Running a TikTok Ad Campaign: 5 Tips for a Successful Launch

Author’s Note: This post was originally published in 2021. It has since been updated!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen how TikTok has changed the social media game. What once started as a quirky music platform for preteens quickly – and I mean QUICKLY – climbed the ladder to become one of the most popular social media apps.

Here are the TikTok facts:

  • TikTok has over one billion monthly active users.
  • TikTok ads reach 17.9% of all internet users age 18+. 
  • 67% of users say TIkTok inspires them to shop – even when they weren’t planning to do so.
  • TikTok was the most downloaded app of 2021, with 656 million downloads. That’s over 100 million downloads more than the runner-up, Instagram, which was downloaded 5445 million times last year.
  • TikTok is the top app for consumer spend, increasing by 77% in 2021, with $2.3 billion dollars in the app.

Aside from the massive number of monthly active users and year over year growth, TikTok has fundamentally changed how we consume video content online, and other social media giants are emulating that same style – we see you Instagram Reels. We want it vertical, we want the cleverly-edited music to add umph, and we want it short and sweet.

Hootsuite graphic on TikTok audiences

Pair TikTok’s insane growth with the need to diversify channel mix due to iOS14 and updates to Facebook advertising, and you get one big question.

How can I use TikTok ads to scale up my social presence and grow my business?

We’re so glad you asked! Almost all of our partners at Tuff are running ads on TikTok – or are trying to figure out how they can. We’ve found that success is determined less by the industry of your business and more by the video creative you have + ability to produce new video creative.

Check out these 5 tips for successfully launching your first TikTok campaign! 👇

1. Set Up Your TikTok Pixel and Events

Just like every other social channel, TikTok also has an events manager tool that allows you to track app events and activity on your website with a piece of code. The TikTok pixel has the ability to integrate with a variety of partners, namely Shopify and Google Tag Manager, for easy setup. TikTok also  provides the option to manually install the pixel in the header of your website.

Once the pixel’s base code is installed on your site, you’ll be prompted to set the event rules using either Standard Mode or Developer Mode. The method you choose is based on your business and conversion path – We’ve set up events both ways successfully! TikTok’s Standard Mode is most similar to Facebook’s Event Setup Tool (if you’re familiar with that).

2. Build Custom Audiences and Create Lookalikes From Them

Once you have your pixel installed, take a second to create custom audiences based on website, app activity and your customer lists. These typically take a day or so to populate. Once your custom audience reaches a minimum of 1,000 people, you can then  create lookalike audiences.

These lookalikes will come in handy when you’re creating target audiences for prospecting campaigns, and you’ll be able to exclude some of your custom audiences from ad groups to prevent waste and minimize audience overlap.

3. Create Target Audiences that Aren’t Too Small

We have tested A LOT on TikTok from completely broad targeting relying on the advanced algorithm to find qualified users to refined retargeting audiences leaning on our website data and or customer lists, and a takeaway that we have seen apply to most of our partners is that broader is better. 

Maybe not completely broad – But grouping together relevant interests, interactions with specific videos, creators and hashtags to make one, large audience has consistently generated the strongest and most efficient results for us. This even applies to retargeting campaigns – Pairing website visitors with video viewers with cart abandoners vs. isolating these in their own ad sets. Larger audiences (caveat: with relevant targeting) typically yield lower costs per results.

Here are a few additional tips on audience targeting that we’ve learned the hard way on TikTok:

  • Ditch the age targeting. We know that most TikTok users are under the age of 35. If your target audience’s age range is above that, TikTok might not be the right channel for you anyway. Targeting by age can narrow your audience size without improving results.
  • Watch for ad fatigue. Smaller audiences mean that your frequency gets higher, faster. You’ll want to keep an eye on your results – if you see costs start to increase, try rotating in new creative first. TikTok recommends updating creative every 2-4 weeks and keeping 3-5 assets in each ad group.
  • Narrow your placements to TikTok only if you want to utilize Spark ads – TIkTok’s native ad format that allows you to leverage organic content to publish as an ad. Spark ads allow you to swap out creative more regularly based on popular trends and organic engagement.

4. Develop Video Ads Made With TikTok Trends in Mind

One more time for the people in the back (and because this is so, so important). You’re interrupting someone’s feed with a brand ad that the user didn’t ask for, but got anyway. Your content should be captivating, designed with TikTok consumption in mind, and concise – Oh and sound! TikTok is a sound-on optimized platform and requires a thumb-stopping music or voice overs.

Based on the campaign results we’ve seen so far for our clients, here are a few TikTok ad creative tips to help get you started:

  • Keep it short and sweet. Our best ads have been 15-20 seconds long.
  • Make sure your product is at the forefront of your creative, ideally showing how it works.
  • Strategically test creative so that you can test and learn what works for your brand. Pinpoint a few themes and go to town! You want to make sure your videos differ so that you can draw meaningful insights as to what’s performing best. If they’re all similar, it’s hard to understand what type of content will yield the best results.
  • Shoot your videos in a UGC-style fashion. Lofi is the name of the game – Making sure your creative does not feel overly polished is the best way to appear more natively in the platform and build brand authenticity.
  • TikTok has a pretty strict ad approval process. Make sure you’re buttoned up and familiar with their advertising policies before you put your ads in review.

Peek here if you want to get some insight into what the top performing ads are on TikTok – You can filter by region, industry and campaign objective to get a look at how your competitors are advertising or here to read through  5 Tips for Making Great (and Cost Effective) Video Ad Creative from one of our seasoned creative team members, Elle!

5. Use UTMs to Track Attribution in Google Analytics

Like any social media platform, native attribution in TikTok’s ad manager using data from the pixel is often inflated compared to Google Analytics so we will typically use GA as our north star when defining success

To know what worked and what didn’t on TikTok, we recommend using an organized naming convention for your UTM parameters that will give you insight into how both the audience you’re targeting and the creative you’re running performed in Google Analytics.

Common TikTok Ads Questions

Q: How much does it cost to advertise on TikTok?
A: Currently, the minimum spend requirement on TikTok is $50/day. The campaigns we’ve run here at Tuff have had CPMs in the $4-$7 range. Naturally, performance varies based on the industry, your campaign optimization, audience targeting and creative, but we have seen more efficient CPCs and CPMs on TikTok than most other social platforms we run.

Q: Do I need an organic presence on TikTok to run ads on the channel?
A: Unlike other social channels, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., where you’re required to have a business page or profile built to run ads, you can run ads on TikTok without creating an organic channel. In fact, you access TikTok’s ads manager through a completely different login portal than where you’d login to an organic account.t.

Q: Is my audience on TikTok?
A: While the channel has grown exponentially over the last few years, , the demographic still skews younger compared to other channels, like Facebook. . That being said, eight new users join TikTok every second, with an average of 650,000 new users joining daily. Don’t rule out TikTok advertising yet!