We studied 50+ startups on TikTok and here’s what we found

By Li Jin and Lila Shroff

[This is a preview of a full post linked here]

One morning a few weeks ago, we woke up to excited messages from friends telling us that our website, Side Hustle Stack, had appeared on their TikTok For You Page. That video led to hundreds of thousands of pageviews per minute, crashing our site in the middle of the night.

The surprise? We hadn't actually created any content on TikTok. The flood of traffic was driven by a video created by @alexcazam, a 19 year-old college student that none of us knew, who had stumbled across the site. In the weeks afterwards, her TikTok has surpassed 5 million views.

Before this, we had tried other strategies for driving distribution—press outreach and launching on Product Hunt where we got over 600 upvotes—but none of these tactics came close to approaching the success of a single viral TikTok video.

We quickly realized: businesses that figure out how to leverage TikTok will have an advantage in building brand awareness, cultivating user trust, and efficiently acquiring customers.

Since that day, our initial viral boost has led to a stable, high level of traffic to the site, and in parallel, we've gone down a rabbit hole to better understand how startups can best leverage TikTok. That includes surveying the Twitterverse, diving deep and interviewing creators and brands, and creating an account of our own (@sidehustlestack, which has grown to 14K followers in <2 weeks).

The following is a summary of what we've learned so far. Note that while we this piece can help guide your TikTok strategy, it should be taken with a grain of salt: the platform is ever-evolving and requires constant experimentation. Our plan is to update these learnings on a continual basis.

What are the best uses of TikTok for startups?

Despite being best known for viral dances, lip sync videos, and other challenges popular among Gen Z, TikTok has exploded in mass appeal, and now counts a broad swath of the population in its exponentially growing user base. As of June 2020, TikTok had around 50 million daily active users and 92 million monthly active users in the US, up nearly 800% from January 2018. The average US user opens the app 8 times a day and spends 46 minutes per day on the app.

For startups, TikTok can be a goldmine for growth. The app is designed with a level playing field that enables newcomers to quickly grow and go viral. Unlike more established social networks that reward users with already-accrued status, TikTok’s For You Page and personalization algorithm purposefully surfaces videos from even little-known accounts. 

Businesses of all sizes have seen success on TikTok. On one hand, there's Netflix, which amassed 12 million followers in a little over a year by leaning into trends and creating entertaining highlights. Then there are small businesses like Pounce Cat Cafe which has made viral videos and cultivated a community on the platform, leading to over 1,700 cat adoptions.

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for businesses looking to succeed on TikTok: anything from a low-effort iPhone clip to a fully staged and edited promotion can go viral. That makes it great for startups who are strapped for cash but can bring a lot of fun and passion.

There are a few areas where TikTok really excels for startups:

  1. Building user trust and buy-in

  2. Driving awareness of new products and services

  3. Creating buzz around a category

  4. Getting user feedback and creating a two-way dialogue

Read the rest of the post on my blog (with lots of embedded TikTok examples) —> https://li-jin.co/2021/01/27/we-studied-50-startups-on-tiktok-and-heres-what-we-found/

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