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

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (…but I mean, after all that 2020 brought with it, can I live under a rock with you?), 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:

  • In less than 18 months, the number of adult TikTok users in the U.S. grew 550%
  • TikTok is the most downloaded app in the Apple App Store with 33 million downloads
  • TikTok has more than 800 million active users worldwide, but only about 10% are in the U.S.
  • 90% of TikTok users visit the app more than once per day.

Aside from the sheer growth in monthly active users, 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.

Pair TikTok’s insane growth with the buzzword for 2021 social media advertising – diversifying your paid channels in the wake of iOS14 and updates to Facebook advertising – and you get one big question.

How do I grow my business with TikTok ads?

Well, we’re here to help answer that! At Tuff, we’ve found that clients who are successful with Facebook and Instagram ads can also see success on TikTok – particularly the clients with strong video creative and the ability to produce new videos often.

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 integrates well with both Shopify and Google Tag Manager for easy setup, or 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!), but more accurate in our experience.

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. Then, create lookalikes off of those custom audiences.

The 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.

3. Create Target Audiences that Aren’t Too Small

There are 80 million TikTok users in the U.S. That’s a LOT of people, don’t get me wrong. But we’re used to Facebook’s even larger audience pool.

Comparatively, Facebook has 223 million U.S. users. With a user base that large, a prospecting audience narrowed by demographics, interests, and layered on top of a lookalike audience can still be 3+ million users.

On TikTok, those same targeting parameters would yield an audience size of 35K monthly active users.

Inherently, TikTok audiences are going to be smaller than what we’re used to on Facebook, but the same rule of thumb applies: larger audiences (caveat: with relevant targeting) typically yield lower costs per results.

Here are a few 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.
  • If you’re optimizing for lower-funnel conversion events and having a hard time seeing success, try removing your targeting completely. This is what we did for our app client Felt (For this next sentence to make sense, you’ll need to understand how we measure success for Felt. I’ll be referencing one of our main metrics – cost per app install, also known as CPI). After struggling to see success with targeted audiences based on demographics and interests, we removed much of our targeting and saw CPIs as low as $1.67 – when our historical average has been closer to $3. By optimizing for low funnel conversion events and removing our targeting, we let the TikTok algorithm do much of our targeting work for us, and it worked successfully.
  • If your audience is in the U.S., narrow your placements to TikTok only. TikTok also owns TopBuzz, BuzzVideo, News Republic, Babe, Helo and Pangle, which primarily have a global audience.

4. Develop Video Ads Made With TikTok Trends in Mind

To grow your business with TikTok ads, relevant 👏 creative 👏 is 👏 key👏 to 👏 success.

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.

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.
  • Be thoughtful about your background music. While it’s not as important for other social channels, trendy music and TikTok go together like everything bagels and cream cheese. Try to edit your video to the music and capitalize on trending video styles when you can.
  • Launch campaigns with at least three very different video ads (no more than 5 videos max per ad group!). 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.
  • Make sure that you use lots of color contrast and show people when you can! Our best ads that we’ve ran so far have pops of bright colors and show faces – and have a 27% higher conversion rate compared to our other ads.
  • 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.

Peep this document for a full list of creative best practices and specs.

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 (hello again, last-click attribution and the biggest mistake most businesses make when it comes to PPC campaigns).

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.

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.

Q: Is my audience on TikTok?
A: While the channel has grown exponentially over the last year or so, the demographic still skews younger compared to other social channels. 41% of TikTok users are between 16-24, and 56% are male.

Q: How does TikTok attribution work?
A: Attribution can be a struggle on any social channel, and TikTok is no different. Currently, the TikTok pixel records single-session conversions, meaning that a user must click on the ad and convert within the same session for TikTok to attribute that conversion to your ad. TikTok also integrates well with third-party tracking tools like AppsFlyer, Kochava, Tune and Adjust to better understand attribution.