content to build engagement, etc.
- Do their questions shed light on a wider variety of applications that you might be able to solve?
- Solutions: Elaborate the landing page text, add a new feature to the product, create more content around the suggested topics, etc.
Related: 4 Steps To Grow To 1 Million Followers On TikTok
4. Create a flywheel of content that you can use on other channels
The key to true startup growth is continuous experimentation. It spans multiple platforms to accommodate a wider audience — meaning the lessons and resources of each TikTok test should be treated as a strong starting point across multiple channels.
There are a few ways to use TikTok lessons to expand the scope of experimentation.
- Reuse items from TikTok organically to Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels, and YouTube Shorts.
- Reuse winning assets as dark ads on TikTok by tailoring the video’s messaging to a particular funnel stage (awareness, consideration, conversion).
- Use the winning TikTok videos as paid social ads at the top of the funnel on additional channels such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest.
- Use posts that worked on TikTok on PPC, paid social media, landing page copy, etc.
If this particular feedback and user engagement strategy seems useful, TikTok’s suite of advertising tools can further amplify engagement and feedback loops through campaigns with engaged audiences.