Unless you’ve been living under a digital rock, you’ll know that TikTok has shifted the sands of content creation. What once was teenagers participating in trending dance routines has become an empire of bite-sized, engaging videos in our fast-scrolling world. As of 2024, with more than a billion monthly users, it’s clear that the reach offered on TikTok is massive.

Illustration of a Tiktok commercial

But unlike other social media platforms, TikTok has proven to be harder to crack. While traditional ads bank on high production value to stand out, this doesn’t work on TikTok. As a result, only some businesses thrive on the platform. So, what’s the secret to it? How do you make an ad that would perform well on TikTok? Today, we’re giving you a look at the important things as well as tips and tricks to connect with your audience on this massive platform.

Getting the TikTok ‘Look’

Throw away all your preconceptions about what an ad should look like. Those sleek, well-produced and professional videos are the complete opposite of what TikTok wants. Go for a more down-to-earth situation and film on a phone for that home-made vibe. The app is made to be viewed with a phone in the upright position, so switch out the landscape for a portrait orientation.

@kevshufilms Reply to @crikcet.cricket.cricket ♬ tv intro vibe – meg

And beyond the visuals, there are also other key features that play to what TikTok users are comfortable with. One such factor is the use of voice filters or even the iconic speech-to-text narration. Uploading a shaky phone-filmed video with a silly voice filter might set off some alarm bells if you’re more used to traditional advertising, but TikTok is anything but traditional.

@goss.ie #JeremyAllenWhite’s campaign for #CalvinKlein is currently going viral on X 😍 The actor is best known for his current role in the hit series, The Bear 🐻 🎥: @mertalas for @Calvin Klein ♬ original sound – Goss.ie

Authenticity, Authenticity, Authenticity

We’ve hinted at it a few times already, but the main thing that TikTok users look out for is that genuine human connection. Take a step back and don’t be afraid to be goofy. Imperfections and a lack of polish can actually be a good thing here. Obviously scripted and corporate content simply does not resonate. This doesn’t mean pretending to not be a brand, but rather, being transparent about it.

@heinz_usAll tomato ketchup masters have their secrets — including Hector.♬ original sound – heinz

Take this TikTok for example. It’s from the point-of-view of the social media manager, filming his colleagues on the train while outrightly stating that he’s trying to convince his bosses to partake in a TikTok trend to get more views. Yet, at the time of writing, it has amassed almost 14 million views. This is because of how open and relatable the content is. Rather than being perfectly orchestrated, it showcases the real humans behind the account, and that creates the connection. And if that wasn’t enough, the follow-up TikTok of his boss caving in and doing the trend has also gotten almost 2 million views. With this, it’s clear that TikTok viewers want one thing — authenticity.

Enough said. Following trends has always been an important part of social media marketing, but it’s doubly important for TikTok, where viewers are presented with content rather than searching for it. Whether it’s a catchy pop sound spreading like wildfire or a dance routine, keeping up with the hottest trends boosts your chances of showing up on users’ ‘For You’ page (also known as an FYP).

@kasradesign Hey everyone, we just wanted to share something we’ve been working on. It’s a 3D animation of a chair we thought looked really cool. We used Cinema 4D and Octane Renderer to try and make it as realistic as possible. Hope you find it interesting and enjoy the blend of art and tech we’re exploring here. Thanks for checking it out! 🎥🪑 #3DAnimation #DesignExperiment #Cinema4D #OctaneRenderer #ArtAndTech #kasradesign ♬ original sound – Kasra Design©

Take this TikTok from AXE’s official account for example. Not your conventional commercial by any means, but it came at the peak of this trend, leading to almost 6 million views total. And, taking a peek at the comments, this willingness to engage in such a silly trend seems to have improved viewers’ perception of the brand.

Have Some Fun With It

So we’ve got the need to stay true and the need for mass appeal at the same time. And what hits the sweet spot between both of those? Humour. Humour is the heartbeat of TikTok. Content on this platform is a refreshing deviation from the stoic content that once dominated digital spaces.

While you should of course stay consistent with your branding, try not to take yourself too seriously. On TikTok, a chuckle, a gag, or even a full-blown comedic sketch is how you get to the audience. So, when crafting content, lean into humour and let your comedic flair shine. Embrace playful puns, satirical skits, or just light-hearted, spontaneous jests. Remember, a good laugh not only captivates but also stays with the audience long after the video ends.

@ads30sec #cocacola #pepsi #funnyvideos #funnycommercials #fyp #funnyanimals #best #justforfun #30sec #thailand #funnydog ♬ Ghibli-like piano solo ballad(957146) – tomori

Duolingo is probably the most legendary example of this. What started as a series of unserious memes on the Internet about users feeling threatened by the app’s notifications has now turned into a running joke that the brand itself is in on.

Keep It Short And Sweet

While it’s tempting to tell a grand saga, TikTok’s short-form content is called short-form for a reason. The platform encourages you to convey your story, message, or joke within a few seconds to a few minutes, with 10 minutes being the maximum length of time (and one that doesn’t guarantee that viewers will watch the entire thing).

It’s a fast-paced stream of content that users are constantly scrolling through for entertainment. You’ve got to distil your content to its essence. Capture attention quickly, deliver your punchline effectively, and leave your audience wanting more so they swipe to view what else you’ve posted. After all, in the world of TikTok, less is often more.

Engage With The Crowd

TikTok is all about authenticity and connecting with your audience, which means engagement is the currency of the platform. It’s not just about broadcasting your content; it’s about fostering a two-way conversation, so you’ve got to head down to the comments and respond to what people are saying. Like comments, post funny comebacks to quips, and even new videos based on what’s been said.

Listen to the feedback from your viewers. When you truly engage with the TikTok community, not only does your content gain traction, but you also create lasting connections with your audience, and a following.

To Wrap It Up

Diving into the TikTok world isn’t just about copying the latest dance craze. It’s about participating in and creating conversations through short-form content. Keep it real, keep it fun, and most importantly, don’t forget to have a laugh along the way. Remember, it’s all about relatability and human connection, so open up to your audience, and they will follow!