The Power of TikTok: Making Products Go Viral
While many of us may be familiar with TikTok because of its viral dance videos and challenges, it has quickly become one of the leading social media platforms for sales. TikTok was originally launched in China as “Douyin,” and entered the U.S. market in 2017 under the name TikTok, where it quickly grew in popularity with the teen market. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, TikTok experienced unprecedented growth, and was the number-one most downloaded app of 2021. Compared to Instagram, it took TikTok only four years to reach the same level of users that took Instagram 9 years to reach. According to Custodio, the average time spent per user on TikTok is now higher than on YouTube in the U.S. and U.K., with “90% of TikTok users visiting the app more than once per day.” While still most attractive to Gen Z audiences, over 40% of TikTok users are over 30, and brands are recognizing the power of harnessing such an active social media platform.
According to AppAnnie, TikTok is the number-one app for driving consumer spending and in 2022 users spent $2.3 billion dollars on the app, compared to $1.3 billion the year before. The app’s viral hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt showcases the undeniable power of user-generated videos pushing sales to outside platforms. In August 2021, Shopify and TikTok created a new integration of click-to-buy shopping, further increasing the sales potential of the app and creating a retail “infinite loop.” A user could potentially see a product, make a purchase, and then post videos about their purchase, offering feedback and spreading awareness to their own friends and family.
Following a purchase, one in four users has made a post about their new product, and one in five has made a tutorial video. Several brands and small businesses have gone viral through TikTok’s natural algorithm regardless of their social media following, which is a unique feature of the app. While this may seem like a blessing, small businesses are dealing with the backlash of frustrated customers as they are unable to keep up with the enormous increase in demand. Small businesses can use TikTok’s interest-based algorithm to get their product in front of their target audience as the algorithm identifies the viewers’ interests and puts specific videos into their feed.
One success story of utilizing the power of TikTok for toy sales is the product Blinger by Wicked Cool Toys. Angie Cella, the inventor of Blinger, spent years trying to get her product in stores and launched globally after a successful WiT Empowerment Day pitch. Blinger worked with TikTok influencer Jasmine Gonzalez in a video where Gonzalez decorates her brothers’ shoes with the Blinger kit. The video, which shows how happy her brother was with his newly decorated shoes, went viral and garnered over 1.3 million views. As with most TikTok campaigns, the video wasn’t a sales pitch — it was a lighthearted video showcasing the product, focusing on a genuine reaction to receiving the product. To add to their TikTok success, Blinger focused on organic growth and high engagement with their audience, promoting user-generated content that was genuine and led to other users buying the product.
Another success story of #toytok has been WowWee’s Got2Glow Fairies, boasting over 37,000 followers to their channel on TikTok. Early on, WowWee realized the wide audience they captured with viral TikTok videos, causing surges in toy sales and creating unique touchpoints for customers and retailers alike. Sydney Wiseman, WowWee’s VP of brand development and creative strategy, attributes their wild success on TikTok to understanding the audience and creating engaging content by closely monitoring trends, eventually creating a marketing department solely focused on TikTok engagement.
While these are larger companies that have found success with TikTok, even small businesses can utilize a similar approach to capture the unparalleled organic growth from the popular platform. In contrast to Instagram, TikTok has a greater focus on unfiltered and unposed content — the audience prefers videos shot on phones, as it portrays authenticity. Anything too polished content-wise can seem like an ad, and will not be as successful on the platform. Users look for genuine reactions, unscripted videos, and a more personalized flair. Reaction videos, unboxing videos, and behind-the-scenes are popular styles of video that can showcase your personality and product in the more personable way that TikTok has become known for. Finally, the fastest way to go viral on TikTok is by partnering with an influencer who genuinely believes in your product. You can utilize an influencer-first ad campaign as a jumping-off point to collaborate with the community and start a hashtag challenge that will generate more user content that promotes your brand. When shopping around for an influencer, look for someone who is active on the platform and aware of shifting trends, as the TikTok algorithm is fickle and ever-evolving. Choose an influencer who aligns with your values and brand views. And most importantly, ensure that this person will genuinely enjoy your product — authenticity is key to creating a viral marketing campaign on TikTok.
TikTok is a necessary marketing tool in today’s world, regardless of age and what industry you’re in. There is a high return on investment for toy marketing with the platform’s younger audience. It’s not too late to orient yourself on the app and create organic sales growth for your brand through these tips.