Jun 21 2023
Mindy Zhang

The Do’s and Don’ts of TikTok Marketing 


Populated by chocolate giraffes, songs about corn, and skateboarders drinking cranberry juice to Fleetwood Mac, TikTok is an inherently ridiculous place.

As such, it’s easy to dismiss the platform as a passing trend that’s used exclusively by Gen Z. But by the numbers, TikTok may surprise you.

While Gen Z does represent 44.6% of the United States’ total TikTok users, US adults overall spend almost an hour on the platform each day—more than YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, or Instagram! That screen time is growing even faster than expected, creeping up on the likes of Netflix. And even under threat of a potential (but unlikely) ban, 75% of US brands are planning to increase their spend on the channel in the coming year.

Pleasantly surprised yet? That’s what TikTok is all about! 

To reduce any unpleasant surprises as you test and learn on the platform, check out some “do’s” and “don’ts” for TikTok marketing below.

Do: Be Authentic

The age of the perfectly filtered Instagram post is over. Experts across the board agree that brands can’t afford inauthenticity. So, what exactly does authenticity look like? Across platforms, consumers want to buy from brands whose internal actions align with their external messaging.

On TikTok specifically, more than half of users say they feel closer to brands that publish unfiltered, human content on the platform. As TikTok itself puts it, “Creative that blends seamlessly into the platform's culture of authenticity and community-driven entertainment consistently outperforms repurposed or adaptive ads.” 

This is one of the most important tips for marketing on TikTok, as users love to pounce on messaging that strikes them as fake. Want an example? Check out this TikTok where Fenty Beauty partnered with beauty influencer @golloria to highlight the lack of darker shade options in makeup. The authenticity here comes from the fact that Fenty Beauty doesn’t just talk the talk—the brand offers a truly inclusive range of makeup shades, and partnered with a well-known influencer who was willing to use and promote their products.


Beauty for AWLLL skin tones 👏🏻👏🏼👏🏽👏🏾👏🏿 We’ve understood the assignment since day 1, periodt! 💯 @golloria came thru with her perfect shade match using our #EAZEDROP Blurring Skin Tint in shade 25 ✨😍

♬ original sound - Fenty Beauty

Do: Blend In

On TikTok, you have to blend in to stand out. While the idea might sound complicated, marketers are well-versed in the practice of tailoring content to specific platforms (you wouldn’t run an audio ad on CTV, would you?)

In addition to the basics (video orientation, length, etc.) blending in on TikTok means making your brand’s content similar to the rest of the content users are interacting with on the platform. We’ve already covered one characteristic that’s important to blending in—authenticity—but there are others to be aware of.

Silliness is a big one (did we mention the songs about corn?) TikTok is an entertainment platform, after all! Challenges are also huge: upload a video that shows a specific action or dance accompanied by a hashtag, and if the content is captivating enough, TikTok users will copy your action and upload their own video along with the hashtag.

Granted, goofiness and viral challenges might not be your brand’s bag, and that’s OK! The point here is that marketers should have a solid understanding of what other content looks like on TikTok to inform the creation of their own.

Take, for example, the following video from Starface, a brand that sells star-shaped patches that heal acne. They partnered with influencers @cocoandbreezy to create a video that A) showcases their product, and B) features dancing (classic TikTok!) In addition to posting the video on its own page, Starface had @cocoandbreezy post another video to their page—a savvy move, as posts from influencers typically garner more engagement than those from brands.


so happy 2 c my bffs @cocoandbreezy_ + hydro-stars shining 2gether 💛 made 2 absorb fluid n shrink spots while looking cute #fypシ #foru #starface

♬ original sound - STARFACE

Do: Know Your Options

Once you’ve spent some time perusing the wild, wild world of TikTok content, it’s time to dig into the platform’s advertising options. 

In-feed ads are the standard and what might automatically come to mind when you think about TikTok advertising. These native ads look like organic TikTok videos and are added into a user’s feed as they scroll. However, TikTok also offers brand takeovers, TopView Ads, branded hashtag challenges, and even branded effects, which allow brands to create their own custom TikTok filters.

As with the above “blend in” recommendation, this is all about knowing the playing field. Take some time to read up on the different ad formats available within TikTok, and from there start strategizing about which ones are a good fit for both your audience and your product or service.

Need some #inspo? Check out the following video to see how Netflix used the branded effect feature to create a TikTok game promoting its Florida Man TV series.


can you beat @piffpeterson’s score on this Florida Man quiz? #FloridaMan

♬ original sound - Netflix

Don’t: Ignore Competitors

Let’s kick off the “don’ts” with a no brainer: as with marketing strategy in general, it’s key to perform competitive audits to see what has and what hasn’t worked for the other players in your space. Since TikTok is more of a wild card than other advertising formats, competitive intelligence is especially important here. Perusing competitor feeds will also help you to identify what other industry influencers and personalities are doing. 

The following video is a great example of how competitive analysis can spark ideas. Wendy’s created their own national holiday, #NationalRoastDay, and used it as an opportunity to invite tons of user generated content (UCG) from TikTokers who wanted the brand mascot to roast them.


Is this thing on? #NationalRoastDay is today through Friday

♬ original sound - Wendy’s

Don’t: Hop On Just Any Bandwagon

TikTok is the home of viral challenges, and it can be tempting to participate in all of them (OK, maybe not all of them). TikTok is fickle: viral trends rise and fall, interests come and go, and sometimes it all seems to be happening too fast for a brand to thoughtfully weigh in.

But for all TikTok’s virtues, it’s still a social media platform—and when advertising on social, brand safety must be front-of-mind. With misinformation and disinformation proliferating on social platforms, it’s critical to perform a “brand safety check” on any new trend before joining in. 

So, when you spot a trend or challenge you think would be perfect for your brand, take a few moments to get to know the premise, research the users who kicked it off, and spend some time with the content others are creating around it. Checking if the people, groups, or audiences behind the trend pose association-based risks is truly priceless, given the lasting consequences of hopping on the wrong bandwagon.

Because of these brand safety concerns, and because of how swiftly trends rise and fall on TikTok, it’s critical that marketers remain knowledgeable and nimble. Tools and tech can be a big help here—particularly those where marketers can track performance of their TikTok ads alongside the rest of their social, programmatic, site direct, and search spend. By accessing that kind of comprehensive and centralized reporting, marketers can make adjustments at any stage of a campaign—even midflight—to shift spend from one channel (or creative set) to another and ensure ad dollars are generating the highest possible ROAS.

Of course, there are some TikTok trends that show no signs of slowing—take ASMR, for example. This next video shows how Panda Express tapped into TikTok’s ASMR community thoughtfully and effectively, with a full video shoot and an influencer contract.


A little treat for your eardrums. 🍤👂#PandaExpress @funnyasiandude

♬ original sound - Panda Express

Don’t: Lead With Sales

Finally, salesiness is a no-no on TikTok. Again: this is an entertainment platform! Plus, its giant user base is mostly made up of millennials, Gen Z, and the succeeding generation, Generation Alpha—users who are too digitally savvy not to scroll past anything that remotely looks like an ad.

Herein lies the challenge for many brands: while it can be fairly simple to repurpose an ad concept across display, CTV, and audio, repurposing that same concept on TikTok is a different beast. 

On the flip side, TikTok offers a refreshing creative challenge for marketers, asking them to think about audience entertainment (and a nice potential boost in brand awareness) first, and CTAs second. 

Here’s a great example from B2B brand Shopify on how to sidestep the sales and prioritize the entertainment: 

TikTok Marketing - Wrapping Up

There’s an awful lot to consider for brands branching out into TikTok, but the platform’s mantra for advertisers says it all: “Don’t make ads, make TikTok videos!” Those brands that approach their TikTok marketing strategies from the perspective of TikTok users—who seek entertaining, authentic, and unique content—will be well on their way to TikTok marketing success. 

Want to learn more about how to make the most of TikTok? Get the latest insights straight from TikTok experts in our webinar, Seizing the TikTok Advertising Opportunity.

Watch the Webinar