Prioritizing TikTok, agencies move away from creating content for Instagram, YouTube

Another day, another sign that TikTok is racking up more ad dollars: Agencies are now creating content for short video app first over its rivals.

Gone are the days when TikTok campaigns were revamped versions of content that had already been posted on Facebook or Instagram. Instead, marketers are increasingly prioritizing getting content on TikTok like they chase the app large, growing and younger audience.

Seeing an opportunity to guide advertisers through this change, agencies began creating specific content production arms and dedicated application teams.

A good example is digital marketing agency Rank Secure. Three months ago, he switched to creating TikTok-first content. Which means that at Rank Secure, content is now developed around TikTok concepts and formats rather than other types of channels. While this didn’t require major technical changes for the agency, it did change the way content is planned and produced. TikTok videos are usually a maximum of three minutes long (however, the app increased that small limit to 10 minutes in February), which pushed the agency to be more creative with campaign concepts.

Admittedly, it’s easy to see why agencies like Rank Secure have been repurposing videos from other platforms on TikTok for so long. The app shares the same premise short video which is now at the heart of other leading social networks. But TikTok users behave differently: full-screen videos are watched with sound and far less polished than what users typically see on YouTube and Instagram.

“We use humor and satire in our TikTok posts as opposed to plain messaging on YouTube,” said Baruch Labunski, CEO of Rank Secure. “Our business used YouTube before moving to TikTok and we see this as a somewhat declining platform. We are still using it due to different and longer content that is more suitable for a slightly older demographic.

By comparing, Facebook has 2.9 billion monthly active users, Youtube at 2.2 billion, instagram to 2 billion, while ICT Tac has 1 billion monthly active users, according to social media management platform Buffer.

Unlike YouTube or Instagram where audiences are used to seeing exotic locations and neatly edited videos dotted with sponsors, TikTok audiences seem to enjoy the platform’s much more natural and fun content.

Unsurprisingly, it works when marketers leverage these strengths.

“We’ve grown our traffic by about 22% so far and we’re sharing more often, so it’s working for us,” said Labunski, who didn’t provide exact numbers.

Marketing agency TikTok Socialty Pro, which made the switch in 2019, saw similar responses.

Having amassed around 624,000 followers on the app so far, the agency sees 75% of its clients come directly from the app thanks to the team’s organic marketing efforts on TikTok. “This year alone, we’ve tripled our revenue just by leveraging TikTok,” Armstrong added.

It speaks to the importance of adapting the production process – and taking into account the different nuances that this entails – in order for bets like this to pay off.

The rise of TikTok has forced more agencies to allocate more resources to managing content creators, including at M&C Saatchi Performance, said Jennifer Sudo, managing partner there.

“Traditionally, videos were produced by a single production team, but that has changed a lot,” she said. “Creators know how to speak the [TikTok] language and because they each have their own way of promoting a product or service, this allows us to quickly test many different types of content.

It’s a thought not lost on Jacinta Faul, managing director of Gravity Road. She explained that the production and operations side of her business now has to work with much faster turnaround times. From month-long lead times for other platforms before the pandemic, TikTok lead times are now eight to 10 days at most.

“Some of the traditional agency structures, response to briefs, creative ideation to delivery and post-production – that can’t happen,” she said. “It’s much more collaborative and interdisciplinary in terms of how we create ideas. It’s more of a newsroom approach to creating TikTok.

Faul’s team has the advantage of being one of TikTok’s partner agencies, which means they have early access to new features. As such, they use trending sounds from the platform, edit in-app where possible, as well as work with creators, rather than taking it to the studio and away from the platform. “The latter tends to happen with more polished posts on Instagram and YouTube,” she said.

The media agency The DDA Group has made a similar move. He launched his own TikTok studio five months ago to help brands develop bespoke strategies for the app, as well as create TikTok-specific responsive content.

Movers + Shakers were early adopters, having developed a new capability within their brand and music studio to create native TikTok branded music in 2019. The team created an original track for their first TikTok campaign with elf Cosmetics, which was later released on Spotify and iTunes and racked up 20 million streams.

“elf’s #EyesLipsFace challenge set the record for the most viral campaign ever on TikTok,” said Evan Horowitz, CEO and co-founder of social creative agency Movers+Shakers.

The challenge reached seven billion views and saw five million user-generated videos, including participation from unsolicited celebrities such as Lizzo, Ellen and Reese Witherspoon.

“It basically put TikTok on the map in a new way with marketers because we helped elf lead this playbook on how to market on TikTok,” Horowitz said.

Similarly, Socialty Pro also went all-in on TikTok in October 2019.

“We’re constantly trying to stay on the cutting edge, embrace change, and lead by example,” said agency CEO and TikTok pundit Austin Armstrong. “It’s so much more rewarding to create organic content that gets someone to have such an emotional reaction that they feel.”

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